TubeMeister 18 Head review by Hughes & Kettner

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  • Features: 9
  • Sound: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.5 (35 votes)
Hughes & Kettner: TubeMeister 18 Head

Price paid: $ 600

Purchased from: Guitar Center

Features — 9
- 18 Watt All-Tube Amp
- 2 EL84 (Power Tubes)
- 2 12AX7 (Preamp Tubes)
- 2 Channels: Clean and Lead (+Lead Boost)
- FX Loop
- Footswitch Input (not included)
- Power Soak (18W, 5W, 1W, 0W)
- Red Box DI Out (cabinet emulated output)
- 3 band EQ (for both channels)
- Master and Gain controls for each channel
- 1 Speaker out (8-16 ohms)
- 1 Guitar Input

The only complaints I hear are that there's no built-in reverb or tuner. This does not bother me the slightest as I am glad to have all the rawness of the tube amp and not have to worry about anything coloring my sound. Also... pretty sure a TC Electronic Reverb in the Effects Loop (isn't that handy) would be far better than anything Hughes & Kettner would have put in the amp. I personally have a TC Electronic Tuner in front of the amp that I highly recommend.

The other complaint would be that it does not have a headphones output, but if you connect the direct out to a USB Interface, you could always listen to your amp in that way. However, this is why I could care less about these complaints. It take very little work to resolve them.

Sound — 9
I play Foo Fighters, Yellowcard, Paramore, and a lot of other bands from the '90s to now. This amp is beyond great in getting me really shinny cleans for my love of melodic pop tunes to really dirty, crunchy tunes.

To me, this amp sounds like a Mesa Boogie but with much better cleans (what!?). It can really bring in those sounds of a dirty Marshall and a clean Fender but have it be all-in-one. I had a Fender Blues Jr. before I had enough of the loudness (no power soak) and ice pick treble. This amp seems to be able to simulate the Fender just as good but with an EQ that's more effective - like the treble cranked would get you that Fender sparkle but I keep it at 6 and get a more usable, traditional clean tone. I'll rate this as a 9 only because I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending it to boutique lovers, but I will demand they try one out.

Reliability & Durability — 9
This amp head looks really cool (though if you think it looks cheesy in the photos, I understand). However, I was a little concern about gigging with it. After doing it and using the case that it comes in, I have no worries about doing it again. I basically treat it like a video camera and with it being so small, it is easy to care for. With reliability, as long as you don't drop the amp head, you should be okay. And hey, if your cabinet ever failed on you, use the direct out which sounds great. No need for a backup. So the durability isn't a 10/10, but I would definitely rank the reliability up there.

Overall Impression — 10
For what I am doing, this is easily a 10/10. This had everything I wanted which was...

- an amp I could easily gig with and be loud enough
- has a power soak so I could get good tone at night
- has a direct out (cabinet simulation was an awesome bonus as I don't think I'll ever mic my cabinet again - that good)
- has awesome cleans and awesome distortion rather than be a one-trick pony (i.e. my previously owned Fender Blues Junior III)
- has an effects loop so I can put my effects on AFTER the tube distortion (unlike my BJ III)

If this was stolen, I would definitely buy the same amp head with the same 12" speaker (highly recommend). Maybe I would consider getting a different Hughes & Kettner setup, but I am doubtful. I can't even think of anything I would want to add to this. This is too PERFECT for me.

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