20W rev/trem: Tone King Imperial, Allen Sweet Spot, what…?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by DCH, Dec 16, 2009.


  1. DCH

    DCH Supporting Member

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    Your input, raves, opinions needed...

    I have owned many, many great amps – vintage and boutique – and played many others in the course of my work, but I’m finding myself looking for a new grab’n’go 20-watter with both reverb and tremolo, and all of the main candidates are amps that I haven’t had the pleasure of playing myself. So… lay ‘em on me: opinions please!

    Right now, I’m thinking something like a Tone King Imperial (or used Meteor II on 1/2 power), Allen Sweet Spot 1x12, Headstrong Lil’King Reverb 1x12 (though that lacks tremolo maybe?), or…? Would suit me. Not really into going vintage or reissue Deluxe/Princeton Reverb at the moment.

    I gig and record regularly (original music in the alt-country/roots rock/Americana vein) and even though we occasionally play some reasonable sized rooms I RARELY, if ever, find myself needing anything more than a 15 to 20-watter if I want to hit the sweet spot for my style of playing (even at outdoor fests, amazingly). Commonly have played non-reverb amps like my own DIY mid-sized tweed or AC15/Matchless style builds, a Dr Z Z-28 and/or TopHat Club Royale for a time, 65 Amps London 18, and several others.

    Now I’m thinking, though, a solid 15 to 20 watts with good semi-crunch at full guitar volume, onboard reverb and tremolo, and all I need to carry is a low-gain overdrive and a tuner pedal to get it all done.

    Your thoughts are much appreciated!
     
  2. farlowhigh

    farlowhigh Member

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    Swart Atomic Space Tone!
    best amp tremolo I have heard and great reverb as well all tube powered...great great sounding amp and 20 watts and portable check out Greg V's samples on swart's site
     
  3. SAMO

    SAMO Supporting Member

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  4. DCH

    DCH Supporting Member

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    Thanks, but I spent some intensive time with a Swart Atomic Space Tone a couple years ago and really didn't dig it all that much. No offense. Tastes vary, of course, but I found it kind of "boxy" sounding, a bit constipated. Note that that assessment is in the realm of being very picky: yes, an excellent amp in general terms.
     
  5. dB

    dB Member

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    Try the Atomic Space Tone Pro...it was specifically designed to deal with some of the complaints about the original.

    Take a look at the Goodsell Super 17, as well.
     
  6. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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  7. soulcactus

    soulcactus Supporting Member

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    Hello there; I do agree with farlowhigh with the Swart. Swart makes a great amp and I love my STR-Tweed MK II. But I also own an Allen Sweet Spot 1x10 (I know it is not the 1x12) but this thing frickin' rules! This is as good as it gets for vintage Blackface Fender with some great modern upgrades & it is very well made! I have owned the Headstrong Lil' King 1x12 and just did not dig it. it seemed to lack something to me, I just didn't feel like it really was inspiring. The Allen is very inspiring pus his modern upgrades (i.e. Bright Switch, Mid Control, etc.) made a Princeton BF Fender a better made Fender! Basically I am trying to say Allen built a better mouse trap.
    I also own a Soulcactus Signature Amp from Victoria. That is a great amp too, but no longer in production. Bottom line is, you can't go wrong with the Allen or a Swart, but I will warn you that the Swart Reverb (just basing this off of what is in the amp that I have, I have never heard one of his bigger amps with Reverb) is not like a traditional BF Fender Reverb that most Amp Manufactures model their Reverb after....not to say it is bad in the Swart, I like it a lot, but it almost sounds like a decaying delay sort of Reverb and takes a bit to get use to. Think of 50's Rock 'N Roll/Chess Records meets Rockabilly. That is the Swart in a nut shell. I love this nut shell. Anyway, if you want to pick my brain some more, you can email me at soulcactus@aol.com. Good luck.
     
  8. GTRJohnny

    GTRJohnny Member

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    :agree
     
  9. DCH

    DCH Supporting Member

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    Thanks all - great suggestions! Also, I have considered the Victoriette/Soulcactus in the past. A good option, though I'm leaning more away from EL84s lately (as much as I love 'em for what they do well). Also, good to hear some confirmation on the Allen Sweet Spot. It does seem like an impressive upgrade of the whole Princeton theme.

    Any more opinions on the Tone King Imperial specifically?
     
  10. supersonic1414

    supersonic1414 Silver Supporting Member

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    It is a great amp, but based on the amps he mentioned, this thing is not going to give him the cleans like those.....I had the MKII and cab, which were super cool....but talk about 0 clean headroom. I even had Michael Swart do a mod to increase it, but natta....

    My recommendation is the Imperial...Killer amp for what you mentioned...
     
  11. landru64

    landru64 Member

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    i'd get a blues pearl texas tornado and bring a good trem pedal :)
     
  12. shark_bite

    shark_bite Member

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    I gig my Goodsell Super 17 Mk III with just a Klon out front usually. The trem is out of this world. So is the reverb. And it's 29 pounds. Based on what you said you were looking for, I really can't think of a whole lot of amps that are going to be right in that sweet spot as deep as the S17. Hear it for yourself - trem is amazing on that amp.
     
