Hands-On Review:Bogner Alchemistâ„¢ 112 40W Tube Combo


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Pure Sonic Alchemy

By  Darrin Fox
Contributor, Guitar Player magazine

Bogner Alchemist

Reinhold Bogner’s legend has been built on a legacy of expertly constructed, world-class amplifiers. From his wicked-sounding Ecstasy and überschall models to the more vintage-oriented Shiva and Metropolis amps, Bogners have always exuded tone with a capital “T.” The California-based company’s newest tone-machine is the 40-watt Alchemist™, an all-tube 1x12 combo featuring a dual 6L6 power section, a preamp section powered via five 12AX7 tubes, as well as onboard Reverb and Delay. Add to that a Celestion® Vintage 30 speaker, a buffered parallel effects loop with a Level control, and a 20-watt low-power mode, and you begin to see what the Alchemist brings to the party.

 

With elegant touches, such as the slick silver piping that adorns the flawlessly applied black covering, the Alchemist hits the aesthetic bull’s-eye. The amp’s easy-to-suss front panel is inviting and logically laid out. Channel one—the Gold channel—handles the clean and crunch tones while the Mercury channel, channel two, handles high-gain duties for soloing and ultraheavy rhythm work. Each channel offers its own set of Gain, Treble, Middle, Bass, and Volume controls as well as a Boost function. For even more tonal tweaking, the Gold side sports Bright and Deep switches, while the Mercury side offers Bright, Punch, and Mid-Shift functions for fine-tuning the EQ of your distorted textures.

 

The Alchemist’s Reverb and Delay are a boon for players who insist on easy-to-use, musical-sounding textures. The Delay section features Ducking, Analog, and Tape delays with Repeat and Delay controls as well as a Tap Tempo function. The amp’s Reverb section sports Plate, Hall, and Spring settings, with a single control to adjust the amount of effect you’re looking for.

 

Taking the Alchemist to the stage is a cinch thanks to the included ultra-rugged four-button footswitch, which allows you to switch between channels, activate the Boost function of each channel, and turn the Reverb and Delay on/off.

Plugging in

But good looks and hip features go only so far. If the tones aren’t happening, then what’s the use? To that end, I plugged a variety of guitars into the Alchemist including a Fender® Telecaster®, Stratocaster®, and Jazzmaster® as well as a Gibson® Les Paul® and SG to put the Alchemist through its paces. To say that I was impressed is an understatement. With single-coils, the Gold channel’s clean tones absolutely gush from the speaker with a lush, three-dimensional quality that must be heard to be believed. These bell-like sounds are chock-full of rich harmonic complexity and tight, punchy low-end—very, very nice. Even with thicker-sounding guitars, say a Gibson Les Paul, the Gold channel’s Clean setting still yields a lovely ping with oodles of sweet top-end slice. I didn’t even need to engage the Bright switch, as the amp’s musically voiced Treble control had everything I needed to pull the best tones out of my guitars. From smoky jazz to cutting funk, the Alchemist’s clean tones have you covered.

Bogner Alchemist Series 112 40W 1x12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp
Bogner Alchemist Series 112 40W 1x12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp

Switching to the Crunch side of the Gold channel, I conjured a Hiwatt®-type rage that would make Pete Townshend proud, replete with snarling midrange and a cutting top-end sizzle that gives punishing power chords an even more ferocious bark. Even when playing denser, more complex chords, the frequencies speak clearly with tons of string-to-string definition. The dynamics of this channel can’t be emphasized enough. By simply backing off your guitar’s volume control—or lightening up your picking attack—you’re afforded some lovely cleanish tones that brim with a chewy complexity—perfect for grinding rhythms and solos. Kicking in the Boost, the already fat midrange frequencies get a tad more corpulent, pushing you through the mix to make sure your solos are heard loud ’n’ proud.

Mercury, god of savage distortion

Switching over to the Alchemist’s Mercury channel is when things get really interesting as the distorted tones are some of the most savage I’ve ever heard. With my Gibson SG, searing distortion with a milkshake-thick midrange poured out of the Alchemist. From bone-crushing power chords to silky legato leads, the amp’s musicality in the face of so much distortion is stupefying. And just like the Gold channel, you can clean up the tones by adjusting your playing. Brilliant! And when I needed that extra push over the cliff, I kicked on the Boost, which yielded a tad more gain for nearly endless sustain without changing my overall tone.

 

As if that weren’t enough, the Alchemist’s effects are superb, whether you’re dialing them in for delicate low-key textures or more adventurous ambient excursions. The Ducking delay reacts to your playing dynamics, reducing the level of the delay while you are playing—perfect for a fast run during a solo—and then increasing the level of delay repeats when you stop playing. An excellent effect for giving solos maximum impact. The Analog delay setting affords you fat, hazy-sounding delay trails, much like the classic Electro-Harmonix® Deluxe Memory Man, while the Tape delay is an organic-sounding wonder, whether you dial it in for a slew of chocolaty repeats or a quick, yet fat, rockabilly slapback. The Reverb options are just as happening, whether it’s the drippy, natural-sounding wash of the Spring setting or the more hi-fi textures of the Plate and Hall options, I captured every sound I wanted in an instant.

 

The Alchemist is also available as a 2x12 combo and a 40W head with a matching 2x12 extension. Both the 2x12 combo and the 2x12 extension cab are loaded with a Celestion G12H 70th Anniversary speaker and a Celestion G12M Greenback speaker.

 

With its perfectly implemented features, user-friendliness, and most important, bold, supremely musical tones, the Bogner Alchemist is more than just a great-sounding amp, it’s an inspirational musical instrument that gives back all of the passion and sweat that you can put into it. And when it comes to an amplifier, what more could you possibly ask for?