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    Cabinet and Audio interface for the Tubemeister 18.

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    Justarandomname

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    Cabinet and Audio interface for the Tubemeister 18.

    Post by Justarandomname on Wed Oct 25, 2017 1:03 pm

    Hello guys. About 2,5 years ago I've purchased my first tube amp, a tubemeister 18. My impressions on it are kind of mixed. Some days I love it, most days I don't. The clean channel is definitely the better of the two, and with some tweaking I can generally produce a nice tone. It's amazing for clean chords, but I think it lacks the warmth for bluesy stuff.

    The overdrive channel however has really let me down. I've tried and I've tried, I just can't get a good lead tone. It doesn't sound like a tube amp at all. And is way too harsh.

    However, I've noticed something interesting. When I have both the master and the gain cranked, the cab (a Kustom Defender) doesn't seem to be able to handle the volume. After a certain point it distorts the sound, as if the speaker itself is 'clipping'.

    So, since this a cheap cab, I was thinking about upgrading it. Unfortunately, my budget is quite limited, so I've been thinking of getting a Harley Benton Vintage. It's cheap as well, but at least it loaded with a celestion vintage 30 which is supposed to be pretty awesome. Would it be worth the hassle, or should I save for something better altogether?

    The second question is about an audio interface, since I've figured out I should take advantage of the amp's Red Box. I've tried it once on a friend's scarlet focusrite, and the signal kept clipping. So I need something with pads. I've been thinking of a Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD. Has anyone experience with it? In general, what results can I expect of the red box? I'm thinking that plug-ins might be better for home demo stuff.
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    bordonbert

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    Re: Cabinet and Audio interface for the Tubemeister 18.

    Post by bordonbert on Wed Oct 25, 2017 9:18 pm

    This is right in the ballpark of my own personal experience.  I got my first H&K a while back.  It was a TM36.  I sought it out after I had played a GM36 combo previously when I auditioned a gorgeous little '05 reissue Gibson LP Jnr Special DC with P90s which I snapped up at the price.  I fell in love with the sound of the amp as well but it was way out of my reach at the time.  Then after a few months the rot set in and I had to get into the H&K range.  Again I was very lucky and came across a virtually new TM36 head local to me at a price which was just beyond my comfort zone but I took the plunge and went all in anyway.  I loved so many things about it that I then talked my wife into the big brother, the GM36 and eventually I went for that too.

    The GM is a slightly different beast to the TM but they definitely have a close family resemblance in tone.  The GM  obviously offers more variation and control but, due to the similarities in sound including their shared weaknesses, they both make similar demands of their speakers.  My first thought after the TM purchase was, what speakers do I use with it.  I know from experience that speaker choice is infinitely more important than anything you can do with valves but I was out of cash.  So I did exactly what you are thinking of, I bought two Harley Benton V30 1x12 cabs.  For the money they are superb, you get the whole cabinet including the V30 for about the same price as just the driver from other sources.  I absolutely loved the look of my "mini-stack" of the two cabs set one on the other with the TM36 on top, and the GM36 is the same size so could carry on the setup.  I used it for a year or two trying to dial it in to the music I was playing and that is where the trouble started.

    At first I loved the H&K rasp and upper end bite.  The band I was in were playing some music where it really suited.  When I managed to get the material choices to lean more to my own favourite area, real classic melodic rock from the late '60s and '70s, I found I just could not get the amp to give out a laid back creamy sound which suited bands like Free, Bad Company, Humble Pie, Faces, Stones etc.  It stayed in your face with an upper hardness that just wouldn't be tamed.  The speakers were plain wrong!  In fact it may well have been the cabinets which were a contributing factor.  While they are reasonably made they are not the heaviest and most sturdy material choice.  That wouldn't go down well in HiFi for uncoloured sound with any degree of lower extension.

    Since then I have mated the amp with my late '60s Marshall 4x12 cabinet which I restocked with Celestion G12M Greenbacks to preserve the original G12Hs.  This is a much better match and gets closer to the tones I am looking for.  I do think this is due in no small part to my cabinet having the original older Marshall Pinstripe grille cloth with the rubberised vertical stripes, the same as the original Bluesbreaker 50W combo uses horizontally,  rather than the more open woven type they went over to.  It takes off a fair bit of the extreme top and adds a useful depth.

    One final thing I would point out just in case you haven't come across it yet.  These are NOT the same V30s that H&K put in their own cabinets.  Those are specially voiced for H&K by Celestion and in my experience they have a very different sound, at least in the H&K cabinet.  One of the problems with Thomann/Harley Benton is that you can't always audition the gear before you buy it as no one really stocks it.  That is an issue and adds an element of uncertainty to the whole process.

