Joyous (& Inexpensive) Discoveries, Past & Present

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Luthier Vandros, Sep 14, 2018.

  1. Luthier Vandros

    Luthier Vandros Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Aug 19, 2015
    Down by ya mom an them's
    With limited time and even more limited space to play guitar, I have found myself right in the middle of the micro amp and combo demographics. Grab 'em and go play in the backyard. I landed on a few new discoveries and one old one that’s completely reinvigorated my home practice life. But first, a tale of woe and regret!

    When I was living off Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood I met a cool cat while I was jogging in the hills - an older guy that had been there since the 60's. He tried his hand at guitar and decided it just wasn't for him long ago. During that time, Pignose was making amps in the neighborhood, so he bought one and kept it in the original box, which sat in his closet for 30+ years - until he met me. He gifted it to me and kicked off a great friendship that would last through the years.

    It was in MINT condition - even the box was mint. I used it for a few hotel gigs, where I ran an SG through it. What a dry and nasty little beast! I ended up selling it after some hard times, but I made $300+ off of it, so it carried me through the day.

    Now here I am years later and this comes along.


    It's got a 3w x 2 stereo power section driving 3" speakers. Great tones with delay on board! The construction and materials are TOP NOTCH. The instructions, packaging, and attention to detail have made me a fan of Laney – and this is practically a toy, as most would presume – but…the controls have incredibly smooth and positive action. The pots have the perfect amount of resistance and are finished with high quality metal knobs. The faceplate is beautiful. The tolex and piping are outstanding. The design is gorgeous and the clean and driven tones are warm, touch sensitive, and organic. How’s this even possible?

    The on-board delay is unobtrusive and spacious – with repeats extending well past the cabinet’s dimensions, I feel I experience auditory hallucinations. It sounds as though the repeats are sounding 6’ to the sides of the amp while I’m playing. The gain on tap is appreciable, with it topping out at what I’d consider the north side of medium gain. Nice, warm, organic, and fairly non-compressed. Sounds great and all pickup positions sound distinct. As an aside, a Roland Mobile Cube arrived yesterday. It's larger and I haven't put it through its paces yet, but straight away, I can tell the build quality is light years behind the Laney.

    This situation also inspired me to go on a combo treasure hunt at some local pawnshops - something I haven't done in years. The nostalgic allure of suddenly happening upon a dusty old Blackface or MKI Boogie quickly faded as I hit the second shop over my lunch break, only to find a ratty Valvestate siting within a ruinous heap of forgotten lawn equipment. The odds of finding what I was after were slim and I knew it, but nostalgia had the best of me and I was determined to continue my search from the comfort of my laptop.


    Yes, a teal-striped, late early 90's Peavey 210 Studio Chorus (not mine depicted). YES. Back in 1989 when I was just a year into my guitar journey, the local music store, "Werlein's", carried the full range of Peavey products- from guitars to amps to PA gear, they had the entire product line. The store was incredibly well laid out, if not on the smaller side, and the staff were extremely patient and forgiving of me.

    I used to go there whenever I could and would plug into this little 210 combo for hours on end playing the same Maiden guitar solos. They never kicked me out or harassed me. I was so hooked on the amp because it nailed Maiden's "Somewhere in Time" rhythm and lead tones, which I recently discovered were all GK SS stereo amps. Anything was better than the old Rage 108 my dad got me as a starter amp, right?

    I actually found this amp on the website for $99 in full working condition (no scratchy pots, noises, input issues, etc) WITH original foot switch and cable in questionable cosmetic condition. It just arrived 2 days ago from a retail location in Nebraska. The back apparently served as a birdhouse and repository of sunflower seed shells, toothpicks, and miscellaneous arachnid dwellings among other things.

    I was nervous when I plugged in, anticipating that my younger and less experienced ears were under-developed and knew no good tone. Well - this thing sounds tremendous! The clean channel is just gloriously clean and dynamic. Very sparkling with a nice, solid low end. It’s every bit as juicy and toneful as a JC circuit, as my memory serves. Just very satisfying in all my guitars’ pickup selector positions.

    The lead channel is fantastic! Not much mojo at lower gain settings, but from 12-3 o’clock on the “supersat” pot, it’s dynamic, smooth, and has that velvety midrange and sparkling presence that Peavey’s do so well. It reminds me of when I was running a tube driven Tone Bone Plexi pedal into a blackface amp. This is just a thick and rich tone monster for rock/metal work.

    The added bonus is the reverb is great and the stereo chorus can be set to create a very spacious atmosphere by bringing the rate down to 7-9 o’clock and keeping the depth around 4-5 o’clock. This removes the type of swirl that would push this amp’s tone into the genre of its day. If that’s your thing, this amp’s chorus will not disappoint. It effects one speaker only, giving an intense and hugely spacial atmosphere. Sound comes from everywhere in the room, even with just two little 10’s.

    It's a little rougher looking than I want. The popcorn tolex is vile to behold, just as I remembered it. Thankfully, the only surface corrosion lies on the speaker baskets and reverb tank, in addition to a few input jack nuts/washers and cabinet fasteners. I'll take out the chassis this weekend when I clean the tolex in earnest, so who knows what horror show is in there.

    A resto is in process. I plan on recovering the cab with smooth tolex and replacing all of the hardware. I’ve got an upgraded 3 spring/long reverb pan on the way and will be changing out the filter caps. Part of me says, "Hey, just do the electronics maintenance and be done with it!" and there's good logic at play there. I suppose I could gig with this and not be concerned about it getting banged around. Besides, there's something to say about keeping it true to its spirit.

    I've been on an exclusively tube-based amp odyssey for the past 20 years and inadvertently exposed myself to great solid state tones as I was hunting down some vintage rack gear while I was knee-deep in a quest for authentic Hysteria guitar tones. This somehow softened my heart for solid state amps and triggered massive nostalgia.

    I've heard plenty of terrible sounding SS devices throughout my musical career, but my tube snobbery had become so deep-rooted and blinding that I robbed myself of the potential to find great tones elsewhere. I've turned the page and now embrace a new and frustratingly simple mentality - find good tone with your ears, not your eyes.

    I'm really glad the way this adventure turned out and hope that some of you find similar joy in unexpected places. Don't quench your inner kid!

    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018
    Honest Charley, bftfender and dswo like this.
  2. Paul in Colorado

    Paul in Colorado Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Fort Collins, CO
    I was real interested in those Peavey amps when they were new, but I deemed them "lesser" amps and went about my tone quest. I ended up with a Rivera S120-210 which is the same amp done with tubes more or less. Well, I've played a few of the Peaveys at used music and pawn shops in recent years and while the Rivera is a lifetime keeper, my snobbery prevented me from owning a good sounding and useful amp.

    Congrats on taking a chance on that. Right now my main gigging amp is an '80's Peavey Backstage Plus that is perfect for so many small stages I play these days. I used it last night with a Tele and a National Lap Steel and it sounded totally fab. Those little Laney amps look interesting. I've never seen them before.
    Luthier Vandros likes this.
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