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This article was originally published in issue #21
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Looking for an amp that will do justice to your 7 or 8-string? Searching for the ultimate metal sound? Engl's Invader is fast becoming a fixture on professional stages. We let Sam Bell loose with both 8 and 6 string guitars. Sanity was not an option.
Featuring four channels, each with its own hi gain or bright switch. Two FX loops, two master volumes, a built in noise gate, MIDI and 100 Watts of EL34 valve power, Engl's Invader 100 means serious business. As a performing musician in a progressive metal band, I've seen this amp on many stages, and it's clear it has become one of the go to amps for modern metal musicians, due to its power, tone and durability.
I do think it's worth being a bit cautious with the word metal in the Engl's context though, as you could come away with the impression that this amp's only real use is for metal and aggressive playing styles, whereas, in fact, the Invader is capable of so much more. Each channel has a unique flexible voicing, which can be manipulated in a vast amount of ways, making this amp incredibly versatile.
I am going to break down the key features of each channel and then take a look at some of the awesome additions that really put this amp ahead of the pack. For each channel the EQ sections are very flexible as I demonstrate in our video, so here I will describe the character of each channel, rather than placing emphasis on the EQ section, as I feel this is better heard than explained.
Channel 1: Clean
As with all the channels on the Engl Invader 100, this channel features a gain knob, treble, middle, bass and a channel volume. This channel also has a bright switch that boosts treble. At low gain settings, depending on how hot your pickups are, you can get a really punchy clean tone with no break-up. As you turn the gain control higher you can hear a little bit more break-up, creating a crunchy tone which would be very suited to classic Rock.
Channel 2: Crunchy
The same controls as channel 1, however this time there's a hi gain switch. At low gain settings with this off, you get a considerably crunchier tone than channel 1. Pressing the hi gain switch pushes the pre-amp harder and delivers a little more mid range emphasis. When you turn up the gain control, the crunch tone starts to saturate further creating a smooth distortion perfect for metal rhythm, or classic Rock leads.
Channel 3: Tight/Smooth Distortion
This channel features a very smooth saturated distortion with a tight low end, even with the gain knob set around 3/10 there is still plenty of sustain and tightness. This channel would be perfect at low gain settings for a really tight metal rhythm, or as a boosted lead if you were using channel 2 as your primary rhythm tone. At higher gain settings you can get super sustained lead tones that would cut through the mix with no problem at all. Pressing in the hi gain switch on this channel delivers out of this world levels of gain and saturation.
Channel 4: Super smooth distortion.
On the Engl website this channel is described as modern crunch to singing harmonic leads. It has a similar tight voicing to channel 3, however it also has insane amounts of gain, even without the hi gain switch activated. This channel features a very focused mid range, which typically would make it perfect as your lead/boost channel.
Even though you have more gain than you could shake a stick at, that doesn’t mean high gain is all the Invader can do. With the optional MIDI programmable foot controller, you could set the four channels to do a whole variety of things, meaning each channel doesn’t necessary have a set purpose. I know people who own this amp and use each channel for vastly different purposes, such as having a clean channel, a low fi channel for percussive playing, a tight rhythm channel and a super lead channel. Each channel has two stages of gain, and for channels 2, 3 and 4 we also have the option of using the onboard noise gate which is adjustable at the back of the amp, meaning we can have up to eight potential settings at our disposal, using the footswitch.
The Power Amp section:
On the far right of the Engl Invader 100’s front panel are two master volumes, a presence and a depth punch knob. The presence knob is very extreme, perfect for moulding all of the channels high end response at once, which makes it very useful if you are playing a show and get given a cab that is either very dull or very bright. Using it, you can easily and quickly adjust the amp's high mid and treble.
The depth punch knob sets the amp's low end resonance, the higher settings on this control give the amp more ‘boom’ and punch, while sweeping this control into lower settings takes out some of the boom in the low end, tightening it up and focusing the lower range. The depth punch knob is a great tool for controlling the amp's low end for different playing situations.
The Invader also features two master volumes, which can be controlled by the amp's MIDI footswitch. This is a fantastic tool for boosting your sound. For example, if you have a rhythm tone that you also want to use for a lead tone, you can boost that channel, meaning you can potentially have two volume stages for each channel. The possibilities in the Engl Invader 100 are endless!
Constructionally, the Invader is built with classic Engl quality and durability, featuring a sturdy build, a clear easy to navigate front panel, blue back lit front grill, and super solid construction.
The Engl Invader with Extended Range Guitars and drop tunings:
In our video, I demonstrate the amp with my 8-string Ibanez, which has a low B and F# string. With metal bands these days tuning 6-strings as low as A, 7-strings a low as G and 8-strings as low as E, I can only imagine over the next few years it will go even lower, and hi gain amps are going to have to be able to focus this low end and keep it sounding tight and defined. The Invader does this superbly. It's no wonder that this model has become such a favourite in the metal world as it handles drop tunings and extended range instruments with no problems whatsoever. Normally, using other amps, I would use a Tubescreamer in front of the amp to tighten the low end, which usually sucks out a lot of the lower mid range, however with the Engl I didn't have to rely on a Tubescreamer when using my 8-string. The amp keeps the low end sounding focused, while having a clear lower mid range growl, and an upper mid range cut without being too harsh on the ear, but also without being so muddy that it sounds like mush. The Invader also lets you play extended range power chords with dissonant extension tones on top of the voicing with a fair bit of distortion and the notes still sound defined, clear and still have a good bit of punch behind them.
I feel the Engl Invader 100 is one of the most versatile all-valve amps on the market at the moment. Its ability to cover a very wide range of tones and the option of being able to use MIDI to programme each channel alongside the two FX loops really sets it apart. It is at the expensive end of production amp heads, but what you're getting for your money is fantastic tone, durability, versatility, quality and features. I can highly recommend checking out the Engl Invader 100.