Why Is the AnalogMan King of Tone in Such High Demand?

The AnalogMan King of Tone overdrive pedal has earned a reputation reserved for only the highest echelon of effects units. This handmade, custom-order overdrive pedal has become a pedalboard standby for players of all genres, including guitarists like Marc Ribot, Eric Krasno, Brad Whitford, and Jimmy Herring.

Enthusiasm among big-name players has, of course, been a large cause for the pedal's celebrity. But AnalogMan's famous waiting list for the pedal has only fueled its renown—and opened up a large second-hand market where it commands high prices—piquing even more interest from pedal freaks who need to know what all the hype is about.

To Wait or Not to Wait?

Those willing to wait the current estimate of 22 months for their own King of Tone direct from AnalogMan are able to get the overdrive pedal for the base price of $245, plus additional costs for optional upgrades.

Obviously, that's a long time to wait once you've set your mind on a piece of gear, so many people have turned to second-hand sources, where the pedal commands much higher prices. Currently, the Reverb price guide estimates the value for a used King of Tone at $410 to $510 USD, but final prices of more than $600 are becoming less of an anomaly.

This causes much dismay for AnalogMan founder Mike Piera. When asked why he doesn't just raise prices by another $200 or so, he is dismissive. "I want our pedals to be used by average players, professional players, young players. If I raised it much more than it is now, it would just be too expensive. I think the price that it's at is correct," Piera says.

So what is it about this pedal that has garnered so much enthusiasm? Guitarist Marc Ribot has been using the King of Tone regularly live and in the studio for more than a decade. When asked for his thoughts on the pedal, Ribot said, "The King of Tone pedal remains the closest analogue to real tube amp distortion I have ever played through. And, when you think about it… what more do you need?"

AnalogMan King Of Tone | Reverb Demo Video

And of course there's much hype among the many threads dedicated to the pedal in forums like TheGearPage.net, where commenters often discuss whether it's worth the wait or the second-hand price. YouTube's That Pedal Show has dedicated several episodes to the pedal, even visiting AnalogMan HQ and host Daniel Steinhardt calls the pedal, "Just wonderful." While conducting a shootout between the King of Tone, an Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer, and a Boss DB-2 Blues Driver, Steinhardt explains, "I can use the King of Tone with any amplifier."

The Past and Future King of Tone

In the early 2000s, Piera was working with guitarist Jim Weider of The Band when he began developing the initial versions of the King of Tone.

Piera explains, "I had fixed his old TS808 several times and he had gotten tired of the Tube Screamer's excessive mid-range and compression, so he wanted to try something that might work out better. We were told to check out the old Marshall Blues Breaker, so we got one and thought it had some promise. We worked on it like crazy to get something that would not change your tone but get the amount of drive and compression that he wanted through his Deluxe Reverb, to make it sound a lot like the Deluxe Reverb cranked up all the way."

"If you like your guitar and want to keep your guitar tone, and if you like your amp and you want to keep your amp tone, that's what this is designed for." - Mike Piera

Piera always had a clear concept for the King of Tone and sees it as an overdrive pedal for players who already like their tone.

"It's not a heavy overdrive—it's less gain than a Tube Screamer, so it's not going to change your amp," Piera says. "If you like your guitar and want to keep your guitar tone, and if you like your amp and you want to keep your amp tone, that's what this is designed for. It's not gonna change it a lot. It's for people who just want to add these different capabilities of gain and volume."

The V4 is a dual pedal overdrive, each with independent settings and boost/overdrive/distortion modes switchable via internal dip switches. AnalogMan now offers additional features, such as a popular high gain option, which supplies about 25 percent more drive, as well as optional toggle switches in place of dip switches, extra output jacks, and custom colors.

In the 12 years since the release of the V4, the success of the pedal has been huge for AnalogMan. It has, however, also created a sort of administrative nightmare for Piera.

2015 AnalogMan King of Tone V4

"People like to think that we did this waiting list as a business strategy, as a way to create hype, or as a way to make money. You can't make money on things you're not selling," Piera says. "There are actually a lot of issues dealing with waiting lists. I had to hire someone as a King of Tone waiting list administrator just to deal with the emails."

While one possible solution would seem to be simply increasing production of the pedal, the diodes and capacitors required for the design were discontinued several years ago. "If I hire 20 people to build them, then I'll be done in two months and never be able to build any more, because there's only so many parts," Piera says.

What does this mean for the King of Tone? Will it only increase in value and become more rare? Only time will tell. For now, well over a decade into the pedal's lifetime, it's clear that the enthusiasm among players is only growing—and there's no sign of that stopping.

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