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Lab Series what tonal flexibility is all about

Lab Series logo

Gibson had a long history of producing guitar amplifiers, and although some of these were pretty good, they never had the commercial success of their main rivals (Fender); or indeed of their guitars. The cycle of design, launch, and demise of amp series a total contrast to the continuity of Fender models such as the Twin Reverb. In the mid 1970s, a new tranche of Gibson products were envisaged, bringing in the latest innovations in electronics, courtesy of another Norlin company, Moog. Guitars, like the Gibson RD series combined Moog electronics with Gibson design and luthiery, whilst the Lab Series amplifiers, were designed exclusively by Moog, but marketed by Gibson. Technically LAB Series was a brand in its own right, but with the Gibson name on the vast majority of advertising, they are often considered Gibson amplifiers.

1979 Lab Series L5 guitar amplifier

The 100w 2x12" Lab Series L5

The rationale behind the Lab Series was a line of high-end solid-state guitar and bass (and latterly keyboard) amplifiers, in competition to amps like Fender Twin Reverb and the Roland JC 120. And they were pretty successful (especially the Lab Series L5) with a lot of high profile users: B.B. king, Alan Holdsworth, Ronnie Montrose, Jimmy Messina, Gary Cooper and Bernie Marsden all appearing in contemporary advertising.

Lab Series amplifier models

The models are summarised below:

guitar amps
L11200w2x4x12"head + 2 cabs
bass amps
L2100w1x15"head + cab
L4200w2x15"head + cab
1979 Lab Series L7 guitar amplifier

The 100w 4x10" Lab Series L7 guitar amplifier

Lab Series L2

The 100w 1x15" Lab Series L2 bass amplifier

Lab Series controls

The controls for channel 1 were simple: volume, bass, mid and treble. Channel 2 was a bit more complicated, with controls described as follows. This diagram applies to the guitar amps L5, L7, L9 and L11. The bass amps were the same, but without the Multifilter and Reverb.

Lab Series controls


Hi for instruments with high-output pick-ups. Also cleaner sound. Lo for instruments with lower output pick-ups. Boosts signal. Also 'dirtier' sound.

Bright switch

Boosts treble response.


Adjusts gain of channel 2. Works in conjunction with master volume control.


Adjusts bass frequency response.


Works in conjunction with Midrange control. Scans audio frequencies the way a radio dial scans frequencies.


Works in conjunction with Frequency control. Adjust volume of octave band of frequencies that frequency control is centred on. (Set midrange at +4, sweep frequency control and listen to the mid range passing through the frequency range).


Adjusts treble frequency response.


Rearranges the upper harmonics to give valve-like or acoustic sound. Adds sparkle without harshness.


Controls amount of reverberation (channel 2).


(channels 1 & 2)
Limits and spreads final output power level without affecting harmonics and overload factors already in the signal. It's variable two. Result - capture that sustain and overdrive at the volume level you want. (With on/off switch and LED peak indicator)

Master volume

Adjusts gain of entire amp (channels 1 & 2). Works in conjunction with separate channel volume controls.

Lab Series Advertising

Amplifier advertisements originally published from 1978 onwards. Click on the images for larger copies. Check out other vintage Gibson advertisements

Gibson Lab Series L5 - A new instrumental album featuring a man, his guitar, and our amplifier

Gibson Lab Series L5 - A new instrumental album featuring a man, his guitar, and our amplifier (1978)
One of the earliest publicity pieces for the Lab Series amplifiers placed in mid 1978. Unlike the majority of adverts for these amplifiers to follow, this one is short on text, letting the images d...

Gibson Lab Series L5 - LAB Series

Gibson Lab Series L5 - LAB Series (1978)
June 1978 advertisement for the Lab Series amplifier range, picturing the 2x12" Lab Series L5 combo.

Gibson Lab Series L3 - It

Gibson Lab Series L3 - It's no big thing. 'Til you turn it on. (1979)
March 1979 advert for a new amp in the Lab Series line up. The L3 was the smallest amp in the Lab Series range: a 60w combo with a single 12" speaker. It was also slimmed down in terms of controls....

