TubeMeister 36 Head review by Hughes & Kettner

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.1 (18 votes)
Hughes & Kettner: TubeMeister 36 Head

Price paid: £ 635

Purchased from:

Sound — 9
I'm playing a 2005 PRS Custom 2002 with Dragon II pickups into a Boss GT8 into the H&K (using the H&K Tubemeister 112 box cab), with the 4 cable method that splits the FX. This is a fantastic setup for the H&K as the Boss switches the H&K's power soak, channel, reverb and FX loop when I change patches, which is an exceptional thing for someone tired of doing the tap dance. Other amps I have used the GT8 with have required lots of level matching but the loop on the Tubemeister is really good and it took barely any tweaking to get the levels right. I have also tried many pedals in the loop - Malekko 616, EHX Small Stone Nano, ISP Decimator, Catalinbread Heliotrope etc - and they all run very well. The beauty of using MIDI is when you want zero FX after the preamp you can cut the FX loop out so it is bypassed entirely which is great for a MFX setup as there is one less stage of AD/DA conversion going on. The Tubemeister 36 can do very decent hard rock, metal, punk and classic rock sounds. I have absolutely no need for a tubescreamer, bad monkey or whatever in front of the lead channel for any of these styles, which is a first for me. The crunch is very clear and cuts through well. Cleans as already mentioned cut through and don't run out of headroom unless everything is maxed. Can't complain at all for band use, everything is there out of the box. I re-tubed the head from the stock Chinese tubes to some JJ pre amp tubes from my Traynor, and there was a slightly darker overall tone, slightly improved. One of the JJ's went dodgy so I put the Chinese preamp tubes back in and to be honest they sound fantastic to me and I will keep them in. My only beef with this head is that at I use it on either 1w or 5w at low bedroom levels and there is a bit of a fizz to the high gain sounds. I don't know whether this is because the speaker in the cab is new and not yet broken in (apparently this can be caused by a new V30), but it defiantly isn't the tubes. I get around this by using the EQ in the GT8 after the preamp on low wattage high gain patches, setting a low pass filter at 8k. Problem solved. Not enough to put me off the tone, but it is noticeable. At higher volume the lead can get pretty brutal if you want it too. One thing to bear in mind is that the overall voicing of the amp is not Vintage at all, it is very HiFi. Everything is very clear, but never cold. It is a warm clear amp, but players seeking a Vintage voiced tube amp may not be overly impressed. In terms of all around versatility this has to be a 9 as it is the only amp I've ever played that sounds great at any level (apart from that slight fizz).

Overall Impression — 9
Overall I'm just going to say this is a nice lightweight compact head which is easy to transport (7kg and comes with it's own padded bag), and sounds great at any volume within reason. You can certainly gig with it, and it sounds decent enough for those midnight jams. The tones coming out of it are varied but all decent; it is actually hard to dial in a bad sound. I would buy another in a heart beat if it got broken, provided, and it comes with a 3 year warranty which is reassuring. I think it compares exceptionally well to similar spec/priced amps (there aren't many that fulfill both those criteria). If you use it with a midi MFX it becomes even better as you have the ideal setup - digital switching and presets with a tube tone. The simplicity of using it this way (with digital FX) and gained flexibility far outweigh the mojo of using traditional stomps. The reason I have mentioned MFX so much in this review is because I think using this head in a traditional setup I would score it a 9, in a midi MFX setup I would score it 10, as it really excels used that way.

Reliability & Durability — 8
It looks well built, don't let the fact that it is German designed made in China put you off. I have had it in pieces twice and everything is well built, looks good quality. Hasn't let me down (be pretty annoyed if it had already!), played around 20 hours at bedroom, 10 at band practice and it has performed flawlessly except when I put a duff preamp tube in it. One thing to be wary of is the fact the manual and H&K website neglect to tell you how to re-tube it. I assumed the plastic would unscrew at the front at lift up. Not the case at all. This would have been so easy. Instead you have to unscrew the bottom 2 screws on either end and lift the whole sides/back up as one unit. Not bad once you know how to do it, but a pain they don't show you how to do this. Resulted in me taking the amp to pieces the first time, and a lot of swearing. Reliability - ? Durability - 9 Support - 7 - where's the servicing instructions?

Features — 9
If there is one category that this amp excels in it is without a doubt the features. The list is pretty impressive, and far exceeds what most people would expect from a head in any category. Here goes: - 36 watts provided by 3x 12ax7 preamp tubes and 4x EL84 power tubes. This is switchable down to 18w/5w/1w or silent. When in any 18w/5w/1w only 2 of the EL84's are used. Switchable via midi. - 3 channels: clean, crunch and lead. Clean has its own 3 band EQ, and crunch and lead share a 3 band EQ. EQ controls include treble, bass and mids. Channels switchable via midi or footswitch (you get neither in the box). - Digital reverb, switchable via midi or footswitch. - FX loop, serial, switchable via midi or footswitch. - TSC tube protection system shuts down dodgy tubes before they can cause trouble and constantly tweaks the bias. - Red box DI out so you can hook directly from the head into a PA/multi-tracker etc I have had this amp for around 3 weeks now, playing a huge range of styles at both bedroom and band levels from crystal clean picking, jazz, rock, punk and metal. It copes with all of these very well at bedroom levels and exceptionally well in a band situation. This is a very loud 36w amp, easily cuts through and drains out my old Traynor YCV50. The drummer in my current band is from a 90's hardcore background and is a very loud drummer, can keep up with him easily both clean and dirty. I am getting to maximum clean volume with the gain at 2 o'clock in a live situation, but the headroom on this amp is exceptional so it remains as clean as I need it to be all the way up at 36w. My lead and crunch channels get to about 12'oclock on the volume and I start draining the others out so haven't pushed past there, again at 36w. There are only 2 things I really feel this amp is missing, which are an additional EQ so that the lead and crunch channels could have their own EQ's, and (perhaps greedily) midi switchable pots so that the all settings could be recalled via midi, but that is going over the top for an amp that is already feature packed in this price range. So overall a 9 as the shared EQ thing is quite big for a player who has to play a wide range of styles in one band.

