The Tone King Imperial began its career in 1993. It quickly became a reference amp for anyone looking for a high-end Fender-like sound, capable of delivering exceptional clean sounds and 100% authentic and "vintage" crunch. ". For the skeptics, if the imperial has become the amp of choice for Mark Knopfler for many years, there must be a good reason! :)
After 22 years of loyal service, the Imperial bows out to return with an MKII version in 2015. The Tone King Imperial MKII has been completely redesigned and benefits from small circuit tweaks, a PTP construction, a new "Iron Man" attenuator and an additional switch to bypass the attenuator by switching from the Lead channel to the Rhythm channel. Basically, it gains flexibility and ease of use, becoming quite usable at home, in the studio, or on any stage.
The front panel is well endowed. From right to left, there is a Tremolo section with Speed and Depth settings. The Spring Reverb Control. The Rhythm channel with a 2-band EQ and Volume. And finally the Lead channel, which is equipped with a Volume control, a Tone and the very interesting (and effective!) Mid-Bite. At the rear, there is the standby, enough to connect the footswitch, the toggle switch to bypass the attenuator automatically when changing channels, the control of the attenuator and the HF Comp switch, which allows you to choose from two modes of attenuation (+/- compressed / open).
As for the finish and assembly. What to say? It's simply the best. The assembly is precise, the finish perfect, the PTP cabling perfectly executed. It's as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, all with a vintage touch that fans of the genre will appreciate.
Original Stratocaster of 59 in hand, we attack by the Rhythm channel. EQ "flat," Volume 3, slight Reverb. Verdict? Big slap! Sheer killing! We are clearly at Fender... With a kind of mix between a blackface and a deluxe reverb. It's simple, we take these two great classics, we add more dynamics, a faster response, a little more "tight" bass and a high end with which we can interact much more finely, this one being also less "stiff" than on the originals. And There you go! We have the clean channel of the Imperial! A Deluxe boosted at all levels in a way. The top of the spectrum is really of a complexity rarely seen. It's crystalline, rich and thick at the same time, with a truly enormous reactivity. The bass is very tight and punchy. We take it directly in the face. The whole thing is stiffer than a Two-Rock, but also much more vintage. The voicing is certainly greatly inspired by standards, but the result is totally unique and the Tone King Imperial is truly impressive.
The Lead channel is a bit like having a second amp, it's so different. It beats hard, and we clearly pass on the "Tweed not happy" side. Voiced much higher midrange, it is also more slamming and perfectly transcribes the grain of the best amps of its kind. The Mid-Bite is extremely effective in providing great versatility to this channel. Indeed, this allows you to add thickness or more bite to the crunch delivered by this 100% vintage and 100% nasty channel.
Now let's talk about the attenuator, The Iron Man in its new version is really excellent. Much more natural and effective than before. On the clean channel, it makes it very easy to twist the amp (almost impossible otherwise). And what could be more beautiful than a vintage voiced tube amp that twists slightly? On the Lead channel, it is totally essential at home, and will be perfect on small stages. If you can do without it, then it will be intense guitar bliss!
In the end, the Tone King Imperial is the quintessence of Vintage 50/60 references within the same amp. Amp usable in all circumstances thanks to its ultra-efficient attenuator and exceptional dynamics retained even at low volume. For the pedals, preferably for the most transparent, they will behave superbly on it. It is also equipped with a magnificent spring reverb and a bias tremolo at the top. So, what more could you ask for? Perfect!
- 20 Watt tube, 2 channels, footswitchable
- 2x 6V6 / 4x 12AX7 / 1x 12AT7 (reverb driver) / 5AR4 (Rectifier)
- Vibrato & Spring Reverb
- Rhythm Channel: Vol, Treb, Bass
- Lead Channel: Vol, Tone, Mid-Bite
- Speakers: 12”, 8-Ohm Ceramic Magnet 'Tone King 33' manufactured by Eminence
- Attenuator: Onboard Ironman II
- Colours: Black/Cream, Brown/Cream, All Cream, Turquoise/White
- Weight: 16.5kg
- Size: 57 x 49 x 27cm