Gibson Lab Series amplifiers - Win a grand guitar

Gibson Lab Series amplifiers - Win a grand guitar (1979)
This ad features Mr. Les Paul equipped with a rather nice Les Paul Custom, and sitting on a Lab Series L7 (100w 4x10") amplifier. It was to promote a competition launched a few months earlier (June...

Gibson Lab Series L2 - Employment Assurance

Gibson Lab Series L2 - Employment Assurance (1979)
"Whether you're a star, a sideman, a session player, or a serious student, the Lab Series works"

Gibson Lab Series L7 - It

Gibson Lab Series L7 - It's got to be about the best tranny amp I've ever heard – damn it, it's got to be one of the best apps I've heard, tranny or not! (1980)
This 1980 advert for the Lab Series amplifier range was published in Guitar Player in 1980, and is made up of quotes by Gary Cooper (who proffered the title), Alan Holdsworth, and Whitesnake's Bern...

Gibson Lab Series L5 - Try my sound.. See if you like it!

Gibson Lab Series L5 - Try my sound.. See if you like it! (1980)
This interesting advert from June 1980 features Jimmy Messina and the Lab Series L5. Like many of the other Lab Series ads, it includes quotes from the artist describing the amp, but also gives one...

Gibson Lab Series L2 - Lab Series. They

Gibson Lab Series L2 - Lab Series. They've never sounded so good (1980)
December 1980 United Kingdom advert for the Lab Series amplifiers - available at a big discount due to the favourable exchange rate. Models listed are the: L2 (100w 1x15" bass head/cabinet), L3 (60...

Gibson Lab Series L5 - "My Lab Series amp takes all the bumps, and still gives a smooth performance."

Gibson Lab Series L5 - "My Lab Series amp takes all the bumps, and still gives a smooth performance." (1981)
This Lab Series advert featuring bluesman B.B. King and his L5 appeared in Guitar Player magazine in May and August 1981 - just one of many 'artist' adverts for the amp line. King's bassplayer, Joe...

Gibson Lab Series amplifiers - Lab series. If only you could see how they sound.

Gibson Lab Series amplifiers - Lab series. If only you could see how they sound. (1981)
One of the last Lab Series advertisements, from 1981, and one of very few printed in colour. The L-5 is pictured, but the text also highlights the 100w 1x15" L6 bass combo.

Lab Series video clips

Subscribe to the vintageguitarandbass youtube channel for more vintage guitar and bass demos. Also, check out the other videos of these guitars in the supporting members area.

1981 Gibson Marauder / 1979 Lab Series L7 (short version, 3m 39s)

Find out more about these instruments here: 1981 Gibson Marauder, 1979 LAB series L7

The Marauder was quite atypical when it was first developed by Bill Lawrence for Gibson: with its maple fretboard and bolt-on neck. This clip shows a late period mahogany body, rosewood neck Gibson Marauder, played through a contemporaneous (actually 1979) 4x10 100w LAB series L7. The guitar is strung with Gibson bright wires (10-46). The L7 was created by Moog and Gibson (both Norlin companies) and is a seriously underated amp. The snarlier sounds are featured here, but it has a lot of really nice clean tones too. Watch the long version of this video in the vintageguitarandbass supporting members area, to hear a bit more of this guitar / amp under different settings.

There are three clips: first a demo of the pickup blend pot, then a clean/glassy tone demonstrating the LAB series midrange boost, and finally some really dirty fuzz from the lower boosted input. This amp has a HUGE range of sounds!

Recorded here with a Heil PR-40 (left channel) and a Shure SM57 (right channel), through a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface - highly recommended gear!

