Oct 1, 2013
1. It’s a crapload cheaper than the amp.
A little while back we looked at the Bogner Uberschall pedal, one of three amp-in-a-box offerings from Bogner to hit the market. If the Uberschall amp is the no-frills, fire-breathing sledgehammer of the Bogner arsenal, the Ecstasy is the souped up Ferrari – all the options you could ever want, and zero compromise. The Blue channel is where vintage Marshall sounds live – JTM, Plexi – while the Red channel is pure hotrodded heaven, while still retaining that signature Bogner midrange voicing. Succeeding where many other channel switching amps have failed, the Ecstasy is full of living, breathing, organic tone, no matter what the gain level. Great stuff, you say! How do I get my hands on one of these?
For the average Joe, the 20th Anniversary version of the XTC costs a mere $4269 on sale from Sweetwater.
My wallet hurts just thinking about it.
This is where the Ecstasy Red and Blue pedals come in. If you’d like to get the soul of the XTC sounds at less than 1/10th of the price of the amp, you’ve come to the right place!
This time, we’re going to take a look at the Ecstasy Red.
2. It does something even the XTC itself does not.
Fully kitted out with as many knobs, switches and bells and whistles as you could possibly ever need, the Ecstasy Red attempts something daring that even the current XTC 20th flagship head cannot do – it unifies the tonal heritage and evolution of the XTC Red channel with its Structure switch, allowing you to instantly access gain structure and EQ from the original 100B, to the next level 101B, and all the way up to the current evolution, the 20th Anni head, all at the flick of a mini-switch.
Similar to the amp, it has Pre-EQ modes, though I found that these have fairly minimal effect on the tone at high gain (which, luckily, I confirmed when reading the manual booklet – it’s not just that my ears suck!!).
The Mode switch goes through Tight, Mellow and Full, each with a slightly different gain level and dynamic response to the EQ.
To top it all off, the Variac switch simulates a “dropped voltage” effect – for that brown sound that everyone loves.
The icing (if you still need it, after all those features) on the cake is a footswitchable boost, with adjustable gain and volume.
This box already does more things than most amps on the market can do!!
… but can it do it well? Let’s find out.
3. It sounds… FIERCE.
Not that I’m trying to quote Tyra Banks.
My favourite modes were the 101B and 20th. The 20th mode is based on the current incarnation of the XTC, which comes stock with 6L6s, and has a bit more push in the low end, with a more present, slightly more modern sound. The 101B takes that basic tone but swaps it out for a tinge more Marshall crunch – a less dominant low end but a bit more crunch in the mids.
Personally… the 100B tone sat somewhere in the middle of those two, and as a result, felt a little “neither here nor there” to me. Sadly, I’ve never had the occasion to play an original 100B, so I can’t tell how it compares… but since I liked the other two better, I’ll be concentrating a bit more on the tones I got from the 101B and 20th modes.
Time for the video!
I’ve started off with a solo using the 20th mode on almost full gain. The pedal is in Full mode to get a big, scorching lead tone, with a nice stereo delay provided by the S-Gear 2 plugin. Sorry, after that it’s not particularly showy – just straight up rock rhythm, changing through Structure and Mode settings so you can hopefully get a feel for the changes in tone and response. I recorded this with my Ash Customworks Heilo into the Red channel (Marshall 18w style) on my 65 Amps London Pro, miked with an Audix i5 just off axis.
And here is the isolated track:
The Variac switch is an interesting one. It really does react like a dropped voltage/wattage type control – when you click it on, the volume drops quite a bit, and there’s more sag and compression to the tone. Here’s a little clip with the Variac on to start off with, and then off. Take note of the increase in volume!
And here’s some quick mellow noodling with the 100B mode:
4. I did not think this through.
Yeah… that’s all I’ve really got.
But really, I think those are all the reasons you need.
Reason #1 lets you go home to your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/whoever holds the purse strings and say, “Hey look, honey! I could be spending $4295, but I’m not!! Isn’t it much more reasonable that I spend $429 instead?” (By the way – by some currency conversion voodoo, that’s actually exactly how much it costs in New Zealand dollars, from our friendly local distributor, the Amp Shop. So… if you need one, please support these local good guys)
Reason #2 gives you some bragging rights over your well-to-do blues lawyer friend who owns an actual XTC head. Can your head get you tones from all historical versions of the XTC? Didn’t think so, buddy.
Reason #3? Well… your ears should be the judge of that one. If it’s the distinctive XTC tone that you’re after, with its super hotrodded Marshall flavour and signature Bogner midrange voicing, I suspect that there aren’t a lot of pedals on the market that will do it better.
I think I’ll call this one 4.5 Fuck Yeahs. It would be a solid 5.0 if they could shove the low/medium gain Marshall tones in there too – but that’s what the Ecstasy Blue is for, so look out for that review next!!