Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister36 – Video & Review

Some amp and guitar manufacturers have a habit of resting on their laurels, and letting their past glories carry them through decades forward. Hughes & Kettner is not one of those companies. Instead of rehashing old ideas and repackaging them as new, Hughes & Kettner always seem to be pushing the envelope in amp design, while never forgetting that it’s all about the tone. From high-end stomp boxes, to killer tube and solid state amps, to the legendary Red Box DI, H&K continues to move forward and wow guitarists the world over. Their newest line, the Tubemeister series, has been making major waves over the last year with 18 and 5 watt heads and combos. Combining big tube tone in a portable package, the Tubemeister amps have been extremely well received, deservedly so. Riding on that success, Hughes and Kettner introduces the Tubemeister 36 Head.

The Tubemeister 36 (TM36) is a 36 watt edition of the popular new series. Like the 18 watt version before it, is sports an FX loop, multiple channels, and a built-in power attenuator. It also includes the Red Box DI output, which is allows you to send a cabinet-emulated line out to a mixer or mic preamp. This is a great option for those of us who love home recording but have neighbors who don’t appreciate our musical genius! It also offers a power soak, allowing you to operate in 18, 5, and 1watt modes, or a silent modes which you can activate for direct recording. However, the TM36 packs a lot more than its 18-watt predecessor. Here are some key upgrades:

1) MORE POWER! – As you’ve probably figured out by now, the TM36 has twice the power as the 18 watter. It is powered by 4 EL84 tubes, and 3 12AX7 preamp tubes. Aside from volume, it does add quite a bit of depth to the overall tone. The lows are able to push quite a bit more, and 4×12 cabs get to resonate and move more air.

2) 3 Channels – The TM36 features Clean, Crunch, and Lead channels. The Clean channel has its own independent EQ controls, while the Crunch and share an EQ. All 3 channels have their own Gain and Master volume controls.

3) Digital Reverb – Unlike the 18 and 5, the 36 has built-in digital reverb, accessed on the rear panel via an On/Off button and a Min-Max knob. While the reverb does not get very saturated, it does vary depending on the channel you are on. If you are on the Clean Channel, it is wetter, and dries up as you move to the Crunch and Lead channels.

4) MIDI Footswitching – Here’s where the TM36 is unlike nearly any amp available, regardless of power. Using the optional FSM-432 MIDI board (the same one used for their Coreblade series), you suddenly have access to a multitude of tone combinations. Not only can you switch between channels, but using the MIDI board allows to to preset the power soak setting, the FX Loop, and Reverb. Heres a quick example: You can program the board so you can have one channel be Clean, with Reverb on, running at 36 watts. Then you can program another channel to be your Lead channel, running at 18 watts for added breakup, with Reverb off and the FX loop on! As the FSM-432 has 32 banks, each with 4 presets, you can program 128 different settings….which is freaking crazy.

As Hughes & Kettner was kind enough to loan this to me for a week, I decided to put it to good use. My first night with it, I took it to my band’s rehearsal. Hourly rehearsal joints are hit or miss when it comes to amps, so it was nice to bring something solid to the jam. I plugged it into a Marshall 1960 cab, and blasted away.

I started by checking out the Clean channel. With the added power, I was taken aback by the clarity. Compared to the TM18, the 36 gives a considerable amount of depth and true clean tone. Set the Gain low and the Master high, and you have a very clean, AC30-like chime. Crank the gain and pull back on the Master, and you get a Plexi vibe that is very reactive to your picking velocity.

The Crunch channel offers a very open sound that lends itself well to big open rock chords. As it is not overly compressed, it is a bit unforgiving. In other words, if you haven’t been practicing, this channel will not cover it up for you. It is very reactive to touch, and has a bit of a darker overall tone to it.

The Lead channel was where I spent most of rehearsal, as I like big loud gain. For me, this is where the TM36 won me over, much like the 18. With most amps, I usually dial in a thick rhythm sound, and use an overdrive for leads to add some compression and saturation. With the TM36, I didn’t even use a pedal. I was able to dial in a tone where the chords shined through, yet with enough sustain to bust out leads without any assistance form a pedal. This is a rare trait for any guitar amp in my experience.

