Archive for the ‘Hughes & KettnerTubemeister 36 Controller’ Category

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…

So, I finally finished the channel switcher for my Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 36!


And here it is all lit up…


Perhaps somewhat foolishly I have built this footswitch at a time when I don’t actually have my amp, due to it being off away somewhere in Germany being repaired, but I’ve tried it with other amps  that are set up the same way with RTS jacks, so I know it’s all good.

It’s pretty full on – it’s a buffer (the same circuit as the 072), killswitch, has dual switchable loops (one for clean, one for dirty channels) and also controls the amps FX and reverb. I very nearly put a starvable dc outlet on it, but when it came down to it I decided I would probably never use it, plus it was getting a bit cluttered without mounting components on the upward face of the pedal.

To say it is a squeeze getting all of that in there is an understatement – I used the jack sockets that are typically mounted on PCB’s so that I could file off certain bits of the plastic casing so they would fit into the corners of the pedal.

It uses 3 x 3PDT toggle switches, a momentary soft touch SPST footswitch switch and a 4DPT footswitch, which are not rare components, but certainly not as readily available as most pedal parts
In reality it is a bit too small for large feet stomping it on stage – there’s a real potential of stomping the wrong thing. I probably wouldn’t worry too much about adding the buffer again, although it may come in handy to have. But hey, it is what it is, something I wouldn’t build again, but it was a good thing to do an a lesson on how much you can really squeeze into an enclosure if you want to go OTT!

So if you want to build your own I have included the schematic I drew up for it.


A word of warning – arrangement of this into a Hammond 1590BB is pretty tricky, consider a bigger enclosure if you have the  room on your pedal board and want to make you life that bit easier! Plus, by going bigger you could probably use right-angled jacks for the send and return loops, which would save space on the board in the long run!

As a little fun side project I’ve decided to build a foot controller for my Hughes and Kettner Tubemeister 36. This seems an odd move as one of the excellent things about this amp is the fact that is has fantastic midi support, and when I purchased the amp I also bought the companies FSM-432 midi footswitch. With the midi you can control channels, reverb, fx loop and the power soak, while traditional footswitches can control the reverb, channels and fx loop. My beef with the midi is this: when I want to use the amp with analog pedals (as opposed to a multi fx that does it all) I have to lug a huge footswitch around on top of my fx board, and in a band setting I only want 3 sounds (which incidently are the names of the amps channels) clean, crunch and lead, so a midi footswitch is a bit OTT.

My second beef with using midi is that unless I blow a rediculous (atleast 3 figures) amount of cash on some looper/midi controller control pedal I can’t bring analog pedals in and out of the loop at the same time as switching amp channels. While this sounds trivial, it is a bitch when playing live. I’m sick of having to stomp the channel switch, then the overdrive, then the compressor and noise gate all mid song, it’s just too much. I could make do with just stomping twice – the overdrive and the channel, but it is still a bit annoying, plus I want the pedals on that I want on, not just what is convieneient.

So anyway, here’s my design. It has been an absolute bastard trying to fit it all on, but here she is:


Basically, at the heart of it you have an A/B channel switch, where A is always clean B can be either Crunch or Lead. When you engage A the signal is routed through loop A which in my case will have the compressor in it. When you stomp to channel B the signal is routed through loop B which will have a couple of OD’s and a noise gate in there. If you stomp the C/L (Crunch/Lead) switch the tubemeister will change between crunch and lead, but both will use loop B. Kill is a soft touch momentary killswitch, and the pedal also has the 072 buffer built in, which can be toggled on and off. Reverb and FX Loop  predictably control the amps reverb and the amps FX loop. Loop A and Loop B both have a toggle switch that bypasses them, so that want to bypass the pedals in them you don’t have to use a patch cable to cover them up. The area marked V~ will have a pot which can be used to reduce the voltage at the variable dc out socket between 1.6v~ and 9v~ so that not only are you not loosing a space on your DC power brick to this pedal you also get a starvable output to make the fuzzes and overdrives sound crazy. There are LED’s to indicate everything, 9 in total.

So, really this is a stripped down Morse Device, stripped down Bomb Idea, a switchable 072 buffer, and a alternate true bypass looper within a channel swith pedal! The enclosure is a Hammond 1590BB, and believe me it is a real squeeze to get everything in, yet alone in usable positions.

The slightly odd jack arrangement is to allow for the stereo cables going to the amp for channel and reverb/loop to be convienet for hooking into when this is on the left hand side of a pedal board. There should be enough room to use right angled jacks at the top although they may interfeer with the loop A and loop B toggle switches a bit, depending on what ones I use. Basically I’m after a small footprint swiss-army-knife style utility pedal that makes everything more portable.

I’ll post the layout diagram on when it is finalised as well as schematics so people can build their own without any of the faffing. Maybe it is something I would consider building for others (could change the functions of the reverb/fx loop/crunch lead toggles to suit your amp) but it is probably won’t ever be one I make many of because of the high cost of parts most notably a 4PDT footswitch and 3 3PDT toggle switches.