Price paid: $ 599
Purchased from: Music123
Sound — 9
My main guitar (and the one I've used in the pre since I bought it) is my Jackson Super Lightweight Soloist with EMG 81/85 pickups. It's a pretty standard rock/metal guitar. This amp matches it rather well except that on super high gain settings, it's got a little bit of noise/hiss. It's nothing that a noise suppressor can't take care of, but I just don't like using those in the first place. The noise doesn't really come into noticeable effect (at least on my rig) until you are in Lead/Hi with the gain at about 2 o' clock. Anything before that and you're good to go without any kind of noise suppression or you can just man up and love the noise that comes from the amp. The clean channel has quite a bit of headroom from the pre and I haven't really noticed any distortion on it, but typically I play the cleans at more manageable volumes with a fatter, jazzier tone for some fusion stuff. I already talked about the distortion in the "Features" section, but it bears mentioning again. We all know that the name Engl is synonymous with "DISTORTION/GAIN" and I can't Drive that point home enough. In my opinion, I feel that this pre is superior in gain/dist that the famous 6505/5150, Marshall JVM series, Krankenstein, and Mesa Rec. The Uberschall and Cobra are certainly in the same ballpark as the Engl, however. In a nutshell, if you play any kind of hard music and don't have a small inheritance to spend on an amp, this is certainly your best bet. Again, it's all in the ears of the player, but if you're looking at an Engl, I think I have a pretty good idea of what you're looking to play.
Overall Impression — 9
I typically play shred guitar in the style of Paul Gilbert and Rusty Cooley. I do dabble in bebop jazz and jazz fusion as well. I don't do a whole lot (or any) country or pop music. This amp suits my needs very well in those regards. I've been playing for about nine years and have a Marshall JCM900 half stack, a Marshall JCM2000 DSL half stack, and a Peavey 3120 half stack. I'm currently selling off the JCM900 however. My main guitar is my Jackson SLSMG and my backup is an Ibanez S570EX. For my main rig, I use a RR-13 power supply, two Midiverb 3 units, a rackmounted BBE Sonic Maximizer 482I and my Engl E530 Preamp, and a Peavey Classic 60/60 power amp. The only thing that I wish I would have known about this pre is that it only runs in stereo to my knowledge.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Yes, I appears to be pretty durable. I've mentioned that already. It even came with an extra ECC83 preamp tube that is matched to the pre. Very nice. The knobs have that very reaffirming and satisfying resistance to them when you turn them, they are loose or spin freely. A definite sign of quality in my opinion. I haven't had it long enough to comment on it's longevity but I've heard good things about Engl's build quality which I think shows through in this preamp. I gave it an "8" only because I can't comment about it's durability in the long run, but I'm sure there won't be any problems.
Features — 8
I bought the preamp brand new from Music123.com. I've had it for about a week and have logged about 15 or so hours fiddling with it. I'm currently running it through a Peavey Classic 60/60 stereo power amp loaded with 6L6 tubes. The E530 is very robust in it's features and build quality which is evident by it's massive weight, heft of the knobs, and the amount of inputs/outputs in the rear panel. I would say that it covers quite a range of sounds but that's all in the ears of the player. I've read some reviews saying that this is a "one trick pony" with it's insane amount of gain whereas others like myself will claim that it pull off pretty much any sound you want. One feature that I really like is the fact that the engineers at Engl decided to split the mid EQ into two separate parts, low mid and high mid. It's one of those things that you never really knew you needed until you use it, it gives you quite a bit of tonal control that you wouldn't have had otherwise unless you added an EQ to your loop. The EQ is very reactive and allows you to manipulate the sound to a pretty large degree. If you see other reviews from other Engl amps, you'll generally hear positive comments about it's clean tones which I will reiterate here. I'm a HUGE fan of the Engl cleans and will vouch for them all day long. Of course this depends a bit on the power amp you use in the end, but to my ears, they are nice, bright, and shimmering. Let's talk about what everyone wants when they buy an Engl, it's gain. Yes, there is enough gain for damn near anyone. I've played through a handful of high-gain amps and there are some that certainly match the Engl, but it's at a price that leaves most of us out of luck i.e. the Framus Cobra or the Bogner Uberschall. To clarify, I've never OWNED any of those amps, just had the good fortune of playing through them at other people's houses and whatnot. The gain stack is very, very tight which is perfect for for your chugging or palm muting riffs. To me, the gain never becomes floppy or muddy at high volumes or higher gain settings like other amps that I've ran into. It's a two channel amp that people claim is a four channel amp because each channel has a hi/low switch to increase it's gain levels. I typically play on the the lead channel with the low switch on. That provides all the gain I need. Anything beyond that and it throws you into a world of sonic mayhem you probably didn't know existed in a 1U preamp. On the back panel, it has an stereo emulated cabinet out for direct recording, an instrument out, stereo effects loop return, footswitch input, alternate input, and a few other gadgets. My biggest complaint is that to my knowledge (and the owner's manual never addresses this), is that there is no way to run the preamp in mono, only stereo. Fortunately for me, why whole rig is stereo so it fit right in. Just a word of warning for those who may want to invest in this, make sure to get a spitter or something to cover this. It also has a small built in solid state power amp (which sounds like a solid state power amp) and I think it's something to the tune of 2.5W or something. It's nifty though because you can just hook up headphones to the front of the pre and practice relatively silently. Just make sure to switch it on the back of the pre for headphone use. I'm rating this an "8" because of the lack of ability to play in mono and no onboard reverb. The reverb isn't a big deal because I use a Midiverb for that, but for those that don't a have a reverb unit and are not looking to play death metal with this, it may have been a nice little feature.