Review: Supro 1697R Galaxy

The 1697R Galaxy is a rock and roll beast distinguished by original character and attitude.
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Having reignited this classic brand largely on reissues and reimagined classic-style amps, Supro has pushed further and further into original designs over the course of its revival, and the Galaxy 1697R head takes the name further into new territory than anything the company has thrown down the pike. Yep, it’s a channel switcher, from a name redolent of cranked-up, vintage-voiced, non-master-volume-style tone, yet it’s still Supro through and through.

The Galaxy head can be paired with Supro’s 1797 1x12 extension cab

The Galaxy head can be paired with Supro’s 1797 1x12 extension cab

The Galaxy 1697R is a 50-watt all-tube head powered by a pair of 6L6GCs in the back end, with half a dozen preamp tubes up front for gain generation, reverb, the tube-buffered effects loop and the phase inverter. Rectification is provided by solid-state diodes. If this isn’t the first two-channel/channel-switching Supro to come along (the 50-watt Statesman earned that honor last year), it’s certainly the first with rigorously delineated clean and high-gain overdrive channels, which makes it a historic offering for the brand. Channel one (clean) is derived from Supro’s Keeley pedal-platform amp and has just volume and tone controls, while channel two (lead) has controls for gain, master, treble, bass and middle. The pair share reverb depth and dwell controls, which can be independently assigned per channel. The effects loop can be bypassed by the panel switch or a foot switch. Supro includes a single-button foot switch for channel switching, but given the amp’s foot-switch jacks for reverb and FX-loop bypass, a three-button unit would be handy.

Rather than a cranked vintage-style preamp reined in by a master volume, the Galaxy’s lead channel is a cascading-gain affair, like the classic Boogie platform, done Supro style. Internal construction follows the quality printed circuit board (PCB) topology that Supro uses throughout its range, with a pair of hefty transformers outside the chassis to ramp it all up for this mighty 50-watter. Looks-wise, it’s a tasty blend of classic retro Supro and timeless rock-certified styling, melding the traditional silver control panel to a head covered in black leatherette, with a contrasting black stripe across the top.

I tested the Galaxy 1697R using a Gibson 1958 Les Paul Reissue with Monty’s PAF pickups and a road-weary refinished ’57 Fender Telecaster. Cabinets included Supro’s own Galaxy 1797 1x12 extension cab ($499 street) loaded with an Eminence CV-75 speaker (an underappreciated rock warrior patterned on the earlier English-made Celestion Vintage 30s), and a Port City 2x12 loaded with Celestion Creamback Neo speakers. The clean channel was bold, clear, articulate and anywhere from warm to chiming, depending on your tone setting. It was livelier and more sparkling with boost engaged, but it didn’t break up much until everything was loud as hell. I know the intention is to be clean de la clean here, but personally I’d love to have a master volume on this channel (or a post-phase-inverter master governing the entire amp) to grind out a little edge-of-breakup cleans from this voicing. As is, it’s great for über-clean requirements and makes a great pedal platform with a selection of OD boxes injected. It spread the love equally across an Angry Charlie, a Tube Screamer and a Wampler Tumnus Deluxe.

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As for the lead channel, this thing is cool, and so very Supro. Co-designers David Koltai and Bruce Zinky have created a cascading gain, preamp-generated tone that sounds very much like an old-school Supro cranked up to where the rivets are rattling to generate that characteristically Valco-derived lead tone. It’s blocky, gnarly, slightly asymmetrical and a little nasty, but with a tasty smoothness running through it all, and entirely its own thing. This is a garage-rock, all-American breed of overdrive that’s a far cry from either the Marshall or Boogie templates, and a bundle of fun to boot. It might be a tad “brick wall” in that the Les Paul and the Telecaster both slurred into much the same throaty, semi-fuzz-like blur when played one after the other with the lead channel’s gain up past noon. But that’s okay, as such is the nature of the beloved Supro kerrranggg!, and it has long proved its ability to cut through the mix.

The reverb is lush and rich, the FX loop works well (and is bypassable), and the boost switch adds a tasty degree of harmonic saturation to the lead channel without dramatically increasing the decibels, making it a handy and usable lead-mode revoicing option. Put it all together and the Galaxy 1697R is a rock and roll beast distinguished by original character and attitude. At this easily accessible price, the all-tube head earns an Editors’ Pick Award.

SPECIFICATIONS

1697R Galaxy
CONTACT
suprousa.com
PRICE $1,299 street

CHANNELS 2
CONTROLS Channel 1: volume, tone, boost switch; Channel 2: gain, master, treble, bass, mid; shared reverb (channel assignable)
POWER 50 watts
TUBES Four ECC83S, one ECC81, one ECC832 (12AX7, 12AT7 and 12DW7, respectively); two 6L6GC output tubes
EXTRAS Bypass-able tube-buffered effects loop, tube reverb, dual 4Ω and 8Ω and single 16Ω speaker outputs
WEIGHT 33 lbs
BUILT Assembled in U.S.A.

KUDOS A powerful channel-switcher with Supro’s first high-gain lead channel, which admirably retains lots of Valco-derived sonic character
CONCERNS A three-button footswitch would be handy, and we’d like to see some master control over the clean channel’s gain

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