If you’ve had a chance to see a picture or two of Reinhold Bogner, the owner and founder of Bogner Amplification, it will be no wonder to you why there’s a heavy influence of style in the amplifier I’m writing about today. For a man who’d likely be happy to share wardrobes with Elton John or take style advice from Dennis Rodman, he’s managed to produce one of the cleanest and sharpest looking amplifiers I’ve seen in a long time with a revolutionary sound to match. We’re going to look at the Bogner Atma.
In the small town of Ulm in Southern Germany, both the EL84 tube and Reinhold Bogner were born ready to turn heads. In interviews Bogner explains that his curiosity of electronics did not come naturally, rather it was force fed to him by exposure. His father was heavily involved with electronics including working on televisions, military transmitters and tube radios. As long as he can remember, Reinhold saw tubes upon tubes all around his home and at the age of 13 or 14, the biggest discovery of his life was made when he peeked inside his friend’s guitar amp. It took no time at all for Reinhold to find a schematic at a local music shop of the inner workings of a basic guitar amplifier, and with all the electronics he had access to at home, he quickly got to work. With the mounds of resistors, capacitors and vacuum tubes around his home, he was able to put together something close to what he was aiming for, but had to make some significant substitutions. These replacements ended up being the fuel to the fire still burning inside Bogner Amplification. The small modifications to the standard circuitry inside the amplifier changed the amp’s tone, feel and response in ways that intrigued both Bogner and later listeners. It took no time at all for local players to hear Reinhold’s modified prototype and the market begged for him to reproduce the soon-to-be iconic sound. In 1989, with just $600 and his modified amp in hand, Bogner pushed to Los Angeles and began his journey.
Years later, Bogner Amplification has a variety of products on the market and the name is familiar to any notable musician with his amps being used by Alice in Chains, Slayer, Doug Rappoport and a long list of others. The evolution of their line has lead us to this beautiful amp. Sitting right now at Heartbreaker Guitars in Las Vegas is this stunning Bogner Atma Amplifier in a luxurious white finish.
The first thing you’ll notice about this amp is it’s clean appearance. The shop’s website elaborates: “The sleekly rounded corners are perhaps the first detail noticed of Atma's unique hybrid aluminum and wood construction. Not only is it a beautiful artistic statement that's incredibly strong and durable but it also delivers detailed mid-range and tonal clarity. Light weight, portable and evolved, the sophisticated Atma is equally comfortable on a greasy juke-joint stage or penthouse apartment over-looking the shimmering & pulsating lights of any metropolis.” While giving the box a fantastic appearance, the use of aluminum contributes to both the sound of the amp and its weight as well. The process of creating the frame is tedious, specific and to be appreciated. The speaker’s baffle board is made of baltic-birch, a detail chosen after testing many different options giving this amp the exact sound Bogner was after. This video is very well shot and shows exactly how much time and hand work goes into each one of these amplifiers.
This setup is designed to accommodate the world-touring professional and the basement beginner as well. A built in power attenuator allows the user to scale down the headroom from 18, 5 to 1 watt. The clean channel features volume and tone control knobs along with a beautiful bright switch, letting you choose from a wide variety of tones and sounds. The overdrive channels share a bass, mid and treble control knob as well as a 3-position gain switch covering 60’s, 70’s and 80’s style gain as well as tonal characteristics. There’s a single gain control for the crunch and solo channel with a secondary crunch present control hidden on the back panel, letting you equalize your preferred difference between the two overdrives. The three channels can be switched using either the front face of the amp or the included foot switch. For those familiar, the Atma is a EL84 class-A cathode biased power amp sporting an EZ81 tube rectifier which translates to 18 watts of power. The 16, 8 and 4 ohm speaker outputs allow versatility when it comes time to choose your speaker cabinet.
Reinhold has plenty to say about his amp after it’s release at NAMM in 2013. “I set out to design a light weight and flexible amplifier which I named after the Sanskrit word, atma, meaning ‘soul’. Growing up in old Germany, I was surrounded by my father’s vast collection of vintage radios. Specifically, the Dieter Rams designs had a deep impact on me. I loved his minimalist and timeless approach. So, with the Atma we combined the Rams-inspired aesthetic with a flexible, sonic architecture. . . For those of you looking for a compact yet flexible amplifier, like the ecstasy, the Atma might just be your perfect solution.”
Like most products you’ll find at a high end guitar shop, the Bogner Amplification Atma is just as impressive inside as it is visually. It’s ability to please a bluegrass picker, ACDC cover band and everyone in between is what gives this amp it’s credibility. Take a listen for yourself.
Also available at Heartbreaker is one of the younger siblings of the Atma. The Bogner New Yorker is yet another top shelf performance machine wrapped in a beautiful artistic presentation. The muted yellow face panel laid inside the unique black comet tolex with the classic salt and pepper grill give this amp a look that begs passers by to check this loud barker’s bite. At 12 watts the New Yorker, sold here with a matching cabinet, has plenty of power to please any musician with the opposing 6 watt setting designed for the more intimate environment. Heartbreaker Guitars is a proud dealer of Bogner Amplification and will gladly entertain inquiries about Bogner’s other models. The famous Ecstasy and 20th Anniversary Shiva don’t stay on the shelf long, but I’m sure a phone call to Brendan and he’ll be happy to find out when he’s got one coming to you.
If there's any doubt still left as to the beauty and versatility of this amplifier, take on more look and listen.
Contributor for Heartbreaker Guitars