Review: Plugin Alliance Brainworx ENGL Amp Bundle

Two Amp Models Take Your Gain to the Next Stage
Image placeholder title

The Brainworx ENGL Amp Bundle 1.0 models two high-gain guitar amplifiers from German boutique manufacturer ENGL—the E765 Retro Tube 100 and the E646 Victor Smolski. Previously available in slightly different versions for the Universal Audio UAD platform, these are the first ENGL models to be released in native format, supporting VST, AU, and AAX. The Brainworx BX tuner, a well-designed and stable tuner plug-in, is also included.

The simpler of the two amps, the E765 Retro Tube 100, is a 2-channel unit offering clean, crunch, and high-gain sounds. (Channel 2 offers significantly higher gain.) Each channel has independent Bass, Middle, Treble, Volume, and Gain controls. For additional tone control, Channel 1 has a Bright switch and Channel 2 a midrange-boost called Tone. A global Gain Boost lets you add more crunch or distortion.

The dual-channel E765 Retro Tube 100 model includes Bright and Tone switches. The E646 Victor Smolski plug-in is designed primarily for metal. (Until recently, Smolski was the guitarist in the band Rage.) It provides even more gain than the E765 and offers four channels—Clean, Crunch, Lead 1, and Lead 2. In addition to EQ, Gain, and Volume controls for each channel, it features global controls for Presence and Depth Punch.

Image placeholder title

Cabinet models are automatically paired with both amps and can be changed using the Recording Chains feature (described below).

For both the E646 VS and the E765 RT, the front panel knobs and switches are only part of the story. Additional parameters and effects can be revealed by pressing the FX Rack button, such as a Noise Gate with Threshold and Range controls, and two filters—Tight, which cuts lows, and Smooth, which cuts highs. Both can be switched to pre or post signal. The included Digital Delay offers up to 1000 ms of delay with Tap or BPMsynced tempo and a Low-Fi control for analog-delay-like tone.

The FX Rack includes an Input Gain knob to adjust the level going into the amp, and Power Soak to reduce the virtual wattage. With the Input Gain cranked and the Power Soak turned down, you can drive the amps even harder.

Perhaps most impressive about the FX Rack is the Recording Chains feature. It lets you choose from 64 modeled signal chains that offer combinations of cabinets, mics, mic preamps, and miking techniques; all were originally recorded through a Neve VXS 72 console. The chains offer tons of variety and significantly expand your sonic options. Brainworx even included an Auto feature for auditioning the chains one after another at user-specified time intervals.

All parameters can be automated, making it possible to switch or alter sounds during a song. MIDI Learn is not supported, however, so plug-ins can’t be controlled from an outboard MIDI switcher or controller, which limits their possibilities for live use.

The ENGL Amp Bundle offers stunning sound quality and plenty of parameter control. Each model can cover clean, crunchy, or high-gain tone, with the E646 VS providing enough gain for the most extreme modern-metal sounds. The ability to switch recording chains gives you way more sonic variety than you might expect out of just two amp models.

Although the ENGL bundle is expensive compared to many other amp modelers, you get what you pay for. It’s first class all the way.

Excellent-sounding models. Recording Chains. Digital delay. Automatable parameters. Power Soak and Input Gain. BX Tuner.

Lacks MIDI learn for external controllers. Expensive.