« Bogner sound for an incredible price! »Published on 10/03/12 at 14:35
The one caveat of the Bogner sound was the price at which it could be had. Bogner was and still mostly is, a boutique shop where amps are turned out in relatively small numbers, and as a result, are quite pricey.
So, in perhaps recognizing this, Bogner introduced the Alchemist model. Designed in Bogner's L.A. Headquarters and precision manufactured overseas, the Alchemist makes the Bogner name and voice available to a much wider spectrum of players.
The Alchemist head produces 40 watts via two 6L6GC power tubes, and voiced via 5 12AX7A preamp valves. In addition, Bogner saw fit to include onboard Reverb and Delay, which are both digital and settable to different types of each effect and controllable via included 4-button Footswitch
Fit and finish of the Alchemist are excellent without being overly polished or smooth. It's beautiful but functional. The pots are all high-friction, making the knobs turn smoothly and slowly, and stay where you set them.
A myriad of switches exist on the front panel, allowing the user to toggle such things as clean or crunch mode on the Gold channel, bright or normal topend response, deep or tight lowend response, boost (for soloing), and on the Mercury channel: Punch, Mid shift, and Bright.
There are also panel-switches for Delay and Reverb, to toggle between types of Delay, and types of reverb. Another nifty feature is a built-in tap-tempo button for the Delay right on the front panel.
Both channels have Gain, Treble, Middle, Bass, and Volume controls.
On the rear panel, there's a Parallel effects loop with adjustable level. The Loop is not completely lossless, but close enough where most users will find it plenty usable. There's also 3 speaker outputs, and an XLR-style jack for the included footswitch.
The Footswitch is reasonably sturdy, and is connected via detachable XLR cable, which is nice as you can substitute one of shorter or longer length depending on your needs. The Footswitch controls Channel select, Boost on/off, Delay on/off, and Reverb on/off.
The clean tones in the Alchemist alone are worth the price of this amp. They are tremendously sparkly, balanced, and smooth. The signature Bogner clean is a tone I think is greatly overlooked when it comes to Bogner amps. The clean maintains throughout the range of the Gain control up until the very highest setting, at which the clean becomes ever-so-slightly overdriven. The overdrive tones lie in the Crunch mode. Here, a very smooth, classic Plexi style overdrive is displayed, with plenty of touch sensitivity and clean sustain reminiscent of a JTM45. Great tones exist regardless of mode switch positions. The Alchemist is never bright or brittle or boomy.
The Mercury channel brings the crunch, displaying harmonically rich, punchy distortion in true Bogner style. The only thing this channel, and the Alchemist in general, doesn't do is the face-melting signature high gain tones found in Bogner's Uberschall and Ectasy series.
Nevertheless, there is quite a lot of gain on tap, and more can be had with a simple overdrive pedal boosting the front end. The Mercury channel's response is fast and smooth, making for inspiring solo work.
The Delay is a very usable, high quality digital delay, with switchable flavors of Ducking Delay (a delay that drops in volume when there is a strong fundamental signal, and increases as the fundamental signal fades), Analog, and Tape Reel (which is more accurately described as echo). All three Delay styles sound great and will no doubt be enough to cover a variety of delay tastes. I preferred the Analog delay for most applications.
The Reverb also has switchable modes between Plate (a style of reverb that uses a vibrating transducer to transfer vibrations to a sheet of metal), Spring (the kind of reverb most are familiar with in guitar amps), and Hall reverb, which mimics natural acoustics of a long room. All 3 modes are excellently reproduced via the digital module in the Alchemist. My favorite was the Spring reverb.
The Bogner Alchemist represents what can be achieved when great design is married with lowered production costs and attention to quality-control. Bogner endeavored to succeed where others had failed in the chinese-built tube amp, and to this end they truly did a great job. It's no wonder that the Alchemist has made it into the professional touring rig of a few top acts. The only thing arguably missing from the Alchemist is more gain, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see an updated revision to the Alchemist in the future with just that, and if/when it happens, I'll be sure to pick one up.