Whether it’s guitar amps or chocolate bars, relaunching a brand that’s been out of the marketplace for a good few decades isn’t always easy.
So it’s been gratifying to see the successful return of Supro during the past few years, especially after its extended sojourn in near-stasis.
Now under the control of Pigtronix guru Absara Audio, the revitalised Supro brand mixes vintage vibes with modern reliability for some exciting results. And this is particularly apparent in the Black Magick series, inspired by a unique Supro amp owned and allegedly used by Led Zep legend Jimmy Page, now on loan to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum.
This month we’re looking at the new Black Magick Reverb combo, developed in association with Lenny Kravitz - a man who knows a thing or two about vintage tone, as well as writing and producing the occasional hit single here and there.
The Black Magick Reverb sits in the same almost-square cabinet as its non-reverb version, with plenty of vintage Supro eye-candy, including vintage-correct silver-sparkle grille-cloth, black-and-silver rhino-hide vinyl with a white strip and black stringing, and, of course, that famous thunderbolt badge. Its control panel, however, is quite different - the Kravitz collaboration has added increased flexibility in the shape of a master volume, separate gain controls and independent bass and treble tone controls.
There’s a speed and depth control for the built-in tremolo and a level control for the conventional reverb spring, both of which are valve-powered. Around the back, you’ll find a quartet of extension speaker jacks and a socket for a dual-latching footswitch, which can be used to toggle the reverb and tremolo effects easily.
The Black Magick has two channels and two input sockets, one of which accesses Channel 2, the other Channels 1 and 2 linked together in parallel for more volume and gain. There’s no integral means of switching them, but you can use an ABY pedal to switch sounds remotely if needed, as both channels are in phase with each other.
The Black Magick’s power-valve complement is typical vintage Supro, with a pair of 6973s producing around 25 watts into the single custom-designed BD12 loudspeaker. Similar in looks but not interchangeable, the 6973 is a beam tetrode developed in the late 1950s by RCA, as home-grown competition for the European Philips/Mullard EL84 mini pentode. Not so common in the UK but abundant in the US, 6973s feature on several old Supro designs, not to mention countless American jukeboxes, hi-fi amps and other compact audio circuits.
Inside the chassis, the Black Magick Reverb is typical modern Supro, with a single high-quality PCB supporting everything except the mains and rear panel sockets. Metal film resistors are used for low noise and consistency, while the wiring is neatly twisted and routed to reduce hum to a minimum. Overall, the Black Magick Reverb looks solid, just like its ancestors.
The name may suggest otherwise but the Black Magick isn’t a high-gain affair; rather, it excels at medium-gain bluesy lead and classic rock crunch. Sonically, it comes over as a slightly more refined tweed, with lots of vintage warmth, less midrange grunt and a complex treble (which can be sweet or edgy, depending on where you set the gain and tone controls). It’s equally good with single coils and humbuckers, delivering excellent articulation and a friendly, touch-sensitive dynamic response that makes single notes appear to sustain for longer.
The best sounds come from middle-of-the-road settings, with the tone controls and gains set around halfway. Using an ABY footswitch enabled switching between channels and it was fairly easy to set up a decent balance for rhythm and lead. The effects are both valve-powered and sound suitably vintage, with an improved speed range on the tremolo and a quiet reverb that stays warm and smooth as long as you don’t overdo it, when there’s a tendency for things to get a little splashy.
Another superb amp from the Supro stable, the Black Magick Reverb certainly seems to have benefited from a magical potion of coolness, upping its game and taking what was a mass-market amp brand 60 years ago into today’s boutique market. Aimed at serious players across most genres, it comes at a hefty price. However, this is a US amp designed and built by some of the world’s top wizards of tone. Will you fall under its spell? We certainly did...