  13. jayn

    jayn Member

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    Your situation sounds very similar to mine re:type of music and uses. I swap between a Magic Brit (AC15-like amp) and a DRRI. But, I've owned a TK Imperial and a Comet (40W, 1-12) in the past. I really love the DRRI I wound up with, but, quite frankly, if I had the dough at the time, I would have gone with an Imperial or a 20W Meteor.

    As far as the Imperial goes, the reverb and trem are fantastic. It's a pretty bright amp which is likely fine on stage, but it can be bright at home. Also, it might have more headroom than you think. I've got a fairly inefficient speaker in my DRRI (Jensen P12Q which sounds great in that amp minus bright cap) and I get asked to turn down much more often than up;). I'm rarely at semi-crunch whereas with an AC15 style amp, I'm almost always there. An Imperial is louder and has more headroom than my DRRI.

    Now, if you can open it up enough to get into the singing sustain on the lead channel while soloing...well...be prepared to wet your pants :JAM. It's sweeeeet!
     
  14. cbguy

    cbguy Green & Gold Supporter

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    I don't think you could go wrong with either of your 2 main choices BUT I recommend you check out a Bogner Duende. sorry. didn't mean to shout.....

    Great, chimey clean sounds; excellent tremolo, very musical reverb; 18 watts, channel switching to creamy gain settings; built like a tank. Seriously. Check it out before you make a decision. All you need is a tuner at that point. It's kinda stout at about 40 lbs, but man is it a good amp.
     
  15. Jatmosphere

    Jatmosphere Supporting Member

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    BIG +1 on the Goodsell. They have the goods, and RG is the best to deal with.

    ps - nice tones and playing shark_bite.
     
  16. rhollyday

    rhollyday Silver Supporting Member

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    You might also consider the Headstrong Lil King-S, which is about 25 watts and runs 6L6's with Reverb & Trem.
     
  17. DCH

    DCH Supporting Member

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    Impressed by what I'm hearing about the Goodsell. That said, I have had a couple TopHat Club Royales (one I've got now, virtually new, only used for recording - possibly selling - another that I gigged a lot, sold a couple years ago) and there are few sweeter 2xEL84 amps around than those - just bring a tremolo pedal, as one reply said (and my reverb unit, if I really need reverb). Lately, though, I have just liked the idea of going old-school, all effects on the amp, make it easy. I sing lead and play lead guitar at the same time, so I'm also tired of stomping on pedals and tripping over wires, missing cues. Used to really be anti-reverb, too, but with our current music just a touch of it sounds pretty sweet, when it's good reverb. And ultimately, I keep preferring onboard tremolo, too.

    The real problem remains getting into that sweet spot at smaller gigs. I have succeeded at doing it consistently, and always been praised for - and quizzed about - my tone. Even with a Club Royale or something similar, though, this has often required the use of an attenuator in a room of 100 or less, which I hate to use, but it helps you get there. I think anything with two 6L6s is just going to be too big and firm for me to get there, and that's even my main concern with some 20-watters like the Imperial, although again, there's always the darned attenuator...

    Out of interest, the amps I have gone through in three years (although most of this was pre-reverb/trem desires) include: Mojave Coyote, c2004 TH Club Royale, Victoria Regal II (great rev&trem, but a little "squishy" in the band mix), Dr Z Z-28, Bad Cat Black Cat (always 1/2 power, but toooo heavy), Matchless HC30 (same deal), 65 Amps London 18, several vintage amps, several home brews (many of which I have and still use, all great, but none with rev)... quite a list. All have managed to sound great, all sound like "me", but... Grab'n'go, rev/trem, easy crunch/rootsy-leads in a 100<seater room (and great miked on bigger stages). That's the current goal. I guess that would be the world's perfect amp.

    Also, I guess the answer is "blackface DR", but I'm really all for gigging with newer amps these days. More reliable in the long haul, and actually less $ too.
     
  18. ryhlick

    ryhlick Supporting Member

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    Having owned a newer Imperial and still own a Carr Rambler, I would lean towards the Rambler. To me the Carr sounds better at lower volumes and works better in the mix. The Imperial I have to say I was not impressed by and ended up sending it back to Mark Bartel (who is wonderful) and getting my money back. The Rambler is such a great platform for pedals and has very nice reverb and trem. Good luck with your tone quest...
     
  19. DCH

    DCH Supporting Member

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    Thanks ryhlick - I like the Rambler in theory, but I think any 2x6L6 amp will just be too bold for me to get into that sweet spot consistently. I know it has the pentode/triode switch, but I never like the results of triode switching; always seems muddy, lifeless and choked to me. Have put it on several of my own amps, and it's always disappointing. Still, you'd think a 6V6 version of the Rambler might be possible.
     
  20. ryhlick

    ryhlick Supporting Member

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    If you want some of the prettiest clean tones and amazing reverb and can live without trem, take a look at the Bruno CT 22. That amp simply has some of the prettiest cleans out there. It sounds big, round, and full and sits well in the mix at moderate to lower volumes. To me it is nicer than the Little King and I have owned 2, and more pleasing to my ear than the Tone King Imperial & Meteor 2. It does not have trem and that could be a deal breaker.
     

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