“In keeping with Billy’s directive to ‘retain the gain or feel the pain’”: Billy Gibbons has helped Magnatone develop the Baby M-80 – its smallest and lightest tube amp yet

Magnatone Baby M-80 tube amp
(Image credit: Magnatone)

Magnatone has lifted the lid on a new compact combo amp and head, the Baby M-80, that has been developed with the input of Billy Gibbons.

While not a signature amp as such, the US-based firm says the ZZ Top man’s input was crucial in its development.

“Gibbons worked with Magnatone to perfect this amp’s small size and gain structure,” says the amp-maker. “In keeping with Billy’s directive to ‘retain the gain or feel the pain,’ this little gem of an amp delivers a big tone in a compact size.”

In keeping with the firm’s retro charms, it’s a Marshall-inspired ‘British’ tube amp circuit, using a 3x 12AX7 preamp. However, the firm has saved some space in the power section, with a pair of miniature NOS 6AQ5 tubes.

These are roughly half the length and width of the traditional EL34 power tube and have allowed the manufacturer to shrink the overall size and weight of the amplifier, while still ensuring it kicks-out a substantial 12-watts of power. 

Given Magnatone’s reputation for volume, we feel secure in predicting this will be a small but mighty amp – and it should be more than capable of handing home, rehearsal and small gig applications. 

Controls include Master, Bass, Treble and Gain, with a mini-switch to engage a Hi or Lo gain mode and, in a surprising move for such a small build, there’s also a tube-buffered FX loop.

Though the tone-sculpting controls are quite limited (which is often a good thing, in GW’s experience) Magnatone promises there’s a lot of variety on offer. 

What’s more, the firm points out that despite the fact the Baby M-80 has no dedicated mids control, the amp’s designer – “long-time Magnatone engineer and tube amp guru” Obeid Kahn – honed the 8-10 range on the bass control to force the mids to dip, enabling you to still dial in a more aggressive, scooped tone.

Magnatone Baby M-80 combo controls

(Image credit: Magnatone)

The Baby M-80 will be available from January in a 1x10” combo and head and there’s also a matching 1x10” speaker cabinet. 

Price-wise, it just ducks the $2,000 mark at $1,999 for the combo, $1,899 for the head and $1,149 for the cabinet – which makes the combo the no-brainer in terms of bang for your buck, but it’s nice to have options…

The amp-maker has clearly determined to finish out 2023 in some style. Just last month, Slash announced his intention to endorse Magnatone (alongside Marshall) and said he was developing a “killer” new signature amp.

For more information on the Baby M-80, head to Magnatone.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.