Tone King Imperial Mk2 - Worth it or hype?

Tone King Imperial Mk2 - Worth it or hype?

  • Worth it

    Votes: 16 76.2%
  • Hype

    Votes: 5 23.8%

  • Total voters
    21

Tom Grattan

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It's a conundrum. As with all things an amp's tone is subjective. Everyone hears their amps differently, their guitars differently so advise is subjective. I've searched for the "perfect sound" and it is elusive. You rehearse and the amp sounds Great! You get to the gig and the amp sounds not so good. I bought my MusicMan 100RD new in 1976. I still have it and use it and love it. In the intervening years I've had may different amps. But taste has many different flavors and Never listen to YouKnowWhoTube for an evaluation of an amp, a waste of time. Good luck with your search but stay off media and go to an outlet that sells the amps you might like and with your guitar play through them and make your own evaluation.
 

BlueTele

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Buy it. Mark Bartel builds great amps. I had both the Imperial, and then the Anniversary model with the built in attenuator. At the time, it was the best Deluxe Reverb tone I had ever heard. I never thought I'd hear anything better, and it still retains a strong and close "2nd place" to the dream amp I eventually bought: Tony Bruno Cowtipper 22 (head and cab, but there is a 1x12" combo).
I have written in this in a couple of amp comparison opinion posts, but...one more time: when I was a kid, my parents bought my sister and me a portable RCA Victor "record player." It was great...or so we thought. A couple years later, my dad bought himself a true "HiFi stereo" set up. When I played my records on the Thorens turntable through that HiFi stereo, it was like a shroud had been lifted. The clarity was unbelievable. I heard instruments that I never heard on the old RCA Victor mono record player. It was an epiphany. "That" is exactly how I felt after having a couple of different boutique-version Deluxe Reverbs, as well as an actual 65 Deluxe Reverb, and then played my Cowtipper 22.
When I got my Tony Bruno Cowtipper 22, it was like a shroud had been lifted. I don't know how or what Tony does, but the Cowtipper 22 (and his Cowtipper 35 with two 6L6 tubes = VibroLux Reverb), are in an entirely different tonal realm. The clarity is unreal without anything beyond normal touch sensitivity. You mention $2,100 for the Tone King Imperial 1 x 12", but you can get a nice pre-owned, "Excellent" condition Cowtipper 22 for $2,100 - $2,500, if you can swing the extra money. That is often for just the "head", but occasionally you find the 1 x 12" combo version available at that price as well.
But...you can't go wring with the Imperial. Another great amp that Mark Bartel made under the Tone King brand was the Metropolitan. It had power attenuation built in as two of the EQ controls on the chassis. It had Reverb but no Vibrato (Speed/Intensity) to make room for the attenuation controls (one per channel 0.1 watt to 40 watts). It was basically a Deluxe Reverb (two 6v6 tubes) as well. There are currently Metropolitan 1 x 12 combos in the $2,500 range on the familiar websites. It too has a cool retro/vintage visual vibe to it. You won't regret an Imperial or a Metropolitan. Good luck.
 
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getbent

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I have a 1993 Imperial and 2 2008 Meteor II's a combo and a head. any TK 2008 or earlier is the way IMO and ear. I purchased a Imperial built by Premiere builders guild. It wasn't the same sounding amplifier as my other 3 TK amps. I sold it to a guy in Baltimore Md. and he ended up selling it as well. Now the guy that builds them today? Well It's not Mark Bartel. I spoke with him once and i did share my experience and he asked for a pic of my 93, which i told him it had 6 gain stages instead of his 5. I
sent a pic of the chassis and Cab. I'd recommend Playing one first or buying a used one. <2008 < If you are near by me, I have 2 beautiful examples I'm parting with.
That is really interesting! I had read about Tone King in GP years ago and lusted after one and kept dreaming and dreaming and my fortunes turned and I thought 'I'm getting one.' and.... Mark no longer made the Imperial (this was when he still owned it.) A friend of mine who owned a shop in NC told me, 'you should just call him an ask him to make you one.' and I was like 'wow'...

