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Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18 Review - By Ed Lim

Posted by Rockshop on 1 July 2013




Ed Lim is the founder of,
a NZ based guitar website and a pretty all-round great guy.

The lunchbox amp revolution has changed the way we think about amps – starting with the Orange Tiny Terror series, it’s brought us heads like the Mesa Boogie Mini Rectifier and Transatlantic, which punch well above their weight, going head to head with much more high powered and expensive amps. Now there’s a new player in town… brought to you by a certain Mr Hughes and Mr Kettner.

When you flip the On switch on the Tubemeister 18, you’ll either instantly love it or hate it. No, not the tone – I’m talking about the thrumming neon blue that fills the internals and spills out via the transparent front panel. You might think it looks like a cool spaceship (like me), or you might think that it looks like an overclocked gaming computer… or you might think that overclocked gaming computers look awesome, I don’t know.

What I do know is that whether you like the aesthetics or not, that shouldn’t hinder you from trying out this little 18W pocket rocket. Packed with features like integrated power soak, silent record mode, lead boost and more, this an amp designed with YOU in mind, whether you’re a bedroom shredder, late night recording fiend or loud, proud gigging musician – or all of the above!

Exploring the ‘Meister
The cool thing about the Tubemeister is that its tones aren’t based on a particular amp. Rather, each channel has certain characteristics reminiscent of some classic amps, but by and large it has its own distinctive tone which you can use as the basis for creating sounds that are yours and no one else’s.

The clean channel serves up tones that are crisp and full, neither too bright nor too warm, with plenty of headroom available. This is where the cool features start to come in. Do you prefer your slightly overdriven tones to come from poweramp drive… but when you actually get your amp loud enough to drive the poweramp, your ears are bleeding and neighbour’s faces are melted?? Not a problem here – just reach around the back panel and click power soak down to 5W or even 1W, and you’re free to dime the channel master volume to get those sweet break-up tones at a manageable level. Experimenting with this balance can take the Clean channel from pristine cleans, to bluesy drive, and all the way to AC/DC territory.

Power Stance time
Click over to the Lead channel (easily accessible using a standard TRS footswitch or via touch buttons on the front panel) and you’ll be greeted by a crunchy roar that recalls many a hot-rodded Marshall. Go on, dig out your spandex pants and play some glam rock – we won’t tell.

Need more gain for chunkier riffing and soaring solos? The Tubemeister has just the right secret weapon – time to Boost it! Engaging the Boost control does wonderful things to your tone if you’re a high gain maniac like me – not only does it increase the volume of the Lead channel, but it also juices up the overall gain levels, taking you out of the 80s and into more modern eras. And it doesn’t stop there! Turning on the boost also re-voices the channel to make it thicker and juicier, ensuring that your face melting quotas for the night will be met with ease.

As with the clean channel, if you prefer your overdrive sound to be dominated by poweramp drive rather than preamp drive, you can use the integrated power soak to notch down the output so that you can crank the channel master volume without permanent damage to your ears. Get the looser, harmonically rich sound of poweramp drive with its distinctive sag without killing every small animal within a 1km radius of your amp.

Red Box
If going down to 1W with the power soak isn’t good enough for you (just no pleasing some people!), there’s ONE more cool trick in the box. The Red Box, that is. Red Box is H&K’s emulated out for recording or feeding straight to a PA. When you’re using this, you can activate a silent recording mode, which allows you to feed your signal straight to a desk for those late night recording sessions. Pretty cool! H&K even suggest that you can feed this signal to in-ear monitors onstage and not worry about a cab or mic… now that’s an interesting idea.

Final Thoughts
I think H&K have finally hit a home run with this one. A great feature set, versatility for Africa, and here’s the best part – it’s priced at an extremely reasonable $1099! Small enough to chuck in a backpack, but big enough to rock out… it’s just a great idea for almost any guitarist.


Okay so let’s do this a bit differently. Here’s a long medley of just a few tones the Tubey is capable of… going from pristine cleans, to power-soaked clean channel, to crunch, and crazy chunky drive. Set it to play, and start reading! (PS, short note on the guitars I used for these clips: I was using my LP Classic on most clips, newly furnished with BKP VHII in the bridge and SD Alnico II Pro in the neck. From memory the second clip (cranked clean channel on 1W) I used the Gibson 70s Tribute Firebird that I’ve currently got for a review that’s coming very soon!)