The Pedal: Bogner Ecstasy Blue Overdrive
The Point: Plexi and “Bogner Blue Channel” tones
The Damage: $300
One of the hottest pedal makers in the last few months to hit the overdrive/distortion market is amp builder Bogner. The Ecstasy Blue Overdrive (Blue) is their take on the classic “plexi” tones and the Bogner “Blue” channel featured on their amplifiers. The Blue is one of three pedals in the line, which features low-to medium-gain overdrive, bordering on distortion. The Bogner Ecstasy Red is the higher gain overdrive/distortion pedal and Uberschall is their highest gain monster.
The Blue features an interactive three band EQ: bass, the all-important midrange, and treble controls. There are added controls for gain and volume, and a number of switches replicated from the amp that do various things we’ll explore in a moment. In addition you have two foot switches for on/off, and one for boost – each with their own LED. With the boost channel engaged, you also get two small external trimmers (each with their own LED’s, too) to fine tune the boost’s gain and volume.
All of this is wrapped up in a nicely painted blue (of course) box that is fairly wide but the input/outputs on the back help save some pedal board real estate. The Blue can be powered by battery or an external power supply. Interestingly, my BBE Supa Charger could not power it using the 100mA outlet, but when I switched it to the 200mA setting, it was fine. I had no problem using my Dunlop Brick power supply either. My guess (it doesn’t specify in the handbook) is that for an overdrive, this unit is fairly power-hungry, needing somewhere between 100mA+ and 200mA.
Switches and knobs – what do they do?
· Variac: setting emulates a voltage drop. You get a tighter, dynamic compression, ideal for heavier palm muting type of playing.
· Mode (Plexi or Blue): Plexi takes you from a vintage lower gain setting all the way to a Marshall-like crunch with the gain control dimed. Take it up a notch with the Blue setting, for a heavier crunch approaching distortion.
· Pre EQ (b1, n, b2): A presence control for the higher range harmonics. b1 gives you a high frequency boost, helpful for darker guitars; the n setting is more neutral with a rounder attack; b2 gives you a boosted midrange and a high frequency boost, which I preferred. The more gain you use, this control becomes less effective.
· Structure (101, 100, 20th): Provides for EQ shifts and gain variables. The 101 is geared towards a vintage tone with wider bass and treble control and less midrange; 100 gives you a more focused tone with less bass and treble, but more midrange; and the 20th Anniversary setting gives you a more modern feel with added mids and high end, which was my favorite.
To Boost or not to Boost?
No doubt about it, of all the ways to tweak the Blue, I found the Boost channel feature to be the most important. Dynamics were increased and a livelier, fuller – more amp-like tone became readily apparent. The beauty of it is if you want to clean it up, you don’t have to turn off the boost, just roll back your guitar’s volume control. Without the boost, I found it to have a nice, but somewhat pedestrian tone. The gain wasn’t quite enough for me, and the dynamics were less pronounced. Not bad, but it didn’t wow me like it did with the boost on.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a happy medium between boost on or off. There was either too much volume increase with it on, or the drop in volume was too much when turned off. I had the boost’s volume trim pot dialed back all the way to no avail.
I’ve seen comments in other forums of people never using the boost, or like me, preferring the boost to be on all the time. It will really depend on your setup. I set my amp fairly clean, allowing the pedal to shine through. If you’re running your amp somewhat dirty and really just want some added grit or extra volume, you might like the Blue with the boost off. Take your time, there’s a lot to learn, but that’s part of the fun.
A Versatile Pedal for a Versatile Guitar Collection
I used three guitars at a wide range of price points with this pedal: A Fender Custom Shop Total Tone ’57 Stratocaster; a PRS SE 245 Singlecut with relatively hot pickups in it; and a Fender Road Worn Players Telecaster, which feature a Seymour Duncan ’59 in the neck and a Fender Tex Mex single coil in the bridge. Seemed like a good mix of pickups and guitars to test out this pedal. Here’s a quick rundown of what I found:
· Fender Total Tone ’57 Strat:
The Strat sounded great in the Plexi mode especially on the neck pickup, just to give it some extra chime as well as some thick, nasty blues tones. The 2nd/4th positions were pretty good with some extra gain. In general I liked the Strat better with a lower gain attack and feel.
· PRS SE 245:
This guitar loved the Blue channel, with the gain way up using the bridge pickup. It produced a very heavy, thick, meaty tone. It will definitely give you that hard rock chugga, chugga if you want it. Not quite metal, but with the midrange dialed back, not that far away either. It definitely showcases the versatility of this pedal.
· Fender RW Players Telecaster:
In either mode, Plexi or Blue, the RW Player Tele worked great. The neck humbucker liked the added gain and snarl that was available, while the single coil bridge pickup sounded good with nice bite and definition with proper EQing; dial back the treble, and add a bit of midrange.
The Bogner Blue is a great pedal with classic Plexi/Blue tones that offers a lot of flexibility in enabling you to fine-tune your sound. I appreciated the ease of moving from a gritty low- gain overdrive, to a heavy grinding crunch with just a quick turn of my guitar’s volume. I can’t think of many guitarists who wouldn’t want this combo in one pedal. Highly recommended.