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Pristine cleans, sharp crunch, saggy overdrive, fizzy fuzz and modern high gain sounds in one tiny (no joke, it's so small it's almost preposterous and would be best described as "cute" if you just went on looks! Judging by sound however... Ooft! Just... WOW!) valve amp head.
This is one of the many currently available "lunchbox" valve/tube amps today, and more than holds its own up against any of the offerings from the establishment of amp manufacturers, and then some. With masses of headroom for its 5 watt output, it more than matches fender sparkle cleans, with the ability to go from an almost digitally Hi-Fi sound to the warmer harmonic overtones we expect from tube amps at clean settings. The separate treble, mid and bass controls are incredibly responsive, particularly in cleaner settings, and it's almost ludicrously easy to dial in the tone that you want.
Using a 1x10 or 1x12 cab, it can be used like any vintage lower watt valve/tube single channel amp. Perfect for home practice, and even better for mic'ing up in a studio situation to get those cranked tones as used by all our favourite guitar heroes from the 60's and 70's. With the Master Volume and Gain controls, it's easy to get an amazing sound at levels that allow you to practice at home without disturbing the neighbours, yet still feel that you're getting everything you can from the amp. Even with smaller cabs, this thing is loud! The headroom before breakup is startling. With some lunchbox amps, its hard to get a decent volume without hitting the breakup, but the TM5 delivers cleans to extraordinary volumes, particularly with single coil guitars. Even with humbucker equipped guitars it's easy to keep it clean at crazy volumes. It's also incredibly responsive to touch and guitar volume, so really easy to have it cranked to captain crunch and just back off for flawless cleans without losing definition.
With a 2x12 or 4x12 cab, it's almost obscene just how much power this little thing cranks out. Obviously, the bass needs to be pulled back to avoid the muddiness, but that's only to be expected. The 3 band EQ obviously helps to define your tone to perfection, and it's frankly shocking to find that this tiny little box can actually hold up against a loud drummer in a live setting through a 4x12 cab! It's no exaggeration though. It does involve a degree of experimentation to find the right sound in that situation, but not as much as you may expect, and let's be honest, that's the same regardless of amp type or size: We can find our tone when playing alone, but in a band situation, we all need to find it again.
Although a single channel amp, the TM5 also has the "Drive" button, which is what delivers the higher gain sounds that modern rock demands. As you'd expect, this pushes the amp harder, delivering anything from a little crunch at low gain, right up to full on high gain "OH MY GOD, YOU DID NOT JUST GET THAT SOUND FROM THAT LITTLE BOX!!?!" sounds. Of course, as you push this little button and increase the gain, the EQ gets a little less effective, but since you have 3 controls (Bass, Treble and Mid), you'll be surprised just how much tone sculpting is still available with both the master volume and gain controls completely dimed! You want the "Woman Tone"? Right there! You want some classic Zep Marshall tone?!? Guess what?!? Like every amp ever made, you need to experiment for tones that you want to use. In my own experience though, it's frankly stupidly easy to find what you're looking for without much adjustment, even mid-set in a crowded bar/club!
The real hidden gem within the Hughes and Kettner Tubemeister 5 though is, without any shadow of a doubt, the built in Red-Box. This is the utterly fantastic speaker emulator as designed by the chaps at H&K. This allows you to DI the amp to the PA system in a live situation, or straight to the desk in a recording situation. The Red Box is truly amazing! Considering that it retails for around about slightly more than 50% of the cost of this amp alone, in itself, it's got to be viewed as a major selling point. While the sound from the Red Box may be harder to tweak in a live situation, when combined with the amp/cab output, it's hard to deny the overall effect it creates. When used in the studio though, I personally think that's where it more than pays for itself. Putting it in the simplest way I can think: You have a HUGE guitar part that you really want to stand out, without having to pull back on the rhythm parts or pump the guitar volume up. It needs to be full of overdrive/distortion/fuzz, yet stand alone clean and clear without overwhelming everything else in the mix! This is where I think the Red Box really comes into play. Using the Red Box DI AND the amp and cab mic'ed up, you record a double tracked guitar part with HALF (or less!) the Overdrive/Distortion/Fuzz you think the part needs! At this point, you're already using the techniques that our forebears used to fatten up guitar parts without excessive distortion. However, you repeat this process several times with single coils and humbuckers, both DI'd and mic'd through various cabinets (110, 112, 210, 212 and 412), with absolute MINIMUM dirt on each double-tracked take. These tracks will combine to give the fattest, raunchiest, deepest, darkest, or frankly "whatever-you-want" vibe you want! The final mix can go from a barely overdriven guitar part to an overwhelming cacophony of distortion, with, and here's the important part, no need to overwhelm the other parts. Each double tracked part could be in unison or in any of the multiple available harmonies, and due to the low distortion and therefore high musical tonality, can be mixed seamlessly with the whole arrangement, to give the impression of a HUGE dynamic shift when in reality there's simply been a couple of low powered guitar parts added.
Anyway, in my opinion, this is a truly fine amp, with many features available to all levels of guitarist to help properly showcase their own abilities and also to help them develop their skills without a lot of the "baggage" that many low wattage valve/tube amps may carry.
Try it out.
I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.