What is it?
The Supro Blues King 8 might be seen as a continuation of a trend that picked up in the mid to late-2000s, when amp manufacturers were in an arms race to make the ultimate low-wattage valve combo.
The reasons were obvious. Many of us live in built-up apartments, have next-door neighbours and/or babies, and we just can't play with the volume that we'd like to. And we can't turn it down, because our valve amps only really sound good when they are cranked hard. But Supro has a history of low-wattage guitar amps that goes back to 1950s Chicago, and the Blues King 8, with its vintage style feels like an amplifier that has been lost in time.
A single-watt amplifier such as Supro's beautifully retro Blues King 8 might still wake the baby and upset the neighbours depending if you've got it dimed, but it it offers plenty of overdriven blues sizzle without the need to access such antisocial volumes.
• Supro Blues King 12
The BK8's older sibling has a 12" speaker and a giggable 15-watts so long as you don't need heaps of headroom
A smaller sibling to the Blues King 12, the Blues King 8 takes its name from the eight-inch speaker and is a class A, single-channel, single-watt combo with a master volume to let you squeeze as much juice out of its 12AX7-powered preamp gain stage. There's a boost, too, for when you need to pin your imaginary audience to their seats during a solo – after all, at a single-watt, you won't be gigging this, and you can't call the cat and the dog an audience.
There is not much to get used to here. The master volume control is joined by a single tone control, volume and and a boost switch. And that's that. No fuss.
In the back there are inputs for a footswitch to turn the boost on and off, and an analogue line out for sending the sending your signal to a DAW or an amplifier, with the Blues King 8 operating as one big outboard valve distortion unit.
Performance and verdict
You will love the simplicity of the Blues King 8. It is a plug-in-and-play valve combo that doesn't require a manual to locate its sweet spots. With a low-wattage amp, there is always that trade-off between achieving a nice break-up without too much volume and then finding yourself short of headroom when you want some cleans. But the Blues King 8 has a surprisingly decent amount of headroom – just what that master volume up, roll back the input gain and there are plenty of usable American clean tones.
Where the Blues King 8 really excels is when those cleans are breaking up and your in that unclaimed territory somewhere between blues and classic rock. Roll the master volume back and jack the volume and there's an adults-only raunchiness to the Blues King 8's overdriven voice that is perfect for sizzling rock 'n' roll.
Dime everything and it really opens up, with the boost giving the overdriven tones a good old push, ideal for noisy garage rock and punk. When you put it all together, that's quite a range for such a portable little combo. Sure, we would have liked some onboard reverb, but put a decent spring reverb pedal in front of this and you've got a truly addictive little amp, with heaps of character. The neighbours might not be kept up all night, but you might.
- TYPE: Valve combo
- CONTROLS: Volume, tone, master volume, boost, standby, power
- SPEAKERS: 1x 8" Supro BK8
- VALVES: 12AX7 tube preamp, 12AU7 triode power amp
- SOCKETS: Input, footswitch in, line out
- OUTPUT: One watt