1987 Gibson 20/20 bass / Gibson Lab Series L2 - part 2 (L2 midrange settings) (9m 35s)

Find out more about these instruments here: 1987 Gibson 20/20, LabSeries L2

The Gibson 20/20 is a superb playing instrument. It has a wide tonal range, is comfortable to play, and, frankly sounds immense. It's paired in this video, with a late 70s/early 80s Gibson/Norlin Lab Series L2 100w bass amp with 1x15 speaker. And this is an awesome (solid state) bass amp, designed by Bob Moog.

This video (part2) demonstrates some of the wide range of sounds you can get solely by adjusting the L2 midrange frequency control - and, to some extent, playing style.

As you can hear, just this one control has an enormous effect on the sound - the Lab series amps really are awesome, and hugely underrated

Recorded here with an Electrovoice RE-20 (left channel) and a Shure SM57 (right channel), through a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface - highly recommended gear!

1987 Gibson 20/20 bass / Gibson Lab Series L2 (4m 27s)

Find out more about these instruments here: 1987 Gibson 20/20, LabSeries L2

The Gibson 20/20 was not (visually, at least) to everyone's taste, but it is actually a superb playing instrument. It has a wide tonal range, is comfortable to play, and, frankly sounds immense. It's paired in this video, with a late 70s/early 80s Gibson/Norlin Lab Series L2 100w bass amp with 1x15 speaker. This video (part1) demonstrates the variance in instrument settings. Part 2 demonstrates some of the great sounds you can get by using the amps midrange frequency control.

Wonderful bass, brilliant amp: AWESOME combination.

Recorded here with an Electrovoice RE-20 (left channel) and a Shure SM57 (right channel), through a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface - highly recommended gear!

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Vintage Lab Series L4, 200-watt bass amp head and cabinet w / two 15 in speakers

Vintage Lab Series L4, 200-watt bass amp head and cabinet w / two 15 in speakers

Beverly Hills, Florida, 344**, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


Experience the powerful sound of the Lab Series L4 with this 200-watt bass amp head and cabinet featuring two 15-inch speakers. This vintage amplifier is perfect for performances or practice sessions, whether you are a professional or a beginner. With two channels and 200 watts of power, this stack amplifier produced by Labsystems is suitable for bass guitars and delivers high-quality sound. Made in the United States, this Lab Series L4 model is a popular choice for musicians looking for a ... more
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LAB Series L5 Touring Guitar Amp on Wheels Vintage 1978 Made in USA

LAB Series L5 Touring Guitar Amp on Wheels Vintage 1978 Made in USA

Brookline, Massachusetts, 024**, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


This LAB Series L5 is the same model that B B. King has toured with for decades - and with great reason: It??s an exceptional guitar amplifier

Cosmetically, the amp has lots of hard-earned character. It??s criss-crossed the country many times. It??s been heard in countless nightclubs nationwide - and it shows. Its many dings and bruises are a tribute to its tank-like construction. This amp is an absolute workhorse and sounds as superb now as it did when it was originally purchased in... more
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1971 Selmer guitar catalogue

1971 Selmer guitar catalogueScan of 1971 Selmer guitar catalogue showing the range of electric and acoustic guitars distributed by the company: guitars by Gibson, Yamaha, Selmer, Hofner and Suzuki. 1960s Selmer had always placed Hofner at the front end of their catalogues, no doubt these were the better sellers - but into the 1970s Hofner were slipping somewhat and only appear at the tail end of this publication, pride of place going to Gibson, and to a lesser extent Yamaha. In fact this is the last Selmer catalogue to include the many Hofner hollow bodies (Committee, President, Senator etc) that had defined the companies output for so many years - to be replaced in the 1972 catalogue by generic solid body 'copies' of Gibson and Fender models. A number of new Gibson models are included for the first time: the SG-100 and SG-200 six string guitars and the SB-300 and SB-400 basses.