So, I called Mark and he was extremely nice and said the Imperial was no longer produced and there were other models etc. and I paused and said, 'I just really want an Imperial that you made.' and he laughed and said, 'well, I have all the stuff, how about 1700.00 and I'll make you one, which color scheme?' and about 6 weeks later, it arrived. The best packed box in history and more than my first car in cost.

And... I loved it. I used it several days a week with my country band and I never even used the tweed side. Then over about 6 months to a year, i spent a ton of time with the amp and found so many great sounds in it, I really made use of the pedal. The reverb was my all time favorite as was the trem.... when my tubes needed switching.. I bought JJ's and was not happy about the darkness they brought, I called Mark again and he said, 'electro harmonix' I designed to sound awesome with readily available and less expensive tubes....

and one other time, I had an issue and I called him and he had me switch out a 12ax7 (IIRC) and back in business. I gigged the daylights out of that amp and it never let me down.

The new ones may be different. But the original design, ime, you couldn't find a bad sound in that amp (and I tried)

everyone will have their own experiences, that was mine.
 

MogwaiBoy

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That is really interesting! I had read about Tone King in GP years ago and lusted after one and kept dreaming and dreaming and my fortunes turned and I thought 'I'm getting one.' and.... Mark no longer made the Imperial (this was when he still owned it.) A friend of mine who owned a shop in NC told me, 'you should just call him an ask him to make you one.' and I was like 'wow'...

So, I called Mark and he was extremely nice and said the Imperial was no longer produced and there were other models etc. and I paused and said, 'I just really want an Imperial that you made.' and he laughed and said, 'well, I have all the stuff, how about 1700.00 and I'll make you one, which color scheme?' and about 6 weeks later, it arrived. The best packed box in history and more than my first car in cost.

And... I loved it. I used it several days a week with my country band and I never even used the tweed side. Then over about 6 months to a year, i spent a ton of time with the amp and found so many great sounds in it, I really made use of the pedal. The reverb was my all time favorite as was the trem.... when my tubes needed switching.. I bought JJ's and was not happy about the darkness they brought, I called Mark again and he said, 'electro harmonix' I designed to sound awesome with readily available and less expensive tubes....

and one other time, I had an issue and I called him and he had me switch out a 12ax7 (IIRC) and back in business. I gigged the daylights out of that amp and it never let me down.

The new ones may be different. But the original design, ime, you couldn't find a bad sound in that amp (and I tried)

everyone will have their own experiences, that was mine.

Seems like you are talking about the past not the present. If you sold it - why did you? Great story about him making you one!
 

getbent

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Seems like you are talking about the past not the present. If you sold it - why did you? Great story about him making you one!
Yes, mine was not the model 2, but, when it was released the notes were just the improvements they'd made and that it was even better. The attenuator etc are all great things, so, I concluded the new model must be even better. which in my first post in the thread, I think I said I had an original. (even though made after the run)

When I retired, I had a bunch of changes going on in my life, our bass player passed away, our drummer retired and moved and I moved from town out to the ranch. When all those things were going on, I decided to sell some of my stuff as I would not be using at as much. I'd also gotten a Fender Mustang and I really liked the versatility. So, I found buyers for my Gretsch White Falcon, My sf twin that I'd reworked, my tone king, a couple of really nice acoustics, about 6 other more expensive electrics that I didn't play, about 30 pedals that had become collectible and reduced my guitar stuff to the things I used a lot. I reduced my gigging, so having a tone king just hanging out at the house just seemed like a waste and I was able to sell it for 1500.00 (I bought it for 1700)

I try not to be sentimental about things. I am about people, but things, I try to avoid that. I would bet my old tone king is rocking somewhere in europe (where it went) and I hope the user is having a blast!
 

