Bogner Helios Guitar Amplifier Heads

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Reinhold Bogner made a name for himself as an amp tech guru long before he owned his own amplifier company. One of his most high profile jobs was to carry out extensive restoration work on Eddie Van Halen’s famous 100 watt Marshall Super Lead. In three decades of modding, archiving and designing amps, Bogner has stored up a treasure trove of notes on the amps of clients such as Eddie, Steve Stevens, Jerry Cantrell, George Lynch, Michael Landau and more. So in celebration of Bogner Amplification’s 25th year, Reinhold and co dipped into these notes to find inspiration for Helios.

CRUNCH LAB

This beast is a two-channel EL34- powered head available in 50 and 100 watt versions. There are two inputs (Plexi and Hot), with a Pre EQ switch for Plexi Bright, Normal and Bright modes. From there the signal goes into either Channel 1, which has a volume control and a 3-way Bright switch, or Channel 2 which has gain, bass, middle, treble and volume. Then there’s a 70/80 voicing switch (ie: 70s or 80s tones), an EQ bypass for sending the pure tone straight to the power amp, and a common Presence control. On the back you’ll find a Bottom control with a Punch switch for extended low end response, a tube buffered series effects loop with return level control, and if you’ve got the 100 watt version you’ll see a JMP-100W or JTM-30W mode switch, while the 50 watt model has a Variac mode for lowering the amount of power reaching the amp in the first place. You can use a foot switch to select channels and toggle the effects loop. The Plexi input is designed to give you traditional Plexi-style gain on Channel 2 and a clear clean tone on Channel 1. The Hot input adds a gain stage for more fire on Channel 2 and the ability to go from clean to Plexi-style crunch on Channel 1. This effectively gives you four channels to work with, although there’s no way to switch between the inputs - at least without using an A/B box between your guitar and the amp.

 

FIRST RAYS OF THE NEW RISING SUN

Channel 1 varies from a Vox-ish midrange fullness to a sharp twangy jab on the Plexi input to a chunky hard rock crunch on the Hot input. For the latter, think George Lynch’s ‘oh that’s not actually that dirty’ rhythm tones. It cleans up nicely from the volume control of the guitar too, and you won’t find yourself missing a full range of EQ controls for this channel. As for the dirty channel, it’s pretty much impossible to make it sound bad. A big part of this is the sheer scope and interactivity of the tone stack: small changes in setting result in big differences in tone. The 70 mode is dynamic and punchy, while the 80 mode piles on the gain and compression for a big modern distortion sound that’s adaptable for everything up to thrash metal, especially when you use the Hot input for maximum gain. There’s a really rich midrange quality that beefs up the harmonic girth of rhythm and melody lines alike. The tone bypass mode is super loud and punchy, great for blues-rock or if your band is called AC/DC.

 

ROCK CANDY

This is a seriously great-sounding amp, with the sprit of a heavily modded Marshall but with the individuality to help you find your own tone. The various mini switches and inputs give you a surprisingly high level of control over the tone, and the construction quality is flawless. If you play any genre that can have the word ‘rock’ or the word ‘heavy’ attached to it, this amp is for you. 

Hits and Misses

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2 channels + 2 inputs = 4 channels of awesome

Incredible build quality

Great raw EQ bypass tone

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No reverb, but that’s what effects loops are for

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