Boutique Amps Shootout – Bogner Shiva, Dr. Z Galaxie, 65 Amps London

We’ve been longtime fans of Dr. Z and Bogner and just recently started carrying the incredible 65 Amps. We sat down with some of the best combo amp offerings  from each of these great boutique amp builders and here are the results. The judges: Our Co-Owner and GM John Flynn, electric and acoustic expert Brian Sodenand IT guru Kyle Rabe. Kyle missed out on playing the 65 amps, but gives his thoughts on the other two. The amp contenders: the Bogner Shiva 112 Combo Amp, the Dr. Z Galaxie 210 Combo Amp, and the 65 Amps London 112 Combo Amp.

Bogner Shiva 1×12 combo

The mighty Bogner Shiva 112 Combo!

The mighty Bogner Shiva 112 Combo!

Flynn:   No question, for the guy looking for a great Twin and Marshall JCM800 in a single amp there is nothing out there that can compete with this amp.

Brian:  Flynn said it…the dirty side of the Shiva sounds like the best JCM800 you’ve ever played.  Even at low volumes, it sounds huge with great presence.  The clean side is pure Blackface tone.  Plus, the Shiva combo cabinet is not open back…it’s actually a sealed and ported, similar to the Bogner Cube 1×12 extension cabinet.  The ported cab gives this combo the presence and “oomph” that a 4×12 gives you.

Kyle:  The Bogner Shiva combo kills when it comes to versatility.  The clean channel is sparkly and rich while the distorted channel can go from moderate crunch to intense overdrive.  The master volume is an extremely convenient feature.  All in all, it’s like having two of your favorite amps in one box.  When compared to the Dr. Z Galaxie, the Shiva has a more modern voicing.

Dr. Z Galaxie 2×10 combo

The good Doctor's Galaxie 210 Combo

The good Doctor's Galaxie 210 Combo

Flynn: Great Blackface Bassman tone with a bit more chime and overall Z tone.  The second channel has an insane boost which is great for soloing.  Definitely a very under rated amp. Another plus is that this tone mixes so well with a band.  Great drive without killing the sound man.

Brian: I love this amp!  It has the Blackface Fender thing going on in a big way, but also has a cool 3D quality, which is Z’s extra magic dust he sprinkles on all of his designs.  We all know that some amps work better with humbuckers as others sound their best with single coils, but with the Galaxie, Tele’s, Strats and humbucking guitars all speak their voice VERY well.  Plus, this amp is the most pedal-friendly of the three, in my opinion.

Kyle: The Galaxie is extremely responsive, perhaps due to the open back design, but it begs to be turned up.  Don’t let the wattage fool you – it will cause some ear pain if you’re not careful.  Z has always done clean well, and he takes a more aggressive take on the Galaxie’s overdrive than he does on something like the Route 66.  You don’t get the metal “thunk” that you would on a modern amp; instead, you get rich, creamy distortion with wonderful dynamic response in a very portable package (this amp is probably the lightest of the three).

65 Amps London 1×12 combo

65 Amps London 112 Combo rocks it

65 Amps London 112 Combo rocks it

Flynn: I love this amp.  Really different.  Not as wide open in the top end as say a Prescription ES and definitely more mid range driven like a Vox, but it has its own tone. Really rich without over-compressing.  Turn it up to 8 and it’s got a great drive that is just plain fun to play on.  It is still nice and touch sensitive although more forgiving than some extremely dynamic amps.  I think this amp would work really well in a group situation.  Its tone is such that you can turn the amp up louder, but not slice off the heads of those around you – yet it has still got a boutique type of presence to it.  I would recommend this amp to anyone who does not want another me-too amp, needs to rock Americana style (Sheryl Crow, Tom Petty, or heaven forbid – New-Country stuff) and simply can not play at high volume levels.  It’s really deserving of the reputation it has earned.

Brian: This is a killer two channel amp that is all British tone!  The first channel, or “Trem” channel, has very rich built-in tremolo that reminds me a lot of an old ’62 Fender Tremolux I had years back.  The tremolo is also foot-switchable.  I threw an Xotic AC Booster in front of it and conjured up some VERY nice overdrive, a la Warren Haynes.  The second channel, which has an EF86 in the preamp section, has more gain on tap and is voiced a bit thicker.  This channel also has a 6-way color switch so you can boost/cut the mid-range depending on what guitar you’re using or what type of sound you’re going for.  I had a lot of luck dialing in more midrange bark when using humbuckers.  Yesss.  The hand-wiring inside of this amp is beautiful as well.  Excellent for a Roots-Rock player.

The final word: No clear ‘winner’ here as they’ve all got a lot to offer depending on what style of music you play and what exactly you’re after, but we hope our ‘shootout’ gave you a little  more in-depth info on each of these great boutique amps. We’re continually amazed by the exceptional offerings from Dr. Z, Bogner, 65 Amps, as well as other boutique builders who take real players into account when hand building these incredible amps.

-Brian Soden

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