Then it was gig time. I strapped the TM36 and my Pedaltrain Jr. to my cart, and hit the road……make that rails. My band was playing Trash Bar in Brooklyn that night, and I was stoked to play through this thing again at an unreasonable volume. Upon plugging it into the house Marshal 4×12, many friends approached me to ask what the little glowing box I had was. After turning it on and up, the sound guy kindly asked me to bring down the volume. I obliged…..until he walked back to his booth of course. Throughout the set, the TM36 held it’s own, and sounded fantastic. It must have brought something extra out of me, because many of my friends told me after the set that my playing was particularly on point that night. I’d like to take all of the credit of course, but great gear brings out the best in any player.

We then took the TM36 to the studio to do the demo video that is featured with this blog. The sound you hear in the video is my Les Paul Custom plugged straight into the head, into a THD 2×12 cab. To mic the cab, we used a Shure SM57 (is there any other cab mic out there?). We also included the raw audio files from this session, as we wanted to give you the same performance through a cab, as well as the Red Box DI out so you can hear the tone from each.

We also included a short little ditty I came up with on the fly. It’s basically sampled drums, 2 rhythm tracks (recorded using the Crunch channel), and one blistering solo (Me? Humble?) recorded using the Lead channel. Hopefully this provides some added context for how good this amp really sounds.

Between the video, the review, and the included audio files, I think I’ve made my point: This amp rules! When I reviewed the TM18 head last year, I was so blown away that I didn’t give it back. The TM36 might take some strong arms to pluck from my hands as well. Thanks again to our friends at Hughes & Kettner for letting us put this through the rigors of NYC, and for making another solid amp in their huge family of amazing gear. If you want to get one for yourself, hit us up at Until next time, PLAY LOUD!!!!

Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister Review by The Soss

In recent months, I have been faced with a predicament. It’s a situation familiar to any hard rock guitarist who lives in a cramped city, but loves the power of the high-gain, 50 or 100 watt half stack. On the one hand, nothing feels and sounds better than the rush of volume and tone cranking out of 4 12-inch speakers at blistering levels. On the other hand, if you rely on public transit to take you to the gig, packing up your favorite head and 4×12 are not an option. I needed to find a solution to this dilemma, and found it in the form of the newest head from Hughes & Kettner: the TubeMeister.

The TubeMeister is the latest in the recent trend towards lower wattage heads, however this amp seems to be designed with the hard rock/classic metal guitarist in mind. It’s an 18-watt all-tube head that provides tones similar to those of some classic higher wattage monsters. I decided to take it for a test drive for a weekend of rehearsals, gigs, and recording. Simply put, I was far from disappointed.


Hughes and Kettner have always been at the forefront of mixing modern amp technology and classic tone. In terms of design, they are very in tune with the needs of working guitarists. The TubeMeister represents that long-running philosophy, at a lower volume than we’ve come to expect from H&K. Physically, this amp is very portable. It weighs about 15 lbs, and comes with a sturdy bag that includes a pocket big enough for a few cables and 1 or 2 small pedals. It sure beats carrying your 100-watt Marshall on the subway. Physical qualities aside, the most impressive thing about this amp is the tone, and its set of features.

The amp is powered by 2 EL84 power tubes, as well as 2 12AX7 preamp tubes. It also has particularly large transformers, considering the chassis’ compat size. This may be why this thing is so damn loud!

The front panel is very simple. It includes 2 channels (Clean and Lead), and a Lead Boost that kicks things up to searing gain. The channels and boost can be controlled with an optional FS-2 footswitch. Each channel has its own Gain and Master knobs, and are run through a 3-band EQ. Nothing fancy here.

The rear panel is where the Hughes and Kettner design ingenuity creeps in. It features an effects loop, a built-in power attenuator, and H&K’s famous Red Box DI Out which allows for direct output to a PA or recording setup. The attenuator allows you to switch between 18 watts, 5 watts, 1 watt, and Speaker Off Mode. In other words, you can get cranked tone out of it without having to shake the walls of your apartment building. But enough about the specs. Let’s rock this thing.


