Germany’s ENGL amplifier company is renowned for creating monstrously big and powerful heads, like the Fireball, Invader, Powerball and Screamer. With their aggressive sound, high-performance note tracking and blitz-fast bass slam, these amps deliver spectacular levels of speaker-driving volume and sound pressure.
But gigging guitarists also need portable amplification that doesn’t sacrifice tone for manageable output levels in the studio, home or small club. ENGL’s GigMaster series fills this niche very nicely, packing all of the company’s famous, German-voiced sound into a package that’s surprisingly lightweight, tough and versatile. In particular, the all-tube, two-channel GigMaster 30 combo that I tested produces loads of warm and gritty gain, with dimensionality that belies its bantamweight package and price.
Weighing less than 40 pounds, the GigMaster 30 is one of the lightest and most streamlined 1x12 all-tube combos on the market. Four EL-84s create its notably loud 30 watts of output power, and a single ECC83 warms the gain and preamp tone.
The amp features Clean and Lead channels and a complement of common and discrete controls. The Lead drive and Lead volume controls are specific to that channel, while all other controls are shared by both channels. Most important of these are the mid boost and gain boost pushbuttons and the input gain knob. The input gain dictates the entire sensitivity and voice of the amplifier, making it possible to achieve just the right coloration, depth and response to match the amp to your guitar and pickups.
Inside, the GigMaster 30 sports a 12-inch Celestion Super 65 speaker. The back panel has send and return jacks for the effect loop, a line output jack and four speaker outputs. Additionally, there are three 1/4-inch footswitch jacks for connecting the optional Z-4 foot pedal, which lets you control channel switching, gain boost, mid boost, master volume boost, effects and reverb.
Another notable feature is the power tube fuse indicator on the front panel. Should a power tube fuse fail, the indicator will light up to alert you. Happily, the amp will continue to operate, albeit with somewhat diminished performance.
As I noted, the input gain is critical to the amp’s response and tone. Increased levels add presence, attack, treble potential and perceived gain, offering a range voicing and response options that span generations of classic and modern amp characteristics. For instance, clean tones can be smoky and warm on lower gain settings, and then pushed into Texas blues or raunchy Rolling Stones tones with the mid boost and/or gain boost switches engaged.
The range of overdriven tones is even more impressive, spanning everything from a barking, scooped American-style gain to feverish British growl and intense European über-gain. The versatility on offer here is simply outstanding. The GigMaster 30 puts a wealth of tones at your command, making it ideal for players of traditional rock and blues as well as modern rock.
List Prices $1,249.99; Z4 footswitch, $149.99
Manufacturer ENGL Marketing and Sales GmbH, englamps.de
ENGL’s GigMaster 30 combo blends power and adaptive finesse in a rock-solid package.
The 12-inch Celestion Super 65 delivers an ideal balance of punch and grind, with smooth break-up, complex midrange hues and deep authority.
Combinations of input gain levels, with the addition of mid boost and/or gain boost, shape the GigMaster 30’s voice and attack characteristics.
The Bottom Line
Boasting an especially malleable preamp, a 12-inch Celestion Super 65 speaker and a shoulder-saving design, ENGL’s all-tube GigMaster 30 combo is among the most multidimensional and portable amplifiers in its class.