Premier Guitar

Fender Super-Sonic 22 Combo Amp Review

June 24, 2010

Download Example 1
Les Paul Custom, neck p/u, Burn Channel Gain1 on 9, Gain 2 on 2, Verb on 5
Download Example 2
Les Paul Custom, bridge p/u, Burn Channel Gain 1 on 10, Gain 2 on 6, Verb on 3
Download Example 3
Les Paul Custom, middle p/u, Fat channel, no verb.
Download Example 4
Les Paul Custom, middle p/u, Vintage channel, Treble and Bass on 5
Download Example 5
Telecaster bridge p/u, verb on 7
Download Example 6
Telecaster, neck p/u, Fat Channel, verb on 7.
Download Example 7
Telecaster, neck p/u Burn Channel, Gain 1 on 4, Gain 2 off.
All clips recorded with a Sennheiser 421 through an ADL 600/Presonus preamp
There are few amp companies I'd trust enough to take a brand new model out to a jam, especially one I hadn't even turned on. But that was just the case when I got a blonde Fender Super-Sonic 22 sent for review. I was going to join some friends who were playing at a large hall on a lake, and I wanted to wail through something that could do clean and distorted sound equally well. Oh, and it had to be fairly light, since I was loading in my own rig.

Well, lo and behold, the day before the jam, this amp arrives. "Score," I thought, as I removed it from the box. It wasn't that heavy, but at 40 lbs, it had some beef to it. But since I had my hands full with a session that day, I didn't have time to plug in the amp and check it out. "It's a Fender," I thought, and decided I'd simply test drive it at the jam the next night. I just knew it would turn on and immediately be ready to rock. Also, I could see what the boys thought of it, as they're all good players with diverse styles.

But First, Some History
To be honest, I wasn't familiar with the Super-Sonic line of Fender amps. Sure, I've played most of the classics, but this one I didn't know much about. The first models apparently based their distortion channel on the discontinued Prosonic series, which came out in 1996. The all-tube, channel-switching, class A Prosonic had a simple clean channel followed by a high-gain channel that featured cascading gain stages. Of course, Fenders are not typically known to have high-gain channels, so this was a departure from the norm and you know how many guitar players react to that. So the amp fell into obscurity—some say due to its identity issues, some say to its comparatively high price.

Fast forward to 2006, when Fender introduced the new 60-watt Super-Sonic model. You could get it as a head or 1x12" combo. The amp offered a clean channel and—like the Prosonic—a cascading-gain drive channel. You could also pick up a Super-Sonic 2x12 or 4x12 speaker cabinet with Celestion Vintage 30s.

Grab the guitar remote and zoom to today, and you've got the brand-spanking new Fender Super-Sonic 22. This 22-watt combo amp—which comes with either a black-and-silver covering or Fender's 1961 blonde textured vinyl with oxblood grill cloth—has ivory "radio" knobs and the old '60s Fender logo. The two-channel amp features an 8-ohm 50-watt Fender Lightning Bolt 12" speaker made by Eminence, spring reverb, and a 4-button footswitch with Vintage/Burn, Normal/Fat, Reverb, and Effects buttons. The amp sports two 6V6, three 12AX7, and two 12AT7 Groove Tubes bottles.

The Vintage Channel
Channel 1—the Vintage channel—is voiced on the classic tones of a '65 Deluxe Reverb. You've got Volume, Bass, and Treble knobs. It doesn't get much easier than that. The Vintage channel also has a Normal/Fat button you can select from the front panel or using the footswitch. This pre-gain tone control adds a bassy mid/low punch to the clean sound, and also gives it a slight volume boost.

So yes, the amp turned right on at the jam, and plugging in my old Tele (which I've had since '91, so I really know how it sounds), I could tell this first channel had "it" within just a few chords. Even all the guys standing around looking at the amp made comments to the effect, "That's a great sound." Not like there was much to do, either: Turn the amp's Reverb knob up to 3, put the Treble and Bass controls at 12 o'clock, and set the Volume to about 4. The tubes glowed, and I got a warm, clean, classic Fender sound. And it was plenty loud, too.

Stepping on the Normal/Fat footswitch button, I felt that nice, low voicing kick in. I tried all three Tele pickup positions to check out the amp. Funny, I don't use the middle setting much, but it really worked well with this amp—I had the full bass response with enough treble on the notes for clarity. Impressive. Then I kicked the reverb up to 7 and hit the neck position for some very cool pedal-steel licks. Again, another winner. The 'verb sounded very cool at this setting, adding a clean sustain to some slow licks.



The Burn Channel
Called the Burn channel, Channel 2 features two Gain knobs (1 and 2), where Gain 1 delivers the crunch/edge distortion, and Gain 2 adds a thickness that to my ears sounds almost like compression. Again with my Tele, I cranked Gain 1 up to 6 and was able to get classic rock and blues tones. What really impressed me was how this channel responded to playing dynamics. I could control the breakup with my attack. I could get ZZ-style grit, but then chill it out by simply picking lighter. Following the two Gain knobs, there's Treble, Bass, Middle, and Volume control, with Reverb being the last knob on the right.

