The Engl E530 is a preamp that in it’s hardware form really changed the game because it was affordable, durable, versatile and the tone was unique. It has remained a major player in hi-gain for years. When matched with a great power amp, the E530 would rattle your teeth and provide a quiet signal. Several companies have taken a shot at an E530 plugin and succeeded so I always like trying new ones.
Mercuriall plugins always look great and they are never over the top. The U530 looks crisp and realistic. The layout promotes ease of use and a great workflow which for me always earns points.
What you get here is the amp sim with a built in loader. The internal impulses are very good and mesh really nicely. The U530 also took really well to a lot of my impulses when I used my own loader. You also get some built in but bypassable things like a chorus, gate and so on. I find the chorus sounds incredible with this sim if you dial the mix knob back to about 1-2 but if you choose to use the onboard chorus you will be processing it if you use anything after the sim in the chain. I prefer to put mod effects later in the chain but Mercuriall have a free chorus pedal plugin available on their site.
I have boosted the U530 with a ton of boost plugins and they always add a nice color to the tone. The Mercuriall Audio Greed Smasher sounds really great in front of the U530 and it’s my go to when I use the sim. The Greed smasher pedal is available free on their website. Mercuriall Audio also has the TSC tube screamer if you want something a little brighter. I found that almost every boost I tried with the U530 sounded good paired with it. ENGL amps generally have a lot of really nicely voiced mids and a good TS really helps accent the mids if you turn the tone on the boost back a little bit. That said, loads of players use the original E530 without a boost because of it’s mid voiced quality. Steffen Kummerer from Obscura would be a fine example.
If you take some time to dial things in, you really don’t need a lot EQ wise. Simple HP/LP settings will pretty much set the table for any use. When using gain, watch how crazy you get with the two mid knobs because you could do more harm than good to the tone. Something I have always liked about the original is that you can find your settings and have them stay true no matter how much gain you dial in and the sim stays true to that. The gains are versatile but as we always say, with amp sims, don’t roll the gain past 7 or so because the break up just gets to digital. In this case, the digital breakup didn’t seem to come until I had it maxed out. It does sound better boosted at medium gain than cranked. The clean tones are really nice and the onboard chorus really enhances the clean capabilities. It never takes me long to find the tone I want because it’s really easy to dial in.
I have used it for two full albums of skate punk, a death metal album and I always have it in mind for tone searches. I even came up with a really solid chicken picking country tone with the addition of compression. The ENGL crunch factor is fully represented in the sim, which will make any ENGL fan happy. All the tonal capabilities in the original are front and center here.
I would also hugely recommend the U530 plugin for djent and modern tech-death applications. It’s beyond tight and it also absolutely slays with low tunings and extended range guitars. Djent players, make this your next purchase and I promise, on my word, you will find a whole bunch of very useful tones. I’ve used it for everything from E standard to an 8-string F# and this plugin always provides a mountain of clarity in the chaos.
UPS / DOWNS:
I love this sim, it’s versatile, affordable and really well engineered. As I mentioned, there’s a few E530-inspired sims out there but this one is the top of the heap. This was the first major release for Mercuriall Audio and it’s a good one that still holds up nicely to this day. They only got better from here.
On the downside, the U530 is kind of a PC hog when you start upping the oversampling. Using it at 8x oversampling requires a lot of memory which can be real hard when trying to use multiple instances. I would really love to see this plugin updated with the tech improvements Mercuriall Audio have made since the U530’s release.