Help us shape the future of the guitar amp!


75 COMMENTS

When we switch our amps on and watch those tubes getting all toasty, we’re often reminded that our guitar tone’s being blasted out through some of the most outdated technology around. Tubes have been phased out of pretty much every industry, so why do we guitarists still insist on them? But hold that thought, please, as today Blog Of Tone’s most experienced hack is in musing mode about the past, present and future of great guitar tone – and get thinking, as we want your opinions on this afterwards!

I can still remember it like it was yesterday: I was bursting with pride, because, using two separate amps, I was finally able to have two independent and different working guitar sounds onstage! Two! Different!

Back in the early 80s, you see, two sounds on stage wasn’t a given.

The tonal versatility we all take for granted today was starting to take its first baby steps 30 years ago. But in our minds, we were already way ahead.

In fact, we were probably mentally already as far ahead as we are today in reality! We were real dreamers.

We’re all allowed to have dreams. After all, these dreams are crucial in letting us put seemingly crazy ideas into practice!

Dreams are the driving force behind many innovations and, for the impatient among us, an almost indispensable part of moving forward with life.

It’s the same with guitarists, of course: every up-and-coming six stringer has his or her own set of unique ideas. It’s been the same since the invention of the wheel.

Tubes might be old-fashioned technology, but they're still the number one choice for many guitarists - and for good reason!

Tubes might be old-fashioned technology, but they’re still the number one choice for many guitarists – and for good reason!

While guitarists in the 50s dreamed of more power, flexibility and decent reverb FX, the 60s brought overdriven tones to the fore.

The 70s coincided with a lust for more channels, the 80s gave rise to demands for better distorted tones, and 90s guitarists were crying out for programmable amps with lashings of usable FX. In the early 2000s, we were dreaming of a digital world of tone, free from the tube.

Nowadays, we’re more in the middle, mixing tubes with digital trickery and enjoying all the very best bits from the past five decades of guitar amp development.

And the funny thing is, tubes seem to go well with these new-fangled digital ideas. Phrases like “iPad Connectivity”, “Network Technology” and even “Social Media” go hand in hand with guitar amps these days.

An algorithm that recognizes your hottest licks and posts them instantly to Facebook? Is that pure fantasy, or will it be completely normal in a couple of years?

Who knows, but one thing’s for sure – wherever the future of the guitar amp’s going, we think we’re going to like it.

An old piece of guitar-related equipment gathering dust at H&K HQ. We're often rather conservative when it comes to instruments and gear - vintage is always best, right? - but once something new and shiny comes along, things can change very quickly...

An old piece of guitar-related equipment gathering dust at H&K HQ. We’re often rather conservative when it comes to instruments and gear – vintage is always best, right? – but once something new and shiny comes along, things can change very quickly…

It’s always been dreams that have influenced the evolution of technology. Dreams generate new lines of thought, concepts and research ideas.

If the wish for something more wasn’t there – that consistent desire to make things better – then we wouldn’t be where we are today with guitar amps, and a lot more besides.

And one dream can open the door for many new, unexpected developments.

Take the 70s as an example. Back then, the desire for more controllable distortion led designers to implement revolutionary new things like cascading gain stages and master volume controls – standards in today’s amp world.

Plus, the need for a more diverse range of sounds onstage inspired inventors to develop multi-amp systems, leading to the everyday multi-channel amps we can all enjoy now without a second thought.

And in the 90s, advances in digital technology culminated in modelling amps and DAWs (digital audio workstations). And where would most of us be without them today?

It’s crazy to think it, but all of these achievements – which we all take for granted, it has to be said! – were, back then, just a couple of sketchy ideas in some amp engineer’s head.

Testing, testing... This may or may not resemble the inner working of a guitar amp developer's head. It's certainly something we found deep in the recesses of H&K HQ the other day!

Testing, testing… This may or may not resemble the inner working of a guitar amp developer’s head. It’s certainly something we found deep in the recesses of H&K HQ the other day!

Of course, there were also a bunch of amp-related oddities that didn’t take off for whatever reason; things that disappeared because they were either technically not up to it, or they were simply not useful or useable for guitarists.

The guitar preamp with interchangeable “channel modules” and motorized preamp potentiometers are just a couple of the misguided – or perhaps just totally ignorant of the market and demand – inventions that came and went without too much fuss.

But the wheel keeps turning, guitarists keep evolving, and that means that even today’s gear darlings are at risk of being put out to pasture at any time, consigned to the annals of six-string history.

That means for us, the makers, the only way forward is to keep on seeking those next innovations. It’s not easy, of course. Those next genre-defining ideas only spring up once in a while, you know.

But you can help us.

Perhaps the most important aspect of finding the next big thing for guitarists is listening to those guitarists and finding out what makes them tick. What they love about their amps, and what’s missing. What their hopes and dreams are for their next gig.

Because you, the guitarists, are the creators of the music – the most important thing of all – and your constant desire for new and better gear, your unbridled quest to take your tone to the next level, is the lifeblood of engineers and developers.

