65amps London Pro Amp Review
April 19, 2011
|Download Example 1
Red Channel, Gutsy Rhythm Tone
Download Example 2
Blue Channel, Gritty Lead Tone
Download Example 3
Both Channels. Raunchy Rhythm Tone
Clips recorded with a 1976 Gibson Les Paul Custom into the amp mic'd with a SM57 off-axis into a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre, Apogee Symphony I/O into Pro Tools HD9. No EQ, reverb or processing.
The London Pro belongs to 65amps’ Working Pro Line—a more affordable series of amplifiers (in relative terms) for players who want 65amps features and quality with fewer frills. The London Pro is an evolution of 65’s first amp, the London. And given its wattage and the EL84 circuitry in Channel 1, the Pro is sure to grab the attention of players who like the original London, or dig the chime and overdrive Vox’s ground-breaking AC15 combo. But with its switchable preamp section, the London Pro should also appeal to players who require more gain stages.
The London Pro achieves its more accessible price by trimming some of the cosmetics—like metal vents and recessed panels—that cost more to manufacture. That doesn’t mean the London Pro isn’t a striking amp. On the contrary, with a big, red 65 logo on the head and cab, the Pro is a perfect picture of understated cool. The black-and tan split-front cab has a retro vibe, and the head’s leather handle and big rubber feet make it comfortable to haul and resistant to vibration. With its white silk-screened lettering, the black control panel is laid out thoughtfully and is easy to read.
Moving from left to right, burly power and standby switches bookend a red jewel lamp, which is followed by a Master Voltage (master volume) knob. Channel 1’s controls consist of Tone and Volume with a red LED indicator. Channel 2 also sports two knobs—Tone (with a push-pull Bright control) and Volume (with a push-pull Boost control)—plus a blue status LED. Between the channels, a 3-way toggle lets you select either channel or combine them. Simple and elegant.
Peering inside the London Pro, you can plainly see the high-quality construction that 65amps is known for. Dual EL84s drive the power section, and you’ll find a 6CA4 in the rectifier section. Here’s something noteworthy: Each channel has a different preamp tube. Channel 1 offers a familiar 12AX7, while Channel 2 has a more chiming EF86.
The open-back cabinet houses a 12" Celestion G12H-30, which is one of 65amps’ speakers of choice. Crafted from Baltic birch, the cab is also relatively compact, measuring 21.5" x 18" x 13". Another nice leather handle is set on top, and the same big rubber feet you see on the head insulate the cab from vibration.
My go-to guitar for the first play test was a 2003 Gibson Les Paul R8 with Sheptone AB Special PAFs. I left the Master Voltage control at full, set the Volume and Tone to noon, and kicked out a nice, big E power chord that would have certainly make Malcolm Young smile. Despite running at 18 watts, there was enough bite and gain to feel like a big 100-watt head with less volume. There was a bit of buzz coming through this channel, so I made a quick call to Dan Boul at 65 and we concluded that Channel 1’s 12AX7 suffered from shipping. Swapping it out for another 12AX7 remedied the situation, and I was back to playing in no time.
The EL84s ensured that the London Pro always had a nice bite on the top end and only when the Tone was cranked did things sound a little too brittle for my taste. There are a lot of killer sounds in this amp available to a player who is willing to work the Volume and Tone knobs, and it’s easy to match pickups and guitars to the Pro.
Anyone who has worked with a good low-wattage amp knows that 18 watts can still be pretty loud. So the Master Voltage control really expands the usefulness of the London Pro in lower-volume applications. I found the control effective all the way down to about 4. Settings below that didn’t seem to activate the speaker as much, adding up to a smaller sound that’s useful in some scenarios, but definitely a little choked and probably not a tone you’d record with. That said, the tone at 4 was excellent and sacrificed little of the goodness I’d enjoyed at higher volumes.
Moving to Channel 2 with both knobs set to noon gave me discernibly less output and much less gain than Channel 1. But goosing the volume a little brought out all the sweet and open top end of the EF86 preamp tube. Here I found a wealth of killer tones that ranged from Brian May to Gary Moore. In general, Channel 2 is throatier and chimier, which is a beautiful juxtaposition to the crunch of the 12AX7 channel at higher volumes. Clean tones on Channel 2 are so gorgeous, I didn’t even notice the absence of onboard reverb.
Channel 2 isn’t just about clean, though. My favorite aspect of Channel 2’s performance is that with everything set to full, and the Boost and Bright switches activated, there was enough gain for solos—and then some. The range of crystalline-to-just-a-bit-gritty tones you can get out of this channel is exceptional. Playing a Stratocaster, the tones were full and thick, but retained the articulation that you’d use a Stratocaster for in the first place. This amp definitely keeps the character of your guitar intact.
Combining the two channels was where the London Pro shined in terms of gain and tonal versatility. Using the two Volume controls together, I was able to push the front end much harder than when playing either channel individually, and this resulted in beautiful and endless sustain that effortlessly transformed into harmonic feedback. Maxing out the volumes gave me a sound not unlike a heavily modded Marshall with loads of gain and a thickness you can’t get from either channel on its own. Even at the highest settings, the amp never got excessively noisy.
65amps has unleashed a potent, multifaceted, and sophisticated amp in the London Pro. The amazing range of sounds you can get by simply working the Tone and Volume controls—particularly when the two channels are running together—might find you leaving your pedalboard at home. The Pro covers a spectrum of essential amp tones that range from vintage Marshall and Vox to modern boutique. And while there were times I wished for bass and mid controls, the Pro is transparent enough to let you take advantage of your guitar’s tone knobs to expand the amp’s range. In short, it’s hard to imagine a stage or studio situation where the London Pro wouldn’t excel. The London Pro’s sonic flexibility makes it a potentially great stage amp, and while it certainly isn’t a budget amp, it represents real value.
you want three simple but versatile channels of killer British tone in a compact package.
you want more bells and whistles, or need to have three-figure wattage on tap.
Street $1850 (head), $575 (cab) - 65 Amps - 65amps.com