With its four channels, three independent sets of EQ controls and switchable Boost and Sparkle functions, the Hughes and Kettner Trilogy covers a lot of tonal ground. From sparkling clean to flat-out ultra high-gain saturation and its ability to integrate external effects, this is truly an amp for all seasons. The intelligent SmartLoop effects routing circuit automatically stores FX loop settings for each channel and recalls them when you switch channels. In addition, Trilogy is factory MIDI-enabled so you can also utilize a MIDI pedal to switch channels and the effects loop, as well as the individual channel voicings.
The Trilogy delivers 100-watts of power courtesy of four EL34 valves, visible through the transparent front panel and lit up in H and K’s trademark blue illumination. Like most things German, the build quality is nothing short of industrial and all the controls are laid out logically and clearly labelled. At 21 kg it’s a big lump, but sat atop a 412 and running at optimum volume, you will be having overwhelming thoughts about taking on the world and its mother – this amp determinedly rocks.
The included FS-4 four-way footswitch selects either Clean, Crunch, Lead and Ultra Lead. Each channel features Treble, Middle and Bass in addition to a Sparkle voicing on the Clean and a Boost on the Crunch. Both feature Gain and Volume. The Lead and Ultra Lead channels share EQ and a Volume while the master section includes a Presence control, FX Mix, FX On, MIDI Learn and Master Volume.
The Trilogy incorporates Hughes and Kettner’s SmartLoop technology, which offers switchable series/parallel effects routing. In parallel mode, the processed signal is added to the original signal with the FX Mix adjusting the balance. In serial mode, SmartLoop operates like a conventional serial effects loop, with the wet/dry balance controlled form the effects processor. In addition, running in parallel mode means the Return jack can be used to connect an external audio source. The rear panel accommodates the Send and Return jacks and the four speaker outputs – offering either four-ohm, two 16-ohm or an eight-ohm configuration – as well as a MIDI input. A optional MIDI footswitch can be programmed to change channels, switch in the effects loop in either series or parallel or operate the voicing buttons by utilizing the MIDI learn button on the front panel.
The temptation on this type of amp is to bypass the clean sounds on offer and head straight for the distortion settings, but this would be to miss out on an extremely well-voiced, almost vintage-sounding clean channel which has a ‘soft’ break up that works well for blues and rock rhythms, arpeggios and even clean solo work. The Sparkle button will add a touch of harshness if you need it. The Crunch channel would be the equivalent lead channel on a lot of other amps; there’s bags of gain available but knocking the Gain control back and turning up the channel Volume produces a warm and musical Stonesy rhythm sound that will sit nicely in a mix. Pushing in the Boost button adds some gnarliness in the upper mids that will definitely cut through.
The Lead channel produces a good, ‘rounded’ overdriven sound without any harshness and as the master volume is increased, the sound gets bigger as well as louder, retaining the same tonal characteristics throughout the changes in level. As you would expect, the Ultra Lead gives you more of everything– including a walloping low end boost that heads straight for the gut. A seriously big sound from a seriously great amp.
Tone wise, the Hughes and Kettner Trilogy sits bang in the middle of the extensive range of guitar amps that the company produces. It’s not out-and-out metal like the tough-toned Coreblade, neither does it do vintage quite like the retro-looking Statesman series. However, its four channels deliver a range of guitar sounds that will more than satisfy most guitar players that reside in that catch-all category called ’rock’ with a leisurely swagger that’s guaranteed to raise a smile.