I been looking at this amp for a very long time. The Tone King Imperial has been around for over 20 years now. The new version MKII is the perfect balance between classic and modern… absolutely classic tones with the best modern tools and reliability. The MKII adds a few new features that include a new take on Tone King’s Iron Man attenuator. This alone helped make my decision greatly. In my opinion, the best kind of guitar tone usually involves plugging the guitar straight into a great amp and cranking it up to for natural tube overdrive. The attenuator allows for this at reasonable volumes.
I have always been a fan of the Fender Princeton Reverb, Fender Deluxe Reverb and the Fender Tweed. The Tone King Imperial MKII gives you these tones plus fantastic reverb and tremolo.
I sold off a few other amps and purchased this Tone King Imperial MKII. Likely one of the best Fender Deluxe Reverb style amps you will ever hear. The lead channel also goes from a bit of tweed amp to almost an original Marshall sound. The built-in Attenuator is best of class and makes it the only amp you need… from studio, to bedroom to stage.
They come in several colors. I picked Turquoise/White combo.
Tone King Imperial MKII Combo is the latest update to the Imperial line and compiles all the best features of its predecessors. Over 20 years of engineering have gone into the making of this amazing amp. It features a Handwired Board Construction that utilizes the best component placement and wire routing to optimize the sonic clarity, thick tone and dynamics. This construction gives you a better bass response, complex harmonic mids, and smooth chime high frequencies. It also incorporates an AC line filter to eliminate interference from electronic device, giving you a constant clear tone.
The new Imperial MKII also has the new Ironman II compensated power attenuator built in with an added attenuator bypass switch. The attenuator bypass switch allows you to match the volumes of your cleans with the overdriven lead channel. When engaged the attenuator bypass switch automatically turns off the attenuator on the rhythm channel. Another feature that Tone King has added with the Ironman II attenuator is the HF Compensation Switch, which allows you to tailor the compression, presence and brightness of your attenuated tone. The Ironman attenuator is known for its incredibly transparent tone and its ability to maintain the thick tones of the amp at low volume. With these added features the Imperial’s integrated Ironman II attenuator makes this amp even more versatile than before!
The Tone King Imperial Amp recreates the tone and vibe of a vintage Fender amp and builds upon that even further. This 20 watt, all tube, combo truly captures that classic blackface sound in it’s rhythm channel. The tone is easily identified by the Princeton or Deluxe Reverb lovers, but with more of an organic feel, like a classic tweed deluxe. You get the expected shimmery cleans, but you also have the gritty overdrive that this type of amplifier is known for. With that, you get an improved ability to control the timbre and expression of the notes with your fingering and pick attack.
The Imperial features two channels, the Rhythm Channel, and the Lead Channel. We’ll break these down for you:
1) Rhythm Channel – Controls are Volume, Treble, and Bass. Here is where you’ll find those beloved lower wattage Fender Blackface tones, such as the Princeton or the Deluxe Reverb. You’ll get everything from clean to dirty based upon your pick attack, just like a well tuned tweed deluxe. One of the things that so many people love about the Imperial is that it’s a much more user friendly amp than some of the vintage amps, allowing you to control your dynamics and expression more easily.
2) Lead Channel – Controls are Volume, Tone, and Mid-Bite. The Mid-Bite circuit is exclusive to Tone King and it allows you to completely change the overdrive character. When off, the amp reacts like a Tweed Deluxe, with all the dynamics and clean/dirty range you’d expect. Play soft, and you get those nice silky cleans, but dig in hard with your pick, and the amp starts to growl in a very controllable way, if that makes sense. Crank up the volume, and the tone gets fatter, thicker, looser, and just downright nasty. Just the way you want it!
Now, as you turn up the Mid Bite control, the low end starts to tighten up a bit, which gives it more of a British feel. The chords become somewhat chunky like the early Marshalls. Nice!
Reverb: Have we mentioned the reverb yet? Nothing spared here! It’s utilizes an all tube reverb circuit with a dual spring long tank for a phenomenally thich and lush reverb.
Tremolo: I love this… Tone King uses Bias Modulation Tremolo. What this means is the current to the output tubes is modulated to give the volume fluctuations. Honestly, this is one of the nicest sounding trems on the market, and absolutely cannot be replicated by a mere pedal. If you’re into tremolo, as many of you are, this is a authentic as it gets in my opinion. It can also be turned on and off via the supplied footswitch.
- Output Power: 20W
- Power Tubes: 2 x 6V6
- Preamp Tubes: 4x12AX7, 1x12AT7
- Rectifier Tube: 5AR4
- Preamp Channels: 2 (Rhythm, Lead)
- Rhythm Channel Controls: Volume, Treble, Bass
- Lead Channel Controls: Volume, Tone, Mid-Bite
- Reverb: Tube driven, full-size 2-spring long pan
- Tremolo: Bias modulation type (YES!)
- Footswitch: Included; controls both channel switching and tremolo
- Cabinet: Dovetail jointed birch with solid pine baffle board
- Weight: 36.2 lbs
- Dimensions: 22-1/2” W x 19-1/4” H x 10-1/2” D
- Speakers: 12”, 8-Ohm Ceramic Magnet ‘Tone King 33’ Made by Eminence
- Built-In Ironman II Compensated Power Attenuator
- Precision Tuned Reactive Load
- Volume Level Compensation
- Dampening Factor Compensation
My Tone King Amps
Suggested settings from Mark Bartel from Tone King:
If you are playing a Strat, I’d try these three basic settings to get a feel for what this amp sounds like:
Clean rhythm: rhythm channel, vol=4, treble=4, bass=6
Clean rhythm with a bit of edge: rhythm channel, vol=6, treble=4.5, bass=6
Fat edgy roadhouse rhythm: lead chan, vol=4, tone=3, mid_bite=1
Hot tweed cranked up: lead chan, vol=8, tone=3, mid-bite=8
Here are the same sounds, but dialed in with a Les Paul:
Clean rhythm: rhythm channel, vol=2, treble=4.5, bass=5
Clean rhythm with a bit of edge: rhythm channel, vol=3, treble=4.5, bass=5.5
Fat edgy roadhouse rhythm: lead chan, vol=2, tone=3.5, mid_bite=1
Hot tweed cranked up: lead chan, vol=3, tone=3, mid-bite=9
Mark Knopfler on one of his recent tours has been seen using a turquoise Tone King Imperial combo amp next to his Marshall cabinets. Knopfler’s second guitarist Richard Bennet also plays one.
I’m very often just playing my old Tone King Imperial, which sounds great again – like the old ones. If you buy a Tone King now, you’re getting a really great amplifier. It seems they’re getting closer to the original sound.
Hear Mark Knopfler