Magnatone Super Fifty-Nine MKII Combo Amp Review

Most of the guitars and guitar amps and all of the other equipment made today is based on what was established way back in the 1970s, the 1960s, and in the 1950s.

You can say the same about some multi-effect units and hi-tech modelling amps which are packed with presets and models of those old units that pretty much revolutionized not only rock music but the whole industry as a whole.

Aside from the widely accepted and mainstream amp manufacturers like Marshall or Fender, there are many other brands that are not that big despite the fact that they produced some pretty amazing amps.

One of those is Magnatone, an amp building company that still works to this day and keeps the legacy of the vintage tones alive.

Here, we will be looking more into one of their products called the Super Fifty-Nine MKII, which is an amp used (and praised) by none other than ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons.

Well, if he likes it, then it must be good. Right? Either way, this one is definitely worth checking out since it brings more to the table other than just some simple nostalgia-inducing features.


Features

The original amp model, the Super Fifty-Nine MKI, was conceived as an incarnation of those old Magnatone amps back from the early days, like the legendary 262. The MKII is a continuation and an improved version of the MKI.

First, it features 45 watts of power, enough for a small to mid-sized gig, or even something bigger if micked properly. In its power section, the Super Fifty-Nine MKII has two EL34 tubes, while the preamp section includes four 12AX7s along with one 12DW7, also known as the ECC832.

The inputs are another pretty interesting feature as there are four of them in total – the low and high sensitivity for both normal and bright channels.

And the controls are also something that makes this one a pretty versatile amp. Next to the standard EQ controls – bass, mids, and treble ñ there is also the presence control and two separate volume knobs for the normal and bright channel.

Next to these features, there are also classic vibrato and tremolo effects. On the right side of the front panel, there’s a switch allowing you to pick between either of these two.

There are also two knobs for the effects control, tweaking the speed and intensity of either the vibrato or the tremolo effect. The vibrato effect is especially highlighted by the amp’s creators as it is the True Pitch Shifting Varistor Vibrato.

Making it different from its predecessor MKI, the MKII features a solid state vibrato effect whereas the old model had a tube-based one. It’s not rare for the vibrato effect on the MKII to be compared to the legendary Uni-Vibe effect.

The rectifier is also one of the things where the new model differs from the old one. In the MKI we had a tube based one with a GZ34, while in the MKII it’s a diode-based rectifier.

All these features are voiced through the amp’s one speaker, the ceramic 12-inch Magnatone Custom.


Design

Looking at this combo amp, it’s obvious that the design is (just like its sound) a throwback to the old amps with a few modern-looking features. The control panel of the MKII combo is located on the top, while the amp head version has it in the front.

The MKII comes in two different designs/color patterns ñ the standard black and silver cosmetic and the unique looking Cream “Perfectumundo.” Either of these looks great in our eyes as everything is as it should be for a vintage styled amp.

Of course, it should be noted that the build quality is amazing and that it’s definitely something that is built to last.


Performance

Looking through some sources online, you can find a description by its makers that this is “an American amp with a British accent.”

This pretty much sums it up in a way, as there are certain sonic features of the American and British amps. Anything from those old Marshalls to the classic Vox sounds British tone lovers enjoy.

In addition, you get two completely different worlds in one amp by using either the normal or the bright channel.

But despite being a vintage-oriented piece, there’s so much versatility to its sound. Basically, any guitar oriented music that you’re into will be possible through the Super Fifty-Nine MKII.

The funky clean sounds for single-coil guitars, the heavy grinding humbucker based hard rock, and everything in between – this amp has it all.

Another interesting point is the vibrato effect that, as mentioned above, resembles the legendary Uni-Vibe. It is usually a very useful effect for the old bluesy and psychedelic rock type of stuff.


Conclusion

This is, without any doubt, and an exquisite piece of gear that every vintage tone lover would get their hands on. But just like most thing vintage, the price of the amp is pretty high, reaching around $2,500 or more.

Of course, the amp is worth every damn penny, but you should think this through before buying the MKII it as it might not be the best option for the beginners or inexperienced players.

While the sound is nothing short of amazing, we do feel like this amp could use a built-in reverb effect. If the amp is replicating the vintage sounds, it can be kind of dry without at least some spring reverb to it.

Yeah, you can plug in the additional pedals and effects in the amp’s effects loop, but this really seems like an omission.

Overall, with the whole palette of versatile tones and various different options, the amp is definitely a great investment if you’re looking for something that you’ll use for the years to come.

 


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