Just got a Tone King Sky King - Some thoughts


For awhile now I've been trying to trim down my live rig to one amp that does tweed on one channel and blackface on the other. Lately I've been playing with a tweed deluxe and pro reverb and switching between them with an A/B/Y box. I've also traveled with a Gibson GA20 and a DRRI. I use a preamp out from the Giibson and pipe it through a Demeter Compulator and Hardwire Reverb to the first channel on the DRRI. This allows me to mic one amp and lets me use the preamp gain from the Gibson. This is has very thick, tight sound that I dig.

This has served me pretty well but I'm tired of cables and the older I get the more I want to simplify things. Enter the Tone King Sky King.

Played one a few weeks ago and bought one last week. Here are some pros and cons. Bear in mind that I'm still in the honeymoon period but I'll try to be straight.


Outstanding build - can't say enough about this one.

Dual Ironman Attenuator - excellent attenuation. the best I've heard

Fantastic clean channel - probably the best clean channel I've played. It's got a touch of chime and what seems to be very wide bandwidth. I play through a very acoustic sounding teisco pickup and it captures it beautifully.

Ultralinear Mode - this is where the magic is for me. It gets rid of any perceived harshness and just sounds fluid.

Beautiful reverb and tremolo - just try it. It's fantastic. Sounds like Pops Staples is creeping around.


Lead Channel - this is probably a really good sounding channel to most folks that dig the tweed sound but it's not really thick enough for me. On the tweed deluxe I'm usually on 7 or 8 on the normal channel and around 1 on the tone knob. Check on Ry Cooder's new live album to hear what I'm talking about. It's just a fat, thick, tone but without a lot of midrange bite. The Sky King is tweedish but not really like a tweed deluxe.

Ironman Attenuator - while I love the attenuation on the Sky King I wish it had smaller increments. It still can be difficult to match levels because of this. I guess I wish it was a little more linear.

Anyway, that's just my .2. It's a fantastic sounding amp and I think it's gets pretty close to the one amp solution I've been hoping for.


I agree the lead channel on the sky king at least to my ears is the weakest part of the amp and I think it could probably use a little more drive But that's just my opinion and I'm sure others will disagree.


Silver Supporting Member
Just throw a Timmy in front of the lead channel. Extra gain, done. Extra volume, done. Extra eq, simple solution.


I've got a few pedals that I've tried but in the end I'm not really a pedal guy. Some are useful but I haven't really found any OD pedals that sound anything close to what I'm after. I'm going for more thickness instead of drive. I think the SK has tons of drive with the mid bite control. I'm sure a lot of guys will love it because of that. It's more marshall than 5E3.


Silver Supporting Member
If your Sky King is new the speaker probably hasn't broken in yet and it will sound fuller after it does.

I know you said you don't like pedals, but you should try a clean boost pedal. I think one of these would work for you:

TC Electronics Spark Booster can be adjusted to fatten up your tone. Great clean boost to low overdrive depending on how it's adjusted. Super versatile.
EP Booster will fatten up your tone. Many players leave it on all the time.
EQ pedal - just adjust it to thicken up your tone.


The lead channel does drop quite a bit of bass -- dirt from pedals sounds glorious through the rhythm side, but not through the lead side.

I'd also recommend a clean boost with only a slight actual boost and no dirt. What works great for me is either the boost side of a Rook Royale or especially the new Speakeasy. It's an EP-based circuit with a lot of tune-ability of the mids and overall tone. An extremely useful pedal overall, but really great for the lead channel.



Mod Squad
Staff member
I'd try the Oddflows Caveman Drive in front of the Tweed. Really thickens out the tone and provides a clarity that's pure to your guitar/amp set-up. I run mine with a Duende or a Tone King Inperial and it works fantastic IMO.


Sort of a different path.. But the human factor must be taken into consideration. Whenever we spend a lot of money for something, ie; 3k for a guitar amp, our expectations are naturally very high.

OP, sounds like you made a great choice with the TKSK. I looked at the SK too when I was amp shopping but in the end went the single channel plexi route.

I still have critical moments with my 2k rig. But, when I plug into the DRRI it replaced, my concerns are all washed away. Granted a DRRI is not at all like a vintage 5e3. Nothing is!

My feelings are in the end you will bond with your SK. It's a great, do everything, one amp if there is one. :beer


I've had my Sky King since August. Played numerous gigs with it. If you want a bigger fatter grind from the OD Channel try this:
1 Don't be afraid to drop the attenuator back one or possibly 2 notches. Only 1 if you are playing where you need some volume. Dime the Volume Control and use your guitar volume. You will be able to find a balance between channel 1 and 2.
2 Don't be afraid to dime the Mid Bite Control
3 Adjust your tone accordingly based on what guitar you are using
4 The Creamback takes a little breaking in but as it does it sounds better and better
5 Pentode is where you will get the best sound out of channel two. Ultralinear can be a little too tame.
6 When you do the above you can achieve that tweed amp about to explode overdrive (like diming a deluxe) almost into an old Marshall like roar.

