TopHat King Royale

So for those of you who read my last post about amplifiers, I have an update. I sold my Mesa/Boogie Road King half stack! Yes, it was a painful decision, but I came to the realization that even though I play my guitar very loudly in a medium size venue, a 120 watt half stack is still too much. I could never crank the master past three or four o'clock, which meant that the amp could never truly realize its tone potential. And don't get me wrong, the Road King sounds AMAZING when cranked. The problem was I never got to crank it.

When we played the Hideout festival a few years ago(an outdoor Christian music festival), that was the one time I really got to push those power tubes in a live gigging situation. And to be honest, it was probably too loud then too! But the tone was sweet. Tubular bliss. You know it sounds good when you have: 1. Preamp distortion, 2. Power amp distortion, 3. Speaker cone distortion!! Yeah baby!

So anyway, I posted the Mesa rig on Craigslist a couple times and had it sold within a month. I then took the proceeds and went shopping. I listened to a bunch of amps... Budda, Orange, Dr. Z, Tone King, VHT... and finally settled on a used TopHat King Royale. Its a 35 watt, Class A, hand built, point-to-point wired, 2x12" combo. I am SO happy with the tone! I put it on top of my 1960a cab and it really cooks. It has a defeatable master volume, which I have defeated most of the time so the power tubes are running all out. This is an amp I get to crank! It has 4 EL84 power tubes, which sound awesome. The design is based on the classic Vox AC30s from the 60s. It has two channels, and the lower gain channel is so simple as to have only "volume" and "tone" controls! But it doesn't need anything else.

I play in basically two main styles, Worship and Chicago Blues. For worship, I lead with electric guitar in two of our three gatherings, and I play a lot of open chord and barre chord progressions. I rely very much on string dynamics and picking attack to control my tone, and the TopHat really shines here. I get to play softly during the verses, and the tone is very clean, yet warm, with lots of definition. But when the chorus kicks in, I just dig in with the pick and I get awesome distorted chords, rich and sustaining, and full of harmonics and overtones leading to mellow feedback. And for a little more, I have my trusty BOSS CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer (MIJ) that makes the notes SING! So I don't even need to channel switch. I get it all out of one channel on the TopHat.

This is something that I really appreciate while facilitating worship. It allows me so much more expression. I have so much to work with, from quiet clean arpeggiated patterns to rockin' power chords and everything in between, all based on string dynamics. So I don't have to do a tap dance of channel switching between song sections. I can focus on the worship, on setting an example. Song memorization is important to this as well. I try my best to memorize songs so I'm not tied to a chord sheet or a presentation screen. Most of the time I can just close my eyes and worship. This amp let's me do that. The tone is there, and the versatility is there, and I don't have to think about it. I just play. That's what I've been looking for in an amp for a long time. Thanks TopHat!

So there you go, I'm very happy with my new amp, as you can tell, and I haven't even gotten to the part about how my Strat WAILS through it playing the blues. Reverend Ken & The Bluesmen are just about to start gigging, and this amp is making such a difference in my blues tone. I think its actually making me play better! I don't miss the Road King at all. Even though it was a fantastic amp.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church
*Sent via Blackberry

Emerging Worshiper

1 comment:

Josh said...

Like you, I used to use a Mesa Mark IV, until one fateful day I borrowed a Vox AC30CC2X and a Weber MASS attenuator from a friend of mine. The amp is clear and tight, and with the attenuator, I get amazing tone at a VERY managable volume. I tuck the amp in a room off to the side of the stage, and the amp is almost negligible in the room, which pleases our sound guy to no end, and has led to a even better worship experience at our church.