When people refer to things as ‘workingman’s’ versions of other things, nine times out of 10 they mean it as an insult. I didn’t figure this out until way later than you’d think, and for ages I couldn’t understand why people were using that term to refer to things they didn’t actually like. Sheer snobbery I say. The workingman is the salt of the earth, the guy who leaves home the pretense, trickery and flab that comes with his opposition and gets the job done efficiently and properly. Now, this credo should by no means apply only to the coarser trades; it’s also true so often in the music world that it should be written on the cover of the guidebook. Workingman musicians need supremely reliable tools and few are more trustworthy and forthright than Laney’s new R500H Bass head.
Perched atop its brother in arms the R410 cab, The R500H is reasonably unassuming to look at. Its low profile facade is replete with the usual amount of controls, and to a point, the most fancy thing about it is its lush, royal blue paint job. It is lightweight, coming in at just over 4kg, slim and road-ready where construction is concerned. If anything, you’d be forgiven for looking past it in a line up, but once fired up it is well and truly worth spending some time with. High and low gain inputs match with passive and active pickups respectively, sending signal into the gain stage, which neatly works in tandem with the compression threshold to ensure you and your amp gets off on the right foot. From there you’ve only a few sidesteps past simple bass, treble and master volume dials out to the finished product. Simple, elegant, solid-state signal path is more often than not exactly what the doctor ordered.
That’s not to say it’s without refinements however. There are a few tricks of the trade in the toolbox that make the R500H undeniably useful. Essentials like an XLR DI out on the front panel and effects loop and tuner out on the back boost confidence in the live setting and the option of plugging in the 10-band EQ via a remote footswitch only lengthens the list of tonal opportunities. The real ace in the hole though is Laney’s unique ‘enhance’ knob mounted between the compressor and the start of the tone stack. The low-end cousin of the guitar amp stalwart, the presence knob, here you are afforded extra contour around the 30-100hz region which is a great way to find your place in any weird sounding room or just punch in some rumble in even the densest of mixes. This portion of the frequency spectrum is bizarrely often neglected, so it makes for a handy change to be able to wrangle a little extra special should the mood arise.
Overall, the Laney R500H, and its apprentice the R410 cab, is the right man for any and every job. The best kinds of amps are the ones you don’t have to wrestle and argue with in order to get the job done. Sturdy and reliable as a Clydesdale and with power as well as sensitivity and responsiveness in spades, there are few jobs that it couldn’t handle, leaving you to concentrate on more important things like dodging guitar player’s headstocks or singer’s flailing limbs.
Hits and Misses
Plenty of power and headroom, tonally adaptable and easy to dial in
Separate gain and compression controls would be a bonus