The quest for the tonally pure, yet ultra-versatile and multi-functioned, amp has proved a sort of elusive Holy Grail for decades. Many players might have concluded, rightly or otherwise, that this has long been proven a one-or-the-other deal: Opt for the purity of a simple amp, or compromise in tone for the flexibility of footswitchable channels and bonus functions. Henry Heistand believes, however, that the twain shall indeed meet, packing myriad functions into amps that have earned plaudits for the superb playing feel. Heistand’s RedPlate brand, founded in 2006, is a relative newcomer to the boutique scene, but his career of modding, repairing, and building and playing tube amps spans more than four decades, and he brings that broad experience into his designs.
RedPlate established its name by linking delectable blackface Fender-style clean channels to creamy, smooth Dumble-style OD stages, most often through a 6L6 or 6V6-based back end. The 50-watt, dual-EL34 Magica changes all that. Acknowledging that blackface is still king of clean for many players, this new model retains that option while pairing up a footswitchable British-style lead channel with two selectable levels of gain. These are cascaded together when Gain 2 is activated, which has its own independent Treble, Middle, and Bass controls. A plethora of added features enable fine tuning of each channel’s voice and feel (see the specs box for the full run-down), along with RedPlate’s famously functional tube-buffered effects loop, an interesting Master circuit that actually adds gain as you turn it up, a 50/18-watt switch on the back panel, and handy external bias adjustment points. The included footswitch allows you to select between the clean and the two lead channels, as well as a preset Boost function that works on all of them. The latter is a partial tone stack-lift function, the amount of which can be adjusted via individual internal trim-pots for each channel. Behind the no-nonsense, Brit-influenced styling, the amp boasts a hand-wired chassis exhibiting quality components and tidy workmanship, along with a Celestion Vintage 30 speaker in a partially open-back cab with a Dumble-style oval rear port.
I played the Magica with a Gibson 1959 Les Paul Reissue and a Danocaster S-type, with a selection of overdrives in front. The amp did indeed offer bold cleans, which were somewhat firmer and perhaps not as succulent as those on a RedPlate BlackVerb I sampled some months ago. Think Hiwatt more than blackface Fender, a robust tone with its own thing going on. This first channel made a great sonic platform nevertheless, and it ate up both a J. Rockett Archer overdrive pedal and a Providence Stampede DT distortion, translating each pedal’s particular shade of dirt into a trenchant, dynamic lead voice. Lead One proved great for semi-cranked cleans to mid crunch, putting me in mind of mid-’60s JTM-45 tones, but I really started to enjoy myself with Gain Two engaged. The range of gain available in this channel made it easy to roll from singing ’80s lead tones almost all the way to chugging low-string death-metal riffage, with a broad palette to explore in between.
The Magica dealt out truly bovine low-end girth for a relatively compact open-back combo, with a weighty midrange besides, all of which promised meaty tones on just about any stage. The EQ and related features provided all the sonic versatility you could desire for either channel, and the loop worked extremely well with a range of delay units. The 18-watt setting also proved a cool feature: looser and more raw, and with substantially less headroom, it presented a different playing feel, along with its reduced volume levels. I’ve never been a fan of the Vintage 30, and again found it rather blunt and barky in this amp, issuing piercing highs on many clean settings in particular. I ran the Magica through two 1x12 extension cabs, individually, with Celestion G12-65 and Scumback M75 speakers respectively, and preferred the amp’s performance in both. That said, the V30 does make this a powerful and punchy package for rock in particular, and it ably handles the amp’s full output. (RedPlate also offers the Celestion G12-65 or Creamback 75 speaker as a no charge option.)
All in all, I found the Magica an impressive design, and a great amp for a wide range of rock-leaning genres.
PRICE $2,699 street; head $2,499 street
CHANNELS 2 (with two gain levels in Lead)
CONTROLS Clean channel: 3-way Mids switch, Volume (pull Bright), Treble, Middle (pull deep), Bass. Lead channel: Volume 1, Gain 1, Volume 2, Gain 2, Treble, Middle, Bass; Global Master. Back panel: Presence (bypassable), Depth (sets Presence control range), independent 3-way Single-Coil/Humbucker/Fat switches for each channel.
POWER 50 watts, switchable to 18 watts
TUBES Five 12AX7s, two EL34s
EXTRAS Three-button footswitch for channel select and boost. FX Send/Return. Main and Ext speaker outs with 4/8/16Ω switch. Bias test and adjustment points. 50/18-watt switch.
SPEAKER 12” Celestion Vintage 30
WEIGHT 64 lbs
KUDOS Bold cleans and powerful British-voiced lead tones. Outstanding build quality. Impressive versatility.
CONCERNS Slightly piercing highs from the Vintage 30 speaker.