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Lab Series L5, L7, & L9: the Ultimate Sleeper Amp?

by vaughn skow December 15, 2012 2 min read

Lab Series L7 L9 Fender Super Reverb

Hey fellow ampaholics, my name is Vaughn, & I’ve got somthin’ to share with the group!  I’m a Big, Big, BIG fan of so-called "sleeper amps", you know, the amps that sound friggin awesome, but can be bought by the average working guitarist.  Hey, who doesn’t love them?

In previous blogs I have featured the totally toneful, and surprisingly inexpensive Marshall Artist 3203, and the Randall RG80ES, the hands-down king of 80’s hair-metal tone.  Well, as promised, this week I’m blowing the dust off of what I believe is the best value in vintage amps available on the market, the Lab Series amps of the late 1970’s.

Do a little sniffing around and you will find the history of these puppies.  Designed by Bob Moog & the folks at Gibson ... and spendy as all get out!  These were never intended to be budget amps, these babies were primo top-notch, top-dollar amps intended for seasoned pros.

I won’t re-hash the features or specs here; do a quick Google searchand you’ll find that stuff.  What I want to talk about is TONE.  What does a Lab Series actually SOUNDlike? Well, a whole heckuva lot like a vintage Fender tube amp, that’s what.  So, if like me you like old Fenders, you will like the old Lab series.  A few distinctions set the Lab Series apart from a vintage non-master volume blackface Fender:  1) The Lab Series master volume is actually useable, and you can get a nice right-at-breakup tube tone at most any volume.  2) At 100 watts (true RMS) the Lab Series amps can get louder and offer more clean headroom than most vintage Fenders. 3) Unlike a vintage Fender, all of the controls actually do a LOT; be prepared to do a little more knob-tweaking than with an old plug-n-play Fender! 4) And, of course you’ll have to trade your Tremolo for optical compression.

Is a $300 Lab Series as totally sweeeet as a $1500 Blackface Super Reverb?  No, not quite.  Is there a sweeter sounding $300 vintage amp out there that can keep up with a 100-watt Marshall?  I don’t think so.

So, the math goes like this: 1 picture = 1000 words ... so a whole heckuva lot of moving pictures outta be worth about three billion of my words!  I’m gonna leave y’all with not one ... not two ... but THREE videos!  A shoot-out between my trusty 1967 Fender Super Reverb and the L7 & L9.  And individual vlogs on the L7 & L9.  Enjoy!



My outside site recommendation this week features all the specs of the Lab Series L5 / L7 / L9 amps, check it out!

emailVaughn     About Vaughn Skow

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