And knowing what you – the players – want motivates us greatly; alongside the fact, of course, that the competition never sleeps!

The tubes in the TriAmp Mark 3. The amp might be the newest and most advanced out there, but the same can't be said of those tone-generating tubes! But, if it ain't broke, why fix it?

The tubes in the TriAmp Mark 3. The amp might be the newest and most advanced out there, but the same can’t be said of those tone-generating tubes! But, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Ultimately, though, it means that we’re in a business where the mindset of the consumer really determines where the industry is going to go.

And today, in the era of the internet, it’s more true than ever. No other medium gives us the ability to instantly deal out opinions, criticism and praise on a worldwide basis.

So, tell us: what are you thinking?

What are your musical wishes? How do you imagine the guitar amp of the future?

In 10 years, will we all be lusting after ginormous tube heads and 4×12 cabs, or will we all be fully digital?

Who knows? Maybe smartphones are the future of amps, and we’ll all just plug into active speakers and rock out that way. Or maybe the amp of the future is a software-based solution stored in the iCloud, accessible directly – wherever you are – in milliseconds.

Or maybe there’ll be a combo renaissance, or maybe some cool new tube/digital mixture will come to the fore, or…

On the other side of the coin, it’d also be great to hear from the engineers and developers themselves, and that got us thinking: why don’t we just ask them? Hell, we’ve got a bunch of them here at Hughes & Kettner, and they sure know their stuff!

So, why don’t you send us some questions for them?

Anything you want to know about the development of guitar amps, what the future holds, and how they get their kicks – you put the questions to us, and we’ll ask our technical geniuses to reveal all. Then we’ll tell you what they said, right here on the Blog Of Tone.

Sounds good to us, so get scribbling in the comments below!

We can’t wait to hear your questions…

 

First published: January 23 2015. Most recent update: September 21 2015.

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Leave a comment

Michel on January 23, 2015 Reply

Hello and a happy new year
i’dream that you would do a tubemeister 18 watts including the effects of the grandmeister Delay/ chorus etc cause there is a lake off these kind of products in the market for sure.
i also dream i could write well in english cause i’m french ( i suppose you ve guess lol )

what’s your opinion ?

Best regards from France.

tom

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 26, 2015 Reply

    Hi Tom, and thanks for your feedback! Our opnion is:

    1. Your English is pretty good! 😉
    2. That’s a cool idea – there is definitely a trend of people wanting amps that can do everything. And in good quality, and also with lower power options, so you can play anywhere – at home, in rehearsal, onstage, whatever.

    But that’s another cool thing to ask our devlopers about, so thanks again!

Gilles Radenne on January 25, 2015 Reply

Hello,

The thing I’d really like to see is less dependancy between preamp and power section. We should have amps with great preamp sections and low wattage power section.

Take the Tubemeister series for example : you can have 5W, but just a single channel. For two channels, you must take the 18W version, but they still share EQ. For two fully independant channels, you have to take the 36W. Were I to buy one (something I’ve considered), I’d take the 36W one, but I’d never use it to its full 36W power rate… But regardless of the power rating, the separate EQ for clean and OD/distorsion channels are very important for me.

I’ve seen the same thing from brand like Mesa/Boogie (even though they who offer the most complete preamps on low-wattage power amps), and many others (like Blackstar : 5W, you have just one channel, 10-50W you have two channels with common EQ, and you must take 100W for separate EQ on clean and OD channel).

So when I saw the announcement for the triamp MkIII it was a very interesting and promising amp (similar in my opinion to the Mesa/Boogie Mark V series), but my second though was “50-150W OK, that’s a lot of power, and way too much sound for me to play in my flat”. So couldn’t you include in the power section the possibility of lower power tubes, like a pair of EL84 or 6V6 ?

I know the EL84 has different pin layout, but the 6V6 has the same pinout as the 6L6.
Furthermore, I think that having one pair of sockets dedicated to EL84 probably wouldn’t be that much of a sacrifice, as two “high power” pairs of sockets probably would be enough for most, 100W is more than most players can use nowadays ; having an amp that could get power stage distorsion at lower sound level would probably be more interesting for most people than having one that can have different power configurations up to 150W…

Theses are just my thoughts on what I’d like to see appear on the market, I would just like to mention that a Triamp MkIII with an option for a lower power rate would probably be THE perfect amp for me…

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 26, 2015 Reply

    Hi Gilles, and thanks for the great feedback.

    You’re certainly right in that most players don’t need high power amps these days. But with TriAmp, we wanted to make something that’s really suited to those huge stadiums! And yes, although you can change power tubes pretty easily with the Mark 3, you’re still not going to be able to reduce the volume to ‘at home’ levels. We will certainly put it to our developers about why EL84s and 6V6s weren’t planned as possible options. Like you say, it shouldn’t have been too much of a sacrifice!

