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This article was originally published in issue #49
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Once again these are two very good guitars from Supro, even if I grumbled a bit about the Belmont's vibrato.
Vintage tones, with modern construction
Limited tonal options
Vibrato arm not very practical
May only appeal to a limited demographic
Wide tonal spectrum
Looks may not appeal to all
Limited to certain styles
In GI 48 Lewis Turner looked at three of Supro's reissued/reimagined Island Series guitars. He liked them so much that when two of the Americana series came knocking at the studio door, we asked him to look at those too.
In GI 49 I looked at three Island Series guitars by Supro and loved them. In this issue we have a couple from their Americana series that I'm pleased to be checking out. This particular series of guitars are replicas of the Supro 'Reso-glass' models, featuring chambered mahogany bodies with moulded tops. Supro says they are aiming to offer 'a semi-hollow recipe aimed at delivering the sonic characteristics of the vintage Supros, whilst meeting the needs of today's players'. There are ten models in the Americano series, here we are looking at the Belmont Vibrato and Black Holiday. As always, be sure to check out the video to hear and see these guitars for yourself.
The Belmont Vibrato is a cool looking guitar, finished in a lovely bright red, with the vibrato tailpiece giving it a real retro look. Fit and finish throughout was excellent on our sample and it will certainly turn heads. It has a chambered mahogany body with a newly developed, composite 'Acousti-glass' top. Now, the word 'composite' in guitar manufacturing instantly raises heads, and quite often puts a lot of people off. Composite construction is by no means a new thing, I once owned a plastic Ibanez many moons ago and it was pretty cool. It has its advantages, not being affected by changes in weather, hard wearing etc. In this case it's light, helped in no small part by the fact that it’s chambered. The weight factor is not only good for saving your shoulders and back, it’s also great for resonance and increased sustain, and this is true with the Belmont. Even unplugged the guitar resonates well you can feel every note that is played, which is great. But what about the tone man?!
Well, let's not forget it’s only the top here that is composite and the mahogany delivers its usual tone. Honestly, if I did a blind test I would struggle to tell that this guitar isn’t all wood, and I hope that comes across in the video. The traditional style headstock is quite a large affair making it slightly top heavy but the tuners were good and stable. The unique two bolt neck is mahogany with black satin finish and a rosewood fingerboard, 24.3/4” scale with 22 frets. I found the fretboard and shape of the neck very comfortable to play as was the action and spacing between frets, there was no buzzing or tuning issues anywhere on the guitar, and thanks to the neck joint, upper fret access was fairly easy.
The Americana series use Supro's unique Vistatone pickups (just the one on this model) which are faithful reproductions of the original magnetics developed for Valco by Ralph Keller in the early 1950s. It's important to note that these are single-coil design pickups but in a humbucker size. Having just the one pickup right next to the bridge does slightly limit your tonal options, but having a tone control helps tame some of that 'bite' and they are high quality pickups that generate a fair amount of output whilst maintaining their vintage intention.
The Vibrato tailpiece looks cool and goes with the whole vintage styling as well as offering stable tuning. It can do little more than offer a slight shimmer on chords, (no dive bombs here!), and for my playing style I found the whole thing a little obtrusive. The arm is way too close to the body to make playing and holding the bar at the same time very practical.
The Black Holiday is essentially the same guitar but without a bulky vibrato arm, and with two pickups. Playability and feel was just the same as the Belmont, but having the two pickups meant so many more tonal options were open to you. Thanks to the three-way switch and tone control, you can go from treble heavy twang, to warm crunchy Blues plus everything in between. It's never going to do hard Rock/Metal but that's not really its intention. Once again the fact that the top was moulded didn’t have any adverse affects on the tone, for me out of the two this is the more versatile guitar.Once again these are two very good guitars from Supro, even if I grumbled a bit about the Belmont's vibrato. OK, it's not for whammy bar addicts but it doesn't pretend to be. They will appeal to people who want something a little different, both in looks and design. Don't let the fact that they use composite materials put you off. Try one and I'm quite sure you will struggle to hear any difference. Overall a refreshing change to the 'normal' electric guitars out there and bound to appear to bands who want to stand out from the me-too crowd.
Once again these are two very good guitars from Supro, even if I grumbled a bit about the Belmont's vibrato. OK, it's not for whammy bar addicts but it doesn't pretend to be. They will appeal to people who want something a little different, both in looks and design. Don't let the fact that they use composite materials put you off. Try one and I'm quite sure you will struggle to hear any difference. Overall a refreshing change to the 'normal' electric guitars out there and bound to appear to bands who want to stand out from the me-too crowd.