Try it and see.


I'll definitely try the things you guys suggested. I guess it's pretty hard going from a tone that you love (5E3) to one that is similar but not quite the same.

One thing I've noticed about the SK is that the lead channel is a little boxy sounding to my ear. My 5E3 has a 3D-like presence about it that I can't quite describe. I'm not saying the SK doesn't sound good but it's a little different for sure.

Either way it's worth the price for the clean channel and attenuation alone.


Hey tanyet,

What speaker do you have in your Tweed Deluxe?

I'm wondering how much the the Sky King's power section has to do with the lack of thickness in comparison to the Tweed Deluxe, i.e., 15 watts/6v6/jensen speaker?/40 watts 6L6/creamback (british-ish speaker).

Have you tried the Sky King through a speaker similar to what's in the 5e3?

Then there's the circuit too. A local amp seller guy and I were talking about Sky King vs. Metropolitan and he felt the Metro was more British sounding but that the Sky King had some Brit flavor on its lead channel too. Maybe there's not enough tweed DNA in the SK?

Just tyrin' to help. Congratulations on such an awesome amp. I hope you can get it to work for you.


The Lead Channel is fantastic! It is designed to cut thru the mix in the most Musically Efficient way...and it does. The Mid Bite Knob works!
Try the Ultra Linear Cranked too...
If you want thickness of Tone turn the Mid Bite to ZERO and you will fatten up big time...
One of the best Amps I've ever played thru...Wow, what a Amp!
I also noticed good improvement on treble once the Speaker broke in more...
Now the Treble is just perfect!


I'm in the honeymoon phase with SK, but my initial thoughts are the I am overly impressed.

I have owned way too many boutique amps and the SK offers most if the tones I need!

Bartel is a tone guru!


I love mine.
The lead channel can be a bit midrangy / boxy so pushing it with a TS style OD dosen't work too well. It likes a clean boost. Or for really fattening it up I've been running a trebble booster Creepy Fingers Sugar boost. It doesn't have a mid hump and makes everything nice and thick with a greasy fuzz type of sound to solos.


I loved the amp. Has a BIG full tone. I have a few TK amps, and prefer the TK Metro. So, I sold the SK. But ! I'm sure I'll get another some day. As usual, I didn't care for the lead channel. I love blackface tones, not tweed or mid rangy. But, its nice to have that option to mix things up. I prefer the power scaler on the TK Metro more than the Ironman. One thing that bothered me, the amp gets hot. I think the SK should have a fan like the Metro. I think the SK needs the fan more than the Metro.


I've got a few pedals that I've tried but in the end I'm not really a pedal guy. Some are useful but I haven't really found any OD pedals that sound anything close to what I'm after. I'm going for more thickness instead of drive. I think the SK has tons of drive with the mid bite control. I'm sure a lot of guys will love it because of that. It's more marshall than 5E3.

EQ Pedal set for more mids/lows
Stomp it as you switch to the lead channel


Rock & Roll Enthusiast
Platinum Supporting Member
I've never played a SK, but had a Metropolitan. Arguably the best Blackface cleans around (particularly in a 2-channel amp) but the gain channel was far less impressive; it didn't sound like I was overdriving the clean channel, nor did it "check" the tweed box.

On a general note, I have found the term "tweed" to be the largest "grey-area" in the history of gear. There seems to be a huge contrast in what a tweed-circuit sounds like, to people's ears...if it's not Fender Blackface cleans or Marshall Gain, then it must be tweed...



Gold Supporting Member
1x for running the lead channel in Pentode mode. It has a nicer bite to it in that mode.


Silver Supporting Member
I recently picked up a Sky King as well, and I'm really digging it! Clean tones are some of the best I've ever heard. I haven't given the lead channel enough attention but I know there are great tones to be had on that side.

The amp is as close to a "total package" amplifier as I've ever owned. Dual attenuation, gorgeous sounding reverb and tremolo. Really tough to beat! Once you get a good handle on how to best use the channels you can pull a tremendous amount of tones out of this thing.


Silver Supporting Member
Everyone is beating around the bush here. Let's just say it....

I've played at least 4 different Tone King amps. The lead channel stunk on all of them, at low or high volume. It sounds like it stinks on this one too. Sometimes bad is just bad.

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