1968 Selmer guitar catalogue

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1961 Hofner Colorama I

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1971 Commodore N25 (Matsumoku)

1971 Commodore N25 (Matsumoku)Commodore was a brand applied to a series of guitars produced in Japan at the well-respected Matsumoku plant from the late 1960s to the mid 1970s - and sold primarily (perhaps exclusively?) in the United Kingdom. The models bearing the Commodore name were all guitars available from different distributors with different branding. Although there may have been some minor changes in appointments (specifically headstock branding) most had the same basic bodies, hardware and construction. Equivalent models to the Commodore N25 (and this is by no means an exhaustive list) include the Aria 5102T, Conrad 5102T(?), Electra 2221, Lyle 5102T, Ventura V-1001, Univox Coily - and most famously the Epiphone 5102T / Epiphone EA-250.

1960 Hofner Colorama II

1960 Hofner Colorama IIThe Hofner Colorama was the name given by Selmer to a series of solid (and semi-solid) body Hofner guitars distributed in the United Kingdom between 1958 and 1965. The Colorama name actually applied to some quite different guitars over the period, but in 1960 it was a very light, semi-solid, set necked guitar with one (Colorama I) or two (Colorama II, as seen here) Toaster pickups. Although an entry-level guitar, it was very well-built, and a fine playing guitar; certainly a step up (at least in terms of craftsmanship) from many of the Colorama guitars that would follow, and a good deal of the guitars available in Britain circa 1960.

1971 Epiphone 1820 bass (ET-280)

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1981 Gibson Marauder

1981 Gibson MarauderProduction of Bill Lawrence's Gibson Marauder began in 1974, with production peaking in 1978. But by 1980 the model was officially discontinued, though very small numbers slipped out as late as spring 1981. Over 7000 examples shipped between 1974 and 1979, and although no totals are available for 1980 and 1981, it is unlikely production reached three figures in either of these years. These final Marauders were all assembled at the Gibson Nashville plant, and had some nice features not available through the later years of production, such as a rosewood fretboard, and in this case, an opaque 'Devil Red' finish. It's a great looking and fine playing guitar!

1971 'Pick Epiphone' Catalog

1971 Pick Epiphone catalogWhen Epiphone production moved from Kalamazoo to the Matsumoku plant in Japan, a whole new range of electric, flattop and classic acoustic guitars was launched. Between late 1970 and 1972 the new models were launched and refined. This 'folder' catalog contains various inserts released over these years detailing four electric six-strings (ET-270, ET-275, ET-278, and thinline EA-250), three bass guitars (ET-280, ET-285, and thinline EA-260), three folk/steel acoustics, four jumbo flattop acoustics, two 12-string jumbos, four classic acoustics, and a banjo.

1981 'Gibson Specials' Pre-Owners Manual

1981 Gibson Specials Pre-Owners Manual'Gibson Specials' was part of the June 1981 pre-owners manual series, but unlike the other folders contained a mish-mash of different guitars: limited editions, test marketing and close outs. "You will find the unusual, the brand-new, and the bargain within this folder". End of line 70s guitars like the Marauder, S-1, and L-6S Custom mixed in with brand new models the The V, The Explorer and the Flying V Bass.
It was the largest folder in the series, with 24 inserts, (19 guitars and 5 basses): Guitars: 335-S Standard, Melody Maker Double, Marauder, L-6S Custom, S-1, RD Artist, Firebird, Firebird II, Flying V, Flying V-II, The V, Explorer, Explorer II, The Explorer, The "SG" Standard, Les Paul Artist, Les Paul Artisan, ES-335 Heritage, ES-175/CC Basses: Grabber, G-3, L-9S, RD Artist Bass, Flying V Bass

1970s Shaftesbury 3263 bass

1970s Shaftesbury 3263 bassRose-Morris were selling Shaftesbury-branded Rickenbacker copy instruments from the late 1960s right through the 1970s. The 3263 bass was one of the first models, (alongside the 3261 six string and 3262 twelve string) available from late 1968 until about 1974. The earliest incarnation was a set neck bass, produced very briefly in Japan. But production quickly moved to Italy. This bolt-on neck example was built by Eko, in Recanati, using the same hardware and pickups as fitted to Eko, and Vox basses built around the same time. It's certainly a fine looking bass, and not a bad player either.

