Laney Mini Lion Amp Review

Laney Mini Lion Amp Review

The Mini series of amps are Laney’s entry into the hugely popular mini amp market. Available in three different styles along with mono, stereo and Bluetooth varieties, there is a version to suit everyone. Today, I’m looking at the standard 3 watt Mini Lion to see if it roars.

Laney Mini Lion

First things first, this is the cutest amp I’ve ever seen. The scaled down Lionheart look has morphed into something that resembles a retro radio. It might be made of plastic but it has a classy look to it. Even my girlfriend commented on how nice it looks. This is definitely an amp you can put in any room without fear of getting moaned at.

The top panel has three chickenhead knobs for controlling gain, tone and volume. Power and gain switching are taken care of via a couple of small buttons. You’ll also find the guitar input, aux in, headphone output and the LSI input. The rear of the amp has a handy carry handle along with the power input and battery compartment. It’s all very simple and well thought out.

The speaker is a 3″ full range driver which pushes out a crushing 3 watts of power! Ok, it’s not going to get you through a gig but it’s actually pretty loud for home use. I found myself using it on 5 most of the time.

For such a small and inexpensive amp, it feels very solid. It’s light enough to throw in a bag and carry around with you but heavy enough to stop it from toppling over if you use it outdoors on uneven ground. Laney have the design and build spot on for it’s intended use.

Laney Mini Lion Amplifier Review

How Does It Sound?

Before I go any further, you have to remember the limitations of a small amp like this. It isn’t going to sound like a head running through a couple of 4×12 cabinets. On the clean channel, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it sounds. Naturally, it does have the small and boxy sound you’d expect from such a small amp but the core tone is actually pretty nice. Changing between different guitars and adjusting the gain and tone controls, I was able to get a wide range of clean tones with ease. Warm jazz through to cutting country is all possible with little effort.

Changing to the Drive channel, things start to get dirty very quickly. It’s not a super tight modern sounding distortion, it has a definite British vibe to it. I wouldn’t say it’s the nicest sounding distortion in the world but it’s certainly acceptable given the price and size of the amp. And there is more than enough gain on tap for anyone. For such a small amp with a price tag under £40, performance is as good as you could reasonably expect. You’re not going to blow anyone away with your killer tone but it’s more than good enough for general practice or for using outdoors.

The Laney Mini series have another trick up their sleeves though…

Laney Mini Amp Review

LSI

The Laney Smart Interface (LSI) socket takes the amp from simply sounding good enough to pretty incredible. Basically, it lets you connect the amp to your phone or tablet and use tones created through apps.  Although it can work with a variety of app, it’s main purpose is for use with Ultimate Guitar’s Tonebridge app. This lets you access thousands of presets made for a wide range of songs and styles. It also works seamlessly with the Ultimate Guitar app so it’s perfect for when you want to bring up the tab and have the correct tone instantly.

One thing to keep in mind, this works best with Apple devices. Although it does work with a number of Android devices, Android isn’t great for this kind of thing so performance isn’t up to the levels of an iPhone or ipad.

In use, the Tonebridge app is very simple. Scroll through the featured tones or search for a song, select one and the preset tone is what you hear when you play. It basically turns the Laney Mini into a modeller by using your phone or tablet as the brains to run it. It’s a very clever system and a great move by Laney to include it. Thanks to this nifty feature, a very simple little amp is now able to produce a huge range of tones.

As with any presets, some are better than others. In general, they’re very good and they definitely get you in the ballpark of the sound they’re trying to emulate. Some are simply exceptional. When you find a good one it’s easy to add it to your favourites list so you can go back to it without searching. I’ve started to get a pretty long list already. Although they can’t overcome the limitations of the speaker and cabinet size, they add a lot of extra versatility. And with headphones, the speaker size is irrelevant anyway. It’s great for some silent practice.

Conclusion

When I first bought the Laney Mini Lion, I was asking myself if I really needed it. Now, I’m asking myself how else I can use it. I’ve been playing guitar in the garden. I plan to take it on trips with an electric guitar instead of taking an acoustic. My son has been playing music through it via Spotify. I currently have it set up on the table next to my chair in the living room and I’ve been learning some new songs using the Ultimate Guitar app. The sound is obviously not as good as a full-size amp, but there are many situations where you can use an amp like this where a regular amp simply wouldn’t work. The amp on its own is a well made and decent sounding little product. Add in the ability to use the Tonebridge app and it’s pretty incredible. And all for a very low price. Why wouldn’t you buy one? I just hope android up their game in the near future so apps like Tonebridge will work well for everyone and not just Apple users.

Rating 9/10

Guitar Noodle Top Pick


Laney Mini Lion Amp

9

Rating

9.0/10