Been looking to get a British voiced tube amp for quite a while. I have demoed and investigated several. I was so impressed with the Tone King Imperial MKII that I purchased recently. I decided to go with Mark Bartel’s latest creation and his first British voiced amp. Mostly for the reasons that it is fairly light (way lighter than some Marshalls for instance), has the built-in Ironman Attenuator (a must for the lower volumes I need sometimes) and Tone King’s quality. Tone Kings amps like most boutique amps are pricy, but in my opinion worth the extra money.
The Tone King Royalist (formally known as the Majesty after a last-minute discovery that rights to this name were already owned, the Majesty is now called the Royalist) comes in 15 or 45 watt offerings. Since I mainly play at lower volumes I opted for the 15 water and do not need the extra headroom. So I bought the Tone King Royalist 15 Combo which has a custom 12-inch speaker. The amp is also available as a head and cabinet.
The Tone King Royalist as a front panel bypass-enable switch for a tube buffered effects loop which is very handy as this amp does not have built-in reverb. I am using the effects loop for a reverb pedal. The Royalist takes most pedals extremely well in the front input.
The amp is voiced to go from the original Marshall JTM45 to a Plexi. But, lighter in weight and at lower volumes. The Tone King Royalist is inspired by the sound of the early Marshall amps. You can hear elements of the old Bluesbreaker, JTM45, and JMP50 in the sound of this amp. However, the Royalist is not a clone of any vintage amp. It is very much a new design that uses Tone King’s unique modern circuit. To my ears the Royalist is much more Marshall that Vox in the British tones it can produce.
If you are looking for “Fender clean” tones this is not the amp for you. The Tone King Imperial MKII has that in spades and is still my favorite amp. The Royalist can give you Marshall crunch and voicings with some clean chime when you lower the volume and back off on the guitar’s volume. The Imperial on the other hand will give you a great crunch on the lead channel, but it is more Fender Tweed in its voice. Both amps are great, but very different.
From British site MusicRadar:
The Royalist isn’t just another great-sounding, expensive boutique amp. Mark Bartel has managed to isolate the DNA of classic British guitar tone, then refined it, focused it and unleashed it through a 1×12 enclosure that sounds more like a 4×12….. If your goal is the ultimate in Plexi or JTM45 tone, you owe it to yourself to hear Tone King’s Royalist.
Between the Tone King Imperial MKII and the Tone King Royalist 15 you can cover an amazing amount to classic tube amp tonal ground. Yes, at a high price, but we only live once!
I love the classic styling. This is a single channel amp. It has an effects loop that can be turned off on the front panel which is great as the amp does not have any built-in reverb or tremolo. Very simple controls with no master volume. The amount of crunch or distortion is dialed in by just raising the volume on the amp. Volume level can be lowered from earsplitting to bedroom with the attenuator. The attenuator in Tone King amps is amazing as it is able to maintain tone and still lower the volume to a usable level for studio or small clubs.
From Tone King:
Tone King brings you a fresh take on vintage British style tone with the new Royalist amplifiers.
The Royalist captures the best of authentic vintage British sound by combining vintage “JTM45” girth and grunt with the snarl and crunch of a vintage “Plexi”, all rendered with the sparkling clarity and lush dimension that Tone King amps are known for.
A custom-voiced Ironman precision attenuator and specially tuned speaker cabinets deliver the “raging stack” experience – both tone and feel – at any volume, down to true bedroom level. A tube-buffered effects loop helps you get the most out of your effects devices while maintaining signal purity.
Vol, Treb, Mid, Bass, Presence
Output Power: 15W
Tubes: 3x 12AX7, 2xEL84
Built-In Ironman Precision Power Attenuator
Precision Tuned Reactive Load
Specially tuned for this model
Bypass switch on front panel
Line level output with adjustable level control (on back panel)
Generated from speaker output – retains same tone as amp driving a speaker
Can be used to drive a larger amp, PA, mixing board, headphone amp, etc.
