A couple of years on from their excellent Unit67 1176-style Compressor + EQ + RangeMaster-style Boost - DryBell have extracted the extended RangeMaster element from that pedal and combined it with a superbly dynamic and highly complex OpAmp-driven PreAmp circuit which has been designed to deliver that most-loved cranked 60’s British Non-Master-Volume Tube Amp Soundstage!
In layman’s terms this really means those early 100 Watt Plexi Style amps that had that gorgeous blooming saturation and chewy mid-range crunch. You can see from the circuit layout that this has been no easy task. There are obviously lots of Marshall-style Overdrives and PreAmps already out there, but very few have this level of depth and sonic detail. As a near equivalent you would have to look towards the Origin Effects RevivalDrive - which on my version has 28 Controls!
So in many ways the 9-Controls of The Engine Foundation PreAmp are a rather more straightforward take on that task - where the genius is really in the complementary nature of the RangeMaster Boost and the PreAmp’s Drive and Distortion - which is the exact same combination as was used back in the 60’s, but now with more enhanced and extended tone-shaping ablity and more refined controls - so you can get the same sort of tones out of a variety of different amps and at various different degrees of volume.
The two sides are arranged as follows :
PREAMP SIDE A
RANGEMASTER SIDE B
Deep down this is all a very careful balancing act - which needs really precise calibration and diligent selection of components to get just the right touch and feel alongside precisely the right tonality and texture. The very best Marshall-style pedals have a certain elasticity and openness to their mids. While as several pedals in this area don’t quite get that right and the balance / cluster of frequencies can feel a touch too dense, harsh and overly heavy and compressed.
On all the demos I’ve heard for The Engine - that combination of Tone and Texture sounds really spot on to me here. I already have plenty of Marshall-style pedals, and shouldn’t be thinking about adding yet another one. But this one seems pretty special to me. I’m really quite fussy about how I think a Marshall style PreAmp should sound - and The Engine seems to be right on target for me. I would probably have preferred it in a vertical orientation of the BB enclosure - but I can accept it in this horizontal variety too as it seems to hit that Goldilocks spot of tonality. I usually also have a preference for 3-band EQ’s on my Marshall Drives and Distortions - but the combination of the the Tone and Shape/Contour and Low and High controls across the two channels seems plenty sufficient for the task of getting just the tonality you might desire.
When this first appeared as an early reveal I wasn’t sure I was going to like exactly this combination of controls and form-factor. But the demos provide plenty of evidence that this could just be The Very Marshall-Style Pedal you and I were looking for all along. It goes straight onto my priority wishlist, and this is obviously a premium product with a premium €340 price-tag (€354 inc. delivery, $299 for US customers) - which is available exclusively initially via the DryBell Store.
Here follow the choice demos for the launch :