Magnatone Amps Are Back, and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons Is Rolling Out the Red Carpet

After 40 years of dormancy, Magnatone amplifiers, one of the great names in guitar amplification has returned—and not in name only.

While the front end and power sections of the new Magnatones have been modernized and vastly improved, the company’s engineers have faithfully recreated their legendary patented vibrato circuit from 1958, which is nothing short of heaven for true aficionados of classic guitar sounds.

Among those who are cheering the boutique company’s return is Billy Gibbons. “We’re pleasantly amazed that the mythic Magnatone has resurfaced in such a big way,” Gibbons says. “This is nothing short of a rockin’ resurrection, and the sound is every bit as great as the look.”

Acknowledged as one of rock’s most discriminating tone freaks, the ZZ Top guitarist is currently using the company’s Super Fifty-Nine head in his live rig and in the studio.

“The Super Fifty-Nine specializes in delivering a very open sound,” he says. “It doesn't require an array of pedals to get great sound, and the master volume feature is one of the best I've heard. It's a lot of loud, and it's the good loud!"

Magnatone president and CEO Ted Kornblum says his focus is on making high-end, American-made products that a musician will want to use for a lifetime. His entire line, he explains, is 100 percent tube powered, crafted using point-to-point wiring and top-notch quality control. “I’m not interested in making thousands of amps,” he says. “ I’m interested in making great amps.”

The product line is currently divided into three groups: the Traditional Collection, the Studio Collection and the Master Collection. The Traditional amps (Twilighter, Stereo Twilighter and Single V) are built in the style of the American combos of the Sixties and feature true pitch-shifting vibrato using silicon-carbide varistors, American-inspired 6V6 and 6L6 tube circuitry, a tube-driven spring reverb, custom-designed ceramic speakers made by Warehouse Guitar Speakers, and gold and brown aesthetics that are based on the original Magnatone amps.

The Studio Collection (Lyric and Varsity) models are built in the tradition of the smaller amps of the Fifties and Sixties and offers those vintage tones but with improved power for the modern player. Visually stunning, compact in size and offering tons of headroom, all of the amps in this line are offered in TV and Cathedral cabinet designs.

For those looking to make a bigger noise à la Mr. Gibbons, the Master Collection (Super Fifteen, Super Thirty and Super Fifty-Nine) features EL84 and EL34 British-inspired tube circuitry, master volume, custom British-style speakers made by Warehouse Guitar Speakers and the company’s patented pitch-shifting vibrato.

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Brad Tolinski

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Brad was the editor of Guitar World from 1990 to 2015. Since his departure he has authored Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen, Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page and Play it Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound & Revolution of the Electric Guitar, which was the inspiration for the Play It Loud exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2019.