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October 08, 2004
Guitar One El Diablo 100 Review

Reprinted by permission of Guitar One Magazine.

Genz Benz El Diablo 100
Demonic Power

Genz Benz has been concentrating recently on high-quality speaker enclosures. So we used one of these, the GB 212G-Flex, to test their new head - the El Diablo 100, a 100W/50W tube guitar amp that promises a wide range of applications without asking you to sell your soul to Satan.

The El Diablo 100 sports a two-channel tube preamp platform with 12 remote tone variations, all of which are easily accessible via the included five-button footswitch. The power section is compatible with EL34, 6L6, or 5881 power tubes (ours came loaded with EL34s). This already allows for some major tonal personalization, but that is just the beginning.

The Warm channel offers a choice of Clean or Vintage settings; Vintage changes the contour of the gain structure for a boosted, edgier color. The Hot Channel features more options than a Silicon Valley start-up: You can opt for either Classic or High gain structures, and either Dynamic or Compressed responses. A Tube Contour control adds an additional "tone stack," which interacts with the tube preamp. Global Attack, an effective frequency boost, enhances pick attack for leads. Combine this boost with separate reverb sends for each channel and a global return that lets you define the "dwell" of your reverb, and you have an amp that truly covers any playing or recording situation.

Flicking the power on created an attractive blue glow inside the head and also threw an eerie pattern on the wall behind it. From the first strum, it was apparent that this is a well-designed amp; it has the kind of rich overtones that make guitarists forever put up with the expense, weight, and unpredictability of what the Brits call "valves." When set for Clean, the Warm channel provided gobs of headroom, even at the 50W setting - perfect for jazz or country licks. Engaging the Vintage mode rendered an edgier tone and easier breakup. Cranking the gain on the Warm channel to crunch levels yielded an overdrive that to these ears was one of the least musical tones the amp produced. Fortunately, the Hot Channel, when set in Classic Mode, provided a much more pleasing rhythm distortion. This, combined with the ability to footswitch into High gain mode, means that the Warm channel can be reserved for jazzy, jangly clean tones, with two more stages of footswitchable gain to come.

The Tube Contour control offers a wealth of musical voicing options that range from blissful to possessed. The Attack mode boosts a specific range of upper-mid frequencies, thus enhancing pick attack and bite. Since this mode is global, it may be used with any setting, from clean to crunch to balls-out. Both channels' tone controls are wide-ranging yet fully usable throughout their ranges.

The El Diablo worked well with both the single-coils of a Fender Strat and the humbucking pickups of a Paul Reed Smith SE. When set to Dynamic, the Hot channel was exactly that; it responded to both pick attack and various volume knob settings. The Compressed setting provided singing sustain at any volume, inspiring Larry Carlton-esque fusion licks like the one here. And, speaking of volume, though the mamp sounded surprisingly good at low settings, loud is where it unleashes the hounds of hell. Even at 50 watts, it rattled the walls, and 100 watts could only be experienced for limited amounts of time in our confined testing area. Once again, the Genz Benz bottom showed no signs of flab or giving up. Add a second 2x12 cab, and there is no venue it couldn't handle. If you wish to add cabinets (Genz Benz or others), the rear panel offers not only a selection of impedance settings but also a chart that calculates the setting for whichever combination you choose. The El Diablo weighs in at a hefty 52 lbs. With the GB 212G-Flex adding another 62 lbs., it's time to either pray for roadies or hit the gym. Fortunately, Genz Benz has wisely designed massive "Edge Lift" handles - found on either side of each the amp and cabinet - for ease of transport. Despite the workout, the El Diablo is definitely worth its weight in tone.

With the wealth of heads available out there, you have to admire Genz Benz for leaping into the fray. On the other hand, it is easy to be confident when you have done everything right. For all its features, El Diablo makes no missteps; each option is well thought out, usable, and musical. Tone is a personal taste thing, but if you're seeking a quality tube amp in a unit that is versatile without being complicated, the El Diablo is way more heaven than hell.

FEATURES: Tube-buffered input stage, six triode preamp stages (three 12AX7s), four power tubes (ships w/ Svetlana EL34s), military spec double-sided glass epoxy circuit boards, custom-wound transformers, studio-grade transformer-based phase inverter for optimum power tube grid drive, heavy-duty steel chassis mounted at eight points within the sturdy birch plywood case FRONT PANEL Warm Channel: Vintage/Clean button, Gain, Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Reverb Level, Channel Selector button; Hot Channel: Gain button (Classic or High), Texture button (Dynamic or Compressed), Gain, Volume, Contour, Bass, Mid, Treble, Reverb; Global section: Attack button, Attack Level, Reverb return, Volume REAR PANEL 50W/100W output selector, dual speaker jacks with impedance selector switch and impedance calculator, XLR freq. compensated with ground lift, 1/4" line out, 0 dB or 20 dB switch, three effects loops, reverb cancel jack, footswitch DIN plug input, power inlet/fuse holder plug, 115/230 voltage selector switch

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