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Gain max, Deep & Mode at far right. 2009 Fender American Tele, guitar volume at half.
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Gain halfway, Mode far left, Deep far right. 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom.
While the demand for more affordable gear has fueled the growth of the small amp market to some extent, much of the demand is still driven by the need for cranked-amp tones that don’t come with unwieldy volume and feedback issues. Having already ventured into small watt amp waters with their Mojado amplifier, Bogner Amplification has expanded their line of small tube-powered amps with their new International Series of amplifiers. And the 12-watt, 6V6 powered Bogner Brixton, is built to deliver screaming high gain at manageable volume levels.
The Lay of the Land
The look and features of the Brixton bear an unmistakable family resemblance to Bogner’s Mojado amplifier (now dubbed the Palermo). Its rugged aluminum chassis shines in a golden hue that’s reminiscent of the metal-faced Marshall Superleads of the ’70s and the attractive cabinet is covered with Bogner’s custom Black Comet vinyl. The head enclosure is almost twice as deep as the chassis itself, and at just 16 pounds, it provides a nice reprieve from lugging heavyweight amps and combos.
The Brixton’s miniscule weight and size are attributable in part to the fact that it really isn’t packing much feature-wise under the hood. This amp was meant to be a portable, high-gain fiend that works well in recording situations. And like the rest of the International line of amps, simplicity is the ultimate goal of the Brixton. Additional features—such as an effects loop—would have added a slight load on the circuit, affecting the amp’s natural, straight-forward tone.
The 12-watts from the Class AB power amp can be cut in half via the amp’s three-way standby switch. This doesn’t necessarily affect the volume in a majorly noticeable way, but affects more of the feel of the tone by loosening up the amp and adding more harmonic content—quite like a Variac affects the tone of an amp. Two JJ ECC83s are at the heart of the preamp.
The front panel prominently features one Gain and one Master volume control, though much of the amp’s tone is tailored from its Deep and Voice switches. Flipping on the Deep switch switches the amp from a tight and focused overdrive to a deeper, more bass-heavy mode with a less pronounced attack. The Voice switch alters the tone even further by brightening up the highs in its right position, or increasing the compression and gain in its left position. This voicing mode was tailored for players who want to play the Brixton at its most extreme gain settings at lower volumes.
For a lot of players, the Bogner name is synonymous with thick, aggressive overdrive tones, and the Brixton is certainly no exception. This amp is a fire-breathing monster and I was able to achieve some very impressive tones using a 2008 Fender American Telecaster—achieving astonishing note separation and bounce no matter how high I had the Gain control turned up. The Brixton’s three-way Voice switch flipped to the right provided an ample amount of brightness for lower gain settings. The attack had similarities to that of the overdrive channel in Bogner’s impressive 20th Anniversary Shiva—very present and natural, with a nice give when striking the strings. Flipping on the Deep switch slowed the attack ever so slightly, and also provided a not-too-boomy, low-end boost.
The attack had similarities to that of the overdrive channel in Bogner’s impressive 20th Anniversary Shiva—very present and natural, with a nice give when striking the strings.
Experimenting with the Brixton’s various methods of tonal mayhem made
the merits of the matching 2x12 cabinet obvious. This particular 2x12
cabinet—covered in Black Comet vinyl and beautiful salt-and-pepper
grille cloth and loaded with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers—was a
vertical model. Not only did it have a cool vintage vibe, but also it
dispersed the amp’s output with rock-solid definition, and I was able
to hear my guitar tone much better than that from a standard,
horizontal 2x12 cabinet.
Pristine cleans are not really in the Brixton’s bag. I was only able to
achieve a clean tone when I had the Gain control set to a hair above 7
o’clock and the Master Volume below 9 o’clock, and even then the mid
range remained pretty growly. (Crystal clean tone connoisseurs should
check out the Bogner Barcelona review in the upcoming July print
Lovers of liquid British-style gain will feel completely at home with this amp, as I did when I plugged in a 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom with Tom Anderson humbucking pickups. Wanting to hear just how far I could take the Brixton, I cranked Gain up to the 2:30 position, engaged the Deep switch, and flipped to the leftmost setting on the Voice switch. I was treated to a wall of blistering overdrive, perfect for ’80s and early ’90s hard rock. It should be noted that the amp’s volume was lowered quite a bit due to the added compression of this voicing mode, so further adjustments of the master volume were necessary to get it back up to a truly usable volume.
Most impressively, the tone retained every bit of character and definition that it had in less dirty modes. Backing off the volume knob on the guitar yielded a sparkly, purring overdrive that played well with my varying fingerpicking attack, getting grittier or cleaner depending on how hard I would snap the strings with my fingertips.
For high gain tone aficionados, the Bogner Brixton is a sure winner. The quintessential high gain tone Bogner is famous for is here in spades, but at convenient volume levels and an attractive price. The simple design means features and frills are pretty much nonexistent. And users of time-based effects such as delay and reverb will have to put up with running them through the main input, rather than the cleaner method of using an effects loop. But for those who prefer the simplicity of just plugging in and getting out their hard rock kicks, the Brixton is just what the doctor ordered.
you need unbelievable high gain tones that record well in the studio.
chimey, unspoiled cleans are an absolute must.