The Bogner Shiva: Still Going Strong

The super flexible tone moster for all genres.

The 50s-70s was the era of single channel, non-master volume combos and stacks. Then, beginning in the late 70s/early 80s through the new millennium, the demand was for channel switching master volume amps with lots of preamp gain. Of course, today the classics from the 60s are being revisited by 'boutique' builders and the non-master combo amp is all the rage. Is the Bogner Shiva still a contender? I actually get asked this on a weekly basis. My short answer is this: not only does the Shiva reside in the channel switching, master volume hall of fame it is also still in the lineup and swinging for the fences. Regardless of genre or application, the Shiva will get the job done.

Even though the Shiva is a large, powerful amp (the single 12 combo weighs in at nearly 80s pounds and is rated at approximately 80 watts) it is still flexible. For sure, you can crush sheetrock with this thing if you want to but it also has a classic rock vibe going on. The clean channel is among the best you'll hear. Amazing, ethereal, shimmering, 3-D, etc. The tube-driven reverb is also way beyond most you'll find on combo amps. What surprises most people is how great the crunch channel sounds at low volumes.  In the past I used to practice with this amp while watching TV with a nice singing lead tone and still hearing the show. How is this possible?

For those of us who grew up playing Fender, Marshall, Boogie amps (they're like the Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler of the amp world) we expected to use pedals or massive volume in order to get distortion that was not fizzy or granular. When the modification and boutique thing came along the sound pressure levels came down and the tones improved. Why? Higher grade components (sometimes audiophile quality) were incorporated into designs. Some of the best amps in the world have transformers that cost more than all the parts in a Fender Deluxe combined.

The Shiva is a PCB amp but when you pop it open and look inside you'll see this thing is nothing but high end, burly, beefy quality. They're consistent amps; you don't have to hunt for the good ones, they're all pretty much amazing tone machines.

Can the Shiva do hard rock and nail that Van Halen 'brown sound'? Yep, no problem and nope all at the same time. Here's the deal: the Shiva is kinda weird in the sense that you can get all kinds of cool sounds out of it with really extreme tone and volume settings that might not seem intuitive to the guys that set everything to high noon. So, for example, for a killer hard rock crunch that will move your furniture around the room (but also sounds killer at really low volumes for practice) go to the lead channel and set the knobs like this:

(1) start with the Master Volume almost all the way off for the moment; (2) crank Gain 2 all the way up; (3) crank Bass all the way up; (4) turn Middle all the way down for brighter single-coil guitars and up just a bit for darker sounding guitars; (5) turn the Treble all the way down; turn volume 2 to about high noon or maybe 2 o'clock.

Now creep up on the Master until you get the overall room volume you want then dial in as much mids as you like from the mids knob (keep the treble knob off). Make up any gain needed by adding it at the Volume 2 knob.

There you go: killer crunch to suit most tastes. Even the 1x12 ported and sealed cabinet damn near sounds like a 4X12. Just massive and percussive.

But how about the 'brown sound'? The brown sound came from a NMV Plexi, cranked, and utilizing a voltage drop.   You're not going to get that with this amp. The Shiva is a modded modern Marshall beast.

Here's a couple of ways to think of using the Shiva's second channel: (a) set it up using the above settings (low mids) for an amazing crunch rhythm channel and use an 808-style overdrive/distortion pedal for your thick, mid-heavy leads, or, (b) starting with the above settings but cranking up the mids knob (and maybe a little bit of treble) you'll have a nice thick, cutting, and elastic lead mode -- compliment that lead channel voicing by cranking the clean channel so that, wide open, you get a good crunch with your guitar's volume pot wide open and, turning it down a bit, the amp cleans up. Either way, you have three basic tones to work with: clean, crunch, and lead.

Players who normally just set knobs at noon have failed to realize the hidden awesomeness of the Shiva -- hence some of the mods that are performed by some owners. I would argue that mods are wholly unneeded for any Shiva.

On top of it all, the Shiva takes pedals very well and loves single coils as much as humbuckers. If a person wanted a killer platform for all venue sizes and all recording situations the Shiva is a really good candidate. It's like the ultimate Mothership for all your electric guitar operations including country guitar; put an EP Booster (set at about 50%) and a Strymon El Capistan between your Tele and the clean channel (any volume) and prepare for the best chicken pickin' sounds you've ever heard (kind of like a cross between a blackface Twin cranked to hell and a Vox AC30).

My own amp does double duty as I sometimes use it to power a Mesa Boogie Studio Preamp (the super secret weapon known to only a select few). Just run the Pre (our your preamp of choice) into the effects return (bypassing the entire Shiva preamp section) and you can still use the Shiva's Master volume and Presence control. Very cool. I can switch back and forth from the native Shiva tones to the Boogie's Blackface/MkIIC+ tones in about 10 or 15 seconds.