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This article was originally published in issue #8
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Has there ever been a better named amp range than Laney's Ironheart series? Designed in the very place heavy metal was forged, the British West Midlands (home of, among so many others, Black Sabbath) the very name evokes crashing doom-laden chords and wailing solos at migraine inducing levels. But what's this - a 15 Watt version? Tom Quayle asks the hard questions.
Laney's fabulous looking IRT15H is an all valve/tube head in a small 5.5kg package featuring three ECC83 tubes in the pre-amp and two EL84 power tubes operating in a Class AB design. This is a simple, single channel design with a foot switchable pre-gain boost giving you effectively two gain settings from the straightforward, no-fuss front panel. Ins and outs are well catered for with two inputs at 1W and 15W respectively, a variable level FX loop, MP3/CD input, outputs to 8 and 16 Ohm cabs plus speaker emulated line and headphone outputs. Laney has also included a gig bag, making the head and IRT112 cab easily portable by one guitar player, or one very well-paid roadie!
The front panel houses Reverb, Tone, Dynamics, Volume, three band EQ, Drive and Pre-boost controls plus a switch for bringing the boost into the circuit. The reverb is a digital type that sounds warm and thick and is voiced well for higher gain sounds without creating muddiness or sounding artificial. The tone and dynamics controls allow the user to tighten up or loosen the bottom end resonance and top end bite. The three band, treble, middle and bass EQ controls are well voiced and very musical throughout their range, allowing a great deal of tonal tailoring for both cleaner and high gain tones.
The actual amount of gain on tap is staggering for such a small unit and with the pre-gain boost engaged on full you can achieve a never ending sustain with more drive than you would ever need! Also surprising is just how loud this diminutive head can be when paired with the matching IRT112 cab. Even using the 1 Watt input, with the volume and drive on full this is a loud amp and the 15 Watt input will certainly be more than capable of competing with a drummer on smaller gigs.
The IRT112 cab is an oversized but lightweight 1x12, straight baffled design with a custom 12" HH speaker. Both the head and cab are very well constructed from 'none more metal' black metal for the head and matching, solid finish on the cab. Both feel bomb proof and look good together with a suitably aggressive looking style to match the tones on offer. Tonally the 112 is a tight sounding driver with good bottom end and mid-range response at higher volumes. Rated at 80w it's a good performer for higher wattage heads too, such as the IRT60H.
Using my single cut, dual humbucker guitar, the IRT15H reveals itself as a high gain monster with a very tight bottom end, even from my vintage voiced pickups. Active or high output passive humbuckers sound truly crushing through the higher gain settings and the EQ can customize your sound for authentic mid scooped trash tones or modern, mid-boosted lead tones. The Dynamics and Tone controls work well to match the IRT15H to each playing scenario, room or cab and running through our studio 4x12 with the dynamics control cranked was a trouser wobbling experience with some serious punch in the bottom end of the frequency range.
Cleaner and crunch based tones are also of surprisingly good quality and are very reactive to pick dynamics and volume control changes, with higher gain tones cleaning up nicely if required. For recording, the emulated line out works well and using the 1W input allows for sensible volumes if microphones are to be used in the studio, with the IRT15H still kicking out a surprising amount of volume and low-end punch.
Laney has produced a great quality, compact head here, at a very attractive price for all the high gain guys out there. Classic Rock to high gain Metal tones are easily achieved and whilst those looking for vintage-style clean tones might want to look elsewhere, the feature set and included gig bag, plus the option of the matching IRT112 cab, make this a very desirable package indeed at an exceptionally attractive price - especially for an all-valve amp.