Pros: This is one of the best combo amps Fender has ever made.
FENDER SUPER SONIC TWIN 100 WATT 2x12 TUBE GUITAR COMBO AMP
Choices, choices, choices, there are some many guitar amplifiers on the market today, that trying to find one that is suitable for your particular playing style and individual signature sound, can be a bit overwhelming. But what if you did not have to choose just one great amp, but had several of the greatest sounding amps ever made all rolled into one convenient package. No I am not referring to a modeling amp, but rather one that actually has the distinct and individual circuitry of different amps available to you with just the flick of a switch. That is just what the Fender Super-Sonic Twin has to offer. If you are a person who is a fan of the vintage sounding Fender amps of yesteryear, but also crave some of the modern features and sounds that can be found in today’s modern boutique amps, you owe it to yourself to check out the Fender Super-Sonic Twin 100 Watt 2x12 Tube Guitar Combo Amplifier. In my opinion, this is a really great sounding amp. Read on and see if you feel that this amp just might be worth giving an audition to the next time you are visiting your local musical instrument store.
Since price is always an important consideration in making any decision to purchase anything, especially something that costs as much as this combo amp does, I think that this might be a good place to start. The Fender Super-Sonic Twin Combo has a list price of $2799.99, but it can readily be found selling at a discount for about $1899.99. O.K., I will admit that this is serious money we are talking about for a guitar combo amp. On the other hand, Fender also makes a Super-Sonic 100 Amp Head version, which is just the amp section with no speakers, and if you were to purchase it alone, it would cost $1699.99, and that is when it is discounted. If you were to purchase the Fender speaker enclosure that is designed for the Super-Sonic Amp Head alone, it would set you back an additional $874.99. Thus for an additional $200 you are getting the Super-Sonic 100 Amp Head with the attached built-in speaker enclosure. To my way of thinking, purchasing this combo version of the Super-Sonic 100 makes the most sense, at least when it comes to cost effectiveness.
What makes the Fender Super-Sonic Twin 100 Combo Amp so special? Well as you probably are aware, many guitarists have longed to get their hands on an amp that had the circuitry and electronics of the legendary Fender 1966 Bassman, or the 1964 Fender Showman Amp or an original Fender Twin Reverb. Just finding one of these legendary amps in good working condition would be a feat in and of itself, and then finding the money to be able to buy one of these original vintage amps is a whole other story. And what about the needs of a guitarist who wants the modern sound of a high end all tube amp, with all raw power, burn, sizzle and sustain of an ultra expensive boutique amp? This amp just might be the answer to all of these issues, as this amp combines many of the features that I have just outlined above.
This Fender Super-Sonic Twin 100 Combo Amp is truly like having three fabulous amps in one. The Fender Super-Sonic Twin allows you to choose the electronic circuitry of a 1964 clean and bright Fender Dual Showman Amp/1965 Twin Reverb, and a punchy thick 1966 Fender Bassman, and a the ultra hot circuitry of a modern boutique style amp such as a Mesa Boogie. Why is this so special? The original Fender Bassman was introduced in 1952. Over time, there were some changes and upgrades made to the original design of the Fender Bassman. The Fender Bassman also underwent some changes in circuitry in 1954, and again in 1955, 1956, and in 1958. The circuit introduced in 1958, and designated as “F6-A” is considered to be the best of all Fender tube amp circuit designs, and it served as the model for the early Marshall Amps. This circuit design was so great that it has been copied and emulated by numerous other rival amplifier manufacturers. The Fender Bassman Amps made in 1959 and 1960 are considered by collectors and musicians alike to be the best sounding, and therefore most desirable of the originals. Because the circuitry and sound characteristics of the Fender Bassman have been copied over and over by so many different manufacturers, and because the design of the Fender Bassman inspired so many clones, it is affectionately referred to as “the mother of all amps.” For this reason alone, the Fender Super Sonic Twin is very desirable.
