Supro Amps Return

2.3.2016 by Team Bbop

Following the recent trend of “reissues” of old lower-end models by modern companies using modern techniques and components, the new line of Supro combo amplifiers has finally hit the European market.

Like many of our favorite vintage gems, Supro amps were originally made in the 1960s by Valco, along with various other low-budget guitars and amps under the names Airline, Supro, National, and others. Most famously, Jimmy Page used a Supro amp on some early Led Zeppelin recordings – though no one seems to be sure exactly which one, only making the amp’s status more legendary.

Valco went out of business in 1968. The name has now been acquired by the people behind Pigtronix effects (for amplifiers only, Eastwood is currently producing Supro guitars), and a new production line launched.

The first impression is great: the amps certainly have a very cool vintage look, with “rhino blue” covering and sleek controls.

Though similar in basic design, the various models offer different setups:

Thunderbolt: The most faithful reissue in the lineup, a combo with 1 15" speaker and 35 watts, 6L6 output. Minimal controls: Hi and Low inputs, Volume and tone controls.

Dual Tone: 1x12” combo, 24 watts, 2 channels, tremolo circuit.

Saturn: 1x10” combo. 15 watts, tube reverb, output tube tremolo.

Coronado: 2x10” combo, 35 watts 6L6 output, 2 channels, tremolo.

Royal Reverb: The flagship of the line. 2x10” combo, Switchable power scheme (35 Watt Class A, 45 / 60 watts Class AB), reverb and tremolo.

Tremo-verb: 1x10” combo, 25 watts, reverb and tremolo.

All of the models have custom-made Eminence speakers, and all do the range from clean blackface Fender to dirty breakup pretty well.

The amps have that vintage all-tube sound, especially at clean volumes. The design seems to favour making the amp break up and provide natural amp overdrive at accessible volumes, which will certainly satisfy you classic rockers out there. At higher volumes all of the models get very crunchy and dirty (if you are looking for Fender Twin-type clean sounds, you might want to look elsewhere).

Therefore, the choice of model comes down to how you will use it and how much clean headroom you need. The two channel circuits provide parallel capability: plug into both 1 and 2 and you double the gain, or use an A/B box to switch between channels on different settings. This very smart feature may have been copied by Fender on their new ‘68 Custom Series.

The Saturn, for example, is a very nice apartment amp, or one to be used in a small club for a Jack White-esque dirty garage sound, while the Thunderbolt could be the choice of a player who uses pedals to sculpt his sound and needs more clean headroom.

The Supro representative at Musikmesse also showed us some prototype guitars (Supro Dual Tone reissues), which he said would be coming soon. No word on how these will compare with the same models already offered by Eastwood.

To our ears the reverb on these amps is especially beautiful (listen to that video), which makes it a shame that it is not included on any of the 2-channel amps. Let’s hope for that in a future release. The video also shows off the signature overdrive crunch for which these amps were designed.

The tremolo also produces great mysterious wavy sounds, but not going so far as to be unusable in regular musical settings. Those features plus the rectifier switch (which also changes the shape and depth of the tremolo) make the Royal Reverb our favorite of the group.

Besides the look and logo, these amps don’t have much to do with the original Supro amps. Rather, they are intended to use modern techniques to sound like the vintage ones. And in that they are pretty successful.

As opposed to their budget predecessors, these combos are not really cheap- in fact, you could probably find a real vintage Supro for the same price or less.  But they are certainly worth a look and listen if you want sweet vintage rock tones from a new combo.

Have you tried one of the new Supro amps? Let us know your impression in the comments.

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