Other Amps

Magnatone Varsity Reverb

1

A friend brought a Magnatone Varsity Reverb around recently because he blew it up and wondered if I could fix it. An EL84 had shorted and taken out two resistors and a cap with it. Part of the problem was that he kept trying to make it work when the horrible sounds of the shorting EL84 should have convinced him to leave it switched off!

Anyway it's all fixed now so I have had an opportunity to try it with my guitars. It's a relatively simple circuit with two EL84s, a GZ34 rectifier and two 12AX7s and a 12DW7 for the reverb. The sound is full but never boomy and bright but not ice-picky. It's warm and clear and clean it sounds wonderful with my '59 VS Duo Jet. It has a surprising amount of clean headroom with minimal sag for a dual EL84 amp. It also has loads of that beautiful EL84 chime - it's a lovely old-school tone.

As you crank it it gets louder but not by much - it's more that it gets crunchier. It avoids getting flabby like a Fender might but is not as tight as a Plexi might be. It does stay musical though. It also takes pedal very well - I got some amazing sounds with a Les Paul with light OD from a favourite pedal. It managed to stay tight and impressively clear and detailed with the Les Paul.

It does seem a bit pricey for a 15W amp but I am impressed. It's great to hear something this quality which is not trying to be a Fender, Marshall or Vox. It has its own sound and that sound is very usable.

I'd be interested in hearing more about the Magnatone range - anybody got one?

2

Well this is one of the new ones then -- I heard they are good but you really PAY for good. Other reissues like Supro are also good in their one way, but less new and used both.

I had heard but not used the new ones.

Of course the classic 1957-64 era ones are also cult favorites but seems like Magnatone before and after that era don't get a lot of respect.

The new ones are all take offs if that late 50s early 60s thing with some modern hard rock designs / heads. also.

I am just happy to see well made stuff coming from the US again -- people who want inexpensive stuff from China are free to buy and use that stuff.


What I don't get is why US companies use Euro tube designations. If EL-84 is really just a freekin 6BQ5 why not call it that... if an EL 34 is just a 6CA7 why not use the US name?

3

Maybe because those tubes were cool when Vox used them, but nobody liked it when Gibson used them?

4

Well this is one of the new ones then -- I heard they are good but you really PAY for good. Other reissues like Supro are also good in their one way, but less new and used both.

I had heard but not used the new ones.

Of course the classic 1957-64 era ones are also cult favorites but seems like Magnatone before and after that era don't get a lot of respect.

The new ones are all take offs if that late 50s early 60s thing with some modern hard rock designs / heads. also.

I am just happy to see well made stuff coming from the US again -- people who want inexpensive stuff from China are free to buy and use that stuff.


What I don't get is why US companies use Euro tube designations. If EL-84 is really just a freekin 6BQ5 why not call it that... if an EL 34 is just a 6CA7 why not use the US name?

– DCBirdMan

givin' me some gas. I repaired a friends Vox AC15 and couldnt believe the circuit was attached to the back baffle like some back alley brothel. To my frustration once I got it all back in shape I was mad that it sounded so good. He's wasting it on a harp but if you are gonna blow harp on a budget this amp is pretty nice.

Anyway quite a contrast from my early 90s brea california built Fender Pro Junior. What the hell was fender thinking w EL84s in that amp... This amp you speak of, ticks all the boxes for me based on what you shared.

5

Well this is one of the new ones then -- I heard they are good but you really PAY for good. Other reissues like Supro are also good in their one way, but less new and used both.

I had heard but not used the new ones.

Of course the classic 1957-64 era ones are also cult favorites but seems like Magnatone before and after that era don't get a lot of respect.

The new ones are all take offs if that late 50s early 60s thing with some modern hard rock designs / heads. also.

I am just happy to see well made stuff coming from the US again -- people who want inexpensive stuff from China are free to buy and use that stuff.


What I don't get is why US companies use Euro tube designations. If EL-84 is really just a freekin 6BQ5 why not call it that... if an EL 34 is just a 6CA7 why not use the US name?

