Laney Lionheart L20T

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english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 2318
edited February 2017 in Amp Reviews
Wow. It's been a year now with this amp. I think I can declare the honeymoon period officially over.

I bought this amp after selling the Cornell Romany Plus I'd been playing and gigging with for several years. I wanted something that I could dial in a fatter, dirtier base tone from since I'd been using the Cornell with an overdrive pedal pretty much constantly engaged. I did some homework and found that the Lionhearts came highly recommended for a modern take on vintage-y lower gain "British" sounds.

So, what you get is:

2 channels with shared EQ- treble, middle, bass, bright switch, overall tone control
Spring reverb
Celestion G12H Heritage
4x EL84 parallel single ended power amp


How does it sound? 

Pretty bloody marvellous if old-school Vox/Marshall tones are what you're after. It doesn't quite have that slashing treble cut that you get from an AC30 or a Marshall JMP (although I tend to avoid turning the master tone control all the way up, so it'll get nastier than I generally set it) but what it loses in politeness it more than makes up for in practical considerations like not weighing a metric shit ton or needing to be trouser-flappingly loud to sound any good. EQ is effective, although it's never going to get you outside a certain realm of guitar tone. Still, it's loud enough to hang with an enthusiastic drummer and has a lovely clear voice that lets the detail of the guitar sound through. It cleans up when you play softly and barks when you hit it hard just like it's supposed to. It's more forgiving than the Fender amps I've had in the past but still needs you to work if you want to get it to sing and won't let you off every duff note.

I saw another forum member describe the two channels as being kind of like master volume and non-master volume versions of the same amp- the clean channel will clip a little as you turn up the volume (so I'm told) whereas the gain channel allows you to dial some dirt in at any level. I've set mine up with a slightly dirty tone on the gain channel (normally around 10 o'clock to 12 o'clock) and basically use it like a single channel amp except for a few places in the set where I need it clean. It won't give you convincing high gain sounds with the gain turned up, but it's not really an amp you'd look to if that's what you wanted. It'll get you to the dirtier end of the classic rock spectrum- AD/DC, classic era Thin Lizzy etc.- but no further than that without some outboard assistance. 

For reference, my band rig is:

PRS Starla X -> Polytune mini -> BYOC 5-Knob Compressor -> BYOC Divided Octave (Mu-Tron Octave Divider) -> BYOC Stereo Analogue Flanger -> BYOC Mighty Mouse (RAT) -> Behringer RV-600 reverb (Verbzilla) -> Vox Delaylab -> Mosky XP Booster (EP Booster)

The Delaylab and XP Booster are in the loop, everything else goes in the front end.

I've also used the Lionheart with my CIJ JD Telecaster (w/ Wilde Keystone pickups) and my G&L S-500- it sounds ace with both. It takes pedals well- it'll compress and drive harder rather than getting very much louder when you hit the front end with a boost or an OD set above unity, which is why the XP booster went in the loop for solos and suchlike.

It comes with a dust cover, which will protect the amp from dust and not a lot else. I got a couple of "it's funny because it's true" laughs in my NAD thread by describing it as a "bag for life". If you want actual protection, you'll need to fork out for a proper cover or case.

It has a tilt-back mechanism on the underside for pointing the amp at your knees rather than your ankles when placed on the floor, which is a step in the right direction. It feels like it's balanced somewhat precariously compared to, say, a Fender Twin's tilt arrangement, so I'd be very wary of putting it anywhere off the ground with the tilt-back thing on. I try to have the amp on a chair or something else to elevate it a bit when I play, so I tend not to bother with the tilt-back legs unless there's really no other way to go. To be fair I've used them a few times now without the amp deciding to keel over backwards, so maybe I'm worrying unnecessarily. 

It's a one-hand carry on the flat if you're reasonably fit, but you won't want anything very heavy in the other hand.


Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 2318
    edited February 2017

    So, what's not to like?

    Well, there are a few things. 

    The amp has a top facing control panel and no LEDs on the footswitch, so given that it's designed to live in that dirty-clean territory where you concievably wouldn't be able to tell which channel you're on it's not a very helpful design. It might be worth ditching the supplied foot switch and getting yourself one with LEDs in it. One button only though, because:

    The reverb. It's shit. Admittedly, my last couple of amps were Fender (style) setups with proper nice rich spring reverb tanks, but the Lionheart is a bit of a letdown in that respect. The reverb is barely noticeable until you turn it up past 3 o'clock, at which point it starts to squeal. 

    No worries, you think to yourself, I'll just stick a reverb pedal in the effects loop. That'll sort it.

    No it won't. Because you know what else is shit?

    Yep.

    The effects loop. 

    Stock, the loop is some sort of parallel design that only sends part of your signal through the loop. If you happen to be using any sort of digital effect you may well find that the tiny amount of latency that's inevitably introduced plays havoc with your signal when it's re-combined with the dry path from the amp. When using the loop the dry signal and the minutely-delayed effected sound create a sort of phase-cancelling, filtering effect that make it sound like you're using a crap chorus pedal, and takes a huge chunk of your volume away. Utterly un-useable. Totally pointless.