    And your thoughts about the pre and power amp sections are also extremely interesting. Seems guitarists do want an amp that can do it all these days!

lee on January 26, 2015 Reply

only advancements i can think of on top of your new mark 3 would be:
-power soaks / load box in all amp heads
-digitally controlled analogue pots for full midi recall (very handy in the studio), but with an override incase you want to tweak as you go.
– stage boards that control your amp, but also have power for pedals, loops to use the amps fx loop, loops that can be used for pedals before the gtr amp, and possible a guitar input on there as well for neatness, and midi programability of the ‘pre’ loops.
– built in types of ‘pre’ boot on an amp. (i.e. tube screamer style / OD etc)

im not into all this interface directly with a computer, but its a gtr amp thing. do don’t bother with that please. we have audio interfaces for that 🙂
nice work on the mk3 btw 🙂

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    Hi Lee, and cheers for the cool ideas! Seems like power soaks are a must for many players at the moment. The TriAmp’s certainly not ideal for bedroom playing 😉

    The Smart Rotary Controls on the GrandMeister did go down a storm, and are definitely something we should do again!

    Thanks again, and we’ll pass on your thoughts…

QV on January 26, 2015 Reply

I’m a big fan of those early tweed black faced amps originally intended for bass (you know what I mean?) I’ve been hearing and playing it with different mods and added features, and many of them are just amazingly good.

So, why don’t we take the original circuitry of this stunning sound machine and future-proof it?
The original has 4 inputs and channel blending possiblities: let’s make all these input variations (foot)switchable.
Let’s add a good reverb, and an assignable FX loop, protect the tubes with TSC, add a DI output, throw in a gain boost (a hot-rodded B-man on full volume plays metallica while leaving all modern designs far behind), add an attenuator to keep the volume acceptable for the neigbours, maybe insert tubemeister-like sound memory (which doesn’t have to be a lot of memory slots – 5 would be plenty, as long as the access to little tweaks such as reverb/fx, gain boost,… remain accessible – and you could always include a usb slot for more memory options)

Something home- and stage proof, with those great sounds from the old times, the same simplicity of the original two-‘channel’ design and the ease of modern-day amplification.

Reinventing rock with the sounds it was invented with 😉

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    Wow, brilliant ideas QV, and you even came up with our advertising slogan already – “Reinventing rock with the sounds it was invented with” 😉

    Seriously though, those ideas would add up to one amazing amp -ö if we could build it… We’ll pass your thoughts on to our intrepid engineers!

Standa on January 26, 2015 Reply

I would say the future is in digital and in transistors. Digital will get better when the mathematical models get better. It is possible they will not reach it.
Transistors – I wonder why they are not used much more in guitar amps as signal amplifying devices. We have JFET, MOSFET and even POWER JFET! There is SS technology which emulates all parameters of small triode just perfectly and soundwise is indistinguishable!
You can do amazing sounding units with those different kind of FETs as some companies show us today either in guitar industry or in hifi. These transistors have in my opinion chance to make better sounding amp then all tube technology.

I would like to see 100W-200W amplifier small and light as possible, no tubes, no bulky transformers (SMPS PSU), digitaly controlled pots (as in GMeister). Other features can be added too: noise gate, tuner, effects etc.

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    Nice thoughts, Standa. We’re sure there’s going to be at least some digital aspects to the future – and who knows, maybe at some point there just won’t be any tubes left! But as you say, if digital keeps getting stronger, there will come a point when noone will be able to tell the difference…

Mirza on January 26, 2015 Reply

Grandmeister 18 Head to replace tubemeister 18.

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    Oof, interesting idea! 😉

George Alvarado on January 26, 2015 Reply

I think people are moving toward the smaller lower wattage tube amps, seems to be the trend lately. I think the new MK3 Triamp is almost EVERYTHING I’m looking for in a tube amp except the absence lower wattage. If you could pack all that in a smaller, switchable wattage, say 5 – 25 watts with 6v6 power tubes, I would take 2! Also, maybe make it a stereo tube head. That way you could take advantage of stereo delay, chorus etc. That would be great with a couple of 1 12 cabs! Anyway. …. Great job on the new model! Very impressive!

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    You’re right George, most guitarists do seem to be tending towards smaller amps these days – probably because they can do it all these days and you can play them anywhere, and get good tone doing it. If we could clone the TriAmp at a quarter of its size, that would be incredible, so let’s see if our engineers fancy cracking that one 😉 Thanks for the comments!

rick rogers on January 26, 2015 Reply

How about the new triamp with everything the same except an addition of another power tube circuit for low wattage. You could have the 4 6L6 or EL34 for 100 or 50 watt and 2 EL84 for a low wattage option in the same amp!Best of both worlds!!

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    Yep, cool idea Rick. The TriAmp’s everything but a bedroom amp, so it would be super cool if we could clone it in a smaller size. That really would be the best of both worlds! We’ll pass your thoughts on to the developers and see what they say… 😉

Ian Moffett on January 27, 2015 Reply

I love my Tubemeister 36 and I really want the new TriAmp Mark 3. I’m not sure you can really improve on that but hey impress me again. That being said I do like the modeling amps like Axe fx and Kemper so maybe you could go that route . I will always own a tube amp no matter what but I do like the versatility of the modelers.

