TubeMeister 5 Head review by Hughes & Kettner

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.8 (13 votes)
Hughes & Kettner: TubeMeister 5 Head

Price paid: C$ 399

Purchased from: Long and McQuade

Sound — 9
Mainly played with a Gibson 76 Explorer, stock Gibson pickups, into my Marshall Haze 1x12 cab loaded with a Celestion Marquee speaker. I play mostly hard rock, classic rock and blues rock and it can nail those tones all by itself. It's loud for 5 watts that's for sure! One of the first things I noticed is that its extremely dynamic to the input signal, lowering your guitars volume can drastically effect the sound quickly, and I really noticed a more pronounced change when going from neck pickup to bridge. Only time it is really noisy is under a high gain setting which is basically inevitable with any amp. The sound you can get out of it are great, my standard is to play some of my favorite classic rock riffs like Zeppelin, Cream, Sabbath see how it can handle them and if it fairs well I can make use of it anywhere. The Tubemeister 5 actually surprised me a ton in this area as it really nailed the riffs with authenticity but while only utilizing about half of the amps gain. Its loaded with XXL transformers so there is a tons of clean headroom for a 5 watt amp, again with the split Master/Gain you can really crank it and dial out the gain so the tubes aren't horribly breaking up. Skip over this amp if your looking for brutal distortion its certainly not your Boogie style gain, it gets nasty but you probably wont be getting Pantera style gain without a pedal. 9/10 - I never got to try the amp in the store when I first saw it, I immediately went back to purchase it two days later after checking out what I could on YouTube, this guy is so new the majority of the demos I watched were German ones. Went in to buy it found out the store was closing in 5 minutes so I just bought it so I wouldn't miss out (I hate ordering stuff) long story short after getting a good chance to Jam with it the amp surpassed my expectations on tone for an amp of this size. Funny enough I like the sound of the Drive channel on this amp and not my TS808 clone pushing it on clean, whereas my little Marshall Haze 15 is the opposite TS808 pushing the clean is way more creamy then the OD channel. Apples and Oranges.

Overall Impression — 10
Rock and Blues. This amp is a solid rock amp, it can do the blues but you will be spending a bit more time setting the EQ up where as for rock you can plug in and go. 12 years, various guitars, pedals, moving over strictly to tube amps used to have some digital, hybrid, modelling, now just going back to the basics. I wish I had of asked for $50 off the amp, nothing was wrong with it but it never hurts to try to save $50! If this amp was stolen I would certainly replace it if I didn't manage to catch the thief and go old testament on his hands. I don't think I will lose it, although it is pretty small so I could see it happening strangely enough. Love everything its just such a cute little amp (hahaha) nothing to really hate about it either it does what it claims and it does it well, no frill no gimmicks just pure tone. Favorite feature would obviously be the red box, but the front light up panel is pretty damn awesome too. Didn't have anything to compare it against, closest thing I believe is the Blackstar HT-5 which sadly I don't get around here as there are no Blackstar dealers that I know of but the size was the main seller for me on the TM5 I can literally take this thing anywhere even if I am walking. At 7.5lbs it really isn't a burden to haul around making it a venerable studio tool for the commuting musician. 10/10 - Blown out of the water 100% I was expecting a little bit of a fizzy lower quality amp but I was completely wrong there. If you want a bedroom worthy practice amp this fits the bill, but if you also want to be able to Dime the amp and record it silently at 3am after a 12 pack of Corona well you can and the police wont even show up.

Reliability & Durability — 8
Looks like a tank, feels like a tank, I think it might be a tank! Seriously for how small the TM5 is you will be amazed at exactly how rugged this little monster is. Solid metal construction means its going to be hard to damage and that clear polycarbonate face may look wimpy but that stuff is tough, think lexan aka bullet proof glass. Nothing has broken down yet (knock on wood) but I am religious about up keep on my equipment. I haven't owned this amp for many years or anything so I can't comment on extremely long term reliability but from its construction I am sure they would find this guy in good shape after a nuclear holocaust. One thing I am personally concerned of but do not know if its true or not is decreased tube life. This little guy pushes them two tubes real hard and I know there design is similar to light bulbs so putting two and two together I theorize one might be changing tubes slightly more often in a TM5 then they would be with a TM18 or any other slightly larger lunchbox amps. Then on the upside the TM5 only has two tubes most other lunchbox amps are in the 4-5 tube range. 8/10 - Since I am unsure of the long term reliability I am naturally going to drop a point off the score just because. The construction alone tells me I am wrong I mean its completely metal my lunchbox Marshall had a couple hundred more on the price tag and its in an MDF housing, draw your own conclusions there!

Features — 9
Newest addition to the Tubemeister family is the venerable 5 watt series. Powered by a 12AX7 preamp tube and a 12BH7 dual triode power tube. This is a Class A tube driven amplifier. The amp is quiet capable of handling anything from clean jazz to fairly heavy hard rock, it wont quiet make it to those extreme gain metal stages but a pedal can assist with that. Very basic setup, single channel with a Drive option. Three band EQ and individual master volume and gain controls, no channel switching, no footswitches, no effects loops, no headphone jack, no built in effects, no BS at all just 5 watts of pure Class A goodness. Built in Red Box as with all the Tubemeister amps. For those that don't know this is H&K's famed red box DI built directly into the amp and its placed after the amps power section so you get the full sound of the amp itself without needing cab simulators, pure amp tone. This is a direct out so you can plug it into and XLR input source IE computer interface and record the amp cranked, silently at 3am. There are no BS feature on this amp so there is nothing that you wouldn't need. An effects loop would have been nice just for versatility on pedals; however its not something that HAD to be there. At 5 watts this is not an amp you could gig with unless you were to mic it up, I am fairly confident you would have a hard time getting above the drummer in a practice situation as well, I haven't tried it in this setting as I purchase it mostly for silent recording, which it is a mean little tool for. 9/10 - I would never rate anything 10/10 as nothing is perfect but for the price point, the fact its tube and comes with a built in red box which retails just shy of $100 alone this amp is a home run.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Pretty unbiased review, and you did well describing it's strengths. Makes me want to give it a shot for the lighter side of things.
    BigHeadClan wrote: Pretty unbiased review, and you did well describing it's strengths. Makes me want to give it a shot for the lighter side of things.
    Thanks, I am trying to provide UG with as many unbiased reviews of products I own or demo. I have always been big on checking things out online before purchasing so I figured I would contribute back. Its slowly beating my Haze 15 for play time as I can crank it more and the amount of gain on tap is stupid for only 2 tubes, it can get some early Metallica distortion going on when cranked up.
    rickneedshelp wrote: Whoa, what kind of true north strong and frost bitten canadian boy drinks coronas?
    I prefer Scotch myself, just used Corona because its pretty much known world wide. If the alcoholic content is below 38% its a waste of time!