With its beefy 30-watt output and comprehensive channel coverage, Laney's Ironheart may seem like something of a black sheep in a world of tiny retro valve combos, but with a low price tag (at least, in the UK), it more than justifies its position as a cost-effective combo for gigging guitarists and tweak-happy tonehounds.
With two 6L6 power amp valves and three ECC83s in the preamp, the IRT30's tones sit on the American side of the fence, and its huge gain range offers plenty of sounds across the spectrum.
"With distortion like this, it's unlikely you'll be running pedals into it: the Ironheart sounds truly monstrous"
Channel-wise, there's the option of clean or rhythm, a gained-up lead channel, plus a switchable pre-boost. An included footswitch allows you to switch sounds, activate the boost, and turn the amp's digital reverb on or off - it's certainly a comprehensive featureset at this price.
The clean/rhythm and lead channels each offer a three-band EQ, with pull-switchable knobs to adjust the frequencies affected, while a master dynamics control allows you to tweak the speaker's response from loose to tight, and a tone knob provides final adjustment across the entire sound. Finally, a wattage control allows you to tone the amp down from 30 watts to less than one watt.
The IRT30 also packs a serious enclosure, with chunky plastic handles either side and a hefty black metal grille around the rear of the amp, which protects the valves and the 80-watt HH Acoustics speaker. You'll also find an XLR DI out with cabinet emulation to send direct to a PA system or interface, as well as an auxiliary in and speaker output.
"The dynamics control is especially useful, transitioning from vintage spongy textures to modern focused sounds"
Considering its none-more-black visual appointments, we were surprised to note how solid the Laney IRT30's clean tones are - more than capable of forming a blank canvas for good drive pedals, too - and with the amp's increased wattage it's no surprise that it has an impressive amount of clean headroom on offer.
However, with distortion like this, it's unlikely you'll be running pedals into it: the Ironheart sounds truly monstrous. The lead channel runs the gamut of modern metal, yielding smooth tones in the 6505 ballpark, while AC/DC crunch is just a footswitch away via the rhythm channel.
For all its tones, the IRT30 isn't the easiest amp to get to grips with, owing to the sheer range of boosts, channels and EQ tweaks. But we'd be surprised if anyone couldn't find a tone they loved here: clean, dirty or anything in between.
The dynamics control is especially useful, transitioning from vintage spongy textures to modern focused sounds, plus the pull-switches, which brighten up distorted sounds.
The wattage dial impresses less, though - lower wattages make the distortion sounds a little fizzier than we'd like; keeping the wattage at full and lowering the lead volume knob provides better tones for living-room volume kicks.
It may be the dark horse here, but the Laney more than delivers on value-for-money with the largest range of features and tones. That comes at a price of weight and size, but this brute will carry fans of heavier styles to bigger stages.