From Steve Vai to Jerry Cantrell, scores of professional musicians and session players have used amplifiers produced by Reinhold Bogner. His expertise and know-how are legendary, and after only twenty years in the American amplifier business. To celebrate those illustrious two decades, Bogner has released the 20th Anniversary Series, based specifically on two of their most popular amps: the Shiva and Ecstasy. Finished in white tolex, plexiglass front panels and salt-and-pepper grille cloth, the new commemorative series is a beautiful sight to behold, with cabinets to match. A new visual style isn’t where it stops, however, since these amps have had some redesigns and re-voicing applied to their circuits, making them exclusive among the other amplifiers in the Bogner lineup. The Shiva has a redesigned boost circuit and different power tubes, and the Clean and Dirty preamps are completely new Designs. The Ecstasy has an almost entirely new preamp design with revitalized cleans and a voicing switch (dubbed Vintage/ Modern), among other additions. Not only do they sound a little different, but they feel a little different too.

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Channel 1
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Channel 2

The 20th Anniversary Shiva is a similar beast to its standard brethren, but has some extra trimmings that help differentiate it from the rest. First and foremost, it’s powered by a pair of mighty KT88 power tubes, which are known for their immense headroom and “wide” sound. The KT88 also exhibits more of a hi-fi effect compared to a more run-of-the-mill set of 6L6s or EL34s. They’re typically used in tube bass amps, but when used for guitar they have a very bouncy, dynamic feel with a large low-end response. The head utilizes a simple two-band EQ section (with bright switch) and a preamp Gain control for its clean tones, and a more familiar three-band EQ to alter and shape its gain tones. Working in tandem with those controls are two buttons labeled Shift and Mode, with the former shifting the EQ spectrum to have less mids, and the latter to add more aggression to the sound. Using a 2008 Fender American Stratocaster, I was able to get the classic Shiva clean tone with much more heft and definition.

Using the reverb control on the back helped deepen the sound. What was particularly impressive about the clean channel was how three-dimensional it was in this state. The amount of reverb (which has dedicated mix controls for each channel) available is immense, so I had to be careful not to wash the sound out. I found that for most applications, I never had to take the knob higher than 9 o’clock. The KT88s already provided a solid foundation—enough to shake the room— so the reverb was icing on the cake.

Also embedded in the new circuitry is a brand new boost circuit with a separate gain stage that’s exclusive to the clean channel. Bogner explains that when it’s engaged, it keeps the tone controls in an active state, unlike the boost circuit in the standard Shiva model, which bypasses the tone stack. When activated, the chimey, pristine, clean sound of the Shiva suddenly had enough gain available to take it into overdriven Super Lead territory, complete with a nice boost in the mids that kicked hard. The 2007 Gibson Flying V that I had plugged into it by this time seemed like the perfect match for this mode. This was an overdue reunion for me personally, since the clean channel of the Shiva was what initially impressed me with Bogner’s designs years ago. It was great to hear that full, cutting tone again and to be able to play around with some new attributes that made it sound even better than before.

Speaking of the gain channel, it’s received some upgrades of its own and been refined, so it has more gain available and two new switches to change its feel and aggressiveness. One of the things about the gain channel of the original Shiva that impressed me was how tight and thick it was when playing heavier chords—and how fluid and complex it could be when playing leads with the same tone settings. The 20th Anniversary model shares the same characteristics, but with a much less compressed result. When I was using it to jam with a band, the sound was very expansive, great for hard rock with a spongy midrange. While the Shiva’s overdrive certainly can sound mean and assertive, its natural organic nature prevents it from achieving thrashier, modern American-voiced metal tones, à la Exodus and Testament. Some players might view this as a blessing, as the Shiva’s overdrive channel high-end frequencies don’t exhibit the razor-sharp tendencies that those extreme genres command.

It could cut through with the right settings, but when used for rhythm it sat perfectly in the mix, hitting all the right frequencies to be heard and felt (and not drowned out by my pounding drummer). This was an issue with an older Marshall head that I had with KT88s in it—I just had to keep turning it up to be heard. Eventually, I was overpowering everyone else. Bogner got the voicing just right with this one, and it was fantastic. Finally, an Excursion knob on the back of the amp allows the player to adjust the bass response for their cabinet and get a less congested (but full) tone at lower volumes. The matching 2x12 cabinet (loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s) had amazing response and definition (absolutely stellar for a pair of twelve inch speakers), but even with its diminutive size, the amount of low end that it could project was too intense at times. When the bass got to be too much, I simply turned it down without losing any of the heft.
Buy if...
incredible cleans and a versatile, punchy overdrive is what’s needed.
Skip if...
you’re in need of a more modern metal tone.

MSRP $3889 (Head + 2x12 Cabinet) - Bogner Custom Amplification -

Hit page 2 for our review of the Ecstasy...