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Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18 - 18/5/1-watt Tube Head Reviews

4.5 stars based on 19 customer reviews
Questions about the Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18 - 18/5/1-watt Tube Head?

Questions about the Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18 - 18/5/1-watt Tube Head?

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Sweetwater Advice

  • Chris McCown

    If you're like me, you're coming across more and more instances where a "silent stage" is required, which doesn't allow you to use your favorite tube amp. The Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister series solves that issue, finally! The Red Box Direct Out is exactly what I was looking for. Now I can get killer tone, footswitchable channels, AND keep the Front of House guys happy at the same time! Everybody wins with these awesome amps!

  • Josh Claussen

    As a guitar player, the Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18 solves a lot of my problems. This amp is awesome for any application, providing enough volume and gain for live rock leads, but I can get the same tone at incredibly low volumes when I practice in my apartment. The DI is also useful live and when I record, because it sounds incredibly clear and still delivers the natural tube saturation I get when its plugged into a speaker cabinet.

  • Jason Kovach

    The Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18 is a top-notch tube amp with great features. I've used mine for both recording and practicing with a band, and I've been nothing but pleased with its performance. With a built in Red Box DI, this is the perfect amp for stage and studio.

  • Dan Robinson

    When I track guitars in the studio, one of the challenges is getting just the right tone. Not only is the TubeMeister 18 one of the greatest-sounding amps I've played through, it's also incredibly practical. The built-in RedBox DI means I can keep the amp right next to me in the control room to tweak without the hassle of mic'ing up a cab, and it really does sound "right!" It's also great for playing live where stage volume is an issue. I also love not having to worry about adjusting or troubleshooting tubes so I can spend more time making music!

  • from Austin June 19, 2017Music Background:
    Guitar Player, Front of House, Recording

    Little amp with a lot of bite

    My church has 4 of these in house now. I use two in stereo. Such a huge sound. I've searched really hard to find a low stage volume solution with amp isolation, speaker sims, other amps and this by far sounds the best and takes up very little real estate. Plays naturally and I don't feel like I'm playing through some digitized amp modeler.

    Plugged into a cab, it sounds good, but not my preferred sound. It definitely works. I just prefer big 6L6 amps like Fenders. But as a swiss army knife and live box, this has been the secret sauce for recording, practicing at home and primarily my live sound. I have to play at a camp and travel space is tight. These little guys are be a life saver. Best part is that I don't feel like I'm sacrificing my tone for it.

  • from Florida May 8, 2017

    A Fantastic Amp period !!

    I was looking for an amp that would give me power output options for use at home, in the studio, and live ( average size club gigs ) without sacrificing tone etc.. This amp does that and then some. It's an absolute tone monster. When practicing on the 1W setting in an average sized room you still get high watt tone and response. Practicing with the band at 5 watt setting keeps everyone happy, and live at 18 watts it is loud.
    I'm going thru a 2 x 12 open back bottom and am in love with my tone, no matter which guitar I'm using, or what effects are in play. The clean channel is sparkling with great depth and the gain and boost channel, well just sings with pure tone and sustain.( Think Steve Vai like ). I recorded direct to board with the Red Box out
    setting ( rhythm tracks ) and the sound is organic and natural, 4 x 12 like. I can't say enough about this amp and am extremely happy that I chose this amp over the multitude of others I considered.

  • from Wisconsin May 5, 2017Music Background:
    Practicing Musician

    H&K Magic

    The first time I had used this TubeMeister 18, was at a gig a couple years ago. My Fender Twin Reverb, had blown a power-tube, and courtesy of the opening band's guitarist, he let me use his, plugged into my speakers.
    I was astounded by the overdrive and clean channel using my A/B pedal. It sounded fantastic using my electric's and acoustic guitars!
    I love the power-soak and red box put into it, great for recording. It looks as great as it sounds as well!

  • from MI January 19, 2017

    Big tone at a controllable volume

    I am really happy with my purchase of the TM18. This little head really is what I needed. I am actually amazed at how loud 1W is though. Its fun to dime out the master and gain on the 1W setting and it still rocks the house.

