Two independent amps join forces in a rackmountable bundle of low-end goodness.
The Rackhead 1060 is the first foray into bass amplification for Germany’s Engl. Given the company’s reputation for pinpoint engineering and robust design, it should come at no surprise that the Rackhead 1060 offers a wealth of features and connection options that will serve the needs of many a bassist onstage and in the studio.
The Rackhead 1060 is essentially two bass amps—one with a tube-powered preamp and one with a solid-state preamp—in a two-space rackmountable package. The first amp specializes in warm, vintage tones via its 12AX7 preamp tubes, while the second preamp’s solid-state circuitry delivers clear and punchy modern sounds. Each preamp feeds its own dedicated 350-watt class-D power amp. The amps can be combined for 700 watts of bone-crushing power. Thanks to a swap-preamp pushbutton, there’s no need for a cable dance to switch between preamps.
Each preamp’s controls harness its particular strengths. The tube preamp’s controls include gain, a switchable overdrive circuit with drive-level control, 4-band EQ plus presence, and pushbuttons for boosting lows, highs, and extreme highs. The solid-state preamp forgoes an overdrive circuit for a switchable midrange-contouring shape control. This preamp’s EQ section combines bass and treble shelving with 2-band semi-parametric EQ for the upper and lower midrange. EQ can be engaged or bypassed via a front-panel switch, while another switch activates a built-in compressor for smoothing out the tone. Each channel has a -12 dB pad switch.
The rear panel includes three jacks for connecting footswitches to mute/swap preamp inputs, engage the compressor and EQ, or activate the overdrive and shape circuits, plus a fourth jack for connecting Engl’s optional Z-17 master footswitch. There’s also a serial effect loop with balance control, a balanced line-out jack, a tuner output, a bi-amp out with crossover-frequency control, and separate jacks for slaving out from each preamp.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
I paired the Rackhead 1060 with an Ampeg 8x10 using a pair of Speakon cables, routing the tube-preamp channel to the cab’s top 4x10 section and the solid-state channel to four lower speakers. Plugging a Fender American Jazz into preamp A, I set the EQ controls to noon and the gain knob to 10 o’clock. The preamp’s four 12AX7s generated warm, detailed tones with plenty of body and definition.
It was a great starting sound, but I wanted a bit more thickness in the mids and lows. The trick I use to achieve this with tube amps is to push the gain a little higher than normal, and then roll the bass’ volume control down slightly to remove unwanted grit. On the Rackhead 1060 this technique added a tubbier midrange thump while removing hi-fi edginess—perfect for old-school Stax R&B grooves.
The preamp’s bright and ultra-bright switches are clearly intended for funkier slap and pop styles. That said, I felt the ultra-bright switch added a little too much emphasis to the attack and highs, making the tone a bit granular and edgy. Switching on the bass boost opened the sub-harmonic floodgates, releasing bowel-shaking lows that I felt almost as much as I heard.
Engaging the Rackhead’s overdrive circuit added rich, snarling grit to the mids and highs. No, the overdrive circuit doesn’t have tons of gain on tap, but its voicing helps the channel avoid oversaturation even at the highest drive-knob settings. Tones remain dynamic, punchy, and full, yet free from over-compressed lows and mids.
Fast and Fat
The solid-state circuitry of preamp B provides a decidedly different set of sounds. While not as warm and organic-sounding, its attack is much faster, and the additional EQ controls provide greater tone-shaping authority. With the input-gain and EQ knobs at noon, the tone has crisp highs, smooth lows, and rubbery mids, ideal for modern rock and country tones. Engaging the compressor—which is, unfortunately, not adjustable—and dropping the treble to around 9 o’clock yielded a rich, detailed sound perfect for blues and jazz grooving.
Note clarity and separation are absolutely over-the-top. I could play four-note chords without generating a jumbled mess, even after rolling down my bass’s tone knob and dialing back the amp’s treble. When I pushed the shape control past noon, tones maintained wicked precision with even greater aggression and power.
Engl’s first bass amp embodies many of the qualities that have made the company well regarded among guitarists. The Rackhead 1060’s versatile connection options let it adapt easily to most rigs. It’s simple enough to master on the fly, yet its powerful controls and independent tube and solid-state preamps provide a wealth of tonal possibilities.