Price paid: $ 2700
Purchased from: Matt's Music
Features — 10
I bought two 2013 Bogner Mephistos for stereo recording: a head and a combo. This amp is a all-tube two channel footswitchable parallel amplifier. This means that it has two completely independent channels w/ their own preamp and power tubes that can be used separately or blended into a single rectifier tube and output transformer. The channels are a EL84 circuit modeled after what seems to be a classic AC15 pentode tube design that yields 18w and a 6v6 circuit modeled after classic Fender designs. EL 84 channel: As opposed to classic Vox AC15TV, etc models, this one has a 5879 pentode tube in V1 which is far more stable and durable than a EF86 tube, yet yields similar tonal characteristics (with more headroom) and a 5751 long tailed phase inverter (industrial/military 12ax7) tube in V2. There is a 6 position "schizo" switch, which vary the preamp gain considerably. There is also a small three position botch switch that changes the tone from Normal to Top Boost and finally "Uber" Top Boost mode. There is a knob that controls the volume or power tube saturation of this circuit. Bogner creates no other amp with a similar design to this channel at this point in time, nor does any other manufacturer use this exact tube complement. 6v6 channel: 12ax7s in V1 and V2 and two JJ 6v6s in the power tube complement. There is a small switch that flips between a mid-scooped tone based on the classic '60s Fender Blackface circuits and a full tonal spectrum modeled after the Fender Tweed models of the '50s. There is a gain knob that goes through a broad range of tones for each switch position. There is a knob that controls the volume of the channel or the power tube saturation of the 6v6 tubes. This channel can yield similar tones to select sounds offered by Bogner's New Yorker circuit as well as the Mojado/Palermo, Brixton. Metropolitan and Duende circuits. (yes I've either owned or demo'd all of them) Parallel mode: When you cascade the channels together you get 20w as opposed to 12 w or 18w, therefore you will need to adjust the settings of each amp to achieve the desired blend. As you adjust the settings on each channel you can hear immediate changes to the tone that can be subtle or extreme depending on the amount of tube saturation. It sounds very similar to guitar with a split stereo signal to two different amp, but has the benefit of being able to control the blend of the two amps. Also sharing the same tube rectifier means you can yield some very interesting tube sag/compression/envelope following effects (what can be classified as "chewy" tone). Since you can swap out the rectifier tube, you can alter these characteristics and change the overall wattage if you wish. Both channels go through a flexible attenuator control that has a knob with a very linear range until you reach the 3 o'clock range where it maxes out. It seems to go from 1/10th power to full power. It comes with a footswitch that must be used if you wish to switch channels or turn off the attenuator (although maxing the attenuator will do this). The head and combo both have an 8 ohm output. The combo comes stock with a Celestion G12H30 speaker that has a robust frequency range characterized by a strong bass and a mid-high resonant peak. It's a very durable speaker, but may not suit everyone's taste. It handles vintage-y tones extremely well. The head and combo both have a very strong high-ply pine construction in a unique retro-modern space-age design and covered with cool jet comet tolex. The combo also features a floating Birch baffle inside the pine cabinet which holds the speaker. This can imbue a very lovely subtle reverb-breathy quality to the notes.
Sound — 10
I play a vast range of musical styles from classical to swing/jazz/blues to psychedelic/prog rock tones. This amp works perfectly for playing most of my gigs (haven't tried it for classical yet) and offers every tone I could need or dream of. The EL84 channel sounds so good that I think it is worth the cost of the amp alone! While I do wish I could dial in a few more notches on the 6v6 channel, it really goes from super jazzy clean to the bluesiest (almost metal)roaring growl I would ever want. When you really crank either channel (or both together) you get that tube sag and it's more distinct on this amp than any other I've played: you get something like an envelope follower effect like might hear from Metasonix F%$#ing F%$#er or the EHX Tube Zipper when you muted notes or chords with a intense attack. The G12H30 in the combo resonates and occasionally peaks out in higher frequency range of my Moog Guitar but I also use lots of effects that really boost my signal and enhance certain frequencies. I used the head with a Horizontal Mesa V30 cab and it sounded very full and balanced with no issues with buzzing or resonance. In fact, the Mephisto seems to reveal more of my tonal range and possibilities than any single amp I've ever owned. I use a lot of effects and noticed a clarity and definition that revealed their particular strengths and weakness more since I've used them with this amp. I used to own a Bogner Barcelona which is touted as the clean headroom amp for effects pedal, and this one just sounds better. For this reason, it's great for a single effect or for any number of effects chained together. Particularly it works well with delays. Tremolos and various synth/modulation effects. I think due to the lack of very high headroom it may not take metal or extreme distortion well, but I don't use those kind of effects anyway. It's not intended as a "metal" amp, but does hard rock and prog quite well. I've also used a Koch Loadbox II with both. Through the recording DI out, I was able to get a very interesting smooth frequency response. It also helps to attenuate and tame the G12H30 in the combo. The amp is less noisy than other Bogner amps I've owned, in general. However, the chassis has an internal fan to keep all 9 of those tubes from overheating and this does create a small amount of hum. It is only noticeable if you are playing very quietly but does not come through the speaker. It's not noticeable if you send the amp load through a DI out.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This amp is so beautiful to look that I'm gonna coddle it like a child and watch it like a hawk. I'm ordering a Kangaroo Cover for it as soon as I can. I think it will hold up to some abuse and still look great. Everything is very well-built stable and strong, and the only issue I've ever had from any Bogner (the US boutique made ones) I've played was a microphonic tube, but not on this amp. I also send the Direct out through a pair of Fishman Loudbox Performers. for stereo recording and I think it gets a fantastic tube sound that I can enhance with reverb.
Overall Impression — 10
This is my dream amp. I like to have a broad palette of tones at my disposal and this offers just about every tone I would need for almost any application besides trying to sound like Dimebag Darrell or something. I've been playing over 20 years. This is the only tube amp I have right now, although I've owned Marshall's, Fender's, Vox's, Randall's, a DV Mark, numerous other Bogner's. If it was stolen I would sell a kidney and get another one. Over my dead body! I only wish that Bogner would break out of using stock Celestion speakers and get into some different styles of speaker. I think if this amp came with a Hempcone G12h30 style or Greenback it might have less resonance peaks. I'm pretty happy with it, but if it gains traction and popularity I would like to see what other awesome crazy designs Reinhold comes up with.