On the same night, another friend plugged his Les Paul Standard into the Super-Sonic 22 and the volume difference in our pickups became immediately apparent. His Paul jumped out even louder, and the thickness of the tone shone through compared to my single-coils. He has Music Man and Fender amps, and he knows how a good amp should sound. Again, we all agreed that this combo sounded really great. So much so that the next day at my studio, I plugged my Les Paul Custom into the Burn channel and cascaded the distortion, setting Gain 1 on 10 and Gain 2 on 4. This gave me a sound I hadn't heard before from a Fender amp, sans pedal. Standing in front of the Super-Sonic, I got great feedback with the Burn channel Volume knob on only 3!

The Rest
As for the Accutronics reverb, the Super-Sonic 22 uses the same design as the long-spring tank in the '65 Deluxe Reverb. I have some great amps with classic reverb, and this one stands up to them, but in a different way. The decay is quite long—around three to four seconds—so I rarely ran it above 3. But it sounds like old Fender reverb and with my Tele, I got great old-school blues and surf tones by turning the Reverb knob to 7.

Around back, you find main and extension speaker outputs, a jack for the included heavy-duty footswitch, and an effects send and return. Of course, there's a standby and power switch, as well as an IEC power cable socket.

The Final Mojo
The Fender Super-Sonic 22 is a hot little amp. For live players, it satisfies the need for classic, clean Fender tones. It reacts to your touch and breaks up musically at manageable volumes. But when you step on it, the Burn channel can deliver enough spongy, quality gain to cover most blues, rock, and country needs, and can even do hard rock and metal. With the addition of a good distortion pedal, you could comfortably take this Super-Sonic into heavier territories. Rugged and sturdy, this all-tube monster isn't cheap, but for what it delivers, it's also not expensive—especially when you compare it to some pricy boutique alternatives. I would feel very comfortable using the Super-Sonic 22 at any show, and equally good about using it in the studio. This versatile amp delivers the goods.
Buy if...
You want a sturdy, gig-worthy 22 watt tube amp that delivers clean and mean in the same package.
Skip if...
You need more power, more gain, or need a less expensive amp.
Rating...

Street $999 - Fender - fender.com



The Burn Channel
Called the Burn channel, Channel 2 features two Gain knobs (1 and 2), where Gain 1 delivers the crunch/edge distortion, and Gain 2 adds a thickness that to my ears sounds almost like compression. Again with my Tele, I cranked Gain 1 up to 6 and was able to get classic rock and blues tones. What really impressed me was how this channel responded to playing dynamics. I could control the breakup with my attack. I could get ZZ-style grit, but then chill it out by simply picking lighter. Following the two Gain knobs, there's Treble, Bass, Middle, and Volume control, with Reverb being the last knob on the right.

On the same night, another friend plugged his Les Paul Standard into the Super-Sonic 22 and the volume difference in our pickups became immediately apparent. His Paul jumped out even louder, and the thickness of the tone shone through compared to my single-coils. He has Music Man and Fender amps, and he knows how a good amp should sound. Again, we all agreed that this combo sounded really great. So much so that the next day at my studio, I plugged my Les Paul Custom into the Burn channel and cascaded the distortion, setting Gain 1 on 10 and Gain 2 on 4. This gave me a sound I hadn't heard before from a Fender amp, sans pedal. Standing in front of the Super-Sonic, I got great feedback with the Burn channel Volume knob on only 3!

The Rest
As for the Accutronics reverb, the Super-Sonic 22 uses the same design as the long-spring tank in the '65 Deluxe Reverb. I have some great amps with classic reverb, and this one stands up to them, but in a different way. The decay is quite long—around three to four seconds—so I rarely ran it above 3. But it sounds like old Fender reverb and with my Tele, I got great old-school blues and surf tones by turning the Reverb knob to 7.

Around back, you find main and extension speaker outputs, a jack for the included heavy-duty footswitch, and an effects send and return. Of course, there's a standby and power switch, as well as an IEC power cable socket.

The Final Mojo
The Fender Super-Sonic 22 is a hot little amp. For live players, it satisfies the need for classic, clean Fender tones. It reacts to your touch and breaks up musically at manageable volumes. But when you step on it, the Burn channel can deliver enough spongy, quality gain to cover most blues, rock, and country needs, and can even do hard rock and metal. With the addition of a good distortion pedal, you could comfortably take this Super-Sonic into heavier territories. Rugged and sturdy, this all-tube monster isn't cheap, but for what it delivers, it's also not expensive—especially when you compare it to some pricy boutique alternatives. I would feel very comfortable using the Super-Sonic 22 at any show, and equally good about using it in the studio. This versatile amp delivers the goods.
Buy if...
You want a sturdy, gig-worthy 22 watt tube amp that delivers clean and mean in the same package.
Skip if...
You need more power, more gain, or need a less expensive amp.
Rating...

Street $999 - Fender - fender.com