Little Lanilei is a compact tube amp that I first heard about through my friend Ben Gross about 10 years ago, and ignored because it was seemingly designed for rockers, not aspiring jazzers like I was back then. However fate conspired to send of these handmade beauties my way last summer. As I’d anticipated, she didn’t play clean. She was made to get dirty. But she was so cute that I kept her on my shelf to decoration my practice room. Then I came upon hard-times, and I had to start downsizing my collection of unique gear.
Little Lanilei was an obvious candidate for auction, but I needed to test her to one more time to make sure she was alright. After all, I had only been able to afford her in the first place because she was messed up and neglected by her previous man: a guy who argued with me for a long-weekend over shipping the power cable and service culture. Even after fixing her up with a soldering iron and a new tube, she still didn’t sound right at max volume plugged into 100V Japanese mains.
Search an ye shall find, and verily unto me was delivered a cheap step-up transformer small enough to fit into my guitar or suitcase. So I got us a cheap soundproofed room for an hour, plugged in and turned on. It took a while to find the sweet spots on the red and white gain and tone knobs, but once I found them, I also found myself really enjoying the sound that came out of that little mermaid-embroidered grille, especially sandwiched in between my pedalboard and a Marshall cabinet.
I actually had so much fun, all I could think about was doing it again the next week. So I invited some coworkers into the studio for an hour to see if the little amp could cut through drums and bass. Sitting atop a Marshall half stack at ear level, and boosted by my Barber Tonepress, she sang true over the bass player’s 20-watt Warwick practice amp, and even managed to stay audible over the drums and my vocals. There was never any danger of being too loud with this 1/4 watt amp, and overpowering anyone or damaging their hearing.
After being complimented on the amp’s appearance by my coworkers and the studio receptionist, (and failing to find any bidders at my desired starting price) I have decided to keep her. My experience let me get to know her better, and in the process, hear better, too. Now I know that I can even use her for jazz at home, if I turn down the guitar’s volume, and the amp’s tone control. Swapping in a low-gain JAN 6189A preamp tube helps, too. I think I’m in love with Little Lanilei.
Next time I’m in Akihabara, it’s hotdogs and french fries instead of the usual kebab.