Up for sale, a 1959 Magnatone Custom 280 in exceptional condition, fully serviced and extremely original, stocked with a bevy of vintage tubes. This particular Magnatone is a true rarity, complete with a factory matched pair of 1x12 extension speaker cabinets, a Magnatone battery-powered RVB-1 Reverb Unit, large "doorstop" footswitch, and a pair of original Victoria Luggage amp covers.
The 280 was the top of the line 200 series amplifier developed by Magna Electronics in the "Pre-Estey" days of the company, and this amp is often considered the pinnacle of golden era Magnatone design and tone. Notable users of the 280 include Buddy Holly, Neil Young, and the Sonics, and the stereo vibrato is unlike anything offered on another tube amp of the era. The circuit pushes a pair of stock Oxford 12L5N alnico speakers and a pair of 3" tweeters, and the stereo field of the vibrato is on full display via the pair of extension cabs.
Featuring two channels, point-to-point circuitry, and dual output transformers for true stereo operation, the Magnatone 280 was ahead of its time, and an amp that cost a good 20% more in its day than the most expensive Fenders. All of the original Schumacher-made transformers are intact, dating to 1959, and the circuit is extremely original, with all of the original blue molded Ajax capacitors intact in the preamp. These caps are central to the musical, sweet sound of the amp, with only a couple new F&T caps in the power supply to ensure optimal functionality. All of the original CTS pots are intact as well, with visible date codes from the 17th week of '59. The tube complement includes a matched quad of RCA 6973 power tubes, with a bevy of RCA, Sylvania, and Amperex valves in the preamp, and a modern 5U4 EH rectifier.
Of course the hallmark of any Magnatone amp is its true stereo vibrato, and this amp delivers the classic effect with inimitable depth and width. The pulse and warble of the vibrato is vibrant and lush, operating either in mono or stereo, bouncing between the two Oxford speakers inside the cab and/or the Oxfords in the extension cabs. The 3" tweeters also do a great deal to accentuate the top end swirl of the vibrato. The Oxford 12L5N-1 speakers inside the amp both have clean white/silver frames with matching 1959 date codes. The faceplate of the amp is surprisingly clean, given how lightly these were originally screen printed, and all of the text and graphics are present. The original large white knobs are all intact too.
The pair of extension cabs also retain their original Oxford-made 12L6N 12" drivers (and original tweeters), and the speakers in the extension cabs date back to '57. Both cabinets have original wheat grillcloth on the back panels as well as on the face of the cabinets, and both cabs are missing their original handles, perhaps to make the amp more easily stackable for past gigging use.
The RVB-1 Magnatone Reverb Unit completes the set, and this extremely rare accessory was introduced after Magnatone's acquisition by Estey in '61. The Reverb Unit is powered by two 9V batteries and is a transistorized design, complete with the original two-spring reverb tank.
Cosmetically, the amp retains the original brown bindery cloth used to cover the cabinets, along with the original grillcloth, gold Magnatone logos, and two pairs of 'V' badges on the extension cabs. The original handle clasps are intact on the main amp, fitted with a new leather handle.
A pair of original brown Victoria Luggage amp covers are included, along with the original large "doorstop" wooden footswitch to engage the vibrato.