Price paid: $ 400
Purchased from: Coastal Music (Durban, South Africa)
Sound — 8
The amp is voiced in a typical Laney, British style. I play an Epiphone Les Paul Standard with Seymour Duncan SH-1 '59 PAFs. I also jammed with a Fender Strat, with Vintage HOT Noiseless p/ups. My musical style is blues and progressive. My pedalboard consists of a TS808, Boss DS-1, Marshall ED-1 Compressor, Boss DD20, and Ibanez WD7 Wah. I generally run the gain at 1 o'clock and the volume at 12 o'clock (in the 15W input). The applications for which I use this amp is for practice and for recording, as my Peavey Classic 50 is much better suited for live playing. The tone is pure valve, warm and clear though not Fender crisp. For more clarity I'll just add more with the Tone knob. There isn't much in the way of clean headroom, this amp mostly favours crunch sounds. With the right guitar and effects it can cover all the classic rock and blues genre's and can handle the requirements of classic metal (gain wise) without much fuss. It's not as well suited to modern metal, though a 7-band EQ and big distortion pedal goes a long way. I personally love the tone this amp gives, especially with my Les Paul's neck p/up and TS808 acting as a boost, very creamy with excellent definition and clarity.
Overall Impression — 7
I do very much like this amp. Its small, light and versatile, and has an amazing sound and feel (in some ways superior to my much bigger and more expensive Peavey Classic 50). When shopping around for this amp I considered quite a few other small amps, including the Ibanez Tube Screamer Amp, the Marshall Valvestate, and Vox Valvetronix, as well as the Egnator Tweaker and Orange Dark Terror (the last two aren't available in SA unfortunately). Should the Cub 12R be lost or stolen I'd probably hold out and import the Dark Terror, or have a bespoke handwired valve amp of similar features made up for me here locally. What puts me off buying another Laney is simply the unreliability of them, which is a pity because the amp really does sound incredible. If my tech can get it working reliably I'll probably keep mine for the foreseeable future, otherwise I will be looking elsewhere. Video from YouTube:
Reliability & Durability — 2
Simply put, no. I'm currently on my second amp, the first being replaced under warranty. With an amp priced as low as this, with as many features as this amp has it's obvious that sacrifices had to be made and unfortunately that was in build quality. My first one started randomly powering down after 3 or so months. I contacted Laney's technical assistance and they diagnosed the problem as a faulty Poly switch. The music shop from which I bought the amp replaced it with a new one which has also recently failed: it switches on, works fine for a few seconds and then loses output. I've decided to have it repaired by a local technician, and will keep it.
Features — 9
This is a brilliant little amp that sits so well with the small size, low wattage tube amp market. It has a remarkably full set of features: three way EQ, footswitcheable digital reverb, the usual gain and volume dials, an effects loop, multiple speaker outputs and a nifty Tone knob. It's rated at 15W, but also comes with a <1W input which attenuates the signal so you can really blast the gain at lower volumes. It is loud, even run through the <1W input. The features that sold this amp for me were the three way EQ, and the effects loop. Playing it however I find the Tone knob to be incredibly useful as well, as it lets you switch between bright and dark guitars without having to fiddle too much with the EQ. The tone knob performs very much like the tone knob on a guitar: at fully counter-clockwise the amp is dark, almost muddy, brightening up as the knob is turned clockwise. I run the reverb with a homemade footswitch (I can't justify spending R300 (40USD) to buy a footswitch that I can build with stuff lying around my workshop.) This amp works quite well for recording, as the tone is excellent at relatively low volumes and there isn't a place on the 12" Celestion Rocket that doesn't sound good even with a cheap mic. In a band it's best when mic'd, though is still loud enough on it's own for jamming and practicing. It's a full-featured amp, especially when viewed within its price range.