The Laney Prism P35 is one of a small range of Chinese made digital guitar amps from Laney Amplification, an essentially British company who, like many of its contemporaries, sees no reason not to compete in the marketplace for affordable small amps for beginners and bedroom guitarists with its own product.
These low wattage digital guitar amps, and there a lot of them about, offer such a lot of features for the money and despite claims that they sound like the real amps they are attempting to emulate (they don’t), are the perfect solution to any budding player who simply doesn’t have the resources to acquire a quality valve amp which may have no effects on offer let alone an on-board tuner and user-setting memory locations. The effects alone on these amps would cost hundreds of pound to buy separately as pedals and the extra features like an MP3/iPod input and direct recording output make them ideal practice tools.
The Laney Prism series includes the P65 with a Celestion 12″ speaker, and the P20, but it’s the P35 that’s the subject of this review. The Prism P35 is a 30-Watt, portable guitar combo featuring a 10″ speaker, Hero and Live modes, on-board tuner, footswitchable modes, and four memory locations for storing sounds, all in a rugged looking casing that features hefty corner protectors and a heavy duty inset carrying handle on the top. The controls feature Gain, Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble and Master Volume. There is a rotary Amp control which can select either the 11 Hero modes or the individual strings for the tuner. The Effects control selects either single effects like Reverb and Delay or combined effects like Comp+Chorus. The Hero/Live modes are selected by push switches as are the Tuner, Boost, Memory Locations, Tap tempo, Edit and Bypass selections. The MP3 mini-jack input is also on the front panel. There is a phones/record out socket and two footswitch inputs on the rear panel.
In Live mode, all controls work as a normal amplifier would and by using the gain and volume and the EQ, the whole range of distortion characteristics, from slight break up to all-out metal can be achieved. Add an effect, edited if neccessary with the Tap or Edit controls, and store the result in one of the four memory locations. The 11 Hero modes are named after the actual amps that inspired the tones and include Edgy, Wing, Highway, Iron and Dime. It’s pretty obvious from the names just where the different tones originated and it has to be said, Laney has done a good job. I particularly liked the Highway setting – possibly something to do with the fact that I was reviewing the amp with an Epiphone SG. In Hero mode, LEDs round the controls indicate the setting, which is a nice touch.
Like all digital amps, a certain amount of forgiveness is required when listening to a straight, clean sound unadorned with any effects. They simply don’t respond that well to any differences in playing techniques like ‘digging-in’ or using the volume controls to affect dynamics – the break-up charactaristics are not the same as those found on a valve amp. However, I don’t think this is going to bother the end user, firstly because they haven’t had to spend a lot of cash, and secondly because they’re likely to be delighted with the choice of sounds and effects on offer on the Laney Prism P35.