However, this amp still has a lot more to offer, as it also offers the legendary circuitry of the 1965 Fender Twin Reverb and the 1964 Fender Showman Amps. To those of you who might be interested in knowing the differences and similarities between a Fender Showman, Dual Showman, and a Twin Reverb, which existed in this era, the differences and similarities are very simple to explain. In my early years, I owned each of these amps, as well as quite a few other vintage Fender Amps. Simply put, a Fender Showman did not have a mid tone control and did not have a reverb. The Dual Showman had a mid tone control and in 1968, reverb was added. The 1964 Fender Showman had the same circuitry and chassis as a 1965 Fender Twin Reverb, but did not have a mid tone control or reverb. To put it more simply, the Fender Showman, Dual Showman, and Twin Reverb had the same circuitry, less these minor differences (i.e., Mid Tone Control), and the Dual Showman Reverb, was for all intents and purposes, a Fender Twin Reverb Head. The Fender Twin Reverb could actually have been called a Dual Showman Combo Amp, or the Fender Dual Showman 1968 model could have been called a Fender Twin Reverb Amp Head. I hope that this explanation helps to understand the Super-Sonic 100 Twin Combo Amp a bit better. Think of the tonal possibilities of having an amp with the circuitry of the 1965 Fender Twin Reverb (same circuitry as the 1964 Showman), with its clean, shimmering overtones. I so well remember a concert at the Fillmore East where the stage was glutted with Marshall Stacks, and one little Fender Twin Reverb. Mick Taylor was coming through that Fender Twin, and his guitar sound cut right through the mix and was clearly heard. Imagine the shimmering bell like tones that your Fender Stratocaster could get from an amp with this circuitry. Imagine your guitar getting a clean sweet sound as pure as clean as anything you could ever hope for. Imagine playing a Fender Telecaster through an amp with the same circuitry of the legendary Fender Showman, and getting an incredibly funky sound. To those of you who are not familiar with the Fender Showman, keep in mind that it was able to produce a sound like the 1965 Fender Twin Reverb, which more people are familiar with. However, with the push of a button, the Super-Sonic Twin is able to switch to the circuitry of a 1966 Fender Bassman. There is probably no Fender Amp ever made that was more sought after by tone hungry guitarists and serious collectors than the 1966 Fender Bassman. This is one amp that slipped by me, and I never personally owned one, although I coveted my neighbor’s amp. I guess I broke a Commandment there, but the Devil made me do it. Think of the raw Blues sound, with all of the power and punch your Fender Stratocaster could deliver through a 1966 Fender Bassman. Think of the stingingly sweet sustain your Gibson Les Paul would be capable of delivering through an amp with the same circuitry as the legendary 1966 Fender Bassman. These are legendary amps that collectors search for because of their spectacular sound.
If an amp that has the above described vintage circuitry this is not enough to entice a potential guitarist to give this amp a test drive, the Fender Super-Sonic Twin also offers a Burn Channel, which very closely emulates the sound of a top quality boutique amp, such as a Mesa Boogie. That was probably not hard for Fender to duplicate, as after all, Randal Smith of Mesa Boogie fame started out by modifying Fender amps to give them more gain. Smith’s first creation was to modify a 12 Watt Fender Princeton with one 10 inch speaker by replacing the transformer with the type that drove a tweed colored early Fender Bassman that came with four 10 inch speakers. Smith then replaced the 10 inch Princeton speaker with a 12 inch JBL speaker, and the first Boogie amp was born. It was sort of a Franken-Fender, as after all, it was primarily composed or built with Fender parts.
O.K., enough of the history lesson. I included the above information so that the reader could really grasp just what a great pedigree the Fender Super Sonic Twin has. Before I get into a description of just what this amp is capable of, and how it sounds, it would be prudent to give a description of some of the features of this amp, and a good place is to start with the Front Control Panel of the Fender Super-Sonic Twin. The first thing we come to on the Front Control Panel of the Super-Sonic Twin is a guitar input, which accommodates a standard quarter inch phone plug. Next we come to a dial labeled Gain, which adjusts the gain in the Vintage Channel. Remember the Vintage Channel contains the incredible electronic circuitry of both the 1964 Fender Showman/1965 Twin Reverb and the 1966 Fender Bassman, and it lets you choose between them. Next in line after the aforementioned Gain Control, we come to a push in/push out button that is labeled Twin Reverb/Bassman, and when this button is in the out position, the Twin Reverb (same as the 1964 Showman) amp style circuitry is engaged, and when this button is pushed in, the circuitry of the Fender Bassman is activated. The next three dials are labeled Treble, Bass, and Mid respectively, and these dials control the high, low, and mid frequency tones of the Vintage Channel (i.e., the Twin Reverb/Showman and Bassman). Next in line we come to a dial labeled Volume, which controls the volume in this channel.