    It's fixable if you're feeling adventurous, or if you know someone who knows their way around the inside of valve amps. Crack open the amp and you'll find several double-sided PCBs with a combination of standard sized components and SMDs. Tucked away on the SMD side of the main PCB (you'll have to take the amp completely out of the cabinet to get at it) is a resistor marked "R28", which is in the dry signal path of the effects loop. Take it out (very carefully) and you have a series loop and all that fantastic Vox-y, Marshall-y tone from before you had the misfortune to fire up the effects loop. Only you've voided your warranty and you'll need to plug a patch cord in to the loop send and returns any time you want to play without anything in the effects loop. 
    UPDATE: No you don't need to plug in a patch cable. If you put jumper wires between the switched contacts on the send and return jacks the amp will work without a cable in the loop.

    One last little niggle? The handle is starting to look like it's had a hard life. It hasn't- the amp goes to and from band rehearsals once a week and to occasional gigs besides, but as amp handles go it's had it pretty easy. Still, the vinyl is starting to come away and look shabby, which makes me paranoid every time I lift the thing off the ground. Laney have so far ignored two emails through their website asking where I might be able to get hold of a replacement. 

    Bottom line? In spite of the flaws, I love this amp. It's hard not to when it sounds so good. So far it's been thoroughly reliable and has produced all the sounds I've wanted from it. It does what it does- it's not a super-clean blackface Fender or a high gain ratbastard, but for touch-sensitive low/mid gain blues or rock tones I'd say it's well worth checking out.

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 9198
    Excellent write-up, and very much in line with my feelings on the L5T, only yours is louder. 

    I don't use FX loops, but also have no idea why Laney insist on their weird non-adjustable parallel loop setup. I have literally never heard anyone say they use it and like it.
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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 2318

    I don't use FX loops, but also have no idea why Laney insist on their weird non-adjustable parallel loop setup. I have literally never heard anyone say they use it and like it.
    That's because anyone who said that would have shit for brains and cloth ears. And smell funny. 

    Perhaps it's some sort of running joke.

    Seriously, you should try it. Put something digital in the effects loop and listen to the comedy gold that comes out of your speaker.

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 6980
    FWIW the reverb is digital not an actual spring. It is shit though.
    There's a Laney demo of the combo on YouTube where the chap goes up into metal levels of gain. It is just wrong sounding for that, whoever does their videos needs shooting.
    The tilt back thing is OK but in a pub with wobbly floorboards our drummer walked past mine and the amp ended up flat on it's back. :(
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 2318
    edited May 2016
    FWIW the reverb is digital not an actual spring. It is shit though.
    There's a Laney demo of the combo on YouTube where the chap goes up into metal levels of gain. It is just wrong sounding for that, whoever does their videos needs shooting.
    The tilt back thing is OK but in a pub with wobbly floorboards our drummer walked past mine and the amp ended up flat on it's back. :(

    The L5T definitely has digital reverb but I'm almost certain I found a reverb tank inside my amp when I opened it up to mod the effects loop. 

    EDIT: Yes, I did. It's mounted at the top of the front panel, behind where the name badge is, not in the bottom of the cabinet where you'd usually find it.

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 6980
    english_bob;1067458" said:
    EricTheWeary said:

    FWIW the reverb is digital not an actual spring. It is shit though.

    There's a Laney demo of the combo on YouTube where the chap goes up into metal levels of gain. It is just wrong sounding for that, whoever does their videos needs shooting.

    The tilt back thing is OK but in a pub with wobbly floorboards our drummer walked past mine and the amp ended up flat on it's back. :(





    The L5T definitely has digital reverb but I'm almost certain I found a reverb tank inside my amp when I opened it up to mod the effects loop. 
    The specs on the Laney site for the 20t say digital but I've never opened mine up so they may well be wrong! My old, old Laney combo has spring reverb in it and that was never great, I'm not sure reverb is a Laney strength.
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • JeremiahJeremiah Frets: 305
    edited May 2016
    I think they may have once had spring reverb but switched to digital on the latest version.

    AFAIK the current model also has a series effects loop though I can't see where it mentions this on Laney's web page

    Edit: I also think they are no longer made in the UK.
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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 2318
    I think I'm right in saying that only part of the construction was ever done in the UK- possibly PCBs fabricated overseas then finished and fitted to the chassis in the UK. Could be wrong...

