PLATINUM AWARD WINNER
Names like Leo Fender, Jim Marshall and Ted McCarty are rightfully revered in the guitar community.
Rupert Neve is another luminary whose name belongs in that company, but he’s not as well known because his contributions and influence have more to do with recorded guitar sound than the usual day-to-day playing or performing.
His Neve 1073 and 1081 mic preamp/EQ modules introduced in the Seventies are probably responsible for more classic guitar recordings and tones than any other single other piece of gear short of perhaps the Shure SM57 mic.
Reinhold Bogner, a modern-day legend who has made his own significant contributions to guitar tone, recently joined forces with Rupert Neve to produce a trio of pedals—the Burnley, Harlow and Wessex—that take an entirely different approach to overdrive and distortion.
These pedals are inspired by the dynamic and detailed sounds of classic Neve mixing consoles, which featured custom transformer-coupled inputs and outputs. Neve designed special custom audio transformers for these pedals, which deliver studio-quality sound, dynamics and tonal dimension that transcend the typical performance capabilities of a standard stomp box.
FEATURES: Each of the three pedals offers its own distinct personality provided by unique transformer designs for each model. The Bogner Burnley is a dedicated distortion pedal with level, gain and tone controls and a Fat/Tight switch. The Wessex is an overdrive pedal featuring level, gain, treble and bass controls and an Enhance/Normal switch. The Harlow is described by Bogner as “Boost with Bloom” and provides level, tone and bloom controls.
All three pedals share a variety of common characteristics and features. A “jewel light” indicator illuminates red when the pedal is engaged and turns progressively bluer depending on playing dynamics and the guitar’s output level. Other common features include true bypass switching, mono inputs and outputs and battery or 9VDC power (50mA or more). The compact housings are built like tanks, and an optional bubinga hardwood top panel is available for an additional $60.
PERFORMANCE: The sound quality and performance of all three pedals is on another level compared to the average overdrive and distortion pedal. Whereas many overdrive and distortion pedals boost everything going into it, including noise, these pedals kept the noise from a particularly troublesome single-coil guitar at bay while increasing the level of notes played quite impressively. Each pedal has its own tonal personality, but it’s a personality that complements the sound of your guitar and amp rig rather than dominating it.
The Wessex offers the widest variety of tones and textures thanks to its individual treble and bass EQ controls. Clean boost is produced by cranking up the level and keeping gain at low settings, and as the gain control is turned up the personality changes from slight grit to aggressive crunch, ending up just shy of full-on high-gain distortion. The Enhance setting boosts both bass and treble without scooping out mids to maintain full-boded tone and expressive midrange. This is the most versatile pedal of the bunch, and I recommend it as a first purchase for guitarists who can only afford one.
The Burnley is a very aggressively voiced distortion pedal that can boost both gain and output level quite significantly, but the tone never gets over the top and remains musically useful throughout its entire range. The Fat setting produces fat, rich, slightly compressed lead tones, making the Burnley a great choice for a solo boost pedal, particularly for players who love smooth, singing sustain. The Tight setting is better for rhythm playing and single note lines where a little more dynamic edge and responsiveness is preferred. The Tone control thickens up lower midrange frequencies to give the overall tone more heft.
The Harlow boost pedal provides the most distinctive effect of the group. With the bloom control rolled all the way off, it produces a range of overdrive tones from clean boost to crushed glass crunch, but as the bloom control is turned up the tone becomes more aggressive. The effect is similar to a combination of tube amp sag and a compressor pushed until it begins to breathe, but it is much more dynamic, responsive and detailed. It’s almost like extreme fuzz, but the notes are much more musical and refined.
LIST PRICE: $269.99 (each, $329.99 for bubinga front panel)
MANUFACTURER: Bogner Amplification, bogneramplification.com
Each model features its own unique custom transformer designed by Rupert Neve to provide incredibly dynamic and detailed boost, overdrive and distortion effects.
The Burnley includes a Fat/Tight switch that provides a selection of slightly compressed lead tones or dynamically responsive rhythm and solo textures.
The Harlow’s bloom control radically changes the personality of clean boost and overdrive crunch to aggressive fuzz- and compressor-like sag.
The Wessex’s treble and bass tone controls and Enhance/Normal switch deliver a wide variety of textures from clean boost to hard rock distortion.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Bogner’s Burnley, Harlow and Wessex are studio-quality pedals that greatly expand your rig’s tonal and textural range, providing incredibly expressive overdrive and distortion tones with impressive dynamics and noise-free performance.