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    Yep, we reckon modeling has a future – they’re getting so good these days that us tube amp makers should be getting a little worried 😉 Whether they’ll ever be able to replicate the genuine feel and response of tubes is another matter for another day, but is certainly something we should be thinking about. After all, our first amps from 30 years ago were very forward-thinking and digital! Thanks for the kind words, and we shall pass your thoughts on to the H&K engineers!

Bret Sanor on January 27, 2015 Reply

I love the new Triamp MK3! With all the options, it’s perfect except the wattage/volume. I love the idea of the lower watt packages because, I play churches mainly. Volume control is a HUGE deal even in the mega church world. I wish you would do a smaller wattage amp such as the 18w amp you have and not skimp on any features. I don’t care if it’s a full sized head, space isn’t as big of an issue as volume is. I, and MANY others I know, want a low wattage amp with all the features of a big boy; i.e. multiple channels with own eq sections, master volume(s), MIDI, etc. Playing in churches, I need an amp with tons of versatility in a modest volume package because we play many different styles all in the same set, sometimes in the same song, with a lot of dynamics. Please consider a Triamp MK3 in a 50w/25w/10w capability or similar power rating. There is a HUGE market for guys like me who don’t mind paying for the gear we want, we just compromise because no one has made it yet! Thank you!

~Bret Sanor

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the really considered comments Bret – we shall pass them on! It’s a dream to have all those features in a smaller (or more compact) head, and it’s nice to hear thzat if we did try and do that, there would be guitarists out there interested in playing it. We know the TriAmp’s not ideal for bedroom playing, that’s for sure 😉 Consider it on the wishlist!

J. Clancy Ferrill on January 27, 2015 Reply

I have been using a Switchblade head for more than a decade now and I love it! I have always used a gate pedal with it and I remember suggesting a noise gate circuit on a previous customer questionnaires and lo and behold, it was included in the next generation of amps (coreblade, etc.) I also remember having problems with the foot controllers built in cable and when I mentioned it to customer service you informed me that the new controllers now had a plug in cable and you proceeded to send me one at NO CHARGE!!
It is this dedication to customer service and satisfaction that really impresses me! (and keeps me coming back!) I too have had several suggestions for these forums, and this post about using multiple amps for a wide variety of tones brings up one of my favorite sounds, a combination of clean and distorted sounds simultaneously. This is a very common sound in a lot of pro guitarists rigs but requires using two (or more) amps to effectively get that sound. How about a circuit that allows you to combine a clean channel and a distorted channel simultaneously. My ultimate version would be a 2-12 combo that uses two independent amps each run to its own 12 speaker. The inputs would be a single mono input for both sides with independent channel selection, etc. Separate effects would also be a cool feature! I realize this is a lot to cram into a single combo package but you are asking what the future may hold?! This could be a bold innovation that becomes a standard for pro setups on a budget or where space and volume is a consideration! Thanks for letting me run my dreams by you guys! Keep up the great work!!

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the lovely feedback, and that’s a super cool idea! You’ve also echoed the thoughts of a couple of others in this thread, so we shall definitely be putting the idea to our developers – let’s see what they can cook up 😉 Like you say, if the pros all want it, why shouldn’t we dream that it’s possible?

Glen Hudson on January 27, 2015 Reply

Yes you guys make one of the best Amps around….How about Ya make an Amp that doesn,t break our ass ta move and wont cost us the price of a car just to get a 100 watt Tube Amp that delivers the sound we ALL want…????

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    We’re working on it Glen! 😉 Cheers for the kind words and let’s hope we can crack the tone versus weight/size thing soon!

Seth Baer on January 27, 2015 Reply

Hi guys!

As a long time guitar fanatic, but a fairly new student of tube gear and related information, where would you recommend someone like me look to get a beginner’s/intermediate’s guide to how the electronics in an amp make such an incredible sound out of a guitar signal?

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 30, 2015 Reply

    Hi Seth. Hmm, good question, and depends on what kind of info you’re wanting exactly. Let us know more specifically, and we can ask around our tech guys for some tips. Otherwise, Google’s also your friend, and there are some great online resources that spring up when you just type a couple of related search words in…

Brent Johnson on January 27, 2015 Reply

I don’t normally chime in on stuff like this, but I’d like to echo the earlier point of more fully featured low power amps. I’ve been touring for 12 years now in venues from small clubs in New Orleans to festivals with 40,000 in attendance and thing I would truly give anything for is a fully decked out low wattage amp. As much as I love my old plexi half stacks as much as anybody, but the truth is there isn’t much need anymore outside of the look.

Low wattage amps tend to get treated like entry level stuff while the bigger amps get the feature sets that the guys slugging it out 200 nights a year would really love to have but generally aren’t offered.

