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Bogner Barcelona Amp Review

While the Barcelona is built principally for a crystal-clean headroom, Bogner also threw in a Gain control for added versatility.


Clips recorded with a 2009 Fender American Tele

Reinhold Bogner has a reputation as

a master builder of great-sounding,

loud amps such as the Ecstasy, Shiva, and

Überschall—each of which is a legend

in the hard-rock and metal worlds. But

Bogner says he’s always had an ear for the

magic of a little amp, and that has made

him well positioned to leverage the en

vogue status of smaller rigs. Bogner and the

company that bears his name entered this

game a couple of years ago with the 18-watt

Mojado (which has since been replaced

by the Palermo), but he’s since gone on to

introduce even more diminutive amps in

the new International Series—a line of big-toned,

low-wattage amp s that includes the

Barcelona combo reviewed here.

The International Series is inspired more

by a “compact is good” ethos than a single

approach to design, circuitry, or tube type.

Its models vary in voice and character, with

something for just about any player not

seeking high-gain tones. With 40 watts of

6CA7 power, the Barcelona speaks with

a ’60s British accent, loads of clean headroom,

and a defined punch that’s less typical of Anglo amps.

A League of Its Own

At its core, the Class AB Barcelona is a very

simple amplifier. It’s among the most powerful

amps in the International line in terms of

wattage, though the 40 watts can be throttled

back to 20 watts via the amp’s standby

switch. This portion of the circuit works in

tandem with a power transformer that’s custom-

wound exclusively for an 8 Ω speaker

load (in this case, a Celestion Vintage 30).

A trio of JJ 12AX7 tubes is the core of the

amp’s single preamp channel. Instead of a traditional

three-band EQ section, the preamp

employs Treble and Bass knobs and a 3-way

Mid EQ switch that flips between scooped,

flat, and boosted midrange voicings. And

while the Barcelona is built principally for a crystal-clean headroom, Bogner also threw in a Gain control for added versatility. Pulling that control out kicks in the amp's Fat mode, which boosts the gain and bass.

Herculean Tone

When you boil it down, the Barcelona is

geared for ’60s British jangle and punch.

There’s a percussive snap in the attack,

combined with Bogner’s signature muscularity

and smooth midrange voicing that’s

reminiscent of a healthy vintage Marshall

JTM45—but with a little more aggression.

With a Strat at one end of the cable

and all of the amp’s controls at noon, the

Barcelona sounded simply brilliant, with

a nice, thick low end supporting each

plucked note. The tone had a surprisingly

monstrous body—much bigger and rounder

than what I’d expect from a 1x12 openback

cabinet. The Bass and Treble controls

each have a wide range, but careful use of

the Master Volume is just as important in

the quest for sweet tones. Punchy, brash

tones issued forth when it was dialed to

about 3 o’clock, but below that the amp

took on a jazzier, darker voice—perfect for

both the Strat’s neck pickup and the neck

and middle pickups together.

When I needed brighter tones, turning

up the Treble and Gain did the trick. But

to really get sharp, bright tones out of the

Barcelona, it’s best to rely on your picking

hand. One of the really beautiful things about

the Barcelona is how much headroom there

is for getting the most out of your attack.

When I wanted a spanky country vibe for

some Jerry Reed-esque fingerpicked rolls,

the Barcelona was more than accommodating—

but I got the most effective results with

aggressive pick attack. This is a very honest

amplifier that’s extremely sensitive to how

tight and clean your style playing is.

That said, the Barcelona’s tone stack has

a lot of range that makes it easy to dial in a

variety of very desirable sounds. I was particularly

taken by how effectively the Mid

EQ switch reined-in spiky midrange peaks

on the scooped setting—making it a snap

to achieve just the right level of midrange

raunch without sacrificing definition in the

highs or boom in the lows. This reining in

was particularly helpful after I plugged in

a Les Paul loaded with a rather hot set of

Tom Anderson humbuckers (an H3 in the

bridge position and an H1 in the neck). The

scooped position brought out a voice akin

to a vintage blackface Fender Twin Reverb,

taming the Les Paul’s aggression but leaving

a toothy bite and piano-like bass response.

Even when I played the Paul with a heavy

picking hand and the Barcelona’s Gain control

maxed, the tone remained clean and clear

across the board. It wasn’t until I cranked

the Master Volume to around 2 or 3 o’clock

that it started to growl—but at that point the

amp seemed almost absurdly loud for such a

small combo. Bogner recommends relying on

pedals to achieve significant overdrive when

using the Barcelona, and I’d concur after

enduring such blisteringly high volume in

order to get the amp to overdrive naturally.

The Verdict

For players with a taste for clean, impeccably

detailed tones, the Bogner Barcelona is

hard to beat. Its ease of use and Texas-sized

sounds makes it a winner for any player who

needs a combo for gigging and studio use.

It isn’t a very forgiving amp if you’re sloppy,

and coaxing the sweetest tones is very much

a matter of touch, but those traits also set it

apart from many similarly powered combos.

As with the rest of Bogner’s International

line, simplicity and portability are the

Barcelona’s key qualities—qualities that

stand in sharp contrast to the features that

come to mind when many players think of

Bogner Amplification. However, if simplicity

is your game, the Barcelona could be

your path to positively glorious tones.

Watch the video review:

Buy if...
your need for clean headroom and dynamics trounces your desire for effects loops and multiple channels.
Skip if...
you need amp overdrive at a manageable volume level.

Street $1579 - Bogner Amplification -
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