65amps London Pro Amp Review
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.
|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 innovative 65amps has so consistently
built great amplifiers that
it’s hard not to get excited about a new
release. Over the past year or so, I’ve
reviewed both the Lil Elvis and the Tupelo
and was impressed by what I saw and
heard. But as a British amp fanatic, I could
hardly wait to check out the 18-watt,
EL84-powered London Pro.
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
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.