When the TubeMeister 18 first landed on these pages, we were more than blown away by the glorious tones and sharp looks of the tiny combo from the German manufacturer. It was fabulous; not too loud, compact and lightweight, closed back which gave us that tight bottom end and the ability to record direct into any DAW via H&K’s proprietary Red Box speaker emulated output. Always nagging away at us that it wasn’t quite perfect was the fact that it was equipped with a single 10” speaker. Closed back or no, a single 10 has limitations when it comes to guitar tone and although it’s a widely used configuration in many combos, ultimately it’s a compromise, often more to do with cost that good guitar tone. That’s in no way saying that the TubeMeister with the 10” is a bad amp. It’s not; it’s a great amp, as sales figures will testify. But now, to balance out the situation, Hughes & Kettner has given us the TubeMeister 18 Twelve with the addition of yes, you’ve guessed it, a 12” RockDriver Classic 60W driver. Housed in a slightly larger cabinet, The TubeMeister 18 Twelve has all the same features and controls as its smaller cousin, the control panel illuminating in trademark H&K blue on power up.
The top mounted panel reveals two switchable channels, both with Gain and Master controls and a shared three-band EQ. Switching between Clean and Lead channels is via a button on the top panel or with the (optional) FS-2 footswitch, which will also activate the Boost function, which adds extra gain in Lead mode. The amp is powered by two EL84 output valves with a full otput of a full 18W which can be attenuated for practice or recording with the four-stage Power Soak, which reduces the output to five or one-watt, or completely off for silent recording capability. On the rear panel is the Red Box control and also a serial FX loop for modulation effects like delay, chorus or rotary speaker.
At 15.4 kg in weight, the TubeMeister 18 Twelve weighs 6 kg more than the 10” version and is about a third bigger in size but still very manageable. Fitted with a full-size carry handle and with a soft cover included, it’s still a perfect ‘go-to’ guitar amp for rehearsals, recordings and small gigs. Typical TubeMeister tones are now enhanced with the bigger speaker but now even fatter and warmer, with even more depth and better bottom end. The response to playing dynamics and touch is extremely rewarding, with a lovely ‘soft’ break-up so typical of the EL84. Very musical indeed. The Clean channel has enough headroom for jazz and is bright enough for country, or you can ‘dig in’ and enjoy classic blues leads with expressiveness and the knowledge the amp working with you. The Lead channel is now even more impressive with the larger driver, offering fat overdrive tones with elements of that 412 sound usually absent in 112 combos. Boost offers high-gain searing solo sounds which still characterize a naturally overdriven amp, not washed out, saturated processing. Even at the lower output wattages, the overall tone is still present and the spring reverb is sweet too.
Hughes & Kettner have hit the spot again with the TubeMeister 18 Twelve which rounds out the range beautifully. Now, if they could fit the TubeMeister 36 and all its features into the same size box……