Approx 1v p/p maximum level
Bias test jacks & adjustment on back panel
Screen voltage test jacks & adjustment on back panel
Dimensions: 24 1/8″ (wide) x 18 3/4″ (tall) x 11 3/4″ (deep)
Weight: 38 pounds
Design & Construction
Fixed Bias (bias adjustment & test points on back panel)
Screen voltage adjustment and test points on back panel
Reduces sag without hardening the feel of the amp
Provides ability to fine tune the attack, overdrive characteristics, and feel of the amp
Extends tube life
Eminence speaker, custom designed
Modeled after vintage Celestion G12M
Custom Tuning inspired by vintage 4×12 Open Back
Tuned to retain “full stack” feel at low volume
Baltic Birch Baffle
Canadian Birch Body
Dialing In Your Sound – Mark Bartel from the Tone King Manual
￼All of the previous Tone King models have been based more or less around the 1960s Fender clean sound. The Royalist is a completely different amp. It is designed to capture the magic of late 60’s / early 70s British amps. As such, the Royalist is nearly completely unrelated to all previous Tone King amps, and should not be expected to have the same voicing and tonal palette.
The Royalist is actually very simple to dial in. It doesn’t require precise tweaking of the tone controls. In general, good tones can be found no matter how the tone controls are set. Lets take a look at a few settings which display some of the Royalist’s best characteristics.
The settings shown here are a great starting point, no matter what kind of guitar you are using. In order to become familiar with the Royalist, I’d start with these settings, and try changing each control, in turn, to note its effect.
I find that I set the controls of the Royalist to the settings above almost all the time, no matter what I’m playing. A setting like this is also quite versatile – try rolling down the volume control on your guitar, and observe how the mildly overdriven tone cleans up nicely to a well balanced clean tone.
The Marshall Trick
A common way to set up an old Marshall “plexi” for a great crunchy rock tone is like this (below). It looks like an extreme setting, and it is. But, it just happens to sound great with this kind of amp.
Fat, Warm Clean Tone
Although the Royalist is very much centered on delivering vintage British tones, it’s still possible to conjure up a nice warm, fat clean tone, reminiscent of the of the older Tone King models. Here’s a setting that will get you started in this direction, though you may want to tweak the treble and presence controls as necessary.
Volume and Attenuation
The Royalist is a non-master-volume amp, just like an old JTM45. This means that the volume control alone determines the signal level through the amplifier. This makes it simple to dial in. You turn the volume control down for clean tones, and turn it up to overdrive the amp and achieve distortion. Easy enough, but there is a limitation. In this kind of design, overdrive and distortion are only possible when the amp is generating its maximum output power (just like an old JTM45).
For most non-master-volume amps, this is a problem. It will only start to break up at ear-splitting volume, which makes it less than useful at small clubs and at home. This is why the Royalist includes the Ironman power attenuator. You can think of the Ironman as being functionally equivalent to an external power attenuator connected between the amplifier output and the speaker. It’s purpose is to allow the amplifier to operate at full output power, while sending only a fraction of that power to the speaker. By operating this way, the tone and feel of the amplifier is retained quite well even at very low volume.
It’s important to understand how to use the Volume and Attenuation control in order to get the sound you want at the volume level you need. In general, you can think of them as serving two different functions. You would use the Volume control to adjust the amount of overdrive and distortion you want, and then adjust the attenuator to get the volume level you want.
For clean tones, there are some additional things to consider. You might start out by setting the attenuator to 0db (bypassed), and dialing in the volume level you want with the Volume control. This will certainly give you the most headroom. However, if you are playing in a very small room, or need to keep the volume level down very low, you might want to turn the attenuator down a few clicks so that you can turn the volume control up a bit more for a slightly warmer, fatter sound.
Notes on using the attenuator
In the 0db position, the attenuator is completely bypassed, and the speaker is connected directly to the output transformer secondary, with no additional circuitry touching the signal path.
Although the Ironman attenuator does an excellent job of reducing output power without changing the tone of the amp’s circuitry, there are other variables in play at lower volume which do result in some apparent tone change. Here are a few factors that you should be aware of –
Speaker breakup and compression is a big part of the tone and feel of the amp when played at high volume. At low power settings, the speaker responds differently, and does not break up and compress as it does at high power.
The ear’s natural response curve varies at different volume levels, which changes the way you perceive sounds at different volume levels. Quieter sounds tend to give the impression of having less bass content.
At lower volume, there is a tendency to hit the guitar strings harder and play more aggressively than you would if the amp were tuned up very loud. It may take some time to get used to maintaining your playing style at reduced volume.
Some videos on the Tone King Royalist
Yes, the Brits love it also