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Supro amps have a special place in rock and roll history. Jimmy Page plugged his Tele into one, and axe-slingers having been chasing that sound ever since. This past NAMM show they were everywhere, tons of pedal and guitar companies had these little amps in their booths, and for good reason — they’re pretty awesome!
Both the 1606 and 1605R come in with just 5-watts of power, but headroom/volume output isn’t dictated by watts. Both could easily keep up with a drummer in a typical rock setting. Both also sport an 8” speaker, and while some players may scoff at such a smaller-than-usual speaker being able to have plenty of low end, it’s been specially designed for Supro to do just that. Since both amps are tube driven, the tubes do a bit of work to help enhance the overall sound, and bring a bit more warmth and low end when things get saturated. Bottom line is, there’s plenty of usable low end for pretty much any kind of music short of hyperdarkhottopiccore.
The 1606 is pretty simple with a hi and low input, and a volume knob; that’s it. Its simplicity is quite amazing — turn it up and it gets even warmer, while adding overall body and tone. That nice rhythm warmth is there at the lower settings, and cranking it up, it really gets nice, tight and crunchy. It’s really not a volume knob, per se, but a MORE knob. It’s amazing that so much comes from just a singular 12AX7 preamp tube and a 6V6 power amp tube. Stratocasters cut, but still can hold fullness, and humbuckers get real raunchy and chunky at higher settings. Rolling back on the instrument’s volume and things clean up a bit, while maintaining that same warmth and depth. Nice.
More traditionally, the 1605R has the usual gain, treble, bass, reverb, and master volume controls. This is really quite versatile, sound-wise with a pair of those 12AX7’s a pair 6V6’s as well. The gain is nice and textured well enough to work great on single coils as well as humbucker-equipped guitars. There’s plenty for rich overdriven chords to still have articulation, and leads poke through the mix quite well even at low volumes. Crunchy rhythms are nice and big, and leads sing out with clarity. There’s also a speaker out, so connecting this little wonder to a larger cab yields even more options.
Both amps have a similar character that’s kind of a blend of Fenderish sparkle, especially with the 1605’s reverb, and Marshall-ish sweetness. It’s that classic sound that’s perfect for pretty much anything from clean to mean. Players of classic tube driven combos who are constantly blending amps might want to consider one of these to simplify their lives.
They also make an interesting set to pair together, the 1605R has wet and dry outputs — connect one of them to the one-knob 1606’s input, and the pair becomes a mixture with one amp being dry (no reverb) and the other being wet (with reverb). It’s an interesting mix of tones. This is great especially in the studio, being able to blend in a reverb signal that’s actually part and parcel of the actual tone source. It is an acquired taste, though, certainly on the vintage side of things.
The 1606’s simplicity is fantastic, and the 1605R is just enough extra, control and signal routing-wise. They both respond well to modern effects pedals, as well as a variety of dirt boxes/boosts. So, for players looking for a tube combo that would be a perfect match to their pedalboard, it’s well worth considering one of these. Both amps are really nice and responsive, and it’s just plain hard to find a bad tone. The 8” speakers also had us shaking our heads in disbelief of the low end that’s actually musically usable.
The 1606 clocks in at $699 and the 1605R at $999. Tone doesn’t come cheap, and it might be tough justifying that much for such a little amp. But the big tone and simplicity is well worth it. The only other downside is on the 1605R’s retro style knobs are kind of hard to read, where the controls are set with just a small white dot on the lower portion. Not a deal-breaker, but worth a mention.
Great tone, simple controls, interesting routing of reverb (on the 1605R).
1605R knobs slightly hard to read in some positions.
$699(1606) and $999(1605R), respectively.