Engl Raider 100 (1x12, 100w combo)
I just got my Raider yesterday, but I have been playing it for several months. This local shop had it sitting there for a long time and finally made me a deal on it. These cost $1999 new and I think the same reasons it sat there for so long are the same reasons why I never gave the Raider any consideration until playing it... which boils down to the marketing.
We're talking a 100w 1x12 combo that by appearance looks a bit smaller than my Screamer 50. It's all black and looks like a mean metal amp. Engl seems to do nothing to promote it as anything other than a metal machine which is sad because it could be incredibly popular; even at that price.
The first thing that caught me was the clean channel. It's not a Fender clean or anything you would expect, but it has all the qualities you look for in a great clean amp. It has 2 bright options and can be a bit of a chore to dial in at first, but the shimmery sparkle of more classical clean amps can be had in the Raider.
I'll compare it to a Fender clean since everyone can make a connection to them. To me, Fender cleans are typically very loose and sensitive, with lots of high end detail or "sparkle." Fender cleans are warm and don't sound compressed. What you would expect in a high gain amp is a compressed, warm, dark clean which is kind of what the Raider delivers except it parallels the Fender clean with it's own sweet detail and shimmer.
There are two basic ways to dial in the clean channel (there's a bit more to it but I'll keep it short for the sake of brevity), using the bright switch and 3 band EQ, or switching on the presence and depth/punch controls. Each one has kind of a different approach to shaping the EQ. One is kind of a way to adjust the presence across the EQ curve, and the other adds the proverbial sparkle.
Being a high gain amp, you're not going to get authentic Fender style cleans, but in turn you get a great variety of beautiful clean sounds. It's a bit compressed compared to Fenders, and to the touch, it's tighter and not as jangly. To me, Fenders are extremely dynamic; almost frustrating if you accidentally pick hard because it will suddenly go from a light twang to a jarring "karrang." The Raider cleans don't have that kind of dynamics, but considering that it's a channel-switching, high-gain amp, it has a considerable amount of dynamic range.
If you're familiar with the Engl Powerball, then you know it's not going to give you much nuance. However, the Raider is abundant with nuance so players with great technique can get a substantial range of dynamics without having a loose, jangly sound that's too transparent in overdrive.
The Raider features a high gain button that you can engage on either channel. When set on the clean channel, the high gain button turns it into a crunch channel which at best does classic rock crunch. It stays as clean as you want it, or until you get loud enough to get breakup from the V30 speaker.
There is already a great deal of versatility within channel 1, but channel 2 gives your more surprises. There are basically 3 characters of channel 2 which have substantially different voices between them. By itself, channel 2 doesn't get necessarily into hih gain territory. It probably gets about as saturated as a JCM 800, so you can get a great rhythm and some lead tones.
Then you can switch it to high-gain and it gets pretty heavy saturation, but I don't think it gets as much saturation as a Marshall JVM which can get stupid amounts of gain in the red mode. I personally would not need to set the gain any further than 1:00 in high gain mode. By then, the built-in noise gate works extremely well.
The most awesome feature on channel 2 might be the mid boost. It seems to also boost the gain slightly so it would probably be very useful for a solo boost (it's footswitchable by the way, but I'll tell you more about that in a minute). The mid boost changes everything and brings all the mids right out front. I heard a modest video on youtube and the guy did a little metall riffage with the mid boost and it sounded fantastic.
The Raider was an upgrade to a Screamer that I had for the last couple of years. I don't think I have to tell you how incredible the Screamer 50 is. Overall, it was one of the greatest amps I've owned. However, there were two things that I could never quite get beyond with my Screamer. It had an aggressive low end that I could never quite get exactly where I wanted it. It could also be a little harsh at times when I wanted a cutting lead tone, or when it played it at low volumes.
When I say harsh, the Screamer is an aggressive sounding amp, but it's not harsh in the way that a Dual Rectifier can be. I have heard some opinions that even though the Screamer is a great amp, it still sounds a little bit processed or solid state. Even though I generally disagree with those comments, I can agree that it's not as organic sounding as high end Engls like the Raider, Invader, or Steve Morse sig head.
The Raider reminds me a little of the Steve Morse head with a 6L6 flavor. It's smoother than the screamer and has kind of a Mark IV growl to it. No it does not sound like a Mark IV, but it has a cool growly sound when you're playing rhythm. It has an organic, midrangey lead tone which subtly cuts straight through a mix. It's cuts nearly as well as a Marshall so there's no concern for it being too dark, not even in high gain mode.
It has a tube monitoring system which shuts down power tubes that are faulty or get too hot and lights up front panel LED's to let you know if it happens. It has a built-in noise gate which works wonders, but I don't use it because I get enough gain from channel 2 before my rig gets too noisy.
It has a footswitchable, adjustable, FX loop which works incredibly well with my Line 6 M9 effects. It also has a bunch of foot switch options, one of which works with the Z9 foot switch. The Z9 foot switch lets you control anything you want. I have a 2-button Z4 foot switch which I can use for channel switching, to switch on/off reverb and FX loop, and to control the high gain setting. I think there are a couple of more foot switch options, but I'd have to consult the manual.
The Raider 100 comes with a Celestion Vintage 30. I think it's like a 65w or 75w speaker, so I'm not sure why they chose it for a 100w amp. However, it doesn't seem like an insanely loud 100w so maybe the V30 could handle maximum volume. I don't know and probably will never need to find out.
I have tried several Celestion and Eminence speaker swaps with my Screamer so I could probably give you a good idea what would work. I would imagine that the Eminence RWB, Black Powder, Texas Heat, Man O War and Screamin Eagle would be great choices depending on whether you want to brighten the amp or balance it. I think the V30 make a hard-to-beat stock speaker, but I could see it sounding good with a Celestion Classic Lead 80.
All I have left to add to this review is that you need to get out and give the Raider a try because if you get the same impression I first got from it, then you will be pleasantly amazed when you plug into one. Just remember that Engl builds a lot of features into the control design so you can greatly expand your tone settings by how the controls interact with each other. Still, they're a little bit easier to set than Mesa Boogies.