What is it?
Bogner Wessex Overdrive from Amplifier Transformer series. Made in USA late 2014 at esarliest.
Bogner started to build boutique guitar amplifiers way back in 1989 by revising and modding the classic Fender Blackface schematics. Those amps have been quite highly praised specimen. Company released their first pedals in 2012 and the sky has been the only limit since. The brand just glows the word quality. The price tags are laid out respectively. Whopping at high end range, Bogner pedals have made it to many big name boards and like a stealth bomber, all the way to many not-so-big-name-hobbyist-players as well. This obviously has made the previous pedals a item of interest to the DIY community. Bogner, that has made its fortune and fame copying and making Fender Amps better decided that there should always be something hidden in each pedal, so that their “own, new and original” designs stay a secret. Previous series have a daughter board that’s joined by pin headers and submerged in goop before housing the blob in hard plastic case. So at this point it looked like the brand’s good name and reputation wasn’t on as solid basis that i had hoped for. You kno how cough*hypocrite*cough it goes.
As the opportunity arose to get one in a trade, i was of course optimistic and somewhat eager to get my hands on one. The guy who i did the trade with said at the beginning, that the unit is quite strange sounding thing. Not necessarily bad, but just different. This piqued my interest even more. Quick reading told me that the unit is a part of “amplifier transformer” series, where all the pedals utilize a Rupert Neve Design transformer. The enclosure design goes as the above photo shows – you can see the top of the transformer through a hole in the bottom plate. Elaborate and quite cool thinking. Once we screw the bottom plate open and take a look, the enthusiasm stops there. And basically turns into a yawn. There’s a massive transformer on all board mounted PCB – with a black box of obvious trade secret amount of goop.
Now, if there really is something completely new and original in play, the build method, may it use what ever type of components, will make this utter piece of trash the second the warranty date expires. Repairing the thing will be extremely painful due to gooped base circuit and special specific transformer – which i doubt you’ll be able to buy from you local component store. Anyway, decently built. I must admit that. Finish is definitely something to point out. It is a pretty pedal with decent set of controls (and control range), even thought the “unrepairable” tag.
How does it sound?
Now this i find interesting. The guy i got this unit from said that it’ll sound strange, very compressed. I figured it should have something to do with thte transformer on board. Once i wired this thing up and played first notes, i must agree. Very compressed, and thick sounding thing with lots of lows present even when those are rolled back at the bass knob. The Enhanced/normal switch seems like a clipping diode switch. It doesn’t affect the voicing all that much, just how much, or how quickly the pedal starts to distort. The gain amount is very much sufficient and the control offers everything from clean boost to near-distortion overdrive tones in decent feel of the knob. Same goes for the tone controls. There is certain high quality feel all over. But the tone. That is still fat and thick. In a sense, overly compressed. While the pedal reacts to guitar volume control in good manner, the guitar doesn’t mean anything to this pedal. I started by playing with a Tokai Love Rock model and slightly hotter than stock PAF neck humbucker. Liked the sound, but didn’t think it would see much use. Then i took my Fender Strat with single coil on the bridge – the sound was exactly the same as for LP neck humbucker. This pedal has a mind and tone of its own. It’s not “transparent” or “clear” at all. Not a bit.
It’ll serve perfectly for thoseDinosaur Jr. style, fat, overdriven tones with nice, ringing overtones and quite cool articulation. But that’s pretty much it. one trick pony with petaton of personality. Most likely this unit won’t see much use in my care, but it’ll be a definite keeper as a strange one trick pony. Just in case i need that Mascis tone from Gibson Melody Maker with a shitty single coil. Let’s just hope the pedal doesn’t ever break.