Evans RE 200

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Evans Custom amplifiers

Model RE 200

With cover

Evans amplifiers are especially popular with pedal steel guitarists in the US, although they are becoming increasingly prevalent among jazz players as well. In Germany these amps are still fairly unknown – an incomprehensible situation that warrants the following review.

Overview: The RE200 model was developed together with Ron Escheté (hence the acronym) and contains a 10ʼʼ speaker. Evans offers two bigger combos – the JE200 with a 12ʼʼ and the SE200 with a 15″ speaker – in addition to a highly portable head, all of which contain the same amp as the RE200, i.e. the only difference is in the speaker configuration and, thus, in the size of the cabinet.

Construction:Due to its vintage looks, the first visual impression of the RE200 belies its state-of-the- art conception. From the meticulous Tolex covering of the cabinet to the exquisite leather handle, Evanʼs attention to detail and scrupulous craftsmanship is in marked contrast to most of the solid state amps available today. Turning one of the amp`s controls by a gnatʼs whisker reveals Evansʼ commitment to quality. Compared to the look and feel of similar products from the same country of origin, the RE200 is decidedly high end.

The 10″ Deltalite Neodymium speaker by Eminence is mounted behind a screwedon, removable rear panel between the top mounted preamp and the 200W RMS rated power amp residing on the floor of the cabinet. Further features include jacks for an extension cabinet and FX send/return, as well as headphone- and line-out. By virtue of an extendable clamp at the bottom of the cassisʼ front, the combo can be tilted backwards; this simple device is surprisingly effective and makes you wonder why no one else has thought of this before.

The Amp measures 360 x 430 x 240 mm (width x height x depth) – a bit more compact than a Polytone – and comes with a durable, high quality vinyl cover.

Handling and sound: Although the amp`s controls are labeled somewhat unusually, they make perfect sense once you understand how they work (mostly interactive). Apart from the two input- jacks (normal or +6dB) and the volume and master controls, you have the ubiquitous EQ-controls. A special feature is the highly tweakable mid control, which is divided into a knob for the upper (“Body”) and lower mids (“Depth”). To take advantage of the depth control, it is necessary to set the body-control between 2 and 3 or higher. These controls are particularly useful and can help avoid feedbackproblems with acoustic Archtop Guitars without relinquishing the guitar`s natural lows at higher volumes.

The “Buff”- control is one of the ampʼs secret weapon and responsible for a really nice and flattering high-end shimmer. It is not comparable to a normal treble control – you won`t get ice pick sharp highs; instead, the sound is rendered glossy while increasing fullness and warmth. (The manual mentions “tube- like overtones” but it really defies description and I don`t know of any other amp with a comparable feature.)

The “Expand” switch (or knob, on newer models) is a high- and low-end booster that should probably be in the off-position when playing the amp with an Archtop. The very natural sounding reverb is divided into a mix-control at the front panel and a “Dwell” control at the back, where you can also find a preset-switch for the reverb (stand alone) and a combination of chorus/reverb or chorus/flanger. Personally, I consider both effects a neat if inessential bonus because the sound and tweakability of an analog pedal is more appealing to me. Your mileage may vary, of course, depending on how – and how often – you employ these effects; itʼs simply a matter of taste.

If you`re afraid you might only get a good sound out of this amp after hours of fiddling with the controls, rest assured for this is definitely not the case. Due to the controlsʼ effectiveness you will always obtain remarkable results, even when utilizing more extreme settings (a possible exception is the treble-control – handle with care), provided that you have a good sounding guitar. And this is, perhaps, the most important fact: The RE200 always sounds like the guitar played through it, albeit without being blandly neutral or garishly hi-fi. Lest you require a point of reference: The ampʼs sound has a specific color reminiscent of vintage Fender amps. Of course, such comparisons always need to take into account the relationship of the cabinet`s and the speaker`s size, but it is simply amazing how much warmth and headroom this amp provides in spite of its small size – 10″ speaker and digital power amp notwithstanding.

Simply put, the RE200 feels great. You always have the guitar and the amp working together so that the RE200 actually becomes part of your instrument. Clipping is not an issue since the ample headroom is more than sufficient in most situations. Given the amp`s force de frappe, its ability to cut through even in bigger line-ups is as remarkable as its sound quality. By the way: The amp is not just your Archtopʼs best friend, but also sounds really great with solid body guitars, always amplifying the instrument`s specific voice and characteristics in a perfectly musical way.

Conclusion: If you prefer an amp as acoustic- and neutral-sounding as possible, you might want to opt for an AER et al. However, if you`re looking for a really beautiful and extraordinary musical blend of your guitar`s natural sound and an amp-voice without “Polytone- touch”, it doesn`t get any better than the Evans. As far as Iʼm concerned, the RE200 strikes the best balance between portability and sound currently available. The sound-quality and workmanship are of the highest order. The only discernible drawback is perhaps the idiosyncratic labeling of the controls, but since you get used to them no time, thatʼs really nitpicking.

I have been playing this amp professionally for three years and can gladly state that it is reliable and never failed me once. The Evans RE200 is highly recommended and available either directly from Evans Custom Amplifiers or through the German distributor WBS Steelguitars.