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We are very excited to be taking a look at the brand new reissue of what for many is a legendary and much sought-after amp from the mid '70s, the MusicMan 212 HD 130. Originally designed by Tom Walker (and possibly Leo Fender to some extent), the MusicMan '70s amps aimed to obtain the cleanest sounds possible by utilising a solid state pre-amp, with valve power. Well-documented players of the original MusicMan amps include Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and Albert Lee.

 

At this point I can't help but mention the mid-70s Ry Cooder sound from his Paradise & Lunch - Chicken Skin Music era, which to this reviewer is one of the finest sounds a guitar can produce and used (at least some of the time) MusicMan amps, but is altogether much less widely acknowledged or appreciated.

 

MusicMan have teamed up with Marco de Virgiliis from renowned modern manufacturers MarkBass to reissue this unusual and interesting classic, that was for many years unavailable on the market.

The 212 HD 130 features 130W of EL34 tube power into 2x DV Mark Neoclassic Custom speakers, with a fully solid state front end. "But proper amps are all-valve!", I hear you shout. Well, as a general rule yes, but I implore anyone who would sneer at the idea of a solid state front end, to go to their nearest store and try one. The solid state element is part of what makes this amp so distinctive, and the tone it plays a part in producing is both unique and absolutely superb.

How does it look?

With similar looks to a Fender Twin (lots of silvery stuff and vintage skirted knobs), one could be forgiven for suggesting it's a copycat amp, but far from it. Those in the know will immediately recognise its classic MusicMan '70s style logo, although on these newer amps (and any post 1980) the logo colours have been inverted from the original '70s examples. With some of Ernie Ball MusicMan's recent designs being slightly "unusual", it's great that they've gone for a cohesive look very much like the old amps. To us, it looks ready to grace any professional studio floor or stage.

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How does it sound?

This amp is all about clean tone. Smooth, rich, buttery, incredibly responsive clean tones. It sounds amazing! It features two channels, the first offering a standard 3 band EQ, and the second adding in the built in spring reverb and tremolo effects. Both channels have "Bright / Normal" switches, and there is an overall master "Deep / Normal" switch. It all sounds brilliant, and with the solid state front end combined with so much tube power and twin 12" speakers that are built to handle 300W, you have massive clean headroom. Argurably most impressive is the astonishing response from just light playing, but also this amp has a very characterful "juicy" and rich overdrive tone if you drive the input volume and back off the master. It also has switchable High and Low power, which is a nice option for the studio or home use.

 

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This incredible clean tone also means the amp is a fantastic base for effects, so if you're looking for a pro level clean base for your effects setup, this is a great option.

The real character though is in the amp itself, and I wouldn't hesitate to use this amp in any live or studio setup. Highly recommended for its clean tone alone and cheaper than a new Fender Twin, we love it! The only problem is, no matter how hard you try, you'll never sound as good as Ry...

 

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