12 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I've been running a 36 head into the H&K single 12" cab for a couple of months now, and I'm reasonably impressed. I agree it's quite a modern bright sound - but it's pretty versatile. I particularly like the power soak feature - I get a decent sound at low (practice at home) volumes, which is vital for me. I do get a touch of fizz (feedback) out of mine, but only if I'm stood right next to the amp - which happens in my practice setup. Move 2 foot away, crank it, it's awesome.
    Both. The clean channel has a very modern voicing, everything is well defined and very clear. That said with an EQ pedal in the loop I have got some very convincing vintage tones out of it. The lead channel is great, but not brutal. I wouldn't recommend it if you are just playing at home quietly as I find it a bit fizzy at low volumes on any wattage setting. I use a eq pedal in the loop to tame the fizz. At medium to high volumes this isn't an issue and it sounds fantastic. It's certainly a very versatile amp, and I can get fantastic tones out of it at any volume except for the high gain at low volumes as I mentioned.
    Hey sujay999, yes it was fixed, needed a new circuit board. Working fine now, hopefully for a long time! If you used the amp on 1w, clean gain on max you wouldn't have any fizziness. I've only noticed it on the lead channel, any wattage, on low master volume settings. If you have it cranked past 11 o'clock or so the fizziness is gone and it sounds awesome. Without an EQ pedal I wouldn't recommend this amp for high gain playing at just low levels, anything else it is fantastic for.
    Hey ragingben, thanks for all of the info. In that case it sounds like the amp for me! Glad to hear you sorted yours out!
    Hey ragingben really great report and review Just wondering, a year+ since you posted last comment re: issues, how has reliability been since then and are you still using it (and as pleased with it) as much as you were? Cheers!
    Hey, yeah still happy with it. I think the review is still fair, although I'd add that it would have been nice if it had a midi thru port on the back for use with other MIDI gear. It's a strange amp to EQ, so takes a bit of patience to dial in. Add an EQ pedal to the loop and it is much easier to dial in though. If I was going to buy one now I think that I would personally opt for a Kemper profiling amp instead for the extra money, which although is a whole different kettle of fish and in many ways incomparable, probably a wiser investment for an all in one silent recording/rehearsing/gigging solution. Although all 3 channels on the TM36 are great, I have played nicer clean, crunch and gain channels on different amps, but that is probably to be expected as there isn't ever going to be a perfect amp without getting in to modeling. So far (touch wood) it has behaved itself very well, done maybe 7 or 8 gigs and weekly practices with it since March and it has been fine for them all. But all that said, for the price it is an exceptional piece of kit, and the portability has really been a plus point for me.
    Hi, I've just ordered the H and K TM36, from Thomann. How is yours now-there seems to be a big push for UK consumers to have to buy the UK 240 volt version as the Europe 230 volt can't handle UK mains supply. UK suppliers are (suprise) charging a lot more than Thomann, but I'm slighly worried over reliability-Thomann techs have said they don't know any failures from excessive mains voltage- if yours is a 230 volt and still going strong i might still go for the amp-let me know.
    Mk37, you must have a faulty unit. My reverb switching and eff loop worked perfectly from the get go in a 4 cable set up with a GT8. Get some really incredible valve sounds
    tnx for the review dude, about the sound , is this a amp for clean sound or it is for high gain? is it good for hard rock?
    Just to add to this review, mine went down after 6 months. The amp would pop, then the FX loop would stop working on 36w setting, and the volume would cut out. It's back with the store I got it from at the moment. Another lad I know also has one, and his had a very noisey reverb section. I have read about one other person experiencing this. Mine was a very early unit, as was the guy I know who had the reverb problem, so don't read too much into it as it could be either isolated issues or teething problems with a new product, and there aren't many issues reported on the net which is usually a good sign. So there you go, just telling it as it is. Would have to rate reliability from my own experience as a 7 or 8, it was good while it lasted but it did go down on me within 6 months.
    Great review, and I hope you sort out your amp troubles. Did they manage to fix it in the end? So if I wanted to use this as an all round amp, would there be the fizz problem if I were to use it on a pushed clean setting (aka high master medium gain for my main tone) in 1 watt mode? Or is it just in the lead channel with high gain fizz? Thanks
    Reverb always on, FX loop does nothing. Applies to manual selection, simple foot-switch selection AND big MIDI switch selection. Great amp, useless switching.....