One other thing, knobs are good. iPads crash, batteries die, some companies are moving towards burying amplifier or effect controls into mobile apps which is great until your battery dies or your screen shatters on the way to a gig. Built in effects are great…the fewer pedals I have to carry the better…but some manner of controlling every function of the amp should be available without an outboard device. Even if it’s a one line lcd and some directional eras like the old rack days.

Bonus points to you guys for asking the players what they want.

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the comments from a pro touring perspective, Brent. It’s always good for us to hear from players like you who are out there 200 nights a year! You’ve actually echoed what some of the others have said here, in that what you really want is a reliable, fully featured amp that’s also practical when it comes to power levels.

    Good to also hear your thoughts about FX and iPads, etc. Digital is almost certainly at least part of the future of amps, but again, perhaps that’s something that shouldn’t be a necessary for gigging.

    We’ll pass your thoughts on to the H&K developers, and let’s see what they have to say!

Tyler on January 27, 2015 Reply

I certainly like the innovations in the Switchblade/Coreblade/Grandmeister series.

Combining the best of both tube and digital tech seems to be a winner. I think having smart rotary controls as a standard on amps should be a consideration. The ability to midi switch tone controls opens up so much versatility just with that alone. To truly give amps multiple channels with no shared eq is awesome. This is why a GM will be my next amp.

While I can’t speak for ‘guitarists’ I can speak for myself, in that as a player who is lucky to play small bars, and likely will never get to stadium size arenas, having 100w is overkill. So the likes of being able to attenuate an amp down to suit the venue, whilst not sacrificing tone or overpowering the room is HUGE. So I am certainly looking for a bit of a ‘swiss army knife’ for an amp.

I feel the Grandmeister is really heading in the right direction, and what I saw from the TriAmp MKIII, whilst more amp than I need, really does highlight that versatility in amps is really starting to hit a bit of maturity. It used to be that you’d have to compromise tone for versatility, but it seems more and more, this is not the rule anymore.

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 27, 2015 Reply

    Cool points Tyler, so thanks for sharing. Yes, we love the GM36’s Smart Rotary Controls, and it’d be cool to integrate them elsewhere in future! You’ve also concured with some of the others here in saying that loud amps aren’t really necessary any more. A lot of the time, we’d agree with you 100%. The TriAmp’s no bedroom toy, that’s for sure – it’s a true stadium beast…

Jorg Ebling on January 27, 2015 Reply

A smaller – much smaller – Triamp would be the one to have. All options and maybe a Powersoak like the Tubemeister. Great!

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Sounds like an awesome idea! We’ll have to get to work on shrinking the TriAmp for next time. Not gonna be easy 😉

Jorg Ebling on January 27, 2015 Reply

I´d like to see a Puretone with a powersoak like the Tubemeister. Same with the Triamp. Powertube sound and bedroom-volume is what I´m looking for. My Tubemeister 18 really does a lot of that but one allways wants just a little more…

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    That’s what a lot of guys have also said, Jorg, so thanks for the comments! A low volume Puretone would be sensational.

Kieran Ball on January 27, 2015 Reply

To compete with the digital stuff, tube amps have to be miniaturised. Musicians need to be able to take them with them on planes as carry-on.

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Yep, just like with TubeMeister. But to fully compete, guess we’d need more sounds and features, like GrandMeister. Let’s see…

Rob Holsman on January 27, 2015 Reply

One of the biggest issues that bug me is that all the controls for tone shaping sit on the amp and that is rarely within arms reach at a gig – there’s always a lot of running back to the amp, tweaking the sound, going back to where you’ll stand, seeing if it sounds right there, going back to the amp .. it would be great if the amp’s controls could be somehow replicated on a foot controller – something that should be relatively easy on amp like a Grandmeister for example!

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Now that’s an interesting idea, Rob. On-the-fly amp controlling is certainly an issue for plenty of gigging guitarists, and it would take away a whole level of stress to have that control on the floor in front of you. Good tip…

Rob Holsman on January 27, 2015 Reply

Tyler – your story is exactly why I bought a Grandmeister, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Although I still use it with an output attenuator because even on the lower power settings its hard to crank it right up in a bedroom – bear in mind that 100W is only twice as loud as 10W! But all of the channels are so usable, and its more than adequate for most gigs

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Yes, good point: 5 tube-powered watts in the bedroom can be more than enough! Especially if you have sensitive neighbors 😉

Chad Alexander on January 27, 2015 Reply

In order to move “forward”, I think we need to take a step back a little bit. Let’s take stock in what works and try to attain some consensus on what we want as players. Right now, what a large number of us want involves tube technology.

With the resurgence of demand for small, low to medium power combo amps (I’m seeing tons of Princeton Reverbs, AC15s, Hot Rod Deluxes, and Morgan combos on stages these days), I think we also need to take a step back on the feature overload that most amp manufacturers are going for as well.

