Finding the right amp is easily one third of the effort to dialing in a great guitar tone. With that said, achieving this task is much harder than it sounds. So much so that even some of the most talented guitar players out there have a tough time getting around this. In case of Jerry Cantrell, we see a variety of different heads being used. One that sort of stands out is the Bogner Alchemist. Today we are going to take a closer look and try to dissect this awesome head. Chances are that Cantrell has chose this amp for a good reason. Without further ado, lets get right into it.
Bogner Alchemist Review
Bogner’s main shtick is the fact that they always take a different turn at the finish line compared to most mainstream brands. In a way, that is about the best thing they could do. We can only manage so many Marshalls, Peaveys and other usual suspects. Some will say that a 100 Watt Plexi is about as good as it gets, but sometimes it is good to mix things up. Especially when you are chasing for that rare strain of distortion or overdrive. The thing is, Cantrell has built his entire sound around that sluggish, heavy but flowing dist. For a guy who hasn’t really changed things up that much over the years, adding such a boutique amp to the lineup means that he found something worthy in the Alchemist. Now that I think about it, Alchemist is a really suitable name for this head. Lets jump into the closeup overview.
Design And Features
The first thing you notice when you unbox the Alchemist are the aesthetics. Bogner has a thing for oddly attractive, but not always practical design solutions. This could have been an issue if the amp suffered in any way due to this, however that is not the case here. Alchemist is by all accounts a well sized head. It’s not too big nor too small. They saved enough room for the controls so that you don’t have to stare at a jungle of switches and knobs every time you want to dial something in. On the other hand, it is nowhere near as big some other amps. If you were to compare an Alchemist to a Marshall’s MG100 series, it would be like comparing a Corolla with a vintage Cadillac.
At its very core, Bogner Alchemist is a medium power tube head that packs a very good selection of valves inside. You have your 6L6 package in the power stage which is paired with five 12AX7 tubes in the preamp stage. Initial impressions suggest that you don’t have to go shopping for aftermarket tubes, however that is always an option on the table. In terms of power, this thing packs 40 Watts with attenuation to 20 Watts being available as well.
Going over the controls, it isn’t hard to spot two different channels. Gold channel, or the default one in more simple terms, features a three band EQ, gain, variable bright and mid shift. This is also where you get a crunch mode button. Second channel features exact same controls with the exemption of that crunch. On top of all that, you can access reverb and delay which are shared between the channels. Bogner also ships their Alchemists complete with a four-button foot switch. From the looks of it, there’s plenty to work with on this head.
When it comes to performance and sound, the Alchemist packs quite a bit of range. However, there’s a catch. Dialing in a good tone takes much more precision, time and effort. It isn’t as forgiving as some of its competition, but that is actually a good thing in our book. By being so sensitive and maybe even volatile, Alchemist has the capacity to pleasantly surprise you. On the surface, its cleans and even overdrive are right on par with the competition. It is only when you start messing with those values with commitment that you find yourself in wonderland.
In practical terms, there is plenty of gain to go around. Pushing those tubes into the sweet spot yields great results. If you decide that you need a bit more spice in your tone, slapping an overdrive as a gain booster can really make the difference. Cleans are fairly crisp with no noticeable impurities of bleed-off in the sound. This thing can make a set of single coils sing the way they are meant to. Pushing that crunch button unleashes a slightly chaotic but ultimately manageable overdrive into the system, which you can then bend to your will. Built in effects are decent, but are ultimately just a placeholder for something more serious. That isn’t to say that you can’t get a good sound out of them, but rather that there are better options in the aftermarket isle of the store. With all that said, it really is no wonder that Cantrell chose this little head for some of his work. It gives him the canvas he needs, all while still retaining a good portion of that edge.
Bogner Alchemist has caused quite a bit of drama when it first appeared. Many thought that it wasn’t quite up to the task, and that people used these just because of the badge. However, those claims came mostly from guitar players who have spent 5 minutes in the store messing around with an Alchemist. Unfortunately for them, this isn’t the type of amp that you can get to know in those conditions and under those time frames. Ever sine Cantrell took one up for a ride, this image has been disappearing steadily. At the end of the day, Bogner Alchemist is a tool that requires skillful hands in order to achieve its full potential. Much like a scalpel. If you handle it like a sledge hammer, you definitely won’t get the results you were hoping to see.