1961 Hohner Zambesi

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1963 Vox Super Ace

1963 Vox Super AceThe Vox Super Ace was a mid-priced British solid body electric guitar, produced by JMI at their factory in Dartford, Kent. It was broadly modelled on the Fender Stratocaster, and a sibling model to the dual-pickup Vox Ace. Both the Ace, and Super Ace (along with several other models), were redesigned in 1963 with a new body shape, headstock style, and pickup layout - only increasing the resemblance to the aforementioned Fender. The Super Ace had a 1963 price tag of 47 5S. It's a pretty nice playing guitar with some lovely sounds - check out the videos on this page, and in the Vintage Guitar and Bass supporting members area

1966 Vox New Escort

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1969 Fender catalog, Fender Lovin' Care

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1973 Eko Ranger Folk

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1966 Vox Symphonic bass guitar

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1968 Shaftesbury 'Electric Guitars' catalog

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1970 Rose-Morris 'Exciting Electrics Wonderful Westerns Celebrated Classics' catalog

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1971 Rose-Morris 'Exciting Electrics Wonderful Westerns' catalog

1971 Rose_Morris catalogThe sixteen-page 1971 Rose-Morris catalog featured electric guitars by Rose-Morris' own brand, Shaftesbury, and budget brand Top Twenty; aswell as acoustics by Eko, Aria, and for the first time Ovation. The catalog contains the following instruments: Electric guitars: Shaftesbury 3261, 3264, 3265, 3400, 3402; Top Twenty 1970; Bass: Shaftesbury 3263, 3266; Top Twenty 1971; Acoustic guitars: Ovation: Balladeer, 12 String, Glen Campbell, Glen Campbell 12 string; Eko Rio Bravo, Rio Bravo 12, Ranger, Ranger Folk, Ranger 12, Colorado, Ranchero, Ranchero 12, Studio 'L'; Rose-Morris Florida; Aria 'John Pearse' Jumbo, 'John Pearse' Folk

1972 Fender Precision bass

1972 Fender PrecisionA detailed look at an early 1970s Fender Precision bass guitar in custom black finish, with rosewood fretboard. 1972 list price, $307.50. The Fender Precision had been shipping since at least very early 1952 - with just one re-design circa 1957. This example, then, shows a model already two decades old, but barely changed since the '57 revamp. Fender got it right first time around, and although there are numerous minor cosmetic differences, the essence of this bass is effectively the same as it was in '52: a simple, single pickup instrument with a GREAT sound. Check out the demo video through an old Ampeg B15. It's no wonder this is the bass that everybody wants!

1967 Vox Stroller

1967 Vox StrollerThe Vox Stroller was the brand's entry level electric solid body guitar, fitted with just one pickup and a fixed tailpiece. Although aimed at student guitarists, it wasn't a terrible instrument, but did lack somewhat in adjustability, having no accessible truss rod and only a floating rosewood bridge. But this example is actually quite an improvement on earlier versions, with a standard 1/4" jack and a solid mahogany body. 1967 price £18 2s. JMI ceased UK guitar production in late '67, and combined with decreasing demand for the Stroller, this surely must be one of the last examples shipped.

1963 Vox Clubman Bass (left handed)

1963 Vox Clubman Bass left handedA nice example of the Vox Clubman II bass, built by JMI in Dartford, Kent in 1963. This is a lightweight bass, short (30") scale and very easy to play. It is an early example, and as such has a thin black scratchplate and side mounted, coaxial output jack. JMI offered left handed examples of their solid body Vox guitars and basses at 10% premium. Production numbers are unclear, but left-handed examples rarely come up for sale

