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Digital Subscriptions > The Guitar Magazine > Sep-18 > Letters from America

Letters from America

It’s not often that a maker who’s already highly respected in the ‘boutique’ market decides to totally revamp his craft in order to build amps that are both better, and more expensive – yet that’s exactly what Mark Bartel has done. His former Tone King models have been impressing us for 25 years, but now he tells Dave Hunter how he’s taking things to the next level…

Mark Bartel grew up an incurable tinkerer, learning a lot about electronics from his technician father before going to college to train as an engineer himself. Like many young guitarists of the day, he had built his first guitar amp out of necessity – not having the funds to purchase one – but by the time he began building amps commercially, he’d already worked for high-flying companies designing semiconductors and mainframe computers. That depth of skill, and his sense of aesthetics, helped to set his fledgling business on its feet pretty quickly in the early 90s.

“I developed an amplifier that ended up being the Imperial,” he tells us, “but at the time, I was just doing it for my own enjoyment. I decided to bring one to a guitarand- amp show in New York City. I didn’t know anyone there, I wasn’t connected with the industry at all; I was just a college kid with this amplifier that looked funny – it was turquoise. And man, it was just so different in those days, because there wasn’t a lot of boutique-y stuff out there, so I got a lot of attention just walking this thing through. Just in one afternoon, I hooked up with a couple of dealers, and I secured a review with Guitar Player magazine, too, which played a huge part in making Tone King successful, initially.”

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About The Guitar Magazine

The September 2018 issue of The Guitar Magazine is on sale now! This month we find out if Marshall’s wallet-friendly new Origin series delivers what everyone has been waiting for from the legendary British amp brand. We also tip our hats to the 10 greatest Marshall tones in rock history and find out how they were made – Messrs Clapton and Hendrix feature heavily but there are one or two surprises, too... Originators and trailblazers are something of a theme in this month’s mag – inside you’ll also find interviews with Doors star Robby Krieger, a celebration of the genius of Seth Lover and a close-up and personal look at the solidbody electric that started it all: a 1950 Fender Broadcaster. Elsewhere in gear we round-up the best products from the recent Summer NAMM show in Nashville and review a pile of great new products from Rick Turner, Stone Deaf, Lowden, Eastman and more. As if all that wasn’t enough there are three fantastic competitions, giving you he chance to win a Fender Player Stratocaster, House Of Tone pickups and a luxury Pinegrove strap. Get your copy of the September 2018 issue of The Guitar Magazine today...