ENGL Special Edition E 670 Amplifier
ENGL GmbH, engl-amps.com
Head, $4,999.99; matching 4x12 cabinet, $1,562.99; option Z-15 MIDI controller, $524.99
Originally published in Guitar World, April 2009
It seems every amplifier company has a flagship product designed to deliver the most popular features and innovations of the amps in its lineup. But even with all the bells and whistles, these top-of-the-line amps usually have a signature tone characteristic that pervades each of its channels and limits its versatility.
ENGL has taken a different approach with its monstrous Special Edition E670 amplifier. The Special Edition is built on a platform of relative neutrality and appointed with a litany of tone-shaping features and gain levels that make the amp adaptable to a wide range of styles. Adding to its attractiveness as the centerpiece of a professional rig, the all-tube Special Edition features a port for an optional MIDI foot controller.
ENGL’S Special Edition has a fortress-like appearance, with a tough vinyl hide, a prison-bar grille and a brushed-aluminum faceplate. Two pairs of 6L6s generate 100 extremely loud watts, and five ECC83s drive the gain stages. If the full power of this Bavarian-born beast is too overwhelming, it can be switched down to a more manageable 50 watts in Half-Drive mode. There are essentially four master volume–style channels with several ways to shift frequency ranges, gain levels and response characteristics. The clean and crunch channels share gain, bass, middle and reverb controls, but each has its own treble knob and volume. A gain boost switch affects both of these channels, as do switches for Normal Bright and Ultra Bright.
The Lead I and Lead II channels each have dedicated treble, gain and volume controls but share controls for bass, middle and reverb. A high-gain switch vastly increases the distortion level of both lead channels, and the midrange shape can be severely altered with contour and Mid Edge switches.
The Special Edition has two presence and two master controls, making it possible to set up footswitchable options at preset levels. For instance, Master 1 can be set for an ideal rhythm level while Master 2 is set for a solo level. The reverb can be deactivated with the front panel switch, and the two parallel effect loops or serial effect loop can also be activated on the front panel. If you’re in search of infrasonic bliss on any channel, a global Depth Boost switch will vastly increase the low-end response. Or if you’re really obsessed with a phat bottom, the Mega Lo Punch switch has your back.
One of the Special Edition’s most powerful response-altering tools is its Modern/Classic switch. It affects all channels and essentially changes the amp from a softer and darker character in the classic mode to a punchy and aggressive modern demeanor. Though their controls reside on the amp’s back, the noise gate and Tube Driver features can be activated on the front panel. The Tube Driver is a simple and separate tube-driven channel that bypasses all front panel controls. It has its own EQ section and delivers very basic tones that range from clean to overdriven.
The amp’s back panel has two sets of switchable speaker outputs with individual impedance selectors, plus two parallel effect loops and one series loop, a cable check circuit, a MIDI connection port with trimming dip switches and an advanced line out circuit for the preamp and power amp. The matching ENGL 4x12 cabinet is loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s and fronted by a woven wire grille. If you opt for the ENGL MIDI controller, practically every amp feature can be switched at your feet.
Many American and British amps are described as having warm personalities because of their wide midrange accents. On the other hand, great German amps like the ENGL Special Edition have a cooler tone. It’s no less organic, just flatter. This impartiality and transparency illuminates a guitar’s own tonal qualities and makes the amp exceptionally compatible with a large variety of rack and pedal units. Clean tones are absolutely pristine and powerful, but the amp generates inspiring layers of crunch and overdrive as well.
The Special Edition is also one of the rare amps that will never need an overdrive pedal to push its preamp. There’s enough high-intensity gain in the ENGL to satisfy even the most diabolical desire for excessive distortion and sustain. The most insane gain settings never compromise focus or definition. It may take a little time to discover the amp’s astounding tones through the abundant sound-shaping switches, but it’s well worth the journey.
THE BOTTOM LINE
ENGL’S Special Edition is one of the few flagship amps that really delivers on the promise of ultimate tonal and feature flexibility. Its numerous tools are useable, and the gain range covers everything from bone clean to explosive.
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