Laney Digbeth DB500H and DBV212-4 cabinet: What is it?
Laney digs into its rich history for its new flagship bass amp line, with the Digbeth series looking very much like a contemporary reworking of some of its most classic guitar and bass amplifier designs.
Maybe it’s the controls, those industrial metal-ringed dials that do it. They look like they’ve come off a Supergroup 200-watt head. Or maybe it’s the black vinyl coverings, with bold white piping and the grille cloth.
As Laney says, its new flagship Digbeth series “takes vintage tone and looks, and combines it with ultra-modern functionality and British design and engineering.” To that end, we are not dealing with a period-correct repro of an old Laney model; the Digbeth series has some new tricks up its sleeve.
Available in a choice of two compact 200-watt and 500-watt heads with matching cabinets, the DB200-210 200-watt 2x10” combo, and a preamp pedal, the range has a quite ingenious topography that pairs a switchable tube- or FET-driven preamp with a solid-stage Class D power section.
This is a very clever way of presenting a two-channel amplifier, with the FET operating as a de facto clean channel, controlled via a single volume control, with the tube side controlled by Tube Drive and Volume dials and offering what’s essentially a drive channel.
On the DB500H head, both channels share a three-band EQ with selectable mid pre-shape EQ curves, and there’s a push-pull function on the Tube Volume control that lets you blend this channel with the FET. Very handy indeed.
These channels are selected by a toggle switch but are also footswitchable, with the footswitch connection positioned on the rear of the amplifier alongside an effects loop and a Speakon-compatible combi socket, a balanced XLR out with ground lift, tuner output, headphones out with level control and a mini-jack auxiliary input with level control.
The more portable DB200H has a scaled-down control panel with a single tone control and selectable mids in place of its larger sibling’s three-band EQ.
Rounding out the front panel controls we have a Tilt control, which applies a global post-EQ adjustment to the amplifier’s tone, essentially operating as a presence control and allowing you to brighten things up considerably.
Laney Digbeth DB500H and DBV212-4 cabinet: Performance and verdict
The DB500H packs a lot into a compact frame. Here we have partnered with the matching DBV212-4 2x 12” speaker cabinet, which is loaded with a pair of HH Black Label ceramic drivers and a switchable LaVoce DF10 compression driver to enhance higher frequencies. There are some interesting speaker configurations in the series, however, with an 8x10” option in the DBV810-4, and the 4x10” DBV410.
While the USP of this Digby series head is having that old-school tube growl to heat up your preamp and place some heavily saturated bass tones at your fingertips, the FET channel offers a clean platform that will extend the DB500H’s appeal beyond the rock bass player.
The selectable mids open up a wide range of possibilities – akin to having four separate voicings on the channel – yet all the while, that low-end stays tight and articulate.
You might need the horn activated to get a bit more detail in the upper registers, particularly with a passive bass, but bear in mind that Tilt control is there to account for dull pickups or to fine-tune a difficult mix.
For a supposedly vintage-inspired bass amplifier, the DB500H is full of surprises. After savouring a plethora of musically rewarding tones on the FET channel, switching over to the tube preamp channel and once more the character of the amplifier changes. As you dial in more tube drive and turn up the volume, the heat rises, and it’s not long before the amp shows its teeth, with an aggressive growl that rewards similarly aggressive playing styles.
Using a pick, this combative tone is accentuated, with plenty of definition and overtones to be had the more you crank the amp. Again, if you are using a passive bass, that Tilt control works gangbusters as a corrective.
The ability to mix these FET and tube voicings is a real gift. You have a lot of options, and there are no nasty surprises. It’s remarkable just how dramatically the four-way mid-EQ presets works with the overdrive, offering variations on the theme, bringing all kinds of harmonic overtones to the fore.
Of course, all that grind is not for everyone. The jazz-funk fusioneer might blanche with horror once that Tube Drive control goes past 6, but if you are looking for more conventional clean bass tones, the FET channel is superb.
And it is not just the size and cabinet options that make the DB500H a practical choice. It’s little details such as a level control on the headphones output and aux in that make a difference. For the price, this is a very sweet deal, with gig-worthy tones that will naturally curry favour among rock players – Skindred bassist Dan Pugsley is a huge fan of the DB500H – but any player looking for a versatile head with a neat modern twist on old-school amp design.
MusicRadar verdict: The Digbeth DB500H’s is more than just a pretty face, offering a modern take on classic bass amp sounds, with heaps of rich, musical overdrive should you want it, and seaworthy cleans that would suit any occasion. The price isn’t bad either.
Laney Digbeth DB500H and DBV212-4 cabinet: The web says
"There’s no disputing the quality of the tone coloration on offer, and the passive basses benefit from the grit and drive – so grab a pick and dive in. The Tilt control comes into its own with the passive basses, making the tone pronounced, with a degree of clank, should you require it.
"One of the active basses gained a very impressive rasp and grind to its tonal character when running through the valve stage: this was carried through when combining the valve and FET stages, giving that bass a fine mix from both channels. This setup has a lot to offer and will appeal to players of all styles."
Bass Player Magazine
Laney Digbeth DB500H and DBV212-4 cabinet: hands-on demos
Laney Digbeth DB500H and DBV212-4 cabinet: Specifications
Laney Digbeth DB500H
- PRICE: $749 / £449
- MADE IN: China
- POWER: 500 watts @ 4 ohms (minimum load 4 Ohms)
- FEATURES: Input, FET volume, FET/Tube selector switch, Tube Drive, Tube Volume (push/pull for FET Mix), Bass, four preshape Mid selector, Mid, Treble, Tilt, Run/Mute selector switch, Speakon/jack combi output socket, Tuner output, Remote input, Send/Return sockets, FX loop level switch, 3.5mm Aux In and level control, Headphone output and level control, Line Out level, Emulated output/DI output selector, Balanced XLR DI output socket, Ground/Lift switch, pre/source/post EQ output switch
- DIMENSIONS: 8” (H) x 16.5” (W) x 8.7” (D)
- WEIGHT: 15.7 lbs
Laney Digbeth DBV212-4 cabinet
- PRICE: $749 / £499
- MADE IN: China
- POWER: 500 watts @ 4 ohms Impedance 4 ohms
- SPEAKERS: 2 x 12-inch HH Black Label ceramic drivers, 1 x LaVoce DF10 compression driver (with Horn on/off/Half/Full selector switches)
- CONNECTIONS: 1 x 1/4-inch Speakon/jack combi socket
- DIMENSIONS: 28.3” (H) x 19.7” (W) x 15.4” (D)
- WEIGHT: 63 lbs
- CONTACT: Laney