PLAYERS WHO USE A FENDER DELUXE Reverb often rely on stompboxes for higher gain tones, but an alternative to that setup is the recently introduced Super Sonic 22. Armed with footswitchable Vintage and Burn channels, spring reverb, and a pair of 6V6 power tubes driving a 12" Eminence-made speaker, the Super Sonic 22 is essentially a Deluxe Reverb with a high-gain channel and an effects loop, but no tremolo. The amp is available in black covering with a silver grille or in early-’60s style cream Tolex with an oxblood front. Both versions have ivory-colored “radio” knobs, which look sweet with either type of covering. Inside the steel chassis we find a neat layout with separate PC boards for the main circuitry, power supply, front-panel controls, and the effects loop and footswitch jacks. Tube sockets and the main and extension speaker jacks are chassis mounted for ruggedness and ease of servicing. Hand-soldered flying leads are used for the tube and power-supply connections, while ribbon cables interlink the boards.
The Super Sonic’s Vintage channel features Volume, Treble, and Bass controls, along with a Normal/Fat switch. A frontpanel switch toggles the Burn channel on, which has Gain 1, Gain 2, Treble, Bass, Middle, Volume, and Master Reverb controls (the reverb operates on both channels). Tested with a Gibson Original Spec ’59 Les Paul, a PRS SC245, and a G&L ASAT Classic (equipped with Fender Custom Shop pickups), the Super Sonic delivered crisp, dimensional tones from its Vintage channel that were similar to what a Blackface Deluxe offers at low settings. With the Volume control turned up to 4 or higher, the Super Sonic’s demeanor became more distorted, as you’d expect, but also more ragged sounding in the bass frequencies—particularly with the Fat switch engaged. This could be mitigated somewhat by putting the Bass knob on zero, but even our humbucker-equipped guitars sounded raspier than expected when the volume was cranked to gig levels.
Switching to the Burn channel puts the Super Sonic in high-gain mode where you can use the Gain 1 and Gain 2 controls to pile on the distortion. With Gain 1 turned up all the way and Gain 2 at zero, the distortion is about as intense as it gets—Gain two enhances the low-end when turned up, but doesn’t seem to increase the saturation all that much. The Super Sonic sounds wicked and sustains impressively with the Gains turned toward maximum, but, for the same reasons as noted above, keeping the Volume control on a low setting yielded the best results, as the tones sounded looser and less focused when the output stage was pushed into clipping. On either channel the reverb sounded excellent, offering the airiness and smooth decay that you expect from blackface-style ’verb, and plenty of splashiness when you turn it up.
The Super Sonic has a lot going for it in terms of the extra features it has compared to a Deluxe Reverb. The effects loop is a plus, as is the included footswitch, which not only selects channels, but also the Fat switch, reverb, and the loop. The Vintage channel’s clean sounds are perfect for jazz or country, and the Burn channel dishes out way more sustain than you could get from a Deluxe without using a distortion or fuzz pedal. However, since its tones are at their best when kept south of full volume, the Super Sonic would seem to be a more suitable choice for studio work or smaller gigs where even the volume produced by a cranked-up Deluxe Reverb might be excessive. Fender’s Shane Nicholas adds, “The new Eminence speaker, literally a special design for us, was specifically chosen for its moderate-volume characteristics. We designed the Super Sonic 22 based on feedback from a good number of consumers who thought the original Super-Sonic (60 watts, Celestion Vintage 30) was way too loud. For players who do need that amount of power, the Super Sonic 60 could be just the ticket.”
CONTACT Fender Musical Instruments, (480) 596-9690; www.fender.com
PRICE $1,399 retail/$999 street
CONTROLS Vintage Channel: Volume, Treble, Bass; Normal/Fat switch. Burn channel: Gain 1, Gain 2, Treble, Bass. Middle, Volume, Master Reverb.
TUBES Two 6V6 power tubes, three 12AX7s, one 12AT7
POWER 22 watts
EXTRAS Effect loop, four-button footswitch
SPEAKER 12" 50-watt Fender Lightning Bolt (made by Eminence)
WEIGHT 40 lbs
KUDOS Useful range of clean and overdriven tones. Effects loop. Excellent reverb.
CONCERNS Deliver its best sounds when not pushed beyond medium volume.