In this technological age, guitarists are more likely to toggle between a Deluxe Reverb and a cranked Super Reverb from an amp modeling processor than use the real thing. Thankfully, veteran boutique amp designer Steve Carr, who hand-builds extraordinary point-to-point wired tube amplifiers at his North Carolina workshop, will have none of this digital hogwash.
Carr’s latest creation, the Super Bee, is a lightweight 10-watt all-tube combo with reverb and built-in attenuation. It features a novel rotary “Sting” switch that offers three curated Black-panel amp-voicings that range from glassy warmth to revved-up punch.
Now, while I can’t say for sure that this is Carr’s response to modeling amps, I can tell you Carr has managed to nail high-powered “Fullerton-era” tube tone in a powerful low-wattage combo with a springy liveliness that sounds nearly panoramic. Prepare to shelve those digital processors; this sweet-as-honey Super Bee is going to stir up one helluva buzz among tube amp enthusiasts and home-recording night owls.
The remarkable Super Bee is a cathode bias amp featuring an EZ81 rectifier, two 12AX7 and one 12AT7 preamp tubes, tube-driven spring reverb, premium Jupiter capacitors and immaculate point-to-point wiring. But what sets the Super Bee apart from Carr’s many other models is the inclusion of a pair of uncommon 6BM8 tubes that pull double-duty as a combined pentode power and triode preamp tube to drive the amp at a roaring 10 watts of full power.
Controls include Volume, a three-way rotary “Sting” switch (64, 68 and 72), Treble, Middle, Bass, Reverb, 10W/0-2W (Attenuator with power select toggle switch) and a single play/off/standby switch. Best of all, Carr’s fourth-generation built-in attenuator can tamp down the Super Bee from 2 watts to an almost zero-watt-quiet whisper – all while maintaining the amp’s sensational touch-sensitive dynamics.
The amp just looks cool as well, exuding a sharp retro-inspired appearance with its solid pine cabinet covered in tweed and black Tolex, with white piping borders separating the two colors from its inverted-trapezoidal brown grille (other color options are available). Finally, I decided to review this combo loaded with an Eminence Copperhead 10–inch speaker rather than the 12–inch Carr Valiant speaker.
Carr’s inspiration for the Super Bee (outside of its Dodge muscle car namesake) is drawn from a personal ’64 Deluxe Reverb and a variety of stock and hot-rodded Sixties Super Reverb amps, so it’s no coincidence that each avenue selected from the Super Bee’s “Sting” switch – 64, 68 and 72 – offers its own spellbinding vistas of familiar Black-panel tonal range.
The 64 voicing is based on that Deluxe Reverb and gushes with a desirable scooped-mids sound that divulges a bell-like shimmer for cleans. Clicking up to 68 reveals one of my favorite tones on the Super Bee; a combination of bold and stout cleans where every note you pluck strikes with a sinewy punch – very much like a nearly cranked Super Reverb.
Finally, the 72 notch is an overdriven nirvana of Fifties Tweed snarl or late-Seventies Marshall raunch, depending where you set the amp’s interactive EQ and volume. No matter which “Sting” voicing is selected, the Super Bee never lets up with its surprisingly dimensional tone.
While I do believe most players will gravitate towards the 12–inch speaker for the Super Bee, I do find the 10–inch Copperhead pulls in more focused and tighter tones, providing far more cutting clarity in the mids, but even more astonishing, the amp doesn’t fall prey to that diminutive “boxy” sound as a compact combo.
The built-in attenuator is phenomenal for its efficiency in producing increased touch-sensitivity and harmonics at such low volume levels, making it an unbelievable recording and bedroom amp. I can also reveal the reverb is gorgeous and splashy, and the amp works great with pedals too, but the Super Bee reminds me it’s just one of those combos that sounds best plugged straight in.
- PRICE: $2,430
- TYPE: All-tube combo
- POWER OUTPUT: 10W (switchable to 2W, 0.1W)
- VALVES: EZ81 rectifier, 2x 12AX7, 1x 12AT7 preamp tubes; 2x 6BM8 power tubes
- SPEAKER: 10" Eminence Copperhead
- CONTROLS: Volume, 3-way rotary “Sting” switch (64, 68 and 72), Treble, Middle, Bass, Reverb, 10W/0-2W (Attenuator w/ power select toggle switch) and a single play/off/standby switch
- DIMENSIONS: 21” (W) x 8” (D) x 15.5” (H)
- WEIGHT: 33 lbs
- CONTACT: Carr Amplifiers (opens in new tab)