Laney’s VC30-212 is a 30-watt Class A tube combo amp available in 2×10, 1×12, and 2×12 configurations. We tested the 2×12 version, which is loaded with two HH Invader Vintage 35 12″ speakers. The VC30 uses four EL-84 power tubes and three ECC83 or 7025 preamp tubes.
The cabinet is covered in classic black tolex with attractive black and white grillecloth surrounded by white piping. The amp’s chrome control panel is mounted on top of the box, and uses vintage-style pointer knobs. There’s also a thick black handle and two chrome vents on top. The speakers are mounted in an open-back cabinet fitted with a protective metal grille.
The control panel includes separate Hi and Lo jacks for instruments, with differing input levels, as well as the controls for Clean Volume, Bright switch, Drive (sets amount of overdrive), Drive Volume (sets volume level of Drive channel), Drive switch (engages Drive channel), Bass, Middle, Treble, Reverb, and Effects Level to regulate the level of the external effects plugged into the loop. Power and standby switches are positioned at the far right. One detail worth noting is that the controls are facing the player when they stand in front, unlike most vintage amps with top-mounted controls, which force you to read upside-down.
The back panel contains the power cable connector, fuse, jacks for internal and extension speakers, as well as the extension speaker switch impedance (4 or 8 ohms) switch. Laney offers two 8-ohm extension cabinets in 2×12 and 2×10 configurations that match the VC30′s cosmetics.
Also included on the back panel are send and return jacks for the effects loops, and a footswitch jack for an optional drive/reverb footswitch.
To compare tones, we tested the VC30 using three popular guitars: a Gibson ’59 reissue Les Paul, a ’56 LP Junior, and a ’70 Fender Tele. We set all tone controls to 7 with the Drive off, and adjusted the clean volume to an appropriate level, as the manual recommends for achieving a vintage-type sound.
Using cleaner settings, the VC30 is very responsive to finger technique and picking dynamics. The tones are sweet, vibrant, and full-bodied, with luxurious mids and beefy low-end. The Bright switch adds more sparkle to the top-end, but when it’s off, the tonal response is much flatter.
Next, we flipped on the Drive switch and experimented with the level and volume controls, to check the span of overdriven tones. The VC30 does provide an ample supply of dirty tones well-suited for blues and classic rock. However, if you want real heavy crunch, you definitely have to use a stompbox. We plugged in an Ibanez Tube Screamer and Boss Super Overdrive, and both provided favorable results for delivering extra grease and more snarl. With higher-gain settings, each guitar retained its inherent tonal characteristics, unlike some amps that make every instrument sound the same. As with cleaner settings, the amp was very responsive to dynamics and retained its own tonal qualities when used for dirtier tones.
Finally, we tested the amp’s built-in spring reverb, which offered refined, natural-sounding tones that added a warm, realistic ambience ranging from delicate to vivid – not nearly as intense or splashy as a typical Fender reverb.
Volume and Power
If you’re one of those who thinks a 30-watt amp can’t possibly provide enough power or volume for the average gig, get over the numbers! When it comes to sound, VC30-212 packs a very serious wallop. We doubt the neighbors could tell the difference between a 100-watt stack and this 30-watt combo; both will rock the foundation.
But even at low volume settings, the VC30 is a powerhouse; the 2×12 cab can disperse enough power and volume to gig with, and it would make a great studio amp.
Also worth mentioning is the instruction manual. A double-sided three-page foldout that provides details on the amp’s features, it also includes an informative, easy-to-understand section on troubleshooting and tube replacement. This will greatly help those unfamiliar with the basics of tube amp maintenance in knowing what to look for when something isn’t functioning properly.
We give the VC30 a big thumbs up for design and tone. The only nit we’d pick is that the available footswitch isn’t standard equipment.
Type Of Amp: Class A tube combo
Features: Four EL84 power tubes; three ECC83 or 7025 preamp tubes, hi and lo inputs, power and standby switches, controls for Clean Volume, Drive Volume, Drive level, Drive switch, Bright switch, Bass, Middle, Treble, Reverb, Effects Level, main and extension sSpeaker jacks, ohm selector switch, effects send and return jacks, footswitch jack, two 12″ HH Invader Vintage 35 speakers, one-year warranty (extended warranty available).
Contact: Laney Amplification, Newlyn Road, Cradley Heath, West Midlands, UK, B64 6BE, phone 011-44-138-463-3821, fax 011-44-138-463-9186, website: laney.co.uk.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.