Supro 1650RT Royal Reverb
In the early 1930s, a merger between Dobro and National led to the formation of Supro and Valco, with the latter building amplifiers that carried the Supro name. Supro amps became popular with blues players on the south-side Chicago scene, and by the mid ’60s Jimi Hendrix was playing through a Supro Thunderbolt during his stints with Little Richard and the Isley Brothers. A few years on, Jimmy Page was getting some of his classic Led Zeppelin tones in the studio with a customized Supro 1x12 combo.
This review focuses on the flagship of the modern Supro line, the 1650RT, which is an updated version of the Royal Reverb combo from the mid 1960s. Re-imagined by amp designers Bruce Zinky and Thomas Elliot, the 1650RT is a retro-styled beauty with “Blue Rhino” Tolex covering and a woven silver grill that protects a pair of Eminence-made CR10 speakers. The control panel features a set of Volume, Treble, Bass, Verb, Speed, and Depth controls, along with a Rectifier selector with three settings: 35W (class A, tube rectifier, 35 watts), 45W (class AB, tube rectifier, 45 watts), and 60W (class AB, silicon rectifier, 60 watts). The amp carries reverb with tube drive and recovery, along with a tremolo circuit that modulates the output tubes (both footswitchable). Note the symbiotic relationship between the Rectifier switch and tremolo circuit: in 35-watt mode the effect is softer and its waveshape more asymmetrical, as per the original amp’s tremolo. In the higher-power modes you get a deeper sounding tremolo with a more symmetrical waveshape, and a greater degree of amplitude modulation.
Taking a look inside the chassis we find a modern-style PCB layout with board-mounted pots and tube sockets. Not much to zone on here, but this type of circuit construction definitely helps keep the cost down Though a compact affair at 23 5/8" wide, 16" tall, and 10 ½" deep, the 1650RT weighs in at a chunky 65 lbs.
Testing with a Gibson Historic ’59 Les Paul, a new PRS McCarty, and John Page Ashburn S-style, the 1650RT delivered great tones across the board. Even in low-power mode it’s still a pretty clean sounding rig with good headroom and an easy transition into sweet distortion as the Volume is rolled up past noon. On the 35-watt setting the 5U4 rectifier makes the playing feel more pliable, and that holds true for the 45-watt mode as well, albeit the volume is more intense when the amp is turned up enough to get the power tubes cooking. The 60-watt setting extends the clean headroom, and the feel also gets a little tighter owing to the silicon rectification. This can be cool for pedalboard users who don’t want a lot of coloration from the amp, but I like the slightly looser 35-watt mode, and also had good results using an Xotic SL Drive for high-gain tones. With or without effects, though, the 1650RT’s clean-to-overdriven envelope provides options aplenty for rhythm and lead playing, and a sweep of the guitar’s volume knob is all it takes to go from mean to pristine. The Bass and Treble provide for basic EQ tweaking, but this is kind of amp that gets its tone on easily and doesn’t need anything further to sound good.
Low settings of the Verb knob add nice dimension to the sound, and the reverb can get very wet without losing its enveloping character. And since the reverb drives into the tremolo circuit, the pulses take on a dimensionality that you don’t usually hear from in-amp tremolos. The effect also sounds noticeably denser and presencier in the 45-watt and 60-watt settings, which is reason enough to stick with those modes if you’re a trem freak.
Finally, kudos to the 1650RT’s speakers, the latest in a 25 year collaboration between Zinky and Eminence. These U.S.-made drivers feature ceramic magnets, custom voice-coils, and stiff-but-lightweight paper cones. The aim was a speaker that delivers vintage Jensen-type tone, but with much greater power handling and efficiency. I think they nailed it too, as the CR10s sound warm and full, but with firm bottom and a clear top-end that doesn’t get raspy or unfocused at higher volume. The two 10s work wonders here, helping to give the 1650RT a sound all its own, and one that’s very complementary to humbuckers and single-coils.
The 1650RT Royal Reverb is an interesting and inspiring amp that stakes out its own turf in the mid-power combo market. If you think you’ve heard it all, give this new Supro (or any of its siblings) a try. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you’ve been missing. —Art Thompson
MODEL 1650RT Royal Reverb
PRICE $1,499 street
CONTROLS Volume, Treble, Bass, Verb, Speed, Depth. Rectifier selector
POWER 60/45/35 watts
TUBES Four 12AX7s, one 12AT7, two 6L6 output tubes, 5U4 tube rectifier, silicon rectifier
EXTRAS Class A and two modes of Class AB operation. Output-tube tremolo. Tube driven reverb with long 6-spring pan.
SPEAKER Two 10" Supro CR10 (made by Eminence)
WEIGHT 65 lbs
BUILT Assembled in the USA
KUDOS A well-conceived, updated version of a retro classic. 3-way Rectifier selector. Excellent reverb and tremolo.
CONCERNS Heavy for its size.
See a demo of the Royal Reverb