One of the world's top amp designers, Bruce Egnater has recently been enjoying a much higher profile in the UK and Europe; thanks to his very popular range of affordable heads and combos being offered though a top UK distributor. Now it's time to look at a head that Egnater hinted at over a year ago that has finally made it to the UK.
The evocatively named, two-channel Vengeance is aimed chiefly at straight-ahead rock. Accordingly, it sports a traditional appearance with a black front grille; if your tastes lean further towards metal you may wish to check our review of its sister amp, the Armageddon.
"The Vengeance's lead channel pours on the gain for a smooth and slightly compressed solo sound with just the right amount of harmonic bite."
The amp features a heavy-duty steel chassis and 120-watt 6L6-powered output stage, fed by a pair of suitably massive transformers. The electronics are typical of the high standard we've come to expect from Egnater, with everything mounted on robust through-plated circuit boards.
There's one main board that holds the front panel controls and preamp valve bases, with smaller ones for the output valves, power supply and rear panel connections. It's common to see multi-pin connectors and ribbon cables for amps like these; however, the Egnater uses neatly bundled individual hook-up wires, improving reliability and making servicing easier.
The Vengeance has a straightforward control panel with two sets of gain, volume and EQ controls, and individual reverb level knobs. There are also two sets of tight, bright, mid boost/cut and hi/lo gain toggle switches, which considerably extends the EQ and gain range on both channels.
Over to the right near the mains and full/half power standby toggle switches there's a master section with global presence, density and master volume knobs, plus a second footswitchable volume control.
The rear panel offers carefully protected mains voltage switching, a switchable effects loop with send and return level controls, plus an XLR connector for the six-button foot controller, along with separate external control jacks. There's also a pair of speaker outlets with switchable impedance, a speaker-emulated balanced recording output and separate bias controls, test points and HT fuses for both pairs of output valves.
Although the Vengeance comes equipped with 6L6s as standard, there's enough bias range to cope with most common pentodes, including 6550s, EL34s and 6V6s. Canny readers may have already figured out that the bias arrangement also enables you to mix different valves in pairs, so you can combine their sonic flavours to taste.
The Vengeance has Egnater's trademark clean sound, with a shimmering treble, smooth mid-range, and tight focused lows that have a satisfying snap to them. Single-coils and mid-heavy humbuckers are both easy to dial in, using the tight and bright switches.
The clean channel's gain switch is key to getting the sound properly dialled in, with higher gain settings switching between a hint of edge to serious crunch. The Vengeance's lead channel pours on the gain for a smooth and slightly compressed solo sound with just the right amount of harmonic bite.
It's perfect for modern and classic rock or high-octane Bonamassa-style blues - it sounds great with single-coils but really takes off when you use a decent humbucker. We tried the Vengeance out with a Fender Custom Shop Nocaster, a Strat fitted with lowish-output Duncan Alnico Pros, and a stock Gibson Les Paul Standard fitted with '57 Classics, and were duly impressed with the amp's clarity and ability to project each guitar's distinct tonal character.
The head is equipped with an excellent digital reverb circuit that adds space and definition to solo tones and has a clever 'spillover' effect that retains the reverb tail when you change channels. Overall, we were seriously impressed with the quality and range of tone the amp produced.
Aimed at dedicated amateurs and professionals, the Vengeance offers further proof that right now Bruce Egnater is building some of the best guitar amps in the world - and they're good value for money, too. It won us over with its ease of use and fabulous dynamic response.
The Vengeance is good enough to compete with products that cost over twice as much and is therefore excellent value for money. With top-drawer build standards, superlative tone and all the features you could ask for on a mid-priced rock head, Egnater has raised the bar once again.