Next in line we come to another push in/push out button that is labeled VINTAGE/BURN, and this is a channel select button. In the push out position, the Vintage Channel (Twin Reverb or Bassman) is activated, and in the push in position, the Burn Channel is engaged. And now on to the controls and features of the BURN Channel. The first two dials we come to are labeled GAIN 1 and GAIN 2 respectively. These controls are the primary and secondary adjustments that modify the distortion and sustain of the BURN Channel. We next come to three dials labeled Treble, Bass, and Mid respectively, and these dials control the high, low, and middle frequency tones in the BURN Channel. Next we come to a dial labeled Notch Tune. This control enables you to adjust the distortion characteristics of the mid range to more closely emulate the sounds of some of the more common American boutique amps and popular British amps. Next we come to a dial labeled Volume, which in conjunction with settings of the GAIN 1 and GAIN 2 dials, this dial controls the overall loudness of the BURN Channel. Imagine being able to switch with the mere push of a button from the sound of two of the most fabulous vintage amps that Fender has ever created, to the super saturated all tube distortion of a modern boutique amp like a Mesa Boogie. Next we come to a dial labeled Reverb, which allows you to dial in the rich sound of a long spring classic Fender Twin Reverb Amp. Think of the various sonic possibilities you could get from an amp head like this one, and you can see why this amp is as expensive as it is.
Turning the amp around, we come to the Rear Panel Controls. The first thing we come to is a switch labeled Power, and next to it is a switch labeled Standby. Obviously, the Power switch turns the Fender Super-Sonic Twin on or off. But did you know that you can extend the life of the amplifier tubes by keeping the Standby switch in the down position for the first minute or so that the power is turned on? That is an important bit of information to know. Another important point to keep in mind is that when the Fender Super-Sonic Twin is in the Standby mode, is that the power tube filaments are being kept warm, while the power to the outputs of the amp are disengaged. Keeping the amp in the Standby mode saves wear and tear on the tubes which can result from repeated heating and cooling of the tubes when the amp is turned on and off, and then on again. Believe me, if you have ever had to pay to replace a set of tubes in an amp like this, you will really appreciate the money saving utility of this feature. Obviously, besides prolonging tube life, use of the Standby feature also means that there is no time wasted waiting for the tubes to warm up before one is ready to play the next set after a short break, as the amp is ready to rock at the flip of a switch when break time is over.
Next in line on the Back Panel we come to a switch labeled Arena/Club. This is one of my absolute favorite features. When flipped to the Arena setting, the Super-Sonic delivers 100 Watts of power, which is of course suitable for gigs that require that type of power. But in the studio, or in a small club, this extra power is not really needed. That is where the Club setting comes in. When the amp is switched to the Club setting, the amp will only send out 25 Watts of power. Thus, you can get a saturated overdriven tube sound without blasting everyone out of the studio or small club. This is a really great feature. I typically use a Fender Deluxe Reverb for recording purposes, and it puts out 22 Watts, which is plenty for my purposes in the studio, and that is very close to the power output of the Super-Sonic Twin when it is turned to the Club setting. A 25 Watt tube amp can really sizzle in a small club.
Next in line we come to a dial labeled Send Level. This adjusts the output level of the adjacent SEND jack, which can be adjusted to suit the input sensitivity of an external effects device, should you choose to use one. Next we come to two input jacks labeled SEND and RETURN respectively. These are the send and return for the effects loop. This is a very important feature to have, as the Fender Super-Sonic Twin does not come equipped with any sound effects except for reverb, and it does not have a variety of built in effects such as chorus, delay, flanging, etc. as some other popular modeling amps come with. If you want to use these types of sound effects in a live performance, you are going to have to use outboard devices, and the built in effects loop is the easiest way to accomplish this. The easiest way to operate these external effects devices is to integrate them into the effects loop. This can easily be accomplished in the following manner. Use a guitar cable with standard quarter inch phone jacks, and plug one end of the cable into the Send jack on the Super-Sonic Twin, and plug the other end of the cable into the input of the outboard effects device you may be using. Take another similar cable and plug one end into the output of the effects device, and plug the other end of the cable into the Return on the Super-Sonic Twin, and this completes the effects loop. Next we come to a dial labeled Return Level, and this dial is used to adjust the level of the signal that is going into the Super-Sonic Twin.
