Published On: Mon, Sep 22nd, 2014

Lazy J 35 Combo Review

Lazy J has gained a fine reputation with UK guitarists, and we grab the chance to inspect the brand-new 3×10″ combo. Review by Richard Purvis



Description: 35W 3×10″ valve combo; 3 x ECC83 and 2 x 6L6 valves plus GZ34 rectifier. Made in UK
Price: £2279 for basic model, £2843 as reviewed (reverb module £342, tremolo module £222)
Contact: Lazy J Projects – 0843 2894089 – www.lazyjprojects.com

Pete Townshend’s got a nose for a good amp. Britain’s leading windmiller already owns a bunch of Lazy J combos, and when he requested a 3×10″ extension cab for one of them, the results were so impressive that the natural next step was a combo in the same format. Our Lazy J 35 is apparently the second off the production line… and you can probably guess who’s got the first.



It’s not really a production line, though – this is amp-building at a genuinely ‘boutique’ level, with each product handwired and hand-assembled by Jesse Hoff, a London-based American. Trotting out the Lazy J roll-call again might not be necessary, but here’s a few just in case: David Gilmour, Paul Weller, Eric Clapton… and that bloke out of the Who.

Hoff isn’t the first designer to cram three 10″ speakers into a tight-fitting tweed jacket: Fender came out with the 3×10″ Bandmaster combo in 1955. The 35 is not some kind of Bandmaster clone, though – the circuitry is based on that of the 1×12″ Lazy J 40, with a few tweaks intended to get the best out of the new speaker configuration. Like the 40, it’s available with or without valve-powered reverb and tremolo modules that are attached to the inside of the cab. Our sample has both, plus a double footswitch for turning the effects on and off as well as making remote adjustments to reverb hugeness and tremolo speed.



Power comes from a pair of 6L6s, hanging alongside a GZ34 rectifier, and the speakers are US-made Eminence Legends.

We’re familiar by now with the toffee-tinted tweed covering on Hoff’s amps. It’s a finish that gives them a certain sense of age, as if they’ve been sitting in a dingy club for 50 years and the smoking ban never happened, but this is not a relic job: the covering is neatly edged and the lacquer has a shine of newness.

The solid pine cab is impressively built, and there’s a clear nod to the Bandmaster in the arrangement of the two rear panels, the lower one featuring a pair of rounded ‘windows’ with dark brown grille cloth matching the stuff on the front. Enough space has been left in the middle to allow easy access to the reverb and tremolo modules, while the narrower windows in the upper panel give the valves some fresh air and reveal the presence of two
mysterious switches on the bottom of the chassis.



First we’ll have a look at the top. Like the 40, the 35 uses a generic chassis designed for Fender clones and so, like the 40, it has a level control for the negative feedback loop that’s labelled – misleadingly or charmingly, depending on your attitude to such quirks – as Ground. Then there’s a Presence control, a three-way tone stack and Volume controls for the two channels, Bright and Normal. Bright volume is a push-pull pot, and pulling it out engages a mids-accentuating gain boost that works on both channels.

That just leaves the four inputs, two for each channel, and here’s a surprising albeit piffling gripe: the curve of the cabinetry runs so close to the normal channel’s second (attenuated) input that it’s quite hard to squeeze a chunky jack plug in there. Let’s hope Hoff will file off an extra millimetre or two on subsequent builds.



Sound
With a Gibson SG plugged into the normal channel, all the tone controls at halfway and Volume fairly low, it’s sweet, smooth and pure, and even at ‘barely awake’ levels there’s an easy, natural feel that makes you think the amp is part of the guitar and the guitar is part of you. Turn up to about 11 o’clock and the added gain brings more thickness and sustain, but nothing is lost along the way. It’s effortlessly nice, and while switching from humbuckers to a perky Jazzmaster might necessitate a few adjustments to the Treble and Presence controls, you’re never far from the perfect tweed tone here.

The Bright channel is much more brisk and fiery, and running both channels together with a patch lead opens up your options further – including the option to crank both channels and party like it’s 1969. It does get very gainy, but those little 10″ speakers never lose control. And if we bring the negative feedback loop into the circuit? This has a subtle but distinct deadening effect, likely to suit some guitars better than others, that feels a little like switching off a reverb that you can’t actually hear.



For a reverb that you can hear, simply stomp on the footswitch. It can be gentle and it can be massive, and the inclusion of a tone control is a handy way of allowing you to keep it cavernously long but stop the springiness swamping your tone. Just as nifty is the tremolo module, which provides smooth, vintage-style throbbing with just as much depth as you want – and the speed control on the footswitch is a feature that a lot of gigging guitarists are likely to welcome like free beer. It’s a pity these modules together add over £500 to the price, because it would be a shame to do without either.

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten those two switches on the bottom of the chassis. One, borrowed from the Lazy J 40, changes the voltages within the preamp circuit for a slightly harder, more blackface-like sound; the other provides a preamp gain boost, more transparent and less pronounced than the push-pull on the Volume control. You shouldn’t expect radical revoicing: both of these little bonus features work on the assumption that, being a connoisseur of tweediness, you’re happy with the amp’s core tone and just want microscopic control over the details. Add them to all the clever things going on across the top panel, and that’s precisely what you’ve got.





Verdict
Unfortunately we don’t have Pete Townshend’s fortune or his selection of Lazy J amps, so comparisons with the other models are difficult – but the 35 is surely no less sweet-sounding than the 40, and from memory, it may well be better. This is about as much money as anyone is ever likely to spend on one amplifier, so it has to be in the highest rank of gorgeous… and luckily, it is.




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