1977 Gibson ES Artist 'prototype'

1977 Gibson ES Artist prototypeNot to be confused with the Gibson ES Artist launched by Gibson in 1979; this ES Artist was an early model designed by the Gibson research and development team in Kalamazoo in 1977, the instruments themselves constructed by Gibson artist Chuck Burge. It was planned for launch as a high end semi acoustic with 335-style construction (central maple block) and innovative circuitry - but was pulled at the last minute, being deemed too expensive. Apparently, several examples were produced with varying specifications, though exactly how many actually left the Kalamazoo plant is unclear. Certainly two guitars were sold to LaVonne Music by Gibson in around 1980. Read more about the development of this guitar, with details from Chuck Burge and the story of it's sale to LaVonne music

1959 Hofner Committee

1959 Hofner CommitteeThe Hofner Committee was a truly beautiful guitar produced in Germany, primarily for the UK market. It was a large bodied (initially 17 1/2") guitar with a carved spruce top, available as an acoustic or electric guitar. By the early sixties the carved top was replaced with a laminate, and although still a very fine guitar, the earlier carved top examples, with frondose headstock (like the example shown here) are far more highly prized amongst musicians and vintage guitar collectors.

1965 Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean

1965 Gretsch Chet Atkins TennesseanThe Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean, or model 6119 was Gretsch's best selling hollow body of the 1960s. This wonderfully faded example from 1965 was originally Dark Cherry Red, but has turned a mid-orange brown. The original color, however, can be seen underneath the pickup surrounds. 1965 specs: maple body, two-piece neck, Brazilian rosewood fretboard and Hi-Lo 'Tron single coil pickups. Nickel plated Gretsch Bigsby tailpiece.

1965 Gretsch 'For the Spectacular Sound of the Times' guitar and amp catalog

1965 Gretsch catalogThe 1965 Gretsch catalog, or catalog #32, featured 10 hollow body electric guitars, including the newly launched Gretsch Viking; four solid body electrics, including the Astro Jet - making it's only catalog appearance; just one bass, the single pickup PX6070; nine acoustics and 12 tube amplifiers. Pride of place went to the Chet Atkins Country Gentleman that adorned both the front and back covers. 24 pages, six of which are in full color.

Guitar Repair: fixing fret buzz and sharp fret ends

Guitar Repair: fixing fret buzz and sharp fret endsLoose frets are especially problematic in certain old guitars, but are generally very easy to fix. You'll be amazed at the difference you can make with just a few tools, a bit of knowledge, and a little time. Fixing loose frets can eliminate fret buzz, remove sharp fret ends, and greatly improve the tone of any guitar. If your luthier bill will be greater than the value of your guitar, definitely time to have a go yourself!

1966 Hagstrom 'worlds fastest playing neck' catalog (Merson USA)

1966 Hagstrom guitar catalogHagstrom guitars were distributed in the mid-1960s United States by Merson of USA. This eight page 'worlds fastest playing neck' catalog, printed in two-colors contained six solid body electrics, three solid body basses, two electric acoustic guitars, two electric acoustic basses and five acoustics.

1965 Hofner President

1965 Hofner PresidentThe President was produced by Hofner in Bubenreuth, Germany, specifically for Selmer, who distributed the brand in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other commonwealth nations. The President was a hollow body electric acoustic, available as a full body or thinline, and with blonde or brunette finish. It was a great playing guitar that sold fairly well in the second half of the 1950s, throughout the 1960s, and into the very early 1970s. The example shown here is a full-body depth guitar in blonde - and as a 1965 guitar, one of the last to feature the rounded Venetian cutaway. From late 1965 until 1972, the President sported a sharp Florentine cut. Naturally, such an electric acoustic suggests jazz and blues, but many of the original British Hofner President players were part of the rock 'n roll, skiffle and beat scenes of the late 50s and early 60s.

1963 1964 Fender catalog

Fender 1963 catalogue"The Choice of Professional and Student Musicians Everywhere" This eight page catalogue was included as an insert in the 1963 annual "school music" issue of Downbeat magazine (September 1963). As well as keyboards and pedal steels, this catalog contains seven guitars, three basses and ten amplifiers - from student guitars such as the Musicmaster and Duotone to professional models like the new Jaguar.