The night I took this out of the ProAudioStar offices, I went straight to rehearsal with my band Grande. At most venues and studios in NYC, there is usually a house cabinet. I plugged it into a random no-name 4×12 they had at Rivington Studios, and let her warm up. The first thing I noticed was how cool the TubeMeister looks. Like its larger siblings, the Duotones and TriAmps, the TubeMeister illuminates bright blue when the power is turned on. It doesn’t make it sound any better, but who cares? It never hurts when your gear looks totally sweet.

Then it was onto playing. The first thing that struck me was just how loud this thing was. Granted, it’s not as loud as my 100-watt Ampeg VL-1002, but it still moved some air. I checked out the Clean channel first, with the Master up and the Gain down. It was pretty clean, but you need to get the gain up a bit higher if you want some real volume. When you do crank the gain, you start to get a tone reminiscent of a Hiwatt or a Plexi. I put my BYOC Shredder pedal in front of it, and I was off in to Randy Rhoads territory.

The Lead Channel is really where the TubeMeister stands out. A lot of similar low-powered heads lack the kind of depth and chunk that metalheads like me ache for, most of them offering a more vintage, bluesy tone. While this amp does that type of tone very well, it also excels in higher gain situations. My first instinct was to crank the Master and Gain to see how gnarly it got. At that setting, you get a great saturated tone, where individual chord notes rings out, but the chord as a whole has great depth. I would rate its gain level as similar to a Marshall JCM800, but with an overall thicker tonality. Pull back on the Gain, and you get straight up 70’s style hard rock tones a la Kiss, AC/DC, Bad Company, etc. Turn on the Lead Boost, and you get tons of saturation, more suitable for modern styles of metal and lead guitar. It adds a bit of mid-boost, and enough gain and sustain to please anyone who has a penchant for shredding.

The following night, I brought the Tubemeister to my gig at the Delancy in NYC’s Lower East Side. I was playing in the house band, covering Ozzy Osbourne tunes. I got on stage, plugged the TubeMeister into the house Peavey 4×12, and started dialing in. It wasn’t long after that the sound guy asked me to turn down! He thought I was going to be too loud for the 150-capacity club. That may have been the highest compliment for this amp. While 18 watts may not sound like that much power, this thing still manages to put out some serious decibels. If you are playing at a venue where you are going to be miked up, the TubeMeister is plenty loud for on-stage monitoring as well as reaching the crowd.  Depending on the size of the venue, you may not need a mic at all. Did I mention it looks super sweet?  Anyway, the gig went well, my Les Paul sounded great through its new friend, and all was well. After the gig, I packed the head back in the bag, and took a cab home. It felt nice being able to have everything I needed (guitar, pedals, cables, strap, etc.) in two light bags. I could get used to this.


So for me, the deal maker is the inclusion of the Red Box DI Out. As such, I was anxious the morning after the Ozzy set to check out this feature. The Red Box is an industry standard DI made specially for guitar. Aside from giving you a balanced XLR output, it also emulates a speaker cabinet. While there are many awesome software amp simulators these days, nothing sounds better than running your guitar through an all-tube signal path. The feel and tone are second to none.

I have included some various audio samples below, using my Les Paul Custom with different amp settings and pickups. I ran the Red Box into my Focusrite Saffire 6 USB, into Logic 9. (Please note that if you are going to use the direct out without having a cabinet plugged in, you will have to put the Power Attenuator to “Speaker Off” mode. Otherwise, you run the danger of blowing the output transformer, and therefore not being able to make beautiful riffage.) I didn’t use any pedals or plug-ins, as I wanted to display the tonality of the TubeMeister, as well as the coolness of the Red Box. My only complaint was that at higher Gain and Master settings, the Pad on my Saffire was still not enough to keep it from clipping at times. When that happened, I just turned the Master down, and still managed to get some cool tones. Check them out.

Soss’s Tubemeister Demos by ProAudioStar


Hughes and Kettner have done it again. They never seem to fail when it comes to knowing what the gigging guitarist looks for in an amp, and the TubeMeister is an excellent example. If you’re like me, and love huge wall-of-sound type of guitar tone, the TubeMeister definitely does the trick. On top of that, it’s the perfect solution for any guitarist who needs a big sound from a portable package. If you want to get one for yourself, hit us up at Until next time, PLAY LOUD!!!!

