Tone King Metropolitan

July 1, 2010

gp0710_gearround0013The Metropolitan carries a fairly straightforward yet flexible bundle of features that aligns it with many other amps of what we might call the “modified Fender” class. Made in the U.S., it generates 40 watts from four 6V6GT output tubes, carries an all-tube spring reverb, and offers two voices that can be selected either from a control-panel toggle or by footswitch.

Although it still aims to achieve ultimate blackface-style clean, the Metro’s Rhythm channel has been entirely updated from that of the Meteor II with the aim of adding more richness and depth to the midrange in particular. The Lead channel is designed to take you from chewy tweed-like bite to brighter, crisper, Marshall-like sting—none of which are high-gain voices, but, rather, are intended to drive the output tubes into breakup. At the output stage, the 6V6GTs are now entirely cathode biased, rather than cathode biased with an additional fixed-bias element, as on the Meteor II. The independent Output Power controls, which automatically engage from the footswitch according to your channel selection, offer a new, proprietary means of controlling volume that is different from previous master volume, Power Scaling, or attenuator-based controls.

Tested with a Fender Stratocaster and Esquire, a Gibson ES-335, and a range of pedals, the Metropolitan paints a broad, lush soundscape. And though vintage blackface in nature, the Metro is warmer and richer in the mids. The real touch points, though, are its firm, piano-like lows and shimmering highs, which combined to give weighty boing to the Strat’s bridge pickup, a biting bluesy thump to the neck setting, and a taut, meaty twang to the ash-bodied Esquire that Luther Perkins would be proud of. Introduce a humbucker and this channel emits a little more grit, but there’s still more than enough headroom for bounteous clean tones at medium-sized club levels with Volume up to nearly noon, and bluesy, Super Reverb-styled sting at higher settings. Single-coil tones can be a little glassy without some high-end attenuation, but the 2-band EQ and bright switch make it easy to tame any spikes.

gp0710_gearround0011While you can push the Rhythm channel into crunch territory and rein in its volume with the Output Power control, that’s really what the Lead channel is for. Stomp on that switch, adjust Tone and Mid-Bite to taste, and it will quickly put a smile on the face of any fan of vintage-tweed or early Marshall tones. The Lead channel doesn’t have quite the clarity of Rhythm, but it does pack the kind of creamy thickness and gritty sizzle that many fans of Chicago blues, classic rock, and gnarlier alt-country will be looking for in their soloing voices.

It can also be reined it to give the Metropolitan two footswitchable shades of rhythm tones, with hairier leads accessed by an overdrive pedal. The Metropolitan boasts a lavish, multi-dimensional reverb, which runs from the merest hint of space to totally cavernous, and sits nicely behind the dry tone until you get the knob up toward extreme splash. One of the amp’s most impressive features, however, is its Output Power section: find your tones on each channel, set the Output Power knobs for the optimum level in the room, and enjoy a perfect transistion between your rhythm and lead tones. This circuit retains the amp’s tonal virtue at all settings—from 0.1 watt to 40 watts—as well as or better than any other such “scaling” or “voltage”-styled output control I have tested, and this feature makes the Metropolitan an amp for all venues, bedrooms included.

CONTACT Tone King/Premier Builders Guild (410) 327-6530;


PRICE $2,995 retail/street N/A


CONTROLS Rhythm channel: Volume, Treble, Bass, Bright switch; Lead channel: Volume, Tone, Mid-Bite; Reverb, dual Output Power controls; Rhythm/Lead switch and Hi/Lo input switch.

POWER 40 watts

TUBES Four 12AX7s (two Sovtek LPS, two Electro-Harmonix), one 12AT7, four Electro-Harmonix 6V6GTs, one 5AR4 rectifier

SPEAKER Single 12" designed by Tone King, made by Eminence

EXTRAS Reverb, dual Output Power controls, dual speaker outs, footswitch for channel switching and reverb on/off.

WEIGHT 46 lbs

KUDOS Bounteous blackface-inspired clean tones. Excellent lead tones. Impressive build quality.

CONCERNS Preamp tubes can be tricky to seat in their recessed sockets.


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