There’s something about the sound of a valve amplifier that makes it seem more alive than its solid state cousins. Of course, there is the down side that valves ‘blow’. But there are usually warning signs such as a loss of dynamics, a decrease in volume and a general flatness to the sound – clear indications that a valve needs replacing.
Supro amps come with an enviable heritage. First appearing in the 1930s, they were manufactured in Chicago where, with their gritty tones, they became the amplifier of choice for the 1950s and early 1960s Chicago blues musicians. The company’s demise came in 1968 as the blues boom faded and the less edgy sounds of Fender proved more popular. A recent relaunch has seen the brand garner a name for both its quality of manufacture and performance, which quite understandably comes with a hefty price tag. So, when we were offered the opportunity to look over a Supro amp that sells for under £600, needless to say, we were intrigued.
A 1 x 12 valve combo, the Blues King takes its styling from the original 1950s Supro Comet amp and is fitted with a Supro custom 12” speaker and an analogue spring reverb. It comes with a power rating of 15w and carries a 1 x 12 AX7 pre-amp valve and a 1 x 6 L6 power amp valve. The top mounted control panel features a separate standby and power switch along with master, reverb, bass, mids, treble and volume knobs, plus a boost and gain switch. Below the input jack on the rear panel is a boost/gain input footswitch (sold separately), a line out and an FX send and return. Like the foot switch, a dustcover is optional.
We plugged in the house axe with its twin humbuckers and immediately got a full, rich and fat sound that you might expect from a 12” speaker fed with tubes. Not unsurprisingly, perhaps, the sonic picture is reminiscent of the early field-coil drivers found in mid-1950s American tube amps. Engaging the neck pickup gave us a smooth and clean tone without any hint of that gritty, dirty overdriven sound so associated with Supro. Turning to the bridge pickup we understandably got a harder tone, and while turning up the amp’s volume we realised that the sound was beginning to break into overdrive. We took it to three o’clock and the Blues King just growled! There’s sustain aplenty, and with the custom analogue spring reverb set to midnight, we were in seventh heaven.
This is an amp that really recreates the authentic electrified retro sounds of the 1950s and 1960s. So, for those who seek nostalgia, this might be your holy grail.