    So, from someone who went down that very same route you are contemplating, I would advise think carefully before you jump.  If your material and playing style requires a thinner more toppy modern sound then the HB V30 cabs might be a match, but they will not give you any real sense of depth for more classic material.  You mention Bluesy tone.  In my estimation the H&K is not the ideal amp to use for Blues, though it can get there, just not in the same way as the Marshall/Fender choices do.  You must understand that the TM18 gives the designers limited choices in terms of their circuit configuration.  It has only two 12AX7s to achieve their design goals.  One triode must be used for the phase splitter, and that must be the less common Cathodyne type which uses only a single valve.  That leaves 3 triodes to use with the third stage driving the tone stack direct without a DC Coupled Cathode Follower as more expensive amps usually use.  The DCCF stage gives a particular type of melodic distortion of its own if it is mated in the right way with the right gain stage before it. (I know H&K use this now as I pointed them at the information online and, lo, it suddenly appeared in their amps and their marketing. Razz ) This all has a direct bearing on the tone you will get when you go up in gain.  It can become less creamy and more buzzy to my ears.  Some will love it but you may not.  The TM36 and GM36 have 3 12AX7s which opens up the possibilities to more refinement in their circuitry and that does show.

    I don't know if you are aware but the H&K TM/GM range has a built in Clean Boost/Improved Tubescreamer type first stage built in.  Try putting the Lead Gain up close to full and throttle right down on the guitar signal you feed into it.  Vary the guitar volume control and see the variety of sounds you can get out of it.  I always found that input stage very cleverly set up, and to be one of the most responsive areas of the amp.  First it is absolutely clean and a perfect transparent buffer.  (Please, no crap about "tone suck" which doesn't exist in well designed solid stage circuitry nowadays, and H&K do their sums and design work right).  Then with increasing signal level it begins to clip on one side introducing even harmonics, (the start of your Bluesy area).  Next, with larger signals it begins to clip on the other side too at a different level and beefs up.  Clipping is done with a number of series zener diodes around the feedback loop of an opamp to soften and round off the onset.  It totally blows away the £150 crap boutique "back to back diode" clipping circuits everyone worships and which any decent second year electronics student can knock out in his sleep.  This completely prevents the opamp which is the basis of the stage from touching its supply lines internally which is one of the major source of harsh tone from SS stages.  It is a clever tool to get a range of clipping distortion modes from a single circuit, and it's built into the amp!  Don't use a distortion pedal, just learn to use that input stage with your guitar volume control and the Lead Gain control and internal Boost switch.

    I don't know if any of that helps, I hope so.  They are great amps but they have their limitations and the synergy between them and the attached equipment in both directions is crucial to getting the best out of them.
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    Justarandomname

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    Re: Cabinet and Audio interface for the Tubemeister 18.

    Post by Justarandomname on Thu Oct 26, 2017 5:44 am

    First of all thank you for the very detailed response. There were some things that are way beyond my knowledge level (I'm crap when it comes to circuits).

    I fired up my amp today and I turned it off within 30 minutes. Today is one of 'those' days where I absolutely loath it.

    I tried playing with the guitar's volume, as I've tried again in the past, nope, no result. I have read a lot of times that it's supposed to be one of the strengths of the amp (even the H&K manual suggests so) but it doesn't seem to work for me. Yes it cleans up and the harshness goes away, so in theory you could unload you bluesy licks, but is it a good sound? I don't think so. I listen to a variety of genres, with blues probably being my least favorite, but still who doesn't like some tasty blues licks from time to time? And that's the problem with the amp. It doesn't make me WANT to play blues. I can fake a tone out of it, but it doesn't tell me "hey you with the guitar, listen to how awesome I sound! Play me 'till you rip your fingers off!"

    Just for clarification, I've bought the amp mainly for home practicing. As I've told you, I play pretty much every genre with a guitar in it, from funk 'till metal. So that amp seemed perfect, right? Power soak, 2 channels, versatile voicing, varied amounts of gain, etc.

    And to my surprise, I find that it can't play anything. Don't get me wrong, the clean channel is AMAZING for arpeggiating chords, and I LOVE how you can almost get an acoustic sound with the treble up. I haven't heard another amp that does that. But if I want to play funk, I have to cope out with some harshness. Mellower blues/jazz stuff is almost impossible without rolling the guitar's tone all the way down, killing some tone in the process.

    The lead channel I really don't know what is it for. It has way too low gain for metal, good gain for rock but no sustain, and way too much harshness for soloing.

    To this point I have to tell you that I'm using an Ibanez RG321 with EMG's, which I've decided is a TERRIBLE match for this amp. The amp and the pickups are probably polar opposites when it comes to what they try to do.

    That is the end of my rant, as I've told you today. I absolutely hated my amp. I want to love it. I really do, but I can't. I don't want to sell it either because of the loss of money. I don't know if I can buy anything worthwhile with the ≅ 350€ I'll get from selling it.

    I should have send it back at Thomann when I bought it. I noticed I didn't like the amp from the second day I had it, but I was burned out from all the research and I didn't want to go through it again. My fault I guess...
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    bordonbert

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    Re: Cabinet and Audio interface for the Tubemeister 18.

    Post by bordonbert on Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:32 am

    I sympathise with your situation, I'm prone to the same problem myself.  When I get something new and it doesn't light me up after the honeymoon period I really want to give it a fair shake to see if it grows on me.  I should just accept the inevitable and move on but....

    It took me a while to realise that I really wasn't happy with some aspects of my GM36.  It was not as bad as yourself I would say, but a general "not quite happy" feeling that slowly grew.  I don't know the TM18 personally at all