The Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister TM18H – or the Tubemeister 18 – is undoubtedly one of the best-looking amp heads you can buy for under $500, although it’s certainly more than just a pretty face! This German-designed small-wattage tube head packs a surprising punch at an all-round affordable price, as we discuss below…
The controls on this good-looking amp are pretty standard for tube amps in this price range – there’s nothing particularly complicated and anyone with any experience in amps should feel right at home. From left to right you have a flick switch for both power and play/standby, followed by three EQ controls – treble, middle and bass. There’s also a master and gain control for both lead and clean channels, as well as buttons for the lead boost and channel select. These are all responsive and robust, and fit in well with the overall look of this cool amp.
So, let’s talk about the boutique design of the TubeMeister TM18H – it’s awesome. It features a rugged headcase construction with a plexiglass panel on the front that lights up in bright blue, offering an eye-catching appearance that would look great at any gig (or any living room for that matter!).
Inside, it features a duo of EL84 power tubes and two 12AX7 tubes powering the preamp, with a maximum output of 18 watts. If 18 watts is a bit much for bedroom players, H&K offer a Power Soak function (on the rear), allowing you to switch to both 5 watts and 1 watt – an excellent feature for quieter playing. You can also knock the amp down to zero watts, with the built-in Redbox DI speaker simulator allowing for easy connection to a mixing desk for simple recording. It also comes with a protective padded soft bag, which is essential for transporting this head.
The TubeMeister 18 offers a fluid warm tube tone that’s a joy to listen to on both channels. Both clean and lead channels deliver a crisp, smooth and articulate sound that’s very responsive. The lead channel with a boost offers gritty overdrive that’s perfect for fat blues and classic rock, although there’s a lot of gain on offer, so heavy rock and metal is well catered for. It also takes pedals very well. Built into the amp is a Tube Safety Control, which keeps an eye on the power tubes and ensures they are constantly adjusted for the best tone.
Check out the TubeMeister TM18H in action in the video below:
While you could certainly gig with the TubeMeister TM18H, the aimed audience is more the studio artist or home guitarist with a penchant for classic tube amp tone. The overall sound rocks, the amp offers a lot of features, and the design is killer – for under $500, it shows very good value.