Gear Review: Supro Drive
"There's a lady who's sure, all that glitters is gold and she's buying a stairway to heaven......."
I bet that as you read those lyrics, the intro riff was already singing in your head, filling up the rest of the song for you.
This guitar intro riff from the song "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin has been featured on infamous lists like "Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever" or "Top Ten Riffs Played in Guitar Stores". You hear it everywhere: Your band practices, on Youtube, in the bars and pubs, your house parties, karaokes, under your bed.... You get the drift.
And for those of you who don't know it already, this riff was created by legendary guitarist of Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page, using his Fender Telecaster into the Supro Thunderbolt Amplifier.
If I could describe the Supro amp sound, I'd prolly' sayyyy... Vintage, warm and furry. Yep you read that right. Furry. In a pleasant way of course.
And here's the good news: Get all of that delightful tone, in this one classy looking blue box.
Enter the Supro Drive.
NO WAY! A TRANSFORMER IN A PEDAL?!
Yeap! It's not just "another overdrive/distortion" pedal, nor is it just another "amp-in-a-box" pedal, but the magic is in how Supro has managed to fit an output transformer into this beautiful matte aluminium shell casing, thereby achieving the sound and tone of a Class A Supro Amplifier.
Most other "Supro-sounding" pedals out there try to approximate the sound using standard techniques, thus largely lacking out many crucial aspects that shaped the Supro sound to what it is.
A true Supro sound comes from the unique phase inverter design, Class A power amp section and the magnetic saturation from the old-school transformers of the original Supro Amplifier. The circuit for the Drive was entirely re-imagined to meticulously encapsulate all of these in the size of a regular stompbox.
The Supro Drive consists of a typical Volume, Tone and Gain knob as many other overdrives do, but what sets it apart, is the additional toggle switch that allows one to swap between the different windings of the transformer within.
On the "Bold" setting, the pedal delivers an open sounding tube-overdriven sound reminiscent of a vintage Supro amp. A flick of the switch to the "Rich" setting renders the sound into a more gain-y, clipped tone delving into the fuzz territory. Instead of the usual 9V, this pedal takes up to 18V, and boy does 18V sound great. Who doesn't love 18V of headroom goodness right?
There's also an expression pedal output that allows you to control the amount of gain on the fly by foot. Now you can dial in just the right amount of gain in the middle of a gig or do a sweep of the gain for cool sounds.
This blue stompbox may be of regular size, but it sure does offer a lot on the table.
I was given the opportunity to try out the Supro Drive, and I must say, it has an impressive amount of gain on tap. It's not just the extent of clipping, but the range that it provides as well, which I will explain in greater detail.
Apart from that, some general observations are that the pedal is really responsive to picking dynamics, and providing more of the low-end boost, really great for rhythm players looking to grind out those power chords and at the same time great for your riffs and lines to stand out with the amount of gain that it has on tap.
With the volume and tone set at 12 o'clock, and the gain all the way down, the pedal delivers a nice fat sound, that gives more body, especially for guitars with single coil pickups. With the gain at 9 o'clock, I managed to get a teeny weeny bit of furry-but-not-into-breakup territory. Beyond the 12 o'clock range, the pedal really starts to sing, and comfortably delivers nice fat distortion tones that you would find great for all music rock-related.
One thing I must say, is that you need time to find the right tone for yourself (of course this definitely goes without saying for the rest of the other overdrives on hand), and that's down to the great range that the Supro Drive provides. I personally found my own sweet spot with the Tone all the way up, and the gain turned up to in between 9 to 10 o'clock. Different tones for different folks of course.
The first thing I thought of after toggle the switch to rich was: Wow, this thing sounds like it can do metal! So, with my itchy fingers, I cranked the gain up to maximum, and played an A power chord, and my windows shattered....
Okay fine I exaggerated. But that was just to illustrate the amount of gain that this sweet blue box contains on tap. I don't play metal myself, or really delve into the territory of fuzz, but boy this pedal lights up the room on the "Rich" setting!
Fuzzier stuff, and lighter metal perhaps, not so much heavier metal. For those of you who love playing with more gain, this is it. The mids are slightly flattened with this setting, giving it a smoother crunch sound, and the gain is rich and throaty.
At 9 to 10 o'clock, it provides a great base for punk rock rhythm, and with the tone knob cranked all the way, enables your notes to stand out in the mix for you to really drive that solo. Beyond the 12 o'clock, the Supro Drive is roaring and waiting to go, kinda like a Bugatti or Lamborghini screaming to be released from your garage.
For those of you who are especially into amp-in-a-box pedals, this is a great weapon to add into your pedal arsenal, with its great range of gain, and the ability to deliver warm tube overdriven tones to fuzzy distortion ready to make you the "Number One Enemy of the Neighbours".
If you are into any music rock related, this is the pedal for you.