Not so long before, Bogner released three pedals (Ecstasy Blue, Red and Uberschall) that had a good acceptance by musical world. Those three were designed to cover mythical Bogner amps' tones and, they deliver such tones really nicely.
Now, Bogner seems interested into create a line of pedals that don't try to mime Bogner amps' tones. The aim of these new pedals is to interactuate with your amp and, provide virtual "channels" but, respecting the soul of your amp.
This new line has something really interesting. Each pedal works with an audio transformer designed by the studio guru Rupert Neve. In studio's outboard devices and, in amps, transformers are a key part of the sound and, the finest audio devices have very carefully designed ones.
The only pedal that I personally remember having a transformer is the Butler Audio Tube Driver. It's a toroidal transformer, maybe, needed because of the 12AU7 tube that drives the tone. Maybe, other tube-based drive pedals have one, I dunno.
The fact is that the new line of Bogner pedals catch my attention a lot more than their Ecstasy line. This line of Bogner-Neve pedals had the Harlow (a booster with some compression available), the Oxford (Flexdrive, whatever it means), the Wessex (Overdrive) and the Burnley (Distortion).
It seems that the Oxford finally dropped out of the series.
I was accidentally in a musical store (Auvisa) and, tried the Wessex (the only one they had there). Well, the pedal finally came with me to home!.
Everything in this pedal, from the box to the pedal itself is classy. The pedal is built like a tank but, with a very clean and cute design (case, knobs, everything). There are versions of this pedals with the top of the case in bubinga wood. Not mine.
Knobs are: Level, Gain, Treble and Bass and, there is a two positions switch that changes the circuit behavior from Normal (N) to Enhanced (E) modes.
Components are first class. You just need to read the tech specs to understand that every component was carefully choose to achieve the tone Bogner had in mind.
Everything smells quality and, it's probably one of the best made pedals I've owned or seen.
It's a very transparent overdrive, in the sense that every string is clearly heard, even with complex inharmonic chords.
The voice is crunchy, uncompressed, clear and defined. But, it respects the soul of your amp and guitar, anyway.
Tone controls have a wide range and, allow you to fine tune your sound.
The gain range is surprisingly short, specially in Normal mode (the most transparent EQ). If you are after an overdrive with a good amount of gain, this is not your pedal. In every sense, it remembers me the Xotic BB pedal but, with a better sound. The amount of gain is similar and, the voice of the pedal is alike, very crunchy (but, one of the best crunches I've heard).
The Enhanced mode adds some low and high end to your sound and, provides a bit more of gain.
I see it to be used to put tubes on their sweet spot and, it covers very well light overdrive tones. Provides a nice 'crunch' virtual channel and, it's very suitable for Rock & Roll songs.
It can be used to feed other gain pedals also, but, it hasn't gain enough itself for dirty lead tones.
Imagine a Wampler Euphoria on its crunch mode or, a Xotic BB and, you are in the ballpark, respect of overall sound and gain levels but, the Wessex has its own sound and, I liked it more than the former ones. I'm just missing a pinch more of gain, maybe.
I'm waiting three more pedals that I would like to test combined with the Wessex: Lovepedal Kalamazoo, Bogner Harlow and Bogner Burnley. Will do some video with them, after I find the best combinations of all them.
A bit more about the Neve transformer
It seems that the transformer designed by Rupert Neve is used in the same way an Output Transformed is used in every amp, to deliver the final sound to the speakers.
If you are familiar with amp's OTs, you already know that transformers are a key piece for that final sound and feeling of the amp and, every great amp designer takes very seriously the OT.
Swapping the transformer can be a great enhancement. You will know a lot of people going for Mercury transformers to upgrade their Marshall amps, by example.
Probably, it shouldn't be part of the tone, according to pure electrical magnitudes but, the truth is that they are part of the tone of an amp.
Exactly the same occurs with studio gear, where the magic of Rupert Neve (among a very short group of gurus) is worldwide acclaimed.
It seems that Neve's design was oriented to provide nice musical harmonics on high and low ends.
The Enhanced mode of the Wessex is clearly different from the Natural mode. In the former one, the harmonical content is specially rich in the high end range of frequencies and, the sound is, overall, beautifuler and, cuts the mix with a better attitude. It remembers me as the magic that happens when you switch on the Xotic EP Booster, everything seems to be the same but, the sound is just better, without understanding what goes in the background.
I think Butler Audio, in his Tube Driver, is using that toroidal transformer as an Input Transformer, instead of an Output Transformer, because the pedal is being directly plugged to your wall socket.
If that's true then, Bogner's pedals with designed by Neve OT pedals are unique in pedal effects world. No one, before Bogner, used that approach.
Youtube videos always lost quality and, specially in the range of frequencies that have the finest nuances. I would recommend you to test this line of pedals in a physical store. Better if you do that with a guitar equal or similar to yours and, in an amp that's equal or similar to yours. They deliver some harmonic richness that is difficult to find in other pedals (even previous Bogner's ones!), while maintaining a great string-by-string, note-by-note separation.
The final sound can or cannot be your wanted sound but, they worth the time to try them.