More on the Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 36 controller, and an unplanned rant about simple rigs and all things MIDI

Posted: April 4, 2013 in FX, General, Hughes & KettnerTubemeister 36 Controller
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I have been having quite a bit of interest in the Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 36 controller over the last few weeks, so here’s an update on it after using it for a few months.

My advice to anyone looking to build one would simply be this: Don’t. Or if you do, build bigger and less complex.

The main problem with the amp controller I built was that is was simply not big enough. You can’t stomp the channel change very well without accidentally turning on the reverb, cutting out the FX loop, changing to crunch from lead, hitting the killswitch etc you get the idea? And this becomes a real problem live when trying to do mid song channel changes!

The buffer is a good feature, as are the loops, but again these caused me problems. The Tubemeister went down and had to be returned to Germany for a repair, so I bought a 2nd hand Black Heart Little Giant 5w head, which is single channeled. All of a sudden my board was hard to use – I had overdrive in one loop, compressors in the other, what a nightmare to use on the fly!

My Tubemesiter 36 setup is this:

Guitar > Korg Pitchblack (tuner) > TM Footswitch > Loop 1 – Boss CS3 (compressor, modded) – TM Footswitch loop 1 return > TM Footswitch loop 2 – Way Huge Green Rhino > TM Footswitch loop2 return > TM36 > Source Audio EQ > ISP Decimator > EHX Small Stone Nano (phaser) > Malekko 616 (delay) > TM36 return

Which requires 5 (yes 5!) cables running to the amp by the time the channel switching was taken care of!

For using the single channeled amp I ripped up my I had a board setup like this:

Guitar > Korg Pitchblack (tuner) > Boss CS3 (compressor, modded) > Way Huge Green Rhino (overdrive) > Barber Dirty Bomb (distortion) > EHX Small Stone Nano (phaser) > Malekko 616 (delay) > Amp

And this was all I needed. A reverb would have been nice, but for live use not needed. I actually think this is the best sounding setup I have ever used (except for really cranked, heavy stuff where the TM36 lead channel destroyed everything else for me!). And guess what… no FX loop, no channel switching, no on-board reverb, no complex EQ’s, no need for noise gates, no MIDI switching or programming, basically no gimmicks. I actually preferred the Malekko 616 out front to be honest.

So, this has turned into a bit of a ramble and you’re probably wondering how this all relates to the Tubemeister footswitch? Well here it is I’m going to do the dirty and come out and say it: If you think you need anything as complex as the switch I built here and the relevant routing this requires in order to get your rig in line, I would take a step back and consider what you really need before embarking on building something similar. If you have a whole bunch of analogue FX running up front and in the loop that you really need and you find yourself tap dancing to go from your clean and dirty sounds I would seriously suggest looking into getting a digital MIDI enabled solution and to control everything and not building a footswitch like the one I built and rig like this. Something like the Boss GT range,  Line 6’s M13, the TC Nova System (that’s what I’m currently running) or G System etc. Cut out all the tap dancing and get playing! This does add a certain level of complexity when toggling settings on the fly, but it also opens so many possibilities that a traditional footswitch such as the one I built here is rendered archaic.

For the future I’m looking to get one of the bigger single channeled Black Heart amps and the simple board I described for it, and using the TM36 and Nova setup for anything more complex, which for my main band is sometimes required. I gigged this setup last week, and it was awesome:

Guitar > Korg Pitchblack > Boss CS3 > Way Huge Green Rhino > TM36 > Nova System > TM36 return

One button press to go from TM36 lead with a small amount of digital delay to trippy phaser, reverby analogue delayed clean, using the TM36’s channels, compressor and overdrive there for when I need them.

Basically if you want a footswitch for the TM36 my advice is this: you have a midi controlled amp so use it – midi-fy your rig, you won’t look back! I may have bashed MIDI in the past with the TM36 saying it over complicates things – but used right it really is cracking and solves a lot of headaches. Despite being quite old technology MIDI really is the future for us guitarists and I honestly believe digitally controlled analogue circuits with MIDI capabilities are the way pedal building needs to go in order to progress. Full MIDI integration.

If you rig is a super simple amp with no pedals and you want a footswitch to change channels only then that is another story…

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Comments
  1. Dimitris says:

    Hi, can you help me if possible with my following question:

    I have a TM36 Head and really miss a Master volume. Every time you need to change one channel’s volume (drummer complaining too loud etc) you have to go back and balance the other two also. This is would all be solved with the existence of a Master volume control for all 3 channels.

    My idea was to disable the Reverb on the back and convert it to a Master volume. Basis on your extensive experience with this amp, do you think that this mod would be possible and how easy would it be? My amp tech asked for schematics to do it but H&K denied to send it to me ofcourse…

    Grateful if you can give some advice on that one.

    Thanks,
    Dimitris

    • 0xdfx says:

      Hey, sorry about the slow reply. I’ve been out the loop for a long time.

      I know exactly what you mean! I’ve been having the exact same problem gigging the amp too, we played the other day and you could tell it really pissed off the sound guy.

      I like what you are thinking with the master volume, but I would imagine there is minimal room in the back of the amp, so you could struggle to get much in there. I’m not surprised H&K are being tight-lipped with the schematics though.

      I guess in theory it isn’t too hard a mod – the reverb is post FX loop but you would need to make sure it is pre power amp. I’m 99.999% sure it would be.

      In my opinion by far a better solution would be getting something like a Award-Session Solo Booster or other passive volume control and running it in the FX loop. Then balancing all the channels at a level louder than you will need, and using the volume control to reduce the master as required. This will stress the pre-amp valves ever so slightly more, but is probably worth it to have the master volume. It is maddening though, for such a feature rich amp to exclude some very simple but vital features!

      Ben

      • Dimitris says:

        Yes that’s what I did actually, I ordered the EWS volume control and put it in the loop and works great! Thanks anyway.

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