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The Epic Guitar Amp No One Knows About

In the late 1970s, Gibson, Moog, and Norlin worked together to create a line of amps called the Lab Series. They were a solid-state amp that never really gained much commercial success, but they did acquire a kind of cult following. The Lab Series L5 was used by two of my favorite guitar players, Ty Tabor of King’s X (my favorite rock band of all time) and BB King. Alan Holdsworth also used it to a lesser extent.

I found it interesting that two very different players found some super-unique tones out of this more obscure amp. That made me curious to play through one of them, but even back in 2000, they were pretty hard to find.

One weekend back in 2000, my dad and I made a trip to Nashville to look at guitar stores. We didn’t find anything we couldn’t live without until we were just about on our way back to the airport. We ended up stopping by a pawn shop, and there was a Lab Series L5 for $100. I ended up buying it and lugging it all the way home.

The amp wasn’t in great shape, and it’s not currently working anymore. Nonetheless, it was so cool to get the opportunity to dial in Ty and BB’s legendary tones for a few years.

So, what’s your dream amp or your favorite amp to play through that you currently own? Let me know by leaving a comment. This entire discussion is kind of ironic because I mostly go direct and rarely play through an amp nowadays. However, I still love it when I get an opportunity to crank one up.

I love having this L5 because it’s part of rock and blues history to me. I also would love to own a Bogner Ecstacy one day. Others on the top of my list are my Mesa F-30, the Mesa Mark V, the Fender Deluxe Reverb or Blues Jr., my Rivera Knucklehead, the Marshall DSL2000, the Friedman BE-50, the Boss Katana, and the Morgan SW50R.



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Kevin Kelly
Kevin Kelly
Oct 06, 2021

I have a Marshall dsl5cr. I like it. But I’be been very into blues lately so thinking I should get a small fender amp. Should I just buy once cry once? any other recommendations?? I do like an effects loop

Unknown member
Oct 15, 2021
Replying to

Chelseas' little Blues Jr. amp sounds great for bluesy stuff.


Holger Strunk
Holger Strunk
Jun 16, 2021

Cool - amp-history! I think you have a real gem there.

I don't have much experience with real amps, the only one I had was a Marshall Valvestate 100 Combo. It sounded great and also the integrated reverb was more than OK. Although it was a transistor-amp, the sound was very warm, especially the clean tone. I still have this sound in my head and so I tried and try to reproduce this authentic tone (for my ears) in all later bought digital amps.

Indeed these new possibilities sound better, I verified that by re-buying a used Valvestate 100 Head for direct comparison with a Line6 HX Stomp. But this old sound - the beginning - is still in good…

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