Laney Amplification's continued commitment to innovation seems to know no bounds—especially in recent years, from their remarkably good Black Country Customs range to the superb LA Studio amplifier, which dropped earlier in the year. Nick Jennison takes a closer look at the latest in the historic UK brand's line of forward-thinking products in this review of the Laney IRF-DUALTOP & IRF-LEADTOP amp heads.
In a separate review from Guitar Interactive, you will hear me waxing lyrical about Laney's excellent IRF Loudpedal. Given its tiny format, comically low price and distinct lack of magical glowing bottles, this excellent little device has no right sound as good as it does. It's so good, in fact, that Laney has taken the IRF ball and run with it. The new IRF LEADTOP and DUALTOP amp heads are essentially the same fantastic design as the Loudpedal, but in the form of compact, desktop-friendly heads—and at a similar "no brainer" price tag.
The smaller of the two, the LEADTOP head is a single-channel design, featuring the Loudpedal's hugely versatile Channel 1. An absolute chameleon of a circuit, this channel spans everything from sparkling cleans through to fat and juicy high-gain lead sounds with a single gain control. It also sports the same perfectly voiced boost function from the Louudpedal - it's mostly clean, but with a bias towards the mids and upper mids for a vocal and present "push" without becoming harsh or muddy. A little bit of gain and healthy amount of boost, and you have a Timmons-esque glassy chime. Push the gain with a more conservative boost, and you have an articulate metal riffing tone.
Speaking of riffing tones, this is where the DUALTOP head comes in. It's a two-channel head, with the same channel from the LEADTOP head as its first channel, paired with a dedicated high gain second channel, making it a fully-fledged "Loudpedal-in-a-headshell". This second channel is beefy and aggressive with a fuller low end than channel one, but tight and percussive in a way that is perfect for heavy styles, but also works admirably a big, fat crunch tone.
Both ends feature a generous 60w power section, switchable down to a whisper quiet >1w for bedroom playing. They're loud enough to gig and rehearse with, but also ideal desktop companions for practising, home recording and just jamming for the fun of it. To that end, they also sport the same excellent cab simulated DI out from the Loudpedal, but with two switchable voices - a 1x12 and a 4x12. You can also defeat the cab sim if you'd like to use your own, as it's after the fact.
Both the LEADTOP and DUALTOP heads each come with their own accompanying speaker cabinets, perfectly voiced to compliment their tones, but of course, you don't HAVE to use a cab if (like me) your house operates on a strict "no backline at home" policy. They're both lightweight, super versatile and sound just as good as the pedal that inspired them. When you factor in the crazy pricing, it's hard to imagine why anyone WOULDN'T want one of these - either as a "first quality amp" for a new player, a "backup and rehearsals" rig, outfitting a teaching studio, or as a perfect home/hotel room solution.
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