Pedal Point with Jeremy: Guyatone Wah Rocker WR-M5

Hello again beautiful people!  Welcome to the second installment of our new video series, “Pedal Point.”  Thanks to everyone for checking out the video for the Maxon PT999.  For this video, we’re gettin’ stanky with the Guyatone WRm5 Wah Rocker.

The WRm5 is an Auto-wah pedal.  As traditional wahs are my favorite types of pedals, I was pretty excited to check this thing out.  Auto-wahs work differently than a traditional expression pedal wah.  Instead of controlling the sweep with your foot, the wah effect is determined by how hard or soft you hit the strings.  This makes them a very interactive effect, and provides a different sound and vibe as a result.

The WRm5 offers a few settings to dial in your sound.  The Wah Rocker has a  standard Threshold (effect sensitivity) and Decay (filter speed) control, as well as a Level control that adjusts the output level of the effect as well as a Response trimmer that controls the attack time of the filter sweep.  It also has a switch that allows you to blend the effected signal with the dry one, or only have the effected signal come through.

As I am a “set it and forget it” kind of guy, I dialed in one sound for all of the riffs, and played some different styles to show this pedals versatility.  I elected to turn the Blend switch off to allow only the effected signal to pass through.  This was done so that you could really hear the effect itself.  I played some riffy stuff, some chordy stuff, and some distorted leads to give you an idea of how this thing shines.

As a guy who loves wahs, I had a great time checking the WRm5 out.  If you’re used to traditional wahs, I recommend you gives this pedal a shot.  It gives you a whole different angle to a familiar effect, as well as a synthy kind of vibe.  If you have any questions or comments on this video, feel free to hit us up on the blog or Youtube page.  We are always looking for suggestions for new product videos, so let us know what you want to see.  If you want to pick this pedal up, or anything else we sell, let us know!  Give us a call, shoot us an email, or hit up our Live Chat at .  Until next time, crank it up!

(NAME THIS SERIES) Pedal Review with Jeremy


Leave your name ideas for this pedal review series in the comments below. The winner will get a Korg Pitchjack Tuner!

Hey kids!  Welcome to the first installment of our new, currently nameless pedal series.  The boss-man has decided to unshackle me from the Returns desk from time to time to enlighten you beautiful people to our ever-growing pedal inventory.  In the coming months, I will be demoing various pedals from our stock, as well as other guitar gear we sell here at ProAudioStar.  If you have any suggestions for any pedals you want to see me play, or any pedal combinations/styles/sounds, feel free to leave a comment on the Youtube channel, or on our blog.  We got some cool new products coming in all the time, and we would love to hear your feedback.

The first unit we took for a ride is the Maxon PT999 PhaseTone.  This thing is sweeeeeet!  Phaser pedals are kind of a one-trick pony, so the quality of sound becomes the most important factor when choosing one.  I personally prefer a warm, classic kind of sound (think Gilmour, Van Halen, Skynyrd, Hendrix, you get the idea).  That being the case, this box delivers the goods.  If I had to describe the sound of this pedal in words, I would say it is subtle, yet crisp.  However, you don’t need my words.  You can watch me play it in this video!

Maxon as a brand is very unique.  Unlike most companies that make “reissues” of old classics, Maxon still uses the same components that were used in effects back in the day.  Most companies cheap out on components as a way to keep prices low.  However, this usually results in a pedal that is noisy, and sounds more like a shadow of what is says it’s supposed to be.  Of course, that means that Maxon pedals cost more.  However, I’ve never thought about how much I paid for a piece of gear while I was playing it unless it sucked.

To me, the PT999 sounds a lot like I hoped the newer MXR Phase 90’s would have sounded when I tried them.  It is remarkably lush sounding, and doesn’t add extra noise to your signal chain.  It’s also super simple:  One button, and one knob.  The knob controls the rate of the oscillation of the effect.  If you want the real deal, old school phaser, I recommend this pedal above all others.  Should you decide to get one for yourself, give us a call, email, or hit us up on Live Chat on our website.  If you have any questions or comments regarding this pedal, leave us a comment on the video channel, or on our blog.  Stay tuned for more videos, featuring pedals from Pigtronix, Guyatone, and WMD.  Until then, crank it up!