    This is replacing my Fender DRRI 22 watt so that's big shoes to fill. (I do miss the reverb and trem)

    Not that I have yet, but I am sure gigging would be just fine with it on the 18W setting IF mic'ed up or using the DI to the console. Keep your stage volume down with out sacrificing that sweet tube tone.

    Not quite a 5 star, rating. For a little more $ the deluxe 20 has a few more options. "reverb, selectable cab options for direct out. These could have been incorporated on the 18 easily I feel.

    FYI this is paired with the H&K 112 cabinet and it sounds great.

    Effects loop is great! I actually really like the amps overdrive and boost so this allows me to use my delay pedals without having to run it before the signal gets broken up.

    For the money, or for a first tube amp I cant see much better options. Blackstar? Orange? No thanks, H&K blows them all away.

  • from Seattle, WA October 22, 2016

    Amazing, plus a tip

    I have the Tubemeister 18 with the matching 1X12 Cab, and I have to say, this is an amazing amp. After the speaker broke in, I get some amazing tones. Crystal clean tones, and some searing leads. HOWEVER, if you get this amp, keep in mind that the clean channel has a lot of headroom and does not compress early on (think of maybe like a Fender blackface amp) so putting drive pedals through the clean channel can lead to sound very shrill sounds, especially if you have anything with a hard clip like an OCD. Just like another reviewer on here, it sounds absolutely amazing if you switch to the Blue channel, put in just a touch of gain (anywhere between 8 and 10 o'clock) and then switch on your drive pedal. The natural compression of the amp when in the blue channel will help roll off some of the shrill highs and beef up a bit of the low end, resulting in some VERY VERY cool sounds. I am using this amp to record a Prog-metal album, and it is performing flawlessly when set up like that. Cheers!

  • from August 16, 2016

    Tips how to use it

    Clean channel is great for clean, but cannot be used with any overdrive/fuzz/distortion pedals - it sounds thin and very fizzy.
    Use those pedals ONLY on lead (blue) channel: set Gain to 8 o'clock, then change volume only by using master button. then it sounds true amazing.

    Another tip: buy a reverb pedal and put it in the effect loops. it really improves the sound (i use tc electronic's hall of fame).

  • from Spring, TX February 11, 2016Music Background:
    Classic Rock, Christian Contemporary

    Just what my Taylor T5 Classic ordered!

    Right off the bat, let me thank David M. for his consistent and dependable insights. He knows I am a guitar "wanna be" (play keyboards and bass predominantly), so anything related to a six-string is out of my comfort zone. I only wanted to buy an amp once, as I have learned my lesson the hard way about buying and trading up over time. This amp provides every feature I could ask for, not just for now but in the future should I ever play in front of others. At home in our "music room", it is as others have stated - LOUD! Easy to operate, beautiful sounds both clean and with gain, and certainly a beautiful machine to look at with the blue lights. Using the 112 cab and H&K footswitch to round out the rig. Great addition to my arsenal and again, grateful for David and Sweetwater.

  • from Wisconsin June 9, 2015Music Background:
    Have played bands from small to large. Played in Londen, Japan and all over the U.S.

    Hughes & Kettner

    works great especially with my churches mixing board.

  • from Nederland, TX February 21, 2015Music Background:
    Beginner / Hobbiest

    First Tube Amp Purchase...

    This is my first tube amp purchase and so far I am super pleased. I mated it with 2 H&K 12's and it is loud! I have it in my bedroom but someone could very easy use this setup to perform in front of a decent size crowd. It has super clean tones and can get dirty too!!!

  • from maryland January 16, 2015Music Background:

    Glass Fogs Up

    It is a great amp for what it does but the clear panel gets foggy due to my humidifier which I need to keep my acoustic guitars healthy. I am a Mesa fan all the way but I use this because I live in a condo and I can get the tubes soaked pretty good without trouble from my neighbors. I still enjoy it.

  • from Massachusetts August 11, 2014

    Save your receipt

    Features: At this price point, you really can't beat this amp as far as features go. Two channels with a boost, effects loop, speaker emulated output, power soak...5 stars for features.

    Reliability: Made in China, shipped from the factory with junk Chinese tubes. CHANGE THEM. If you read nothing else in this review read this: SWAP OUT THE TUBES...please... The amp will sound better and will be less likely to fail. I had an output tube fail within 2 months (but of course, after the 30 day return policy and H&K's warranty on tubes). The fried tube took out the tube socket the 2 anode fuses. I had a tech replace the socket, but once he did, he encountered the spontaneous volume drop issue that seems to plague these amps. 8 months after the amp failed, H&K replaced it with a refurbished one. So far so good with this one, but I didn't even bother powering it up with the Chinese tubes in it. 2 stars for reliability.

    Sound: I have a love/hate relationship with the sound of this amp. The clean channel is bright, chimey, snappy, articulate, and dead quiet. The clean channel is where this amp really shines. The "blue channel" is ok. If your thing is bluesy, moderate gain that you can clean up with the volume knob, you'll probably like it. With the gain cranked on the blue channel, you fall into a limbo between too much gain for "crunch" applications, but not enough for heavier music. One would think this could be solved by the boost, or "red channel." However, the voicing of the boost really doesn't lend itself well to rhythm. It's almost there- it boosts the low end toward a satisfying, room filling thump, which I absolutely love. Unfortunately, it carries with it a mid hump that really muds everything up. A mid sweep control would really improve things. The boost channel works well for leads and I suspect that's what it's voiced for, but it's a shame that the chunky low end isn't really useful for rattling bones like it should be. To me, OD/distortion pedals sound a little tinny on the clean channel and are a little more useful with the blue channel. You can get a much tighter rhythm sound with an OD or distortion pedal, but (at least with the pedals I own) they don't really deliver the chunk of the red channel. With the stock tubes, this amp can get pretty brittle, particularly when you start playing up the neck. Again, swap them out. I read a review that said avoid using this amp with G12T-75 speakers, which is 100% correct. It sounds much better with V30s. The G12Ts make the highs even more brittle. Bottom line: this amp has enough gain on tap for heavier music, but the voicing really misses the mark. I could see it working in a band or recording situation where it has to cut through the mix or where it's supplemented by another guitar amp with a different voicing. 3 stars for sound.

    Overall: I'm really shocked by the glowing reviews this amp gets. It's a product of cheap parts and cheap labor and it sounds ok. It's absolutely not worth what it costs. Do I hate it? No. Do I regret purchasing it? Kinda. Will I play with it and have a great time? Probably. It's an ok amp. Lots of features, great cleans, meh overdrive, and it may fry out on you.

  • from Missouri July 23, 2014Music Background:

    Amazing Sound In A Small Package

    Bought this amp and the H&K 1x12 cab with V30 Celestion speaker about 2 weeks ago.
    All I can say is WOW!
    Absolute pristine cleans, growling distortion without getting muddy.
    Still playing with all the sounds that this little amp can produce.
    Don't let the 18W fool you. Very Loud amp.
    Add in the power soak ( I play on 1W at home) and the Tube Safety Control Circuit. Amazing value!!
    Been playing my Fender MIM Strat and DBZ Bolero FM

    As far as the cab, the more I play it the warmer and sweeter the sound. Can't till it gets totally broke in.

    I highly recommend this amp and the matching cab.

    I also want to give a huge thanks to Joel Helton at Sweetwater. I live in a place where it is very hard to find any of this equipment to try before you buy. Joel was extremely patient and helpful in asking questions on what I was looking for, making suggestions on amps to look at and making sure I had everything I needed to make a decision. I highly recommend Joel. Thanks for everything Joel.

    I will definitely buy from Joel and Sweetwater again

  • from Raleigh, NC July 6, 2014Music Background:
    Musician, Project Studio Engineer

    Just Purchased - Blown Away

    Just purchased this amp head and have not yet had it for 24 hours. Stay tuned for a post after a few months..

    I initially played this amp at a music store a few months ago and I immediately fell in love. The clean tone was very defined, and the lead channel was articulate and also well defined. I went back yesterday to find this setup next to both 1x12" and 4x12" cabs. The 1x12" used the Celestion Vintage 30, and the 4x12" utilized Celestion Greenback's, and in each case the sound was nothing short of flawless. I have been playing guitar for a little more than 10 years and I have to say that this amp has the tone and detail of amps that are twice the price. Love it, and made the purchase right away. For those considering this amp, be ready for a very meaty mid-range, and detailed low/high's that are well worth your money(and then some..)!!!

