Germany’s Hughes & Kettner is well known for its excellent
high-powered rock amps, so it’s no surprise that the company
has entered the mini-amp arena with an amp that has the features
pro players demand and a sound that measures up to its
reputation. The EL84-powered Tubemeister 18 starts out with a
pair of footswitchable channels, a Lead Boost function, a builtin
power attenuator, and an effects loop. There’s also an XLR
line output with cabinet emulation that can be used to send a
direct signal to the house in conjunction with a miked cabinet
signal. Furthermore, when the power attenuator is switched to
“silent” mode, the line out delivers a power-tube conditioned
signal that works particularly well for home recording where
miking isn’t always practical.
Tested with a 1965 Fender Stratocaster and a Fender Blacktop
Jazzmaster equipped with humbuckers (the head driving a
custom 1x12 cabinet with an Eminence Texas Heat speaker),
the Tubemeister’s Clean channel lived up to its name: Even at
full gain settings, single-coils barely drove it to breakup, while
humbuckers elicited only mild crunch. Operating at 18 watts,
the Tubemeister’s ability to deliver pristine clean sounds with
impressive headroom is a boon for stompbox users who want
their effects to really stand out. The amp also pumps out plenty
of volume for smaller gigs.
The Lead channel provides much more overdrive, and its midrange-
enhanced voicing makes the tones punch through very
effectively. Activating the Lead Boost in this mode provides a
significant increase in both gain and level, allowing near endless
sustain even from single-coils. I’d be less likely to use it for a
boost, however, and more inclined to simply leave it on for situations
that demand a heavier distortion sound.
Even without the boost, the Tubemeister’s attitude is decidedly
rock, with both channels exhibiting an edge in their clean
and distortion voices that is cool and musical. It’s not particularly
reminiscent of classic “British” or “American” amp tones,
so this is definitely an aspect worth considering if you want a
sound that will stand out in a mix with other amps.
|The Tubemeister 18 sports neat and tidy circuitry on the inside.
I especially liked the way the channels cleaned up when I
turned down my guitar, even with their Gain controls at maximum
(as long as the Lead Boost was off). I was also impressed
by how the tones remained remarkably consistent regardless
of the wattage setting. Recording direct into the computer via
the Red Box direct output also yielded very satisfying results.
With the trend these days toward smaller stage rigs, this addition
to the growing list of low-wattage tube amplifiers is more
than welcome. So if you’re looking for a versatile amp with a
signature rock/metal sound, the Tubemeister 18 is something
you should definitely try.
Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18 Head
CONTACT Hughes & Kettner; hughes-and-kettner.com
PRICE $749 retail/$599 street; 1x10 combo $899 retail/street price N/A
CONTROLS (Clean channel) Gain, Master Volume. (Lead channel) Gain, Master
Volume. Shared Treble, Mid, Bass. Channel Select and Lead Boost switch.
TUBES Two 12AX7 preamp tubes, two EL84 power tubes
POWER Selectable, 18-, 5-, or 1-watt
EXTRAS Series effects loop. Power Soak attenuator. Silent mode operation. XLR Red Box direct out/cabinet emulator. 8Ω/16Ω speaker out.
WEIGHT 11 lbs
KUDOS Versatile, dynamic low-wattage amp for club gigs, practice, or recording.
CONCERNS Front panel’s blue glow can make it tough to see
the tiny dots on the knurled knobs.
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