February 2nd, 2024 | John Dines
Hello Origin fans! This month we’re shining our little vintage-correct incandescent spotlight on one of our more unusual products, the MAGMA57. Nestled within our Amp Recreation range of pedals, the MAGMA57 is an homage to an unusual, unique and brilliant range of amps from the late 1950s. Using our usual no-stone-unturned approach to recreating amp circuits, the MAGMA57 fills its enclosure with the cleans, drives, character and vibrato of the Magnatone 200 series amps.
The Magnatone 200 Series amps are famous – to those in the know – for their proper pitch-shifting vibrato. No, not the volume modulating tremolo that Leo Fender mislabelled “vibrato” (possibly the only mistake he ever made), but actual up-and-down-in-pitch vibrato. In today’s digital age, this might not seem like a big deal but, in the ‘50s, this was groundbreaking! Not only was this effect innovative and interesting, but the amps themselves also had great clean and overdriven tones, regardless of the vibrato.
The MAGMA57’s vibrato effect is taken from the Magnatone 260 and can vary from just adding some subtle movement, all the way to disorienting psychedelia. What’s more, by combining the vibrato and dry signals in or out of phase using the BLEND switch, it can provide extra flavours of vintage modulation that sit somewhere between Uni Vibe, phaser and chorus.
Setting the vibrato to one side for a moment, the amp tones themselves are also suitably vintage and full of character. Based on the smaller, more aggressive Magnatone 213 Troubadour, this important chunk of Amp Recreation circuitry has a lot in common with the Fender Tweed Deluxe – albeit with more restraint and some welcome tightness in the low frequencies. It ranges from rockabilly clean tones, through edge-of-breakup americana, to classic cranked combo overdrive, and its quirky TONE control adds extra gain along with an upper midrange push.
As usual with our Amp Recreation pedals, the purpose of the MAGMA57 is to include rare and desirable vintage tones on 21st century pedalboards, either replacing an amp altogether or adding an alternative amp tone to a pedal platform rig. High headroom means that you can shoehorn the MAGMA57 in amongst all of your modern pedals, taking boosts and drives like a real amp, and remote switching and tap tempo keep things convenient for modern players.
The Post-Drive EQ controls allow the MAGMA57 to be tweaked to work perfectly in any setup. Two adjustable filters – EQ1 and EQ2 – apply post-drive tone shaping to the output so it can play nicely with your clean tone, avoiding endless fiddling and compromise between pedal and amp, and keeping the MAGMA57 sounding authentic, whatever it might be plugged into. For those using cabinet simulators, flat power amps or plugging into the FX return, P/AMP mode defeats the Post-Drive EQ, for 100% unadulterated Magnatone tone.
The Magnatone 200 Series amps were used most notably by Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly and Lonnie Mack, and have recently appeared back on the radar of vintage-leaning guitarists, thanks to the resurgence of Magnatone as a boutique amp brand, though they are still a somewhat niche choice. For whatever reason, the Magnatone 200 Series didn’t endure through the decades in the minds of guitarists in the same was as Fender’s early designs, despite sounding undeniably awesome. However, they’re one of those sounds that you’ve probably heard more than you realise. Like Gretsch guitars, or drums miked from down the corridor. For that reason, we at Origin Effects consider it “the tone you never knew you needed”, and crammed it in a pedal to prove it!
Helpfully, the stereo mix allows you to isolate the Magnatone sound by taking off your left headphone: