The H&K Tubemeister Deluxe 20 features:
- Clean and Lead + Boost channels
- 20 watts
- 1 and 5 watt Power-soak options
- Red Box Direct output for quick and quiet recording with ambient cabinet emulations
- (2) EL-84 power tubes
- (2) 12AX7 preamp tubes
- Serial effects Loop
- Shared 3-Band EQ and separate Master and Gain controls for both Clean and Lead channels
- 1 X 8-16 ohm speaker jack
- Jack for optional boost/channel footswitch
- Unique "TSC" feature for checking tube bias and condition without opening up the amp
- 11 lbs
- Soft carrying bag included
- Designed in Germany and built in China
The H&K Tubemeister 20 is a new addition from the Yorkville Sound family. It is well known that the amp world is moving toward small size and big tone, and this is where the TM20 head excels. It's about the size of a fireplace log and packs more features than one would expect. We'll start with the standard stuff. There are two channels: Clean and Lead + Boost, both with their own master and gain controls. The 3-Band EQ applies to both channels and proves to be a very responsive tone shaping system. Perhaps the coolest aspect of the amp is the power-soak control. This lets you play the amp at 20, 5, 1 or speaker defeat. Since the days of 100 watt monsters, people have learned just how far a few watts can go which makes this the ideal amp for the modern guitarist. Whether it's 1 watt in the bedroom, 5 watts for a coffee house gig or 20 for a crowded bar, the tone is always going to be in the sweet spot. On top of that, you can turn the speaker off and use the Red Box direct input to do straight-in recording at your desk. The Red Box on the TM20 is upgraded with Ambient Emulations which let's you choose from vintage-modern, small-large and even mic-line simulations.
We tested out the TM20 in a number of listening sessions using a Tone Tubby 1x12 pine cabinet with a Weber 12F150-B speaker. Our impression of the clean channel was that it's direct and honest. There was not a lot of coloration to the sound, and you mainly hear the slightly springy low end characteristic of EL-84 tubes and a clear top end that's not overly sharp. The Tubemeister let the essential character of each guitar come through, without a lot of sonic affectations. We got a nice balanced sound out of the amp with the EQ controls all set around noon, with maybe a touch of extra bass for single coil guitars. And while the clean channel does have a master and gain, cranking the gain even with humbuckers does not create great amounts of distortion. It's a mild edgy crunch that's good for rhythm, blues....or rhythm and blues. In short, there is plenty of headroom on the clean side.
The Lead + Boost channel has a very broad range; from a blues crunch to some pretty hard hitting and dense distortion tones. In the middle ranges the tonality runs toward the classic rock spectrum with the slight looseness of the EL-84's still coming through. Once you are past 3 o'clock on the gain, the sound tightens up noticeably and the low end becomes more pronounced. At this point the amp takes on a decidedly modern edge with more of a "chunk" factor and a low end thump that will beef up even the thinnest of bridge pickups. With a nice reverb or delay pedal you can make this thing sound like Poison playing in a football stadium. This was all before we even hit the boost button, which maybe should be labeled "afterburner". This is more than just a volume boost my friends, and hitting this switch adds considerable volume and gain. Even with the amp set on mild crunch, hitting the boost button is like dialing up EVH in the middle of Eruption. If I were to add one feature to the wish list, it would be a variable boost.
We had a good time with the Tubemeister 20 Head: It's fun, light, flexible and has the ability to dish out pretty convincing classic and modern tones. Plus who doesn't dig the soft blue back-lighting? No matter what kind of guitar player your are, the H&K Tubemeister 20 is a satisfying work horse that offers real tube tone in a sleek package, and an affordable price.