Price paid: $ 1189.5
Purchased from: Thomann.de
Sound — 10
I mainly play two guitars through this amp, an ESP LTD FX400 (EMG 81/60) and a Jackson DK2T (Seymour Duncan JB/Jazz). I play in a Black Metal band the sound of which at the moment falls somewhere between Nightside Eclipse-era Emperor and Battles in the North-era Immortal with a dash of Frost/Eld era Enslaved for good measure. I also play a variety of other styles on my own, from death metal to blues, from grunge to clean stuff. The Screamer covers them all and then some. The four channels are the key to this. Clean produces lovely cleans, ranging from crisp and brittle to rich and almost accoustic sounds, depending on your EQ settings. It begins to distort around the 12 or 1 o'clock region on the gain pot for me but I have quite high output pickups so other people might be able to push it further. Certainly when I use the bridge pickup in my DK2T I seem to get a bit of extra headroom. Crunch opens up a wide range of tonal possibilites depending on how far you push the clean gain pot. There's a sweet spot between 9 and 10 o'clock where you can alternate between clean and light distortion depending on how hard you pick and pushing it higher pushes you into sonic territory ranging from soft rock through blues to classic rock. Soft lead is another highly flexible channel. At moderate levels of gain it can pump out some excellent hard rock and grungy rhythm sounds and a great blues lead tone but as you push it higher you find yourself coming into metal territory without even hitting the last channel. On high gain settings you can easily obtain Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera sounds and my band has even managed to get a highly authentic Immortal, Sons of Northern Darkness tone out of this channel.
Heavy lead is where it gets really brutal. I've seen it bandied around on the UG forum that the Screamer can't do balls-to-the-wall extreme metal tones very well but this is, frankly, entirely incorrect. At low gain you get a sweet classic rock/early heavy metal lead tone and once the gain hits 12 or so you're already into brutal territory, I find this level of gain ideal for stuff in the vein of At The Gates and Carcass. Pushing from 1 to 2 o'clock you're hitting the death and black metal zone. Even on the most crushingly heavy, intensely distorted black metal pieces I rarely go past 3 o'clock on the gain pot so there's still plenty of room for even nastier sounds still. With the gain at this level and lots of bass on the EQ you can churn out the most savage palm muted riffs to your heart's content. One of the things that has surprised me about this amp is how little noise it puts out even at extremely high gain settings and how little unwanted sound filters through. I did find that it was a little noisier after I started using a Wi-fi network at home but moving the router cut a lot of that out and if I'm recording I simply turn it off and the noise goes away. This might also be due to the fact that the buildng I Live in is quite old and the wiring can be a bit strange. It's certainly not something I'd fault the amp for. Overall, I couldn't be happier with the sound of this amp. I don't doubt that there's better pieces of kit out there for specific types of music but as an all-rounder this offers such a high standard of tonal quality across the board, particularly for the heavier styles that I play.
Overall Impression — 10
This amp is absolutely ideal for me and it's far and away my favourite piece of gear I own. It's absolutely central to my tone an is flexible enough to let me sound whatever way I want. I love the build quality, the incredble sound and, despite the extra cost, the Z5 footswitch. I also happen to think it's a beautiful piece of kit to look at. I wasn't sure when buying this whether to get the combo or the E325 head-only version and pair it with a cab but I'm very happy with my choice because, not only does the combo sounds great, I can use it as a head if need be and I only paid about 50 than the head only option. God forbid if this amp were stolen or damaged beyond repair I would get another without further thought. I have fallen head over heels in love with Engl because of it and right now the only thing I'd replace it with is a Powerball. I considered a lot of tube combos, including the JCM 2000 DSL and TSL, Ashton Fallen Angel and various Laney's etc but this amp won out on sheer tone and flexibility, even if it was a bit more expensive. The lead guitarist in my band is on the verge of selling his JCM800 and cab and going for this 50 combo instead! In fact, we record all of out guitar parts through my amp because it just sounds that much better than anything he has for what we do.
Reliability & Durability — 10
When the fallout settles, the only things left will be the cockroaches and this amp. Engl Panzer might have been a more suitable name because it certainly reflects the impeccable build quality. It's so incredibly robust and both the speaker and the power amp are covered to protect them from damage, in seperate enclosures. The enormous metal grill on the front means that nothing is going to get at the speaker cone from that direction. I haven't had the chance to play Live with the Screamer yet but I can't wait to do so and will happily play without a backup although I'll keep a spare set of tubes in case of careless handling between home and venue. I haven't had it long enough to really asess the long terms reliability but the manual is exceptionally helpfl with lots of engineer's tips for getting the most of your amp and preventing you from inadvertantly damaging it.
Features — 9
The amp was made in 2007 in Germany and has all the hallmarks of German engineering, great reliability and durability, exceptional build quality and great value. It's a 50 watt head running through a single 12 inch speaker but it can put out a wall of sound despite that. It can go exceptionally loud and still sound amazing but also sounds great without being cranked up a great deal. There's also the option to unplug the combo speaker and connect to a cab, effectively turning the combo into a head and giving you all the volume you'll ever need. 50W of tube power is more than enough for all but the biggest of gigs but the lower wattage makes it easier to operate at lower volumes and so ideal for home recording and the like. Aesthetically, the most noticeable thing about this amp is the robust metal grid covering the speaker cabinet as well as the chrome-finished Engl logo and front plate. It looks very impressive, a solid, sturdy and imposing piece of gear. Sonically, though, is where it gets really interesting. Nominally it's a two channel amp, clean and lead, but each channel has a low and high gain mode effectively adding up to four channels, clean, crunch, soft lead and heavy lead. Channel switching can be done using the buttons on the front panel or via a footswitch. While regular footswitches are supported a much better option is to invest in the Z5 footswitch unit. I initially balked at forking out another 100 for this but in the end it was well worth it and expands the amp's potential greatly. It allows you to Switch between all four channels instantly and to toggle spring reverb and the excellent lead boost feature. It's also an extremly impressive looking unit, a heavy weight chrome-finished steel box that feels worth every penny. On the subject of the Master Volume boost, this can really push the guitar through the mix at key moments and the level of the boost is adjustable via a covered dial on the back panel.
The EQ is excellent and allows for a huge range of tonal options. Unfortunately the two/four channels share the one EQ though I suspect this is a blessing in disguise in some ways as it keeps complications to a minimum and allows you to get on with the business of playing. In terms of connectivity, you have the option to connect to both 8 and 16 ohm cabs, by unplugging the internal speaker you can run two of either. There's ports for standard footswitches as well as the custom port for the Z5 footswitch and the obligitary FX loop with a pot to adjust the mix control. There's also a Line Out port which uses XLR rather than a 1/4" jack plug. Though I prefer to mic my amp for recording I like being able to DI it to my interface at the same time if I want to mix the different outputs together. The Line Ot Control features a level control and a handy Overload LED which lets you know when you need to lower the signal level. Overall a superb feature set, the only drawbacks being the shared EQ and having to drop another 100 on the Z5.