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December/January 2022

by Adam Spencer

Review: Laney DB200-210 Bass Combo

by Adam Spencer

Review: Laney DB200-210 Bass Combo

Laney is not a name that I’d ever really considered when shopping for a new bass amp, yet this British amp and PA company has been the power behind some of the biggest and most iconic bands and artists, even supplying Led Zeppelin’s first touring PA in 1968.

The earliest adopters included guitar legends like Randy Rhodes, Ace Frehley, Paul Gilbert and Tony Iommi (who used Laney amps on Black Sabbath’s first record, immortalising the use of the devils 5th on the first notes of the album), to name a few.

Review: Laney DB200-210 Bass ComboSince then the Laney tone palettes have made the brand major players, particularly in the worlds of stoner rock and doom metal. Their tube drive has a unique intensity that’s smooth, while punchy and gritty. This quality is one they’ve not failed to include in the new Digbeth (DB) bass amplifier range, of which I am trialling a mid-sized combo version.

What’s a Digbeth? Well, Laney bill it as: “Powerful, feature-laden, top of the range bass amplification and cabinets for the modern player with an eye for vintage, boutique vibes.”

The name actually comes from the central Birmingham suburb that housed their manufacturing plant through the 1970s, and this new 2020s range of FET-and-tube amps is a nod to the styling, craftsmanship, and tones of that era. Along with the 200 watt 210 combo that I’ve been trialling, the range that will be available locally includes 200 and 500W head options, a 4 x 10” cabinet, a 2 x 12” cabinet, and a preamp pedal (DB-Pre) with tone controls from the 500W head.

The first thing that struck me about the DB200-210 combo after I wrestled it from the box was its styling. The black tolex looks like it’s been wrapped in a fine leather, white panel striping across the top and around the black and silver grille, with a small control panel of black and silver bell knobs. Very British.

The tone panel is surprisingly small, even for an amp of its size and took me a minute to get my head around, I’ve never seen anything like it before. First is the FET Volume, easy. Next a channel switch for FET/Tube, right. Tube Gain and Tube Volume (pull to blend FET and Tube channels), sweet no worries.

Now it gets more interesting. Mid Controls are a 4-way knob that selects the mid shape cut, and its Level control knob. But the most unique control option on this amp is the TILT ‘EQ Seesaw’ function, with treble on one side and bass the other. This gives you the option to boost either Lows or Highs, but not both…
Now I’m all for innovation, but I was immediately sceptical. The lack of a standard or comprehensive Bass-Mid-Treble control on any amp gets me a little worried.

Plugged in and fired up though this amp showed me I should have more faith! The simplicity and combination of the mid controls and the TILT make dialling in a nice tone surprisingly easy. The FET is what you’d expect from a 200W and two 10-inch speakers (along with a 1″ compression driver), smooth and clean, easy to shape and true to your bass’s natural tone.

Switch over to the Tube channel and it’s a whole other beast! At low drive, it gives a smooth, mellow warmth. Push the drive some more and it will start to growl at you. Even more and you’d better keep your hands on your bass because it might bite your hand off… but that won’t be a problem because when it’s driving you’ll feel like Keith Moon behind the wheel of a Rolls Royce. And you might want to tape on your headphones too because this thing is LOUD!

200-watt amps sit in the space between bedrooms and small stages. Not quite enough presence to boom out a big room, but well too loud to give it a heavy-handed turn on the volume without waking up your flatmate on the other end of the house after a night shift. I would assume…

Perfect for practice rooms and garages, the range of amps you can get between 150 and 400W is pretty extensive. Sometimes though amps in this group can fall short of purpose because of build quality, features, low volume, and looks. This combo doesn’t fail in any of those measures.

The 210 combo puts out way more volume (with clarity) than you’d expect of something of this size. It’s a seriously solid structure, up there with cabinets well above its price tier. Closed-back and built from thick ply, these things are impenetrable. The weight does reflect that though, and at 18.5 kgs it’s one of the heaviest amps in its group. With a built-in DI, effects loop, AUX-in and headphone jack it is fit for all purposes you might want.

The $1,295 rrp puts it in about the same zone as a few others. The Fender Rumble 500 has the 2 x 10 speaker configuration, the Ashdown Rootmaster and Ampeg Rocket bass both have classic styling, Markbass and Trace Elliot have combos with the power and reputation, with slightly higher price tags. But I think this unit has all of those positive features.

The Digbeth range from Laney seems a really exciting new option in the bass amp market, and their marketing types are calling it the new standard. They might be right. Given what this small combo can do I’d love to plug into one of its bigger counterparts to see what damage I could do to my eardrums!

The unconventional EQ does take a little to get your eyes and ears around but gives a pretty wide range of tone manipulation. I do personally like a better ability to shape my tone, but for its purpose, it’s certainly something you won’t mind and would be an easy fix with a preamp.

One undeniable thing is that this range of amps will get you to a tone you like, fast. Especially if you want to give it some grit. The drive channel’s range will give you everything from a mild overdrive to distortion, and fuzz tones. When looking for new gear, I’ve always been drawn to things that inspire a different way of playing. The Laney DB200-210 does that for me, with simplicity and style.

Adam Spencer plays bass in Auckland act Summer Thieves, their new album ‘Paradise Down The Road’ is out now.

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