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • normula1normula1 Frets: 254
    My L5t has a spring reverb at the bottom of the cab. I did the serial loop mod fairly quickly. If you jumper the back of the loop jacks, you don't need the link cable in there.
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  • chromatunachromatuna Frets: 78
    edited May 2016
    Thanks for the detailed review, I might look around for one of these. I had a Laney VC 15 110 which was a great little amp but ultimately I didn't like the 10" speaker even with an upgrade so it went.

    p.s. I think that Laney final tone control, probably something to do with negative feedback, is brilliant
    Just because you can play lots of notes very quickly doesn't mean that you should
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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 2318
    edited February 2017

    Yep, the master tone control is very useful for "tuning the room", or for adjusting from a humbucker guitar to a single coil one.It doesn't sound exactly like just turning up the treble either- IMO the master tone makes the top end more cutting and aggressive than the treble control does.

    FYI, it has a fairly even sweep through most of its travel, but just before it hits full clockwise it makes a noticeable jump in brightness. Not un-useable, probably pretty good for getting closer to bright, scooped Blackface-y sort of sounds. I'll have to fiddle with it more to see if it can get you there.

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • shaunmshaunm Frets: 871
    I had a 4x10 combo version of this amp that I gigged for 6 years and other than a few fuses it was brilliant. I loved the tone and it sounded huge for a 20 watt amp.

    I second all the comments regarding the down sides to the amp and will add that the 4x10 was heavy to shit around.

    All said and done though, I thought it was great and id be happy to still be playing one.
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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 6980
    I had a look at the 2x12 version of the combo and could hardly pick it up.
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • longjawlongjaw Frets: 156
    I have the head version and love it - I use it with my 2 x 12" cab containing a Celestion Vintage V30 and G12-65. 
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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 2318
    I had a look at the 2x12 version of the combo and could hardly pick it up.
    I can believe that. The only legendarily heavy amp I've had the misfortune to own was a Fender Twin, and the L20T 1x12" isn't in that league, but it's a fair old weight. 

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • EricTheWearyEricTheWeary Frets: 6980
    Jeremiah;1067884" said:
    I think they may have once had spring reverb but switched to digital on the latest version.

    AFAIK the current model also has a series effects loop though I can't see where it mentions this on Laney's web page

    Edit: I also think they are no longer made in the UK.
    Having looked at a couple of things I think the UK versions had spring reverb, changed to digital for Chinese production along with a Chinese made Celestion. The 5 watt studio head has digital reverb but they've only been made in China. Older 5 watt versions would have been made in the UK and had spring reverb.
    Dum dum dum, dum dum de dum, dum dum dum, dum dummmm.
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  • Updated the main review having gone back and fixed the effects loop properly. Everything I'd read about the effects loop mod back then was fairly non-committal about whether you could make the amp pass signal internally after you removed the resistor from the dry path, so when it didn't work I was half expecting it and didn't suspect that I'd done it wrong.

    Cracked open the amp last night to discover that 2015 me had decided only to jumper the sleeve contacts on the send and return jacks and not the tips. 2017 me rolled his eyes, added another jumper wire and found that the amp now works fine without the patch cable.

    If you're relatively competent with a screwdriver(!) and a soldering iron the mod will take you about an hour to do, not two years like this numpty :lol:

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • antifashantifash Frets: 597
    I have the old British L5 with spring reverb. It's great. One of the best sounding amps I've ever owned. I wouldn't buy a later made one with digital reverb - apparently made in China etc.
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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 2318
    I'd be put off more by the cheaper Chinese Celestion speaker in the newer ones than by the country of origin.

    If the design is unchanged (I don't know for sure that it isn't...) there's no reason why the amp shouldn't sound just as good regardless of where it was made, but it seems pretty well agreed that UK made Celestions sound better than the cheaper Chinese ones.

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • gibbygibby Frets: 21
    I must admit to owning 2 of the early Lionhearts..the 5T Combo with 12" Celestion Greenback and the 20H head, both with Spring(Accutronics) reverb tanks..bloody awesome amps!! I'd go as far to say the 5T and 20H sound "exactly the same", just that the 20watter is louder. Both are the kind of amps that sound better the more you turn them up.

     I tend to use them on the "dirty" channel but with the gain only on around 3-4 at most and with the "master" volume turned up around 6 or so; that gives are great "warm" crunch tone that you can clean up on the guitar volume knob, or knock into lead overdrive with some mild o/d from a pedal. The 20w is my "turn up, switch on and go" gigging amp. The 5T is for rehearsal and home use :)  Yes, I agree you need to crank the reverb control way up to get anything "wet" and the tone circuit is very "middly" unless you crank the master tone knob all the way up...but what a great warm sound!! Easy to tweak, as the tone controls and volumes actually work over the full range of the pots. Definitively not a surfers amp or metal amp, but does everything else in between with aplomb! Won't be selling either of these in a hurry!!!

     I can't comment on the Chinese ones,but I highly recommend getting yourself an early UK model. :)

    (Cant say I've ever had any real issues with the send/return loops, but I mainly run straight into the front and of the amp with just an overdrive and clean boost. Used a NOVA system thro the send/return for maybe 2 gigs and a few rehearsal without any obvious problems, but I just found multi-fx's and more cables a hassle and went back to going in thro the front end :) )
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