Magnatone Guitars!

New for Fall 2013, a complete guide to Magnatone guitars and the stories behind them!

1938-1960 Steel Guitars

1956-1963 Bigsby/Barth Era

1964-1966 Starstream Era


1947-1953 Magna Electronics Co.

From 1947 to 1952 amplifier production at Magna centered around 5 watt and 10 watt steel guitar amplifiers. A lot of the early models were finished with mother of pearl plastic that matched a Magnatone build steel guitar. The guitar and amp were often sold as a set, but they could be bough individually as well. Colors changed, but blue and black were most popular. The plastic covered amplifiers usually had a grill cloth depicting a beach surf scene or palm trees to complete the hawaiian motif.

Steel guitar was also popular with western music, and singing cowboy bands didn't find the palm trees and surfers to fit their style. To cater to that crowd, Magnatone also produced some "leatherette" models including the M-320 (pictured) that came with a horseshoe on the front!

Somewhere between palm trees and horse shoes were the aligator vinyl covered Magnatones of 1947-1952. These were usually tan or brown "reptile pattern" covered Art Deco designed cabinets, often with geometric shaped speaker openings.

Below, at left is a 1951 Troubadour M192-5-D, and at right is a Varsity M-197-3-V from about the same year. The cabinet style of the Varsity was also available in the Pearloid plastic covering.



Amplifier design was not unlike other manufacturers of that era. The controls were rear facing. Volume and Tone controls were usually in front of the first gain stage (but not always). Budget models were "AC/DC" amplifiers (no power transformers) and more premium amp tube selections were the usual popular radio tubes of the day (6SJ7,6C5,6SN7,6L6,5Y3).

Public Address systems (PA's) were not common at the time and performers needed to provide their own voice amplification as well. Premium amplifiers had a microphone input as well as an instrument input, and separate volume controls to help musicians satisfy this need with a single amplifier.

Beginning in 1947 Magna adopted a model naming scheme that would be used through the mid-fifties. Magna assigned models based on "M-xxx-t-y", where "xxx" was a model number, and "t" was a number of tubes, sometimes followed by "y": a letter, or two letters. (the M-320-8 pictured above was an 8 tube model amplifier). There were many models produced, so the following table is but a brief, incomplete listing of the early Magna amps (contact me, or visit the registry to submit information about other models.

Model           Tubes Speaker Notes
6SN7 6N7 6V6(2) 5Y3 12" lower chassis, 1948
M-192-5-S 6SC7 6N7 6V6(2) 5Y3 stamped 192-5S
M-192-5 6SN7 6N7 7C5(2) 5Y3 12" Loctal version, Rola(285623) Peerless(391621)
M-192-5-D 6SC7 6SL7GT 6L6(2) 5Y3 12" Troubadour. upper chassis, 1951.
M-192-6-D 2x6L6 2x12AX7 5U4 12" "Lyric" 12" 1952
M-193-3-J 6SJ7 6V6 5Y3 8" lower chassis
M-194-6 12" upper chassis, "Lyric"
M-195-4-J 6SJ7 6J5(or 6C5) 6L6 5Y3 10"
M-195-4-J 6N7 6V6(2) 5Y3 Melodier.
M-195-5-J 6SL7(2) 6V6(2) 5Y3 10" or 12" Melodier Deluxe. Also "Model A-850".
M-195-5-S 6SL7(2) 6V6(2) 5Y3 12" Troubadour
6SJ7 6V6 5Y3 8" lower chassis, "-V" also named "Varsity"
6SJ7 6V6 5Y3 8" lower chassis, "-J" also named "Student"
M-198-8-D 6SJ7(3) 6SL7 6N7 6BG6(2) 5U4 2x12" 1948
M-212-8B 5881(2) 12AX7(2) 12AU7(2) 5Y3 2x12" 1952-1954, "Maestro"
M-320-8 15" upper chassis, 1953. "Westerner" or "Westernair"
the "upper" or "lower" chassis signifies where the chassis was installed in the cabinet.


Public Address

In the late 1940s, Magna built the Professional Model M-198-8D, a twin 12" speaker, six input amplifier that had to be one of the earliest public address (PA) systems produced. The power tubes were 6BG6's, which at the time, were a like a high voltage 6L6 (when 6L6's were still lower plate voltage tubes).

A later, simpler PA system were the PA-297-3 and the PA-297-4 (pictured at right), which date to about 1953. There was a PA-497-6 as well.

PA-297-3 6SL7 6V6 5Y3
PA-297-6 6V6(2) 5Y3, 12AX7(2) 12AU7(PI)



Except where otherwise noted, text/written content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Creative Commons License

web mechanics: text-to-html with Markdown, css handled with Blueprint, glued together with PHP