In recent years, many touring sidemen have turned to low-wattage amps. These small heads and combos allow guitarists to push an amp’s power stage without irritating singers and soundmen, while in-ear monitors mean they can hear themselves without having to move so much air.
The Supro Comet neatly fits this niche with its single 6L6 power tube wired in a class-A configuration, and a switchable plate voltage that allows for 14- or 6-watt operation. At the 2017 NAMM Show, thanks to Supro’s enclosed listening booth, I was able to hear the amp’s ability to deliver everything from crystal cleans to screaming distortion at the turn of a guitar knob, and at volumes friendly to even my ravaged ears. But until you play through an amp with your own guitars, in your own space, you never know.
Unboxing the amp back home in Nashville, the Comet’s 1959 Supro cosmetics—Black Rhino Hide Tolex, black piping, white welting, and gold faceplate—screamed “vintage.” I tested it with a 1965 Fender Stratocaster, a Fernandes Telecaster, a humbucker-equipped Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster, and a Harmony Rebel with gold-foil pickups.
Supro states that the lack of a beam blocker in front of the Comet’s custom-made CR10 speaker “facilitates maximum throw and crystal-clear treble response”—and I can attest to that—but my first revelation was how much bottom end the single 10 delivered. Next, I was amazed at the amount of clean headroom available, even in 6-watt mode. The literature says that the amp begins to break up at the 12 ’o clock volume setting. This will, of course, vary with the voltage coming out of the wall as well as the output of the pickups. With DiMarzio Virtual Vintage Strat-style single-coils, the Comet maintained a clean sound well past noon, producing a warm, giving tone without a hint of harshness or sterility. When the amp did break up, it produced a ballsy, American-style sound, excellent for roots and blues. The Supro’s overdriven sound is specific and distinct, but set cleaner and used with pedals, I was able to eke out a wide variety of classic tones from both sides of the Atlantic.
Running at 14 watts, the change was not so much in volume as in feel, with the response getting tighter, as opposed to the softer response of the 6-watt setting. Suffice to say that for spanky funk rhythms you’ll want to use the higher setting. Plugging an 8Ω custom built 1×12 extension cabinet loaded with an Eminence Texas Heat speaker into the 8Ω output yielded a bit more midrange, but no honkiness. Plugging both the original and extension speakers into the Supro’s two 4Ω outputs widened both frequency response and the sonic spread, making the amp ready to handle all but the loudest gigs.
With so much great-sounding gear around these days, I am rarely as excited by a new piece of kit as I was in my younger days. But with its dynamic responsiveness and ability to deliver the rich harmonics of an amp two or three times its price, the Supro Comet revives my youthful excitement and earns an Editors’ Pick Award in the process.
PRICE $1,349 street
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, Reverb, Tremolo Depth and Speed
TUBES Three JJ 12AX7s, one JJ 12AT7, one Sovtek 5881/6L6WGC power tube
POWER Switchable to 14 or 6 watts.
SPEAKER 10" Custom-voiced Supro CR10
WEIGHT 33.6 lbs
BUILT Assembled in USA
KUDOS Classic American tone and dynamic response. Remarkable headroom.