Before we jump headlong into the “future”, let’s refine what we currently have and want. For starters, we desperately need reliable tube manufacturing. Russian tubes are a thing of the past, and China isn’t so great these days. I would hope someone would invest in building manufacturing for medium-production tubes in South America at least where we might have better QC, but no one really wants to take on that burden. It’s sad really…we all want these things that involve sprockets, and everyone is complaining about the quality of those sprockets, but no one wants to actually invest in making sprockets.

On the subject of quality, we need better components overall…no more lowest common denominator parts. PCB construction in amps by H&K and Mesa is very reliable, but I’m sure we can beef things up a bit. I recall Dan Boul talking about using 4oz traces in his PCB amps. We can do heavy point-to-point style builds with well built PCBs that might actually outlive turrets, and we should be working to attain that quality while designing to lower the noise floor. Hi-fi guys have been doing that for a long time now…no reason we can’t do the same.

We live in a world that plays with desirable distortion, and I’m not talking about gain. I’m talking about the minor nudges a signal gets with certain resistors and capacitor materials. We don’t want “clean”, or else everyone would be plugging straight in to pedals and hi-fi power amps. We want those distortions. Look at a schematic for a Twin Reverb and mentally maneuver yourself through that circuit. Imagine all of the changes you experience through that circuit…a minor loss of bass here, a slight clipping in the treble range there, etc etc. These are the distortions we love, because all of these design “imperfections” result in a more interesting, musical tone. With this in mind, we need to start treating all of the components in the amp as a separate instrument, just as important as strings or speakers. Let’s do the same with the speaker cabinet too. Recently Dave at Forte, a company that unfortunately went out of business, was building cabinets out of end-grain balsa with hardwood laminates, a material that is usually used in yacht construction. The result was a cabinet that vibrated a bit more and created a more “present” sound in a room. We need to be experimenting with these things more.

As far as actual circuit design, I really think we need to find a way to abandon the RCA tube manual. Let’s get crazy. We’ve spent so much time trying to stuff more in, we forgot how to delete things. Look at a Trainwreck. That’s the bare minimum required to make a specific result happen. We need to adopt that approach. Why are we cutting signal later in the chain to make up for losses at the bias caps? Why hasn’t anyone tried an LED there instead of a cap? Home brewers do these things all the time, but I’ve yet to see a major manufacturer try.

On the subject of digital…we don’t need to play in that sandbox. Digital is happening, and we don’t really need to try to lump that all into one giant mediocre box. As a guitarist, I know I can just get a modeler and plug it into the board or a set of full range speakers. So I plead that you just let digital happen on its own. Be in the business of manufacturing guitar amplifiers, not guitar gizmos that are masquerading as amplifiers. I’m sure some will read this and think I’m a digital hater…I am not. I achieved some of my favorite tones with a Boss GT-8 and Fender HRD back in the mid 2000s. I’m just saying if you’re not going to jump completely into that pool, don’t do a disservice to either camp by making a half-hearted attempt to design in that realm. If you want to dabble in digital, don’t do effects…rather use digital to allow for interesting switching mechanisms in the amp, or programmable settings, or digital potentiometers (the Marshall JMP-1 comes to mind). But again, I ask that quality always come before “wow.” If an analog potentiometer means better quality and a more desirable tone, let’s stick with that.

I write this as a builder that’s trying out a few things, but mostly as a fan that really wants to see the industry care again. Dan Boul has become my hero in this sense, as well as Joe Morgan and Jeorge Tripps. I’d love to see a brand care as much as those guys do as individuals.

I eagerly await to see what is to come from H&K…

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Chad, thanks so much for taking so much time to give us such a detailed and informed opninion! This kind of response can help us so much when it comes to thinking about what we do next. We shall definitely be putting what you’ve said to our developers, and let’s see what kind of response we can come up with! Cheers… 🙂

lee on January 27, 2015 Reply

no problem. while I’m here, i always wanted a stand alone power amp for the mark2 so i could utilise stereo effects, but one that sounded the same. maybe look into the possible demand for a mark3 power section that can be controlled through the main amp or midi?

can’t see it being that popular though 😉

btw, i used to use my mark2 in the house all the time, just turn down the channel volume 🙂 but yeah this thing should live on stage

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Ha ha, a TriAmp at home – hope you had forgiving neighbors 😉

    Thanks for the standalaone power amp idea – one to pass on, certainly…

Scott Guthrie on January 27, 2015 Reply

Single channel, all tube, master volume.

