Lyndon Laney’s story is pretty cool. The Laney amp founder was a bassist who built his own amps out of financial necessity. One of his early amps ended up in the hands of Tommy Iommi (who continues to play through Laney’s wares today.) What’s more, Laney was a member of The Band of Joy whose singer and drummer would move on to become half of Led Zeppelin.
Nice connections? Yeah, sure. But the bottom line is that Laney has always built solid amps. And while Lyndon has passed on the business to his son, the company still remains a vital and evolving amp builder. Case in point: the Nexus Studio Live, a compact, rack-mountable 1,000-watt bass amp built around a hybrid circuit with a tube preamp and solid-state power section.
The Nexus SL generates 1,000 watts of power using a ECC83 tube in the preamp and two class-D amps (500 watts each.) The front panel controls, which include EQ and onboard effects make for busy set, but it’s more user-friendly than it looks.
The back panel has a cornucopia of usable features built in. You’ll see the usual speaker outs, a DI (pre/post/source switchable), FX loop, headphone jack, and tuner in. Laney added a USB out that sends a dry signal to the left side of a recording and full-amp sound (with EQ and effects) to the right. There’s also a reamp send that allows a recorded sound to be sent back to the amp for re-processing when/if needed.
Intervals and Space
I plugged a Fender Squire Vintage Modified Jazz V into the Nexus SL, which was paired with Laney Nexus N210 and N115 cabinets. With the EQ set flat, I adjusted the shape control—a 4-way selector with a quartet of preset EQ curves. The settings run from flat to slightly mid-scooped to heavily mid-scooped and mid-bumped. This control alone gives you a variety of tight tones. The shape control can also be maneuvered with the included footswitch.
The boost/cut EQ section has low, sweepable mid, and treble controls that move within a fairly narrow range. The reason behind the subtle EQ is that the Nexus has a not-so-subtle tilt control. Turning it to the left increases lows, and turning it clockwise increases the highs and mids for more presence. Pushing the tilt all the way counterclockwise would make Family Man Barrett smile—the lows are downright earthshaking. The treble side, however, can get nasty when cranked all the way, so use with caution and in small doses. Next to the tilt dial you’ll find the touch control, which adjusts how the amp reacts to the player. You can open up your tone with less pronounced less attack, or ease the control counterclockwise for a tighter feel.
Laney threw a few tricks into the mix with the amp’s onboard effects. There are three dials in the top row. Two are effects and the other a sweetener. Space, the first dial, is a combination reverb/chorus control. The next control is interval, which is a dual octave/5ths effect. These two (four) effects can also be turned on and off via the footswitch. The third dial in the row—called focus—is used in conjunction with the interval control. Turing it to the right while the interval is engaged adds shimmer to the highs. Dialed counterclockwise, it boosts the low end.
The Taste Test
It would be almost impossible to run through the seemingly unlimited amount of tone combinations, but there were a few that stood out for me. The mid scoop resulting from the shape control’s third position really makes the onboard effects—especially the chorus—come to life, and it added slap-happy articulation to my passive bass and great overall tone for rock, R & B, or anything else high-energy. Things got interesting when I added in 5ths via the interval control, especially with the brighter top end. For solo sections or someone wanting to crank out some synth-type lines, this setting will make for a cool new twist.
The shape’s mid-boosting fourth position gives the onboard effects more clarity and shine, and the mid bump will certainly come in handy if you need to punch through a muddy-sounding stage mix. Even the flat setting (position one) was impressive, revealing that this amp colors the tone very, very little.
The amp’s touch feature is an interesting slant. If you were to just sit and turn the knob back and forth the audible changes are minimal. But to the touch it will get more responsive and tight, or a little more open and loose. I actually liked the amp in both extreme settings, but the that it can be dialed in to suit varied players is cool.
The 2x10 and 1x15 neo-loaded cabs Laney supplied for the review are just about the perfect combo setup for any bass situation. And they proved to be good matches with the Nexus SL by handling the octave crush with ease and rocking every bit of the 1,000 watts the amp can throw. I’m not a huge fan of horns in bass cabs, so I liked that I could toggle the horns to off or half-power settings if necessary. That said, the LaVoche horns sizzle without being too harsh and the crisp definition given to the N115 is a nice thing to have if you’re running the 1x15 on its own. The compact N115 and N210 are relatively lightweight at 19 1/2 pounds each, which makes for a easy load out.
The Nexus SL is a mighty versatile and great-sounding amp on its own, and a force to be reckoned with when joined with the matching cabinets. The tone is tight and concise, and the pairing of high output, solid state power amps with the ECC83-based preamp is a combo offers everything from mean to warm. I certainly would have preferred the onboard effects as singular entities—there seems to be ample room on the front panel. That gripe aside, the reamping functionality makes the Nexus SL a very useful studio piece, the USB feature makes it a cool mobile recording rig, and you’ve got a standalone practice amp by simply plugging in headphones. The Nexus SL rig is worthy of serious consideration from any player looking for power, tone, unique features, and a solid presentation.
Watch the Review Demo: