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Electro-Harmonix 44 Magnum Guitar Power Amplifier Review

A 44-watt power amp in a pedal-sized box

Download Example 1
Gibson 1 - Gibson SG, Bridge Pickup, Volume 9 o'clock, Bright ON
Download Example 2
Gibson 2 - Gibson SG, Neck Pickup, Volume 12 o'clock, Bright ON

Download Example 3
Gibson 3 - Gibson SG, Both Pickups, Volume Dimed, Bright ON
Download Example 4
Gibson 4 - Boss DS-1, Drop-B tuned Gibson SG, Neck Pickup, Volume 12 o'clock, Bright ON
Download Example 5
Fender 1 - Fender Strat, Bridge Pickup, Volume 10 o'clock, Bright OFF
All clips recorded into an Emperor solid birch 4x12" with
Weber C1265s using a Shure SM57.

Electro-Harmonix is a constant source

of innovation. And their effects—

from classics like the Memory Man to the

Big Muff to the more radical and recent

POG—have a reputation for inspiring creativity

and pushing the envelope of what is

possible with a guitar and a few pedals.

With the release of the 44 Magnum, a

44-watt power amp in a pedal-sized box,

Electro-Harmonix is aiming at a considerably

more utilitarian target. Nevertheless,

they’ve hit a bull’s-eye. The 44 Magnum

ranks as one of the most practical pieces

of gear for the gigging guitarist released by

anyone over the last several years. It has

potential in the studio and the practice

space, and it can work as both a backup

amp and compact front-line amp for certain

players—all for the same money you’d

pay for a typical high-quality pedal.

Packs a Punch

The 44 Magnum comes in the same ultra-small

pedal box as the Magnum’s little brother,

the 22 Caliber, and such effects pedals as

the Freeze and the Nano Clone. The unit

weighs about the same as a similarly sized

effects unit, though it does require a fairly

hefty 24-VDC adapter with an inline transformer

(this is included with the device).

Because the 44 Magnum is a power

amp, its output must be connected directly

to a speaker. But EHX had the foresight

to dummy-proof the unit to some extent,

and if you power it up without connecting

it to a speaker load first, the Magnum will

automatically disable, saving itself from an

eventual meltdown. To restart the Magnum,

you simply remove it from power, connect

a load, and reintroduce power. The optimal

configuration is with an 8Ω cabinet, but

the Magnum will push a 16Ω speaker too.

It’s deceiving and dangerous to think of

this thing as a pedal, and it’s a bit scary to

think of the poor bloke who will eventually

plug this thing into his delay pedal.

You read it here, you’ll read it on the

pedal, and you’ll read it about four times

in the manual—don’t plug it into anything

but a speaker cabinet or otherwise appropriate

load. The damage to your gear can

be significant.

The 44 Magnum’s control set is as

simple as they come. Like any non-master

volume amp, a single Volume knob takes

the 44 Magnum from quiet and clear all

the way up to loud, growling, and saturated.

The only other control is a 2-position

toggle for Normal or Bright operation—a

feature not unlike the Bright switch on

many vintage Fender amplifiers.

If It Walks Like an Amp …

I tried the 44 Magnum out with an 8Ω

Emperor 4x12 cabinet, a Gibson SG, and a

Fender Stratocaster. With the Gibson piped

through the 44 Magnum in Normal mode

at low volume, the amp generated a full,

if dark, sound with both neck and bridge

pickups. At around 10 o’clock I started

to hear pleasing hints of true power-amp

compression. And even at this relatively low

setting, the pedal was already kicking out

enough volume for a practice session or a

gig on a small stage.

Moving the volume up to noon propelled

me into sweet overdrive territory.

And with the volume at 2 or 3 o’clock, the

Gibson’s humbuckers induced both heavy,

harmonic distortion and singing feedback.

My Stratocaster’s lower-output single-coils

created a subtler saturation, but the signal

was still very cutting, resulting in a juiced,

Marshall Plexi-like tone that was simultaneously

creamy, dark, and slicing. It’s remarkable—

given its size—but the 44 Magnum

really can rock and rock heavily. And the

only limitation of the pedal, at least in

terms of gain range, is that it may not work

well by itself for certain genres of metal,

where extreme volume and preamp gain are

key, or for David Gilmour-style loud-and-clean


I also evaluated the Magnum using a

Boss DS-1, EHX Big Muff, and a Devi

Ever Legend of Fuzz. Here the Magnum’s

Bright switch proved to be a real asset, and

flipping it on helped the distortion pedals’

high frequencies shine through. Like most

guitarists, I generally run these pedals into

the front end of my guitar amp, effectively

funneling one preamp (the pedal) into

another (the amp’s preamp). It’s not often

that you get to hear your favorite distortion

pedals run directly into a power amp, and

it was definitely a sonic treat to experience

the fundamental voice and range of those

pedals so clearly.

The Verdict

There are a ton of potential applications

for the 44 Magnum. Bass players

in smaller, quieter combos can use it to

drive a cabinet. And if you like to travel

as light as possible, but need more kick

than a small-wattage combo can deliver,

the 44 Magnum and a small cabinet are a

cost-effective and super-portable solution.

For my money, though, it’s a great piece

of insurance if you’re a touring or gigging

musician. Throw the tiny 44 Magnum into

your cable bag and you’re done with worrying

about a failed amp forever. It won’t

replace your vintage or boutique tube

amp in terms of sweet tones, mega gain,

or high headroom. But it sure won’t break

your back and, at $145, it won’t break

the bank either. If your go-to amp is an

old-timer with a few quirks, you won’t be

playing Russian roulette onstage with a 44

Magnum in your holster.

Buy if...
you regularly play electric guitar in a live setting and subscribe to Murphy’s Law.
Skip if...
you don’t need anything more portable than your combo, and it hasn’t failed you ... yet.

Street $145 - Electro-Harmonix -