Fender Super-Sonic

Fender’s new Super-Sonic—the latest addition to its Pro Tube series—reflects what appears to be an industry-wide trend of applying some digital-modeling concepts to traditional tube-powered designs. The Super-Sonic is an all-tube amp that features a dual-voiced Vintage channel based on the 1965 Vibrolux (renowned for its glistening rhythm sound) and 1966 Bassman (prized by guitarists who desire a booming clean tone that breaks up beautifully when pushed at higher volumes), along with a high-gain Burn channel that is based on the Pro Sonic (an amp Fender discontinued in 2002). Combined in the Super-Sonic, these distinct circuits provide a modeling amp’s ability to easily deliver different tones, while offering tube-powered dynamic response and touch sensitivity.
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Super Sonics

Packing such a selection of sounds into a simply designed combo amp is an unquestionably cool concept, and the Super-Sonic lives up to its name. The amp responds well to a player’s touch and instrument of choice, and the heavenly reverb (which is not available in the head version) could induce a sudden desire to score music for a Quentin Tarantino film. The Super-Sonic’s two foot-switchable Vintage channels definitely capture the spirits—if not the exact characteristics—of the Vibrolux’s shimmer and the Bassman’s ballsy blast. The former voicing is one of the most pristine clean sounds imaginable, and tested with a Fender Eric Johnson Signature Strat, the Vibrolux setting produced crisp tones capable of cutting through even the muddiest mix. The Bassman voicing is much more rich and resonant, and it begins to break up in the most lovely way with the Volume knob set anywhere above 2. Cranked up higher and/or pummeled with a humbucker guitar—such as the Paul Reed Smith McCarty or a Parker Fly Mojo used in this trial—the Bassman mode unleashes a tough crunch sound.

Gain to Burn

The Super-Sonic’s Burn channel is one of the hottest in Fender history, yet it maintains a distinctly Fender vibe that sizzles and sears. The two Gain controls can be used independently or combined to create a broad range of overdrive textures. Gain 1 is the place to go for punchy and percussive distortion sounds, and Gain 2 elicits smoother, bluesier tones. With both Gain knobs floored, the Super-Sonic really screams, and can be coaxed easily into controllable feedback. The Burn channel is naturally a little on the trebly side, and with the bass and mids dropped, it delivers a lo-fi transistor-style sound. The reverse settings yield a manic rock tone. Scoop out the mids, and the tones move towards metal. Set all the tone knobs at 5, and you get muscular classic-rock textures.

Reality Check

At 60 watts, the Super-Sonic is a middleweight contender that’s right at home in an average-sized club. I took it to John Lee Hooker’s 150-person capacity Boom Boom Room in San Francisco for a gig with my trio, and because the soundman was M.I.A., we were left to play a packed house with no P.A. The Super-Sonic’s metal tilt-back legs proved handy for projecting the sound, and with the Volume and Treble knobs at 3, and the Bass and Mids cranked, it sounded great in this room. When pushed, the Super-Sonic delivered lovely power-tube distortion—which I found especially cool for getting those shimmering overtones from certain feedback-ready notes. You can jumper the Send and Return jacks together with a cable to create a handy adjustable volume boost for lead playing, but on this gig, I reserved the effects loop for my Boomerang Phrase Sampler.

Parting Shots

The Super-Sonic could be a watershed moment for Fender. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a whole series of amps of various wattages spring from this platform. The concept of having two great vintage sounds, plus a separate high-gain channel could be applied many ways—such as a Twin/Super Reverb/Burn configuration, and so on. But for now, the Super-Sonic comes off as an ideal club and studio amp. Its tones are truly satisfying, and players who value having multiple amp sounds available at the press of a button will love the elegant way in which Fender has packed the guts of some of its most venerable designs into this simple combo.