Hiwatt Lead 50R (Model LC 50R) 1x12 Combo

Head/Combo: 
Combo
Price Paid: 
$425 in the mid 90s.
Condition: 
Used
Country of origin: 
Not sure
Tube Type: 
EL34
Features: 

Two channel, 50watt open-back combo with reverb and one 12" 75w Fane. A two button foot switch toggles between the channels and turns the reverb on and off. I think it was made in Asia in the mid 80s. It's class A/B w/2 EL34 power tubes and 5 12AX7 tubes for preamp/driver/reverb duty. This combination gives it a very British sound. The reverb is the classic Accutronics spring type which gives the amp a great, big sound without sounding like a "surf tone" reverb. The tone controls work well and produce the expected/desired changes. It is pretty versatile for the price point.

Pros: 

This amp has a great British tone for classic 70s Dino rock.  The Rhythm channel is the real heart of the amp, and it the more you turn up, the better it gets! It gets that big Hiwatt sound, a real sweet, brown distortion, but cleaner, and with a bit more ring than an old Marshall, and no mush.  For most Dino applications, you need a mild boost pedal to get it in to lead terrirory, and probably a distortion pedal to make it do metal, but it will sound quite good if you do those things.  However, the amp definetly leans more to the vintage sounds than the Metal.  

The amp is extremely loud for a 1x12. It can eaisly compete with just about anything volume wise. Where I used to live, it was rattling the grout out of the tile walls in my bathroom.  You can also simply unplug the 1/4" jack to the 1x12 and plug the head into a different cab such as a 4x12. This amp run through a closed-back 4x12 really gets those old Pete Townshend type rhythm tones.

It's not too heavy for a 1x12 combo.  Around 60lbs.

Cons: 

The two channels are pretty different in character and volume levels. Depending on the the situation, I found you basically had to pick one channel and stick with it. I didn't find a good way to ballance the volume differences between the two channels, so switching between the Lead and Rhythm channels via footswitch is not "subtle" enough to be practical within the context of one song.

There's something about the Lead Channel sound through it's own speaker that doesn't cut it. Like it only gets preamp gain. Frankly I just used the Lead channel when practicing at low volume--it's perfect for that, and I used the rhythm channel when I played with other muscians.

I will say, the Lead channel actually sounded MUCH better through a Marshall 4x12.

The amp is pretty noisy. Lotsa hum when your plugged in but not playing.

Sound Quality: 
4
Reliability: 

Wasn't the most reliable thing in the world. This is not one of the old PTP wired Hiwatts, but rather an early PCB board amp, and as such, it had problems a few times where things (such as solder points) had rattled or vibrated loose due to volume, and had to be repaired.  And this was without the rigors of gigging. It was just sitting in my room.

Customer Support: 

Non existant while I owned the amp. Hiwatt changed hands many times in the 80s and 90s.

Summary: 

If you can find one of these for less than $500, it can be a good option for beginner players who want real, EL34 British tube tone under the right circumstances. While it's a bit noisy, it could also be a decent studio amp if you want a Hiwatt sound available as one of your recording amps.  It DOES do the Hiwatt signature tone. The Rhythm channel sounds quite good, and provides a good EL34 platform that you can certainly work with it, or push around as the case may be.  The Lead channel makes for a decent bedroom/practice amp.  Both channels sound better through a 4x12, but how practical is that?  I wouldn't recommend this amp for regular gigging, as it is too prone to vibrational damage, and the imbalance between the two channels could be problematic.

 

Overall Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)