Whitebeard

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I've been through a tone of amps in the last two years; chasing it but it doesn't wanna be caught, haha. One amp that has continually caught my eye (and ears) is the Tone King Imperial Mk2. I like the way it looks, I like the way it sounds (in videos as I have never heard one in person), and I like that its modeled after a Deluxe (which I think sound phenomenal.
My question is, are they hyped? I have a deal ready at $2100 local pickup, but would I be better off getting a used DRRI and getting an attenuator? Maybe even a cheaper Blues Deluxe or Hotrod Deluxe (which are infinitely more affordable).
What do you guys think? Anyone have good or bad experiences with the TK?
This company/man will custom build to your specs. For instance, he builds Princeton Reverb style amps in 5 watts, 15 watts, 20 watts & 35 watts. Deluxe Reverb style amps in 22 watts & 35 watts and Vibroverb & Vibrolux style amps also. Everything is hand wired (no printed circuits). He does excellent high quality work and uses solid pine cabinets with dovetail joint construction. I had him build a 20 watt Princeton Reverb style amp with added dwell and presence controls and it is a GREAT amp. https://www.vintagesoundamps.com/product-category/vintage-series/
 

Sputnik03

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I've been through a tone of amps in the last two years; chasing it but it doesn't wanna be caught, haha. One amp that has continually caught my eye (and ears) is the Tone King Imperial Mk2. I like the way it looks, I like the way it sounds (in videos as I have never heard one in person), and I like that its modeled after a Deluxe (which I think sound phenomenal.
My question is, are they hyped? I have a deal ready at $2100 local pickup, but would I be better off getting a used DRRI and getting an attenuator? Maybe even a cheaper Blues Deluxe or Hotrod Deluxe (which are infinitely more affordable).
What do you guys think? Anyone have good or bad experiences with the TK?
G'day mate. I've been using a Vox AC15 for about a decade. Never faulted once, and it works pretty hard. Great sound, great value. Bit on the heavy side, is about the only drawback. Great pedal platform, though I don't use many.
 

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MickM

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I have 200-085 your Imperial is 200-006 ? that would be one of the 10 or so that were hand wired.
Possibly, mine doesn't have the 200 prefix, just 006 on the label. I bought it from a drummer friend of long time dormant member mickey dean and it was pretty much un-used 'til I got it in '09 or so. I played it for a few months and since it was 20 or so years old I sent the chassis/NOS tubes I installed to Mark Bartel to look over. I think he replaced some caps/what ever he deemed proper and returned it with a clean bill of health.(said it sounded glorious)
Yea, I'm sure it was handwired on PCB board and has some of the most beautiful wiring/soldering I've seen. You mention 10 or so being hand wired but anything that came out of the shop in Baltimore was hand wired and I believe that was the norm even after they moved mfg to CA.
 

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Nicodemus1

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Possibly, mine doesn't have the 200 prefix, just 006 on the label. I bought it from a drummer friend of long time dormant member mickey dean and it was pretty much un-used 'til I got it in '09 or so. I played it for a few months and since it was 20 or so years old I sent the chassis/NOS tubes I installed to Mark Bartel to look over. I think he replaced some caps/what ever he deemed proper and returned it with a clean bill of health.(said it sounded glorious)
Yea, I'm sure it was handwired on PCB board and has some of the most beautiful wiring/soldering I've seen. You mention 10 or so being hand wired but anything that came out of the shop in Baltimore was hand wired and I believe that was the norm even after they moved mfg to CA.
If I'm not mistaken, I think they moved from Ca. to Maryland. I've been to his shop 3 times and he does like the EH 12Ax7LPS, i didn't care much for it. I've had no need to look inside my Imperial. It sat in a studio before i bought it. It was claimed to have 60 hours play time. Studio's log and track everything. Mine is perfect in every detail. Nothing like RCA 6V6GT black plates.
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MickM

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If I'm not mistaken, I think they moved from Ca. to Maryland. I've been to his shop 3 times and he does like the EH 12Ax7LPS, i didn't care much for it. I've had no need to look inside my Imperial. It sat in a studio before i bought it. It was claimed to have 60 hours play time. Studio's log and track everything. Mine is perfect in every detail. Nothing like RCA 6V6GT black plates.
View attachment 978156 View attachment 978158 View attachment 978160 View attachment 978157 View attachment 978159
Loving that color, first one I've seen like that. Mark started the company in NY State, moved shortly to Baltimore and was partners? with Premier Builder's Guild. Around the mid 2000's TK was sold and moved to CA.
 