  • from Menahga MN June 21, 2014Music Background:
    garage guitarist, past stage performer

    the little box thing

    all impressions are not on the little box, but whot comes out of it, already had to relocate the system to the garage, sound is nothing but awesome and with the power soaks, 1, 5, and the 18 versatility is great, used 18 one time and decided to soak it to 5 watts then to 1 watt, and dont let the little number fool you, it is the best sound from just 1 watt. used my echo and an addtional distortion box, and holly s==t had me thumping and head banging again.......there really is no need for an addtional distortion box what the little box has is enough for the hard core also, havent used the red box yet, hobby room and stage only

  • from Kansas City Missouri May 21, 2014Music Background:
    Performing musician

    Freaking awesome

    Great amp for at home use or on the stage. I am a performing musician and was looking for an amp to plug right into the system and this baby does that and stays sounding good. Just make sure you keep it cranked at 18 watts when you plug it into the system

  • from Romeo, Michigan January 7, 2014Music Background:

    Great Amp!

    I received my Tubemeister 18 a few days ago and I have really enjoyed this little amp. Perfectly matched with the H & K 1 x 12 cabinet. Easy to adjust the sounds. I love both the clean and lead channels and the boost kicks it up a notch to play lead. I "OCD" my research on this amp and I am very happy with it. I didn't give the review 5 stars because the head lacks reverb. No huge deal though - I'll just add a reverb pedal. This was my first purchase with Sweetwater and my salesperson Ben was very helpful during the purchase process.

  • from Everett, MA February 27, 2013Music Background:
    Crusty old fart with lots of gear

    Very nice amp, with a few minor quirks

    I have had this amp head for four months and overall I love it. It's super versatile, sounds great and looks beautiful.

    Originally I was dead set on a mini rectifier. But I went to GC and compared the mini with an Egnater Rebel 30, a Boogie Trans Atlantic, and the HK, and the HK came out on top by a big margin. I wasn't really even thinking the it was a contender until I plugged in. It was loud and tight with plenty of gain and punchy bass – exactly what I was looking for for. And the nicest clean sound by far vs the other amps I tried. Hi-fi is how I would describe it. Add the 18/5/1 watt capability and I was sold.

    When you kick in the lead boost it's way louder than the unboosted sound. So, while it would seem like you could use this amp essentially as a three channel, it's not really viable live, because the difference between your crunch and high gains sounds is drastically different. Would be great if the boost had its own volume.

    The clean channel doesn't output nearly as much volume of the lead channel. Not a problem unless you're playing at super loud volumes. But in that type of situation, you might reach a point where the lead channel could still easily be heard over a loud drummer, while the clean would be drowned out.

    The blue light is cool, sometimes. And sometimes it's a bit much. I'm actually thinking of installing a switch to toggle it on and off.

    It only goes down to 8 ohms... wish it went down to 4

    Love it. Fun, super-versatile amp full of great tones. Quality seems very solid. Looks cool. Quiet. I would (and have) recommended it to friends.

  • from Aptos, CA January 27, 2013Music Background:
    Recording Engineer and Hobbyist Musician

    The perfect toaster amp

    I spent quite a bit of time looking to a low watt tube amp and decided for the H&K TubeMeister 18 coupled with the H&K 1x12 cab with the Celestion 30. To say that I am pleased is an understatment. This is the tone I've been searching for, for a modern prog-ish rock outfit. The 1W setting is great for bedroom rocking and the 18W is plenty for a club gig. My favorite feature is the redbox DI out. I've been doing quite a bit of recording late at night without bugging my sleeping family. Great buy!

  • from Raleigh,NC January 16, 2013Music Background:

    Hugh And Kettner Tube Meister

    I Bought this Amp for my son as I wanted my Germino Club 40 Back.
    This Amp is an *** kicker for the money
    for its size and the available tones.
    I own no less than 12 class A Heads so
    I can easily move things about to compare.
    This Amp is something to be excited about and well worth consideration.

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