Magnatone Amps – The Evolution of Boutique Tone, Yesterday & Today (Part 2)

Magnatone Amps

Last month, we left off with a team in place to design, prototype, test, and market the new line of Magnatone amplifiers. This month we look at each series and model of the new Magnatone line and the features of each, including the world famous pitch-shifting vibrato circuit.

Let me start off by saying that the new Magnatone line of amps is no less than stellar! There are three series: the Studio Collection, Traditional Collection and the Master Collection. All exude tonal quality and craftsmanship, and that is before we consider the features of stereo pitch-shifting vibrato or tube-driven reverb. Between the three series or “collections,” Magnatone manages to offer something to meet just about every player’s needs. From five-watt studio amps to 6V6, American-voiced combos to EL34 British-inspired heads and cabs, Kornblum, Khan and the rest of the crew at Magnatone have produced a line of models that covers all of the bases.

Magnatone Amps

Magnatone Amps

Each collection includes three models. In the Studio Collection, Magnatone offers up three lower-wattage, class A tube amplifiers housed in solid pine, finger jointed cabinets covered in either black or burgundy faux crocodile covering.

The Lyric is a no-frills, 10 watt, Class A combo featuring one 12AX7, one 6L6 power tube and a 10-inch speaker. It’s perfect for studio, rehearsal and small club performances.

The Varsity is the big brother to the Lyric. A 15 watt, push-pull class A amplifier featuring two 12AX7 preamp tubes, two EL84 power tubes and a GZ34 rectifier, the Varsity is the perfect size for stage and studio. The combo houses a 75 watt, 12″ custom Magnatone speaker in a box that’s a bit larger than you might expect. The result is an amp with enough power and bottom end to blow the doors off of most joints. One of the coolest features of the Varsity is the Negative Feedback Switch, which acts as a 8db boost/cut, allowing the amp to take on two unique sonic personalities.

The third model in the Studio Collection is the new Panoramic. Debuted at the 2014 NAMM trade show, the Panoramic is a stereo, 5 watts per side, single-ended class A amplifier with two 12 AX7s, a 12AU7 and a duet of 6V6 power tubes. The Panoramic offers the famous Magnatone pitch-shifting, varistor stereo vibrato. Cabinet options include a 1×12″ or stereo 2-10″ speaker cab.

The Traditional Collection showcases the Twilighter, Twilighter Stereo and Single V models. Encased in a classy, brown tolex with retro style, the Traditional series amplifiers would look equally great on stage, in the studio or as a fine piece of furniture in your living room! All three models are American-voiced, push-pull class AB amplifiers featuring either 6V6 or 6L6 power tubes. All Traditional series amps also feature a tube driven, long pan reverb and true pitch-shifting, varistor vibrato which can be switched to conventional tremolo via the FM-AM switch. Each member of the Traditional Collection is an outstanding, boutique, American-voiced tube amp with a warmth and bloom usually only heard in the finest vintage tube amps of the 1960’s.

The Vibrato effect departs from the original vintage design by producing a much more lush and three dimensional quality that can be slowed much slower than it’s ancestors. The result is unsurpassed, dynamic fidelity with a modulation that is mesmerizing.

The Master Collection offers three models inspired by the British amp companies of the ’60s. The Super Fifteen and Super Thirty are 15 watt and stereo 15 watts per side, respectively. They are EL 84, push-pull class A amplifiers designed with sparkly, British styled clean tones as well as full throttle A class overdrive capabilities. Pair that with the option of Magantone’s true pitch-shifting vibrato and you have an amp that will please any die-hard, class A, British-tone purist!

The Super Fifty-Nine head is a unique model, even though it is listed as part of the Master Collection and aesthetically has the same black tolex and white satin grill cloth as its A class siblings. The Super Fifty-Nine is a British behemoth that features a two EL34, 45 watt, push-pull class AB power section. With two channels, the Super Fifty-Nine has the ability to straddle vintage British tones as well as more modern, gainy rock tones of the ’70s and ’80s. With an input layout similar to a vintage Bassman and the pitch-shifting vibrato circuit available in the classic channel only, one can bridge the two channels to produce a warbley, uni-vibe effect that conjures the soul of Hendrix and Trower. After hearing the Super Fifty-Nine, it comes as no surprise that the model was developed in conjunction with Billy Gibbons and has been the Reverend’s go to rig for the last year or so.

Each model is unique yet consistently voiced in the new Magnatone tradition. Most models come with either Magnatone branded, WGS designed speakers, or Celestion Gold Alnicos (Lyric is supplied with a Jensen P10R). Some models include a two button footswitch, and a 20k expression pedal is also optional for hands-free control of the vibrato speed.

Although Magnatone is currently offering amplifiers only, plans are underway to offer high end Magnatone guitars with the help of Boise-based luthiers John and Jake Bolin of Bolin Guitars.

So while we currently live in the golden age of boutique gear, it may seem an impossible feat to offer up something unique both in aesthetic style and high fidelity that balances the much sought retro tones and looks of the great classics with the needs of modern players. Yet Ted Kornblum, Obeid Khan, and the team at Magnatone have managed to do just that! With great tone, vibe and style, the Magnatone line of amplifiers is a home run, and the redesigned, true pitch-shifting, varistor vibrato is just the icing on the cake.

Written by: David Anderson