Went to a workshop by Thomas Blug and Trev Wilkinson on Thursday night with my brother and a friend of ours. After hearing Blug’s tone we ended up going back to Tone World on Saturday for three hours and walking out with one of these, a Hughes and Kettner Grand Meister 36. Sunday project - set it up to use a line 6 hd500x as a midi controller, good times. Wasn’t expecting to be blowing a grand this weekend, but I’m so busy I will hardly notice, and now we have a new toy!
So far we have ran a John Mayer strat, a Gibson SG, a Telecaster, an Ernie Ball Musicman Axis and a Vintage Thomas Blug Strat through it and I have to say, it’s a magical little box this thing. Guitarist magazine gave it 5 stars across the board and I have to agree. MIDI functionality is literally unbelievable. Every control, every parameter, every setting is MIDI controllable. It even has foot switchable power soak. Now, power soak brings to mind all kinds of THD hotplate “is that amp behind a duvet?” nightmares, when all we really want is the ability to switch on and off sections of the power amp like the “progressive linkage” on a Mesa Roadking. Well, I’m happy to report that this is what the Grandmeister 36 does, in a sense. The settings on the back for this feature are 36w, 18w, 5w, 1w and 0w, and given that the amp houses 4 el84s across the back the more savvy among you might recognise some familiar outputs there. 36w is the full house. Great for headroom for cleans and solos. 18w provides a nice crunch tone, and if the volume for that is a little high for you, try 5w, equally as good, if not a little over compressed. 1w is for, well I dont know….watt……I’ve broke a rib this week on a bar trying some crafty pre first pint chewing gum ditching maneuvers, I’ve just sneezed and it fucking wrecks, I needed a pun to cheer me up. Should have just stuck it under a table with a bogey next to it. 0w is a dummy load, for when you want to go in to the PA. This is a feature we were very interested in. My brother does a lot of function band type activities, but he also does a lot of theater work and his bread and butter comes from working in a duo. Playing to a backing track might be soul destroying to some “musicians”, but I predict working in a bar for minimum wage is even more so. For the working musicians out there I will say this, there’s a red box in there, and it really fucking works. Most of us are tempted to hook up a full amp even when playing to backing tracks, but this is essentially guitar wankery and it creates far too many unnecessary variables, the room, stage volume, sound distribution….far too many. The tracks are processed, the vocals are processed, your live guitar stands out from the mix like a sore thumb, suck it up, nobody can tell the difference in the tone but you, DI the fucker. The valve nuances translate nicely through the PA., this is still a 2 way relationship, you still have to learn to play the amp too, which I like.
I could go on all day about the features on this thing but I am hungover and I need a coffee. Walked in thirsty didn’t I, rookie mistake.
This amp doesn’t come out in the US until 2014, and so I thought I would do a little write up. We read so many reviews on the Friday and thought they were a little too flattering. The “all the twelves tone” is a little bright, but nothing rolling off the treble doesn’t solve. Other than that the amp is very well balanced. I find it hard to pick a midrange out from the sound to describe the voicing, it doesn’t seem to have one. Conventional wisdom would offer up counter arguments for character and tonality…I regrettably feel a Clarkson moment coming on, but using this amp is like eating the worlds finest medium cheddar. It just fucking works. It really fucking works, and when you are a working musician playing a lot of wildly different things, what more do you want. It still has scope for “your tone” too, there are speaker cabs out there that will change the voicings, adjustments of the dials obviously shapes the mid range somewhat, this is still an analogue signal path remember, but there is nothing stamped on it except quality.
Thing is sturdy too. It gets HOT, but it is a metal case, it is painted black, which, if you ask any of my Year 8 class after last weeks practical experiments, means that it shifts the heat pretty quickly. Valves are secured in place, gig bag is great…ONE minor gripe…we bought the HK footswitch to go with it…waste of time. Do NOT buy it…it’s a strange beast, but the long and short of it is, it’s not fit for purpose, too few buttons, limits the functionality quite drastically, for the same money you can get a better one. We will be taking it back this week.
Anyway, my time here is done, really need that coffee.