Next we come to a jack labeled Pre Amp Out. This is an unbalanced line out which can be used to connect the Super-Sonic Twin directly into a P.A. system, sound board, or directly into a recording device. Next we come to a jack labeled Power Amp In, which provides a direct input into the power amplifier. When this jack is connected into the Pre Amp Out of another Super-Sonic Twin or amp with similar features, the preamp circuit of the Super-Sonic Twin is by passed, and the sounds coming from the Super-Sonic Twin can be shaped from the preamp of the other amp. Next we come to a jack labeled Footswitch, and this is where one would connect the included 4-button footswitch. This footswitch permits one to remotely select between the Vintage and Burn Channel, as well as bypassing of the effects loop.
Next we come to a section labeled Automatic Bias Control. This set of controls allows the user to select between and among various hotter or cooler bias settings for the output tubes. Next we come to a dial labeled Damping Control. This dial has three settings, which are Lose, Normal, and Tight respectively. This allows you to adjust the response of the onboard speakers, or separate speaker enclosure you will be using from a loose and warm overdriven sound, to a tight and clean and bright sound. Next we come to a switch labeled Impedance Selector, which can be set at 16 Ohms, 8 Ohms, and 4 Ohms, and lastly two jacks labeled Main Speaker/Extension Speaker respectively. If for some reason you want to use an external speaker cab instead of the built-in speakers, or want to use a combination of the two, it is important to keep in mind the impedance ratings of the devices you are using. For maximum performance, and to prevent damage to the Super-Sonic 100 Twin or speaker cabinet that you are using, it is important to properly match the impedance of both devices. When using one external 16 Ohm speaker cabinet, plug the cabinet into the Main Speaker jack and set the impedance to 16 Ohms. If you are using two 16 Ohms speaker cabinets, plug one into the Main Speaker jack and the other cabinet into the Extension Speaker jack, and set the Impedance Selector on the Super-Sonic Twin to 8 Ohms. If you are using one speaker cabinet that is rated at 8 Ohms, connect it to the Main Speaker jack and set the impedance on the Super Sonic Twin to 8 Ohms. If you are using two speaker cabinets that are rated at 8 Ohms each, plug one into the Main Speaker jack and plug the other cabinet into the Extension Speaker jack, and this time set the Impedance Selector on the Super Sonic Twin to 4 Ohms. The final option to choose from would be if you are using a 4 Ohms speaker cabinet, and in this case you would connect the cabinet to the Main Speaker jack on the Super Sonic Twin, and set the Impedance Selector to 4 Ohms. It is not recommended that you use two cabinets rated at 4 Ohms, as this could potentially damage the Super-Sonic Twin or the speakers that you might be using. If you have any doubts about hooking up external speaker cabs to the Super Sonic Twin, just give Fender a call, and a representative will help you. I have personally phoned companies such as Gibson, Fender, Yamaha, Steinberg, Vox, etc., and have not had a problem in getting technical advice when I needed clarification on something. If you speak to a technician who can not answer you question, as to speak to a supervisor.