Nicodemus1

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Loving that color, first one I've seen like that. Mark started the company in NY State, moved shortly to Baltimore and was partners? with Premier Builder's Guild. Around the mid 2000's TK was sold and moved to CA.
Nope Mark, He's still in Baltimore Md. the other that purchased TK today may be in Ca.
Mark has started a new Company. http://bartelamps.com/ they are a bit pricey, but you'll never have to buy another amp. Cry once!

You can't buy a good amplifier under 2 to 3 grand depending on wattage. And most out there don't need an amp over 15 to 20 watts tube. I digress! let me rant a little here. Modern Fender assembly line sheit is high priced landfill garbage. Be it tube, solid state or digital spit! Compare them! to an Atomic space tone head , Morgan, Two Rock, Suhr Badger 18, my Zinky Supro Sahara. Fender today, couldn't make a pimple on Leo's as. I've worked on 2 new Blues juniors III both caught on fire. the worst builds I've ever seen. over biased permanently factory set. should have been cathode biased EL84's cheap boards that go bad. lets say conductive. ribbon cables everywhere. Now SMT and SMD parts coming. disgustingly cheap for big money for most of us. Save your money and do it once. Don't buy garbage from Big INC.
There! I feel better now.😎
 

Doc Smotpoker

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I've been through a tone of amps in the last two years; chasing it but it doesn't wanna be caught, haha. One amp that has continually caught my eye (and ears) is the Tone King Imperial Mk2. I like the way it looks, I like the way it sounds (in videos as I have never heard one in person), and I like that its modeled after a Deluxe (which I think sound phenomenal.
My question is, are they hyped? I have a deal ready at $2100 local pickup, but would I be better off getting a used DRRI and getting an attenuator? Maybe even a cheaper Blues Deluxe or Hotrod Deluxe (which are infinitely more affordable).
What do you guys think? Anyone have good or bad experiences with the TK?

Have you tried putting in new, better speakers in the amps that you’ve bought? That’s the last place in the signal chain, and that is where your tone come from. You might want to give that a try.

As for the Tone King MK2 I’ve yet to hear a negative word about it, and would love to have one myself. Seriously though, check into putting better speakers in your amp. You will be surprised what a premium speaker will do for your sound.
 

MickM

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Nope Mark, He's still in Baltimore Md. the other that purchased TK today may be in Ca.
Mark has started a new Company. http://bartelamps.com/ they are a bit pricey, but you'll never have to buy another amp. Cry once!

You can't buy a good amplifier under 2 to 3 grand depending on wattage. And most out there don't need an amp over 15 to 20 watts tube. I digress! let me rant a little here. Modern Fender assembly line sheit is high priced landfill garbage. Be it tube, solid state or digital spit! Compare them! to an Atomic space tone head , Morgan, Two Rock, Suhr Badger 18, my Zinky Supro Sahara. Fender today, couldn't make a pimple on Leo's as. I've worked on 2 new Blues juniors III both caught on fire. the worst builds I've ever seen. over biased permanently factory set. should have been cathode biased EL84's cheap boards that go bad. lets say conductive. ribbon cables everywhere. Now SMT and SMD parts coming. disgustingly cheap for big money for most of us. Save your money and do it once. Don't buy garbage from Big INC.
There! I feel better now.😎
"What we have here is a failure to communicate". I never said Mark moved out of MD. TK was started in 1993 Kingston NY. Moved to Baltimore 1994 where he now builds Bartel Amps. I picked up my Roseland there a few years ago. Premiere Guild moved TK production to CA around 2016 and closed soon after. That's when Mark cut ties and started building the monster amps he is now producing. I erred when I said production moved to CA in the mid-2000s; it was more like 2016. Maybe you mis-read the post but I think we both agree that the OP will have to look long and hard to find a better amp in the Imperial's class.
 




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