Tone King Gremlin Review

Discussion in 'Ampage Area' started by RG7X, Feb 8, 2019.

  1. RG7X

    RG7X Gretschie

    293
    Nov 11, 2018
    Los Angeles
    Intro

    With my upcoming move, I decided to try out an amp that allows me to get great tones from a tube amp but with the capability to play at lower volumes. Right now, I have the luxury of cranking up equipment in my basement to some seriously loud volumes with no complaints from the neighbors. I saw and read a lot of great reviews for the newer Tone King Gremlin and with its built in attenuator, I had to give it a shot. Unfortunately, I was not able to try one out as no local music shops had one in stock but I was able to get one for a really good deal with a very generous coupon code. I figured I’d write this as a journal-like entry / review of my initial impressions of this amp. I’m using a Gretsch Hot Rod (w/ Setzer Signature Pickups).

    Features
    • Rhythm and Lead channels are voiced for blackface and tweed tones
    • Rhythm offers more headroom, while Lead is a more driven voice
    • Select your input or jump the channels with an optional A/B/Y footswitch
    • Onboard Ironman II power attenuator
    • Reactive load reacts and feels just like your amp at any volume
    • Get the same tone whether performing live or playing quietly
    Specs
    • Power: 5W (tube)
    • Tubes: two 12AX7 (preamp); one KT66 (power amp)
    • Speaker: 1x12" custom-voiced Celestion 870
    • Compact cabinet engineered for clear highs and a big low end
    • Convenient size is perfect gigging guitarists
    • Baltic Birch USA construction
    • Dimensions: 7.5" x 8" x 3"
    Characteristics

    There are only 2 knobs on this amp; volume and tone. The tone knob is balanced really well throughout the sweep providing a nice variety of different characteristics with the lower settings providing more bass response and higher with more treble (thinner sound). They’re really good tones and the character of the amp really lends well with the 2 knobs. The amp doesn’t have much headroom (as might be expected for a 5W amp) on the Rhythm Channel. The volume knob quickly pushes the amp passed its headroom at about level 4. That being said both channels sound great in their own right just don’t expect massive clean headroom from the Rhythm Channel. The Lead Channel provides a nice drive for a heavier / hard rock sound. My only real criticism is anything level 7 or above on the volume knob makes both channels sound nasaly and has a hint of what sounds like a fuzz pedal. That being said, to me it seems like you can reach full volume at level 6 anyways and level 7 or above just adds more gain. I could be wrong on exact volume levels but that’s what I hear. I stuck to level 6 on both channels and was very pleased with the overall sound and volume. With my guitar / pups, I had to keep the tone knob up to the 6-7 level or the bass would get too muddy with the neck pup but I suspect a strat or tele would sound just fine. I also noticed a drastic difference with effects when switching between the 2 channels. The Rhythm Channel seemed to take pedals well but when using the lead channel I had to reduce the mix or level of effect as it really brought the reverb and delay out too much. Keep in mind, you don't have an effects loop. You just have to adjust accordingly but not a huge complaint in my book since you have to manually switch channels via cable.

    Many of the reviews I read state the attenuator doesn’t affect the tone at all but I have to disagree. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great function, it works well, the amp still sounds great throughout the various levels but there is a slight tone loss to my ears. I notice a slight loss is the clarity and percussiveness. If you at have a house or generous size apt, condo or townhome, you can get nice bedroom level sounds without pissing anyone off. I played it with a drummer and was able to still hear myself just fine so I believe it would work well for smaller gigs and practices with no problem.

    It’s really light and compact and the construction feels solid.

    My Final Assessment

    I did a lot of extensive side by side testing with my Mesa Lone Star Special and Fillmore 25. I was able to dial in similar tones between the amps which I thought was very impressive for this little package. I bought this mainly for the attenuator capability but I just wasn’t all that sold on the overall tone with the attenuator engaged. I ended up returning this and decided to keep the Fillmore 25 as I could achieve better tones at the same lower volumes as the TK and as a bonus I have way more features / controls. I know that’s not what the TK Gremlin is about but I felt it's worth noting for my comparison purposes. It was good but wasn’t great. I just didn’t fall in love with it. To be fair I would still recommend the Gremlin if you’re looking for an amp with really good tone characteristics, low volume capability, portability and small gigs / rehearsals. It has its place and I truly believe this would pair up really well with a strat or tele. I might have kept it, had I had one of those guitars. I would highly recommend spending some quality time trying it out before you pull the trigger. It could be your favorite amp.

    20190108_185602.jpg
     
    pmac11, Waxhead, Bertotti and 2 others like this.
  2. Bertotti

    Bertotti Country Gent

    Jul 20, 2017
    South Dakota
    Nice write-up thanks. I have a soft spot for little amps. I have one with a built-in attenuator, nice feature but it certainly does affect the tone but what really bugs me is the scratchy sounds it makes if I adjust it with the volume turned up a bit. Does this one have that issue?
     