And now a few words about the attached speaker section of the Fender Super-Sonic Twin. This combo amp has an open back speaker enclosure. With an open back speaker cab, sound is not only projected forward, some is also projected backward. In the studio, this can potentially be an advantageous thing, as the sound that is picked up by micing a cab from the back will be different than that of micing it from the front. I have on some occasions actually miced the front and the back of a speaker enclosure and combined the two. Of course, proper mic placement is crucial to avoid phase cancellation when doing this, but that is another story for another review. In general, as is the case with the Fender Super-Sonic Twin, a cab with an open back will yield an open and airy sound, that can potentially be more expansive than a closed back cab. A closed back cab will, in general, yield more bass response. On the other hand, placing an open back speaker cab in different locations in a room will alter the sonic characteristics of the cab far more than a closed back cab. Thus room placement is something that should be considered with any open back cab, like the Super-Sonic Twin. The Super-Sonic Twin speaker cab is made with 13 ply Baltic Birch, which many people feel is the best possible wood to use for a guitar cab because it is firm and rigid and has superior sonic characteristics as well. Further, a properly designed open back cab like the Super-Sonic Twin has, will produce a more realistic or true sound than a closed back cab of similar dimensions. Another important feature to note is that an open back cab design, such as is the case with the Super-Sonic Twin, projects the majority of the sound forward, but at the same time, it lets enough sound out of the sides and back, to let the other musicians you are playing with, especially in a club setting, hear a bit of what you are playing as well. The drummer will appreciate that, at least in most circumstances.
No discussion of the speaker section of any combo amp would be complete without discussing the speakers that are included in the cab itself. In the case of the Fender Super-Sonic Twin, we are talking about two Celestion Vintage 30 Speakers. These speakers were specially designed to attempt to recreate the sound of the speakers that made Celestion famous, specifically the Celestion Blue Speakers. These particular Celestion Vintage 30 Speakers have ceramic magnets, and they are each able to handle 60 Watts of power. The reader might be interested in knowing that the Celestion Blue Speakers had Alnico magnets, but only had a power handling capacity of 15 Watts. An amp as powerful as the Fender Super-Sonic 100 Twin would shred these little Celestion Blues, but the Celestion Vintage 30 Speakers are able to handle the additional nicely, and they do closely approximate the tone of the Celestion Blues.
And now on to some of the other specifications of the Fender Super-Sonic Twin. As I mentioned above, the Super Sonic Twin is capable of putting out a searing 100 Watts RMS. In order to accomplish this, the Fender Super-Sonic Twin uses seven 12AX7 tubes in the preamp section, and two 12AT7 tubes for the reverb driver, and four 6L6 tubes in the power section to achieve this level of power. This combo amp is surprisingly small in size for an combo amp of this power. It is 20.25 inches high, 26.26 inches wide, and 11.31 inches deep. The Super Sonic Twin weighs in at an even 83 pounds. It will also make you or your roadies happy to know that the amp comes with four casters to make moving it a bit easier. The Super-Sonic Twin is available in two attractive colors, Black Pepper, or my favorite which is the 1961 Blonde/Oxblood treatment.
And just how good does the Fender Super-Sonic Twin 100 Combo amp sound? I must say that this may be the best sounding combo amp that Fender has come up with in years. I felt that way about the tube amp head alone when I played through it, but the combo is all that and more. When set to the vintage circuitry one is able to choose a bright clean sound, which is very similar to the Fender 1964 Showman or the 1965 Fender Twin Reverb. These are really great for playing clean sounding music, where pure sweet tones are required. The Bassman setting is great for blues and is able to give a very warm vintage sound, which reminded me of an old Marshall “Bluesbreaker” 2x12 Amp, Model 1962, JTM 45, which is of course the amp that Eric Clapton used to record the John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers album. This Marshall JTM 45 was based on a modified Fender Bassman circuit as well. The Burn Channel is able to be manipulated with the controls to yield a sound sort of like a Mesa Boogie (which is of course also based on a Fender amp) and one can also get an overdriven sound that is similar to a “British” sounding stack such as an overdriven Marshall (which is also based on a Fender amp) as well. The sound of this amp was simply excellent, and as I mentioned earlier, I was very pleased that one can dial down the output of the amp from 100 Watts to 25 Watts. This is a great feature, as not every venue that one plays needs a 100 Watts of power.
In sum, the Fender Super-Sonic Twin 100 Combo Amp is a fantastic all around guitar combo amp. If I had to list any drawbacks, I would have to say that I can think of only one. The Fender Super-Sonic Twin 100 does not come equipped with any built in sound effects, such as flanging, delay, chorus, etc. However, that is a small drawback when compared to all of the excellent sounds that the Fender Super-Sonic Twin 100 Combo Amp can deliver.
Well, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my review, but now if you will excuse me, I must get back to my practicing.