Ibanez TK999HT Tube King by darkhorse
Ibanez TK999HT Tube King Distortion Pedal
(new Red box model)
I go through uncountable numbers of gain distortion units and overdrives. One gets tired of the same tones and sounds no matter how good they might be. Everything is different in response and feel to the touch of the player and the interaction to other pedals, not to mention the guitar and amp.
The advantages of the Red box Ibanez Tube King pertain to its use of a real 12XA7 preamp tube, which always bring that more amp like feel and quality to the gain structure. The unique thing about the circuit is the internal voltage step up to an outstanding 100v level. While this is not near the uber plate voltage of a guitar amp head, somewhere around 300v, but for a guitar pedal on the floor 100v is pretty unusual and outstanding. I am not sure I would want a tube level voltage on my board.
Seems the main bitch on this box is its odd turned to a diamond shaped configuration. It is not a small box and it is rather heavy, I feel the diamond orientation helps signify it as a different animal, it poses no issues on my board as I have tons of room. It's an easy matter to turn the pedal square to fit in easier to packed boards. It is somewhat larger and heavier than a lot of boxes because it has a full on step transformer in there.
The controls range from the usual bass, treble, highs and a presence high end switch to enhance the high range. There is also a “void” control termed noise reduction. I find this pedal to be very quiet as it is and the “void” control more so an option provided for the more intense higher gain chuga chuga rhythms to tighten up the response for that manner of playing. The range of distortion voice is very nice on this pedal ranging from a great hard rock tone to a more metal voiced gain. You can EQ it to all manner of voices but it has a really nice low end punch and high end clarity that just sings knobs around 2.
The controls are nicely voiced on this unit and musically centered, the Dist and volume are mounted up on the top panel and seem to be designed to turn slightly with your foot if needed. The main EQ knobs are smooth, well made and seem to be centered in a very nice musical range just each side of a more metal or higher mid bite rock gain.
Even gained down it has a nice overdrive quality to it. I am sure the White Box OD model using the same tube issue would be a great overdrive and at some point I would like to test drive that one as well. Ibanez has a couple of real winners here at a silly low price for what is in them. Again, not the "best" as that is a mythical ideal but a great sounding pedal with high voltage real tube, not many like it out there.
I just really like the sound and feel of this box, every time you hit it, the tone is there, and it is noticeably a great tone that feels great. It is my go to pedal for that latter Pagey Zep tone just sings and responds from rhythm to leads.
I tend not to use the “void” control myself or if I do just barely on. My rig is very quiet and I do not use any noise reduction. When not playing the noise floor from this unit is nominal and not a concern for me. I gave it a "9" on features because I do not really use the "void" control I believe Ibanez intended it for more metal gain players to tighten up and chop the rhythm for palm mute technique. I tend to run several gain pedals for their differing voice structures and I have others I punch up for over the top metal, not that one could not EQ this puppy to that end I just prefer other tones it has that I cannot quite get with others.
Those who right away want to dig in there and change out the tube are really not going to improve the unit from what I have used in tubes. Sure once the tube is worn down I will put in one of my preferred 7025 12XA7s but the EH 12AX7 it comes with it just fine, not a bad tube and only rated slightly less than a Tung Sol. I tend to use a lot of different tubes and for me the one in here sounds great, why would they put a crap tube in the central core feature of the pedal? You also kill the warranty going in there which seems to be a terrible idea on a new pedal.
The sounds is rich and full on this pedal, the high voltage tube sings, the bass thick and defined without being muddy, just enough mids and high end to have a great overall tone. The gain structure can sound massive yet tight and focused and you adjust the amount of low end think or high end resonance. I find adjustment to be very easy and the tone is pretty much there just a little tweaking to taste. I am sure it could do a full on scoop distortion metal as well as other voices. I have mine set for tone that nothing else quite gets for me as in a latter era Zep tone, running it through my reverb brings a really nice batch of Presence tones. Also whips a cool old style Heartbreaker lead tone. Anyway for me it is my Zeppelin style pedal, hard rock, but with really heavy lower end punch. Think Wanton Song with more punch.
Just remains one of my favorite gain pedals. This is not a true bypass circuit but the good news is it is a high voltage tube buffer which serves to sandwich my true bypass and front end buffer chain quite well.
I have to say few pedals impress me right out of the box, but this pedal was just really well built, heavy and just a good design. You know there is something going on in there and not just a weightless box of diodes. The high voltage step up transformer is heavy and does a great job getting that 100v to the tube plates, for a real tube pedal this is just a real winner. I cannot believe this is only a hundred and a half I just do not know how they can be built for that price.
Being an effect maven myself I have to say a Vibe in front of this pedal sounds great. OD or clean boost helps boost its already great response. That being said I have had the older style Tube King unit with the real tube but that used a low voltage circuit and the tube was more like a filter, not really putting out the heat and vibe a tube can do. I did not like that old Ibanez pedal. But this is great unit, when you take it out of the box you will say to yourself, “there is something going on here”. BTW, be sure to use the supplied power wart, as no brick can feed this monster. It is like a 12v 500mA draw.
Perhaps some being critical of this unit were not powering it sufficiently or had the “void” control turned up. I find it a jewel and being one to constantly upgrade and change my board, this puppy has remained next to my higher priced boutique pedals as just a great sounding pedal that delivers with minimum tweaking effort.
For a mere $150 and the quality of build you need to check this out.
[Just saw that the Hughes and Kettner Tube Factor Overdrive Pedal runs an internal 290 volts! I think some of the Black Star tube units run 200v but they are almost of not double the cost of this unit. The H&K running 290volts as a more clean nuance overdrive is incredible but lists at $350 probably on line for about $300 so 2x the price and it is not designed to gain up line this puppy it is more so a front end hitter. At that voltage you are going to be changing tubes like a pushed tube amp much more often. Anyway Tube King for the bucks, a damn fine sounding gain, I love it,]
This pedal remains on my board after several refits and changes. I continue to dig its great tones. Just sounds better than any other high gain I use even those costing much more. Maybe it's the real tube, higher internal voltage, but if you like a mean articulate Billy Gibbon's tone and some great Pagey gains, this pedal is just great. Huge valve for the money. And seriously still using the factory preamp tube which is an EH 12AX7 a decent rated tube and the sounds I get prevent me from messing with it. I love tube amp gains but sometimes on a cleaner channel this pedal just has a sound and clarity that just immediately has you going "yeah that's it". All pedals of course, subject to amp and guitar chemistry and amp settings. On a nice clean channel with some bottom end this puppy has tone.