WITH ITS CHUNKYLOGO AND HARDCORE WIRE-MESH GRILLE, THE FIREBALL 100 INSPIRES CONFIDENCE before you ever turn it on. And when you do turn it on, the red LEDs behind the four 6L6 power tubes put off a righteous glow above the straightforward control panel. You get two channels that share the 3-band EQ. If that seems limiting, don’t worry—Engl has built a lot of flexibility into this firebreather.
The Fireball’s Clean channel is an absolute thing of beauty, with depth, shimmer, and that 3-D quality that fills the room and envelops you with sound. The squeaky clean timbres are great, but the slightly hairy sounds you get by nudging up the Clean Gain knob are unreal. Plenty of players could crank this knob and do an entire gig on this channel no problem. The Clean channel has a Bright switch that is perfectly voiced—none of that over-hyped top end here. This livened up humbuckers nicely and gave a Strat that awesome bell-like tone. Even at extreme volumes, these tones never got harsh—they just seemed to get more complex—and even the super-clean sounds could sustain and feedback all day long in a sweet, musical fashion. Nice!
Kicking on the Lead channel instantly delivered the taut, aggressive distortion that Engls are known for. The entire range of the Lead Gain knob is totally useful, with lower settings dishing out great rock bark and higher settings ladling on the gain, sustain, and harmonics. Here’s the thing though: No matter how high we dialed the gain, we could still play chords like minor add9s and major 13s that are normally off limits with that much distortion. It’s wild—all the notes speak clearly and articulately. I think it’s safe to say that most players that dime this channel aren’t going to play those voicings, so we went into dropped-D and started chugging, pausing just long enough to hit the Bottom button (which affects both channels). This gave us a huge tone that still possessed uncommon definition. No matter how much low end we ran, the highs were still gorgeous. The Fireball stayed incredibly quiet through it all, thanks in part to a super-smooth noise gate, the threshold of which is adjustable via a back panel control.
Depending on what kind of footswitch you hook up to the Fireball, you can have control over channel switching, Mid Boost, Master A/B, and FX loop on/off for a hip, flexible rig. There’s a reason you’re seeing these amps on so many stages. Engl has delivered a great-sounding amp at a price that’s more than fair with this baby. —Matt Blackett
MODEL Fireball 100 E635
PRICE $2,125 retail/ $1,699 street
CONTROLS Clean Gain, Lead Gain, Bright switch (Clean channel only), Bottom switch, Bass, Middle, Treble, Lead Volume, Mid Boost switch, Master A, Master B, Presence, Channel Select switch.
POWER 100 watts
TUBES Four Engl-labeled 12AX7 preamp tubes, four Engllabeled 6L6 output tubes
EXTRAS Effects loop w/balance control (switchable via Z-4 footswitch), noise gate threshold control, five speaker jacks (2x 4Ω, 2x 8Ω, 1x16Ω), dual footswitch jacks for Engl Z-4 footswitch (not included).
MAXIMUM MEASURED VOLUME 126dB
WEIGHT 46 lbs (head)
KUDOS Gorgeous, complex tones. Simple operation. Great deal.