The Superbe is our recreation of the 1955
5E3 Deluxe - possibly the best blues amp
ever made. It has a thick, spongy tone with
the more compression or "sag" than any
other tube amp.
It is a cathode biased Class AB amp with a
5Y3GT rectifier, 6V6GT power tubes, 12AX7
phase splitter and a 12AY7 preamp. The
crazy amount of compression is caused by
the fact that the power supply is really
inadequate for the task - the 5Y3GT doesn't
provide enough current and the filter
capacitors are too small.
This was partly a cost saving decision (larger value capacitors were very expensive and
physically very large in the 1950's) but also part of Leo Fender's design philosophy - to
increase sales he developed a large family of amps and to save money he would use the
greatest number of parts shared between the different models - he would stretch some amps
up in power and scale others down to create a range from 5 to 80 Watts.
This resulted in some underpowered and some overpowered designs - the 5E3 was one whose
output power was stretched beyond the capabilities of it's power supply.
When played at low volumes this has no effect but when the amp is pushed past half volume
the magic happens - when you play a loud note or chord, the current is drawn from the
reserve stored in the filter capacitors. This small reserve is quickly exhausted and more
current is drawn from the rectifier tube. As the chord decays, it's volume falls within the range
the power supply can provide and the volume builds back up, creating a very musical sustain.
It's like a studio compressor with a slow attack and a one to two second release. To an
extent all vintage tube amps do this but the 5E3 does it the most!
This was certainly an accidental "feature" - the 5E3 was simply a low (third to bottom) range,
affordable small amp that wasn't really meant to be turned up too loud.
Blues players however loved the price and the sustain - it gives individual notes a great
authority which is well suited to blues guitar's vocal qualities.
Our reproduction is identical to the original except we've added a three pronged power cord,
standby switch and center tapped heater winding for less hum. Like all our amps we use
Mercury Magnetics transformers and chokes, Sprague and Mallory capacitors, Switchcraft jacks,
Carling switches and your choice of Weber, Celestion or Jensen speakers.