– DCBirdMan

I guess because most of the amps which used European tubes designations were made in Europe? Why would Marshall use the US designation? More players would be familiar with an EL34 or EL84 than a 6CA7 or 6BQ5. I know I am!

6

It’s too bad that the guys making new amps under old badges (Supro, Magnatone) aren’t recreating the cool circuits that made the originals so unique. Push-pull EL84 amps? Everyone is making those. The original Maggie 431 employed a Hi/Med mu 7247 PI that drove the single envelope dual pentode ELL80 output tube in ClassAB push-pull. No one else was building anything like this.

7

I guess manufacturers are worried about tube availability. It's easy to get decent EL84s - less easy to get an ELL80 I would imagine. With fewer tube variants being built these days it seems more and more amps will be based around the well-known tubes. It's a shame, but computers don't use tubes these days. Otherwise we would have some amazing tubes to choose from.

8

I guess manufacturers are worried about tube availability. It's easy to get decent EL84s - less easy to get an ELL80 I would imagine. With fewer tube variants being built these days it seems more and more amps will be based around the well-known tubes. It's a shame, but computers don't use tubes these days. Otherwise we would have some amazing tubes to choose from.

– JimmyR

1) your review could have been written about my Supro Tremoverb, same descriptors.

2) even 6973s worry me a bit (that's what the Tremoverb uses), because only EH is making them, and the NOS ones are either used/unknown quality, or way too expensive to bother.

9

I had been curious about the Magnatone Varsity for a long time. Found one used locally, very fair price last summer. The non reverb

To Powdog's comment: "Push-pull EL84 amps? Everyone is making those." I would say yes, you're right. But they don't all sound like this one. I've tried so few 2 x el84 amps that seemed to work for me. Most sound boxy, light on bass. Clips of the varsity were different, so I was eager to try one.

They did a great job with this amp. It's not boxy at all, Fine speaker, more than enough volume and bass. It has a negative feedback switch, acts like a boost. To me, it was too much switched on. I had the switch replaced with an analog knob. Also put in some much better tubes. Used but still good 12ax7s in the preamp, and a NOS pair of Telefunken EL84s. Yes, pricey. But a huge boost up in sound quality ... not a subtle change. The amp sounded fine stock. Now, way better. The NFB switch mod worked exactly as I hoped. I keep it dialed at 9 or 10 oclock. Adds a little fat, volume, compression. Just a touch is perfect.

I have this amp in the basement next to another favorite - a '68 SFDR in a bigger cab. Go back and forth, just listening. 6v6s remain my favorite tubes, but this varsity is the first EL84 equipped amp that could stay. More midrange than the DR of course. Easily controlled via the bass knob. Rolling that off affects the midrange noticeably. It's a big, pretty sound. A lot of volume. The loudest 15 watt amp I've tried. With just a little clean boost, reverb and delay in front, beautiful tones with my teles. Up loud, tele on the bridge, that is one keeper sound.

Anyway, I can recommend the varsity.

10

one of my best friends has two new Magnatones, the twin 6V6 single 12 one, and the bigger twin 6L6 2X12. Stupid expensive, but sounds great. Crazy loud/clean amps for the stated wattage and tube complement, the single 12 6V6 one will have any Deluxe Reverb for breakfast, easily, and feels more like 40 watts.

As I understand it from a tech, apart from the varistor vibrato and cosmetics they hardly have anything in common with vintage Magnatones. Be that as it may, they still sound great, wouldn't mind owning one if we're ever going to have live music again.

11

I think Mad Dog nails it. I agree about the sound - I'd forgotten that so many dual EL84 amps sound so boxy. He's right! I'd forgotten because of my experience with the Bad Cat Cub II - that was an eye-opening experience. Like the Magnatone it wasn't boxy, had a huge low end while being tight and clear. But that's where the comparison ends. The Bad Cat was a bit more sparkly and bright. The Varsity is warmer and rounder.

Both are great amps.

12

OK, I'll...

oh never mind.

13

Often times, we get confused when we finally hear the exact term of website development services apart from the internet developer being used interchangeably. But the thought is broken when you look at this, all your personal confusion can disappear. fireboy and watergirl


Register Sign in to join the conversation