    RG7X likes this.
  3. BuddieGreen

    BuddieGreen Gretschie

    291
    Sep 3, 2018
    indiana usa
    i think any attenuator effects tone to a degree because of the loss of driving the speaker. as the sound goes down the speaker isnt being 'driven' and you lose the speaker end of the 'tone'
     
    loudnlousy likes this.
  4. RG7X

    RG7X Gretschie

    293
    Nov 11, 2018
    Los Angeles
    Thanks! No scratchy sounds to report with any of the adjustments.
     
    Bertotti likes this.
  5. loudnlousy

    loudnlousy Friend of Fred

    Age:
    53
    Oct 18, 2015
    Hildesheim, Germany
    You are right. + I experienced that some amps go better with attenuators than others.
    My friend built an attenuator that reacts to the inputvoltage similar to a speaker. That approach seems to work quite well on some amps.

    I got an ancient Allessandro power attenuator that looks from the inside like something Alexander Bell would have built. It works really nice with vintage non-mastervolume Marshalls.
     
  6. RG7X

    RG7X Gretschie

    293
    Nov 11, 2018
    Los Angeles
    Agreed that makes sense. My review focused on this IronMan III built in attenuator which had a lot of hype of "no impact" from reviews I saw and read. It was still good but I just preferred the sound of my other amps at lower volume with no attenuator.
     
  7. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Santa cruz
    I enjoyed your review and I went and listened to the Filmore 25 review, very nice. It is now on my short list....Like I really need a new amp? I don’t think so but that has never stopped me before.

    A fun side note about the Filmore, it was named for the Filmore music venue from the late 60’s and 70’s. I went to the Filmore West in the late 60’s, great fun..
     
    Paul in Colorado, RG7X and Waxhead like this.
  8. Waxhead

    Waxhead Country Gent

    Aug 30, 2014
    Australia
    Thanks for a good review :)

    Looking at the specs of this Gremlin I'm wondering why it needed an attenuator on a 5w amp. If the Master was designed well it would sound great at low volume and should not need one. As you know Mesa Boogie make many amps that have 5w or 10w options and all sound fantastic at bedroom levels.

    Attenuators can be useful on 50 or 100w amps though and there's quite a few around which have all traditionally suffered from very jerky or fixed switch volume controls, poor EQ control and also colour the base amp tone. This Gremlin sounds like it has these same issues.

    But then 2 yrs ago this Fryette Power Station was released as a game changer. I bought one for my 50w MB Express 5:50 and to amp up my Roland Cube 60 or Mark V 25 if needed.

    http://www.fryette.com/power-station-integrated-reactance-amplifier/

    It instantly blew all other competitors out of the water cos it has....
    - attenuation down to whisper levels or amping up to 50w.
    - full 6L6 tube drivers.
    - great tapered volume dial.
    - a series loop.
    - excellent EQ controls.
    - ground lift, speaker outs, full range impedance selectors, balanced line out.
    - Best of all it does not change base amp tone at all on any setting.
    It's totally transparent when attenuating.

    But it does much more - if you have a solid state amp you can run it thru this PS and amp up to 50w tube power (= 150w solid state) with greatly improved tone quality cos its running thru 6L6 tubes. Or I can amp up my Mark V 25 to 50w if I ever need too.

    And if your amp lacks a loop the PS gives you a great one to use for time based effects.

    At thegearpage.com there's been very long threads going on this Power Station version 1 & 2 since it was released. Tested on 100s different amps everyone agrees it has no effect on base amp tone when attenuating but if you have a little solid state amp that you amp up then prepare for a massive improvement :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
    RG7X likes this.
  9. Waxhead

    Waxhead Country Gent

    Aug 30, 2014
    Australia
    Can you please give us a review of the new Fillmore 25 ???
     
    RG7X and pmac11 like this.
  10. RG7X

    RG7X Gretschie

    293
    Nov 11, 2018
    Los Angeles
    The Fryette Power Station sounds awesome. Were you able to try it out beforehand?

    I'll definitely post a review of the Fillmore 25. I just need a little bit more time with it and this time I'll make recordings. Thanks!
     
  11. Waxhead

    Waxhead Country Gent

    Aug 30, 2014
    Australia
    No I wasn't but there were so many glowing reviews on it that I took a chance and could return it if not happy. Turned out a great buy.

    Looking forward to your review of the Fillmore :)
     
    RG7X likes this.
  12. Bertotti

    Bertotti Country Gent

    Jul 20, 2017
    South Dakota
    This is one of those things I will never get to try myself but on forums, I tend to watch what people tend to have opinions similar to mine with the same or similar gear. In this case, I will at some point buy one without any worry.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
    Waxhead likes this.
  13. Paul in Colorado

    Paul in Colorado Gretschie

    240
    Jun 2, 2008
    Fort Collins, CO
    I probably saw you there. ;-) And the Fillmore amp is one I want to try out if I can sometime soon.
     
    Waxhead and radd like this.
  14. Waxhead

    Waxhead Country Gent

    Aug 30, 2014
    Australia
    here's 2 good reviews of the Fillmore 50

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
    RG7X likes this.
  15. Waxhead

    Waxhead Country Gent

    Aug 30, 2014
    Australia
    another good review

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice