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Bogner Goldfinger 45

May 15, 2012
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Amp designer Reinhold Bogner made his name crafting high-gain incendiary devices such as the Ecstasy and Uberschall, so we tend to expect über-shred from anything bearing his name. Going against type, however, is the Goldfinger 45, which, Bogner says he designed “for the guy who likes vintage amp tones, but who doesn’t usually get channel switching and other useful features along with those tones.” As such, Bogner bills the GF45 as a “vintage valve guitar system” rather than just an amplifier, and outwardly it appears to be well enough equipped to live up to that promise.

Four 6V6GTs offer a potential 45 watts, but coexisting half-power and low-power modes can take it down to 30, 23, and 9 watts. Both the “Alpha” (rhythm) and “Omega” (lead) channels have Gain and Loudness controls and independent 3-band EQ, while Omega additionally has a Gain EQ control and a switch to select two lead modes: 69 Loud aims at vintage plexi, while 80 does more saturated and compressed JCM 800-style tones. Alpha additionally has both Pre- and Post Bright switches. Both channels feature a pair of footswitchable boost modes that are extremely useful, if at first a tad confusing in the way they are linked to the amp’s dual effects loops. In brief: the Pre FX loop is designed to carry pedals that work best toward the front of the amp’s preamp stage, such as boosters and overdrives, and to maximize their interaction with the amp, but when no pedal is in the loop it acts as a built-in preamp boost. The Post FX loop caters to delay and modulation based effects, but provides an output boost when empty. Add them all up, and there are a lot of gain options on tap here.

Tested with a variety of guitars through a closed-back 2x12 cab, I found the Goldfinger to be stunningly versatile, and exceedingly toothsome. The only caveat to this is that the amp does have a learning curve, and you need to spend some time working with its extensive range of settings to get the most out of it. The Alpha channel is immediately pleasing, ranging from great Fender blackface to clean-JTM45-ish tones, with great dynamics and cutting power throughout. Switching to Omega initially brings noticeably less volume from the amp, until you get the Gain and Loudness controls rolled up pretty high, but there are outstanding lead voices in here once you do. The 69 Loud mode taps excellent “cranked vintage” tones, and will do so at a club-friendly volume, too. Switching to 80 mode ups the gain and harmonic richness of the preamp (though the GF is never quite “high-gain” in the modern sense), and requires further advancing of Loudness to compensate. The boost functions are enormously handy, and work great as effects loops otherwise (once you get your settings right), and the reverb is lush and atmospheric. The low-power mode seeks to emulate the slower, squishier response of a tube rectifier, but I found it made the GF45 sound a little spitty and “voltage-starved” at some gain settings— on the Omega channel in particular. On the other hand, the Half power setting, which cuts two output tubes, works as it should to reduce volume without affecting the dynamic feel beyond what you’d expect from such a reduction in wattage.

It’s not too often that I purchase amps I’m reviewing, but the Goldfinger 45 is an impressively toneful beast and such an incredibly flexible gigging tool that it both earns an Editors’ Pick Award and has become a permanent part of my amp collection.

Specifications

CONTACT (818) 765-8929; bogneramplification.com

Goldfinger 45 head

PRICE $2,399 street (Also available in 1x12 combo ($2,599) and 90-watt ($2,699) versions)
CHANNELS Two
CONTROLS Alpha (clean) channel: Loudness, Gain, Treble, Mid, Bass, Post Bright switch, Pre Bright switch. Omega (lead) channel: 80/Loud 69 switch, Loudness, Gain EQ, Gain, Treble, Middle, Bass; shared: Pre FX Boost switch, Post FX level control, Reverb, Presence, Channel switch
POWER 45 watts, switchable for 30, 23, and 9 watts
TUBES Four 12AX7 and one 12AT7 preamp tubes, four 6V6 output tubes
EXTRAS Hi/Low power switch on Standby. Full and 1/2 switch (4 tubes/2 tubes). Dual speaker outs with 4Ω/8Ω switch. Dedicated 16Ω speaker out. Pre FX loop send/return and level; Post FX send/return with gain control and series/parallel, +4/–20 dB, and on/off switches. Five-button footswitch included
SPEAKER Tested through a closed-back 2x12 cab with Scumback M75 and H75 speakers. (Also available: Bogner 2x12 cab w/Celestion Greenback 25 and G12H30 speakers, $799 street; 1x12 cab w/Celestion Vintage 30, $629 street)
WEIGHT 42 lbs
BUILT USA
KUDOS Cleverly designed. Exceedingly versatile. Great tones at every turn.
CONCERNS Requires some playing time to fully understand the lead channel’s gain settings. Lowpower mode can sound a little “voltage starved.”

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