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Yep, it doesn’t come much more pure than that. Come to think of it, the Puretone came pretty close, but had just a couple of extra bells and whistles on it 😉

Kurt on January 27, 2015 Reply

Grandmeister 36 with a ts9 channel, and the new FSM MK V:

Wah-wah/expression pedal built in
8 presets per bank
on-the-fly stompbox style boost and modulation on/off

🙂

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Built in wah? Interesting idea! It does seem that you guys all want a smaller sized amp that can basically do everything in every situation 😉 One to think about…

Toni on January 27, 2015 Reply

I´am a proud Grandmeister owner, It´s a great amp with everything a modern guitar player would need in any situation. In fact I have replace my Bogner ecstasy for the Grandmeister to play live, ultra light weighted, just the amp and the Foot controller, all the Fx ready and no more pedals anymore!!!
The only thing that I would include it would be the option to load impulse response inside the amp to rec directly and to play live direct to the PA. I know it has the Redbox but the option to load impulse response is more versatile if you don´t like the sound of the RB. Now I have to take the line out of the amp to my audio interface and then load impluse inside my daw but I lost the power section of the amp wich it´s an issue for me. Theres is a product outhere called Torpedo Live, is a load box and and impulse response loader. And amp with a torpedo live included inside it would be my dream come true amp.
Come on H&k! I know you can do it!!
Regards

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Ah, interesting point re: the impulse response Toni. We’ll put it to the boffins and see if they have a solution! And thanks a bunch for your kind words about the GrandMeister – glad it’s otherwise doing a job for you!

Stuart Davison on January 27, 2015 Reply

That’s an awesome looking/sounding amp.
It reminds me of the Mesa Boogie Road King I used to have and for me it has the same issues.
It’s too damn big!
I’m sure it has tone to die for but can you make something smaller and lighter for those of us not playing stadiums?
I have 3 basic sounds I use (and it would be nice to be able to use a 4th – just in case) and I need to be able to easily match the volume between the channels and switch between them all at will with a Footswitch.
Switchable outputs from 5w to 50w so it’s suitable for a variety of smaller venues or recording.
A simulated line out that can be plugged direct into a PA if required, ouput to an extension speaker cabinet, and an effects loop would be nice and I want it in a combo package that weighs less than 25kg.

My ideal amp would have a glassy Fender Hot Rod clean, Marshall 1974X crunch, Mesa Boogie Liquid Lead and a boost button to make it all louder for solos.

That’s what I want! Make it so 🙂

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Oof, very precise wishes there, but you’re also echoing what a number of others have asked for here. Smaller, more portable, more manageable volume, more practical little bits for gigging/recording/home playing. Gotcha, and thanks for the input 😉

Dennis on January 27, 2015 Reply

my top needs in a guitar amp
Tube tone
A clean channel
A dirty channel
No tremolo
No reverb
No push pulls
Lightweight
Celestion speaker ext cab on wheels that lock low profile do amp doesn’t tip or can recess when not in use
There now build it

Dennis on January 27, 2015 Reply

i left out the main thing
Low wattage
I play through an 18wt amp
That has been too loud at every venue I’ve played
Maybe 10 watts switchable to 25

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 28, 2015 Reply

    Ha ha, thanks Dennis! Sounds like a good, no-nonsense setup. Let’s see what we can cook up for you…

Mark on February 8, 2015 Reply

Hi,

Sometimes it could be usefull to tilt the cabinet upwards on stage to hear the sound better. It would be really usefull, if your cabinets would have a mechanism to fix a Tubemeister head to them, so one can leave it on the cabinet and does not need extra space on the floor.

Cheers,
Mark

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on February 9, 2015 Reply

    Cool points and ideas Mark, thanks for sharing! We shall put these to the designers…

John on March 3, 2015 Reply

Though I don’t own one ….YET … the GrandMeister 36, spec-wise, is pretty close to what I would all a perfect amp. Pretty close to what I’ve been waiting on for years. The only things I’d add/change:

– Global Soak setting (I’ve seen you mention working on this in other comments)
– The Red Box AE
– Bluetooth/Wireless communication with the iPad app (not that big of a deal but would be sweet)
– I don’t know where you’d squeeze it in but I’d like 2 independently switchable effects loops (one series, one parallel) stored with each patch of course.

I’m waiting until Musikmesse to see how many of these you’ve already thought of and have been working hard to incorporate 🙂

For now, I’m just saving my money away!

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on March 9, 2015 Reply

    Thanks for the valuable feedback John! Two of these things are definitely being worked on, although whether either will be ready for this year’s Messe is another thing 😉 You never know though! The Red Box AE has been a revelation on the new TriAmp, so it’d be great to do something more with that too. It’s all on the wishlist! Keep saving those pennies, because at some point we’ll hopefully drop something that ticks all the boxes for you 🙂

Pedro Prado on March 29, 2015 Reply

Got myself a Grandmeister and still uncovering its strengths… but I missed my spring reverb from a combo amp I had. The reverb is good, but the spring reverb probably got something from the speaker through reverberations over the cabinet walls. Since the GM has the true speaker output signal available, maybe it could be “wired” back to the reverb circuit to create a combo amp spring reverb simulation…
Other than that, I would love to see some power tube replacement guides for the GM. I wish the power section broke softer, and maybe I could do that replacing the EL34s, but not sure wit what…
Finally, lemme say it is a DAM. GREAT AMP. I feel like I am operating a multi effects system with the real tone…

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on March 31, 2015 Reply

    Hi Pedro, and thanks for the interesting feedback. Yep, spring reverb would be a cool feature (we’ll put it on the wishlist!), and we’re already thinking about a tube guide for the GrandMeister, so stay tuned for that too. Finally, glad you’re loving the amp otherwise! Happy playing…

Brock Betz on April 26, 2015 Reply

midi controller to amp needs to be wireless, you could add into the midi controller send and returns so that it can talk with the amp no more cables just power up and go, only cables needed are to connect the amp and speakers and your few pedals at your feet to the midi amp controller
too much signal degradation using the four cable method!

Miszka on May 14, 2015 Reply

Nothing special really – all I want is my GM36 with PowerSoak with Global/Preset mode, as you did it with Presence/Resonance switches.
I’m using 20+ presets – all 18W, but there are some venues where I need 36W. So I had to create a copy of all my presets set to 36W…
Global/Preset mode for PowerSoak – this is my challenge for You;-)

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on May 18, 2015 Reply

    Ha ha, thanks for the challenge Miszka – this is actually something that other guitarists have also said to us, so we must look at changing this in the future! Thanks again for your useful feedback 🙂

David on May 24, 2015 Reply

I like the edition blue 15r, it has a real nice clean sound and the lead channel is good also. I like it on the lead channel how adjusting the gain, bass, middle,treble and the lead can really get good distortion and lead shredding tones from it. I wanted to buy the attax 100 but they are no longer available. Is Hughes and Kettner going to release them again maybey with more features with effects and a recording looper? or even just the way they are would be good because I would of like to have owned one. I don’t know what people have said about the amplifier (attax 100), But they sounded pretty good to me and I hope Hughes & kettner can re-release them.

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on May 27, 2015 Reply

    Hi David, and thanks for the cool feedback. There’s no plans to re-do the Attax at the moment (but never say never!), so the best place to find one is going to be second hand. For good distortion and shredding tones we’d recommend you also give the GrandMeister and Coreblade a try – they do this very well! A looper is a great idea that a few people have mentioned, so we should definitely consider this for a future amp…

Jorg Ebling on October 5, 2015 Reply

Maybe the Puretone needs a little brother. Just like the AC10 to the AC30…

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on October 5, 2015 Reply

    Ooh, interesting idea! 🙂 Because the Puretone is LOUD!

Dustin Babitzke on January 27, 2016 Reply

Have to chime in as well. I loved my triamp and was so sad to have to let it go but unfortunately the lack of attenuation or the ability to go direct into board without a cabinet plugged in ruined it for us. We have a smaller studio and it just overpowered the room. If I could go direct like in the new tubemeister deluxe models as an option or attenuate the circuit a bit (though I think the DI would be better) it would have been the perfect amp. The sound is amazing, it’s just not functional for smaller venues and small studio home recording. After seeing the Tubemeister deluxe my prayer is that next year we will see those features in the triamp. I would love to know if anyone has found an external attenuator that keeps the load well on the mark IIi and works.

Dustin

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on February 2, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for the feedback Dustin, and we’d also like to hear from other players who may have used an external attenuator with the TriAmp to good effect!

Anthony maiorano on April 10, 2016 Reply

Any idea what attenuater is good to use on a triamp mk3 and being the amp has 3 sets of power tubes how would I set the tubes meaning use get a 100 watt attenuater and just use two sets of power tubes I am not exactly sure thanks for any help I love my amp but would really like to be able to crank it up a little more

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on April 22, 2016 Reply

    Hi Anthony. Hmm, we haven’t used an attenuator with the TriAmp Mark 3, so we can’t say with certainty what would work best! However, the THD Hot Plate seems to be the first choice for lots of players out there, so it’s definitely worth investigating. In the Hot Plater manual, it says you’re fine with an amp of up to 185 watts – check it out: http://www.thdelectronics.com/pdf/HP%20Manual%20060405.pdf

    The TriAmp is 150 watts with all three sets of tubes active 🙂

    Hopefully this is helpful for you, but just let us know if you have any more questions!

Dave on January 5, 2017 Reply

FSM 432 would be great if it had a display ( programmable) to assign text to each channel select for each bank. Also, being able to switch effects on and off for Delay, Mod, Reverb,etc would be an added benefit. The Crunch Channels need to be able to provide a low overdrive gain to provide tones like AC30 or the overdrive levels ( low clip ) used in songs like foo fighters learn to fly, Tom Petty ( You Wreck Me) Etc. SO far the Grandmeister Crunch is closer to fuzz sounds and low end rolls off at lower volumes

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on January 6, 2017 Reply

    Cheers for the feedback Dave! We’ve often thought how cool a display would be – with an integrated tuner too, perhaps – but it’d require a massive redesign of the whole thing. Who knows though, never say never 😉 When you’Re talking about Crunch sounds, we reckon you’re referring to the GrandMeister 36 – try the new GrandMeister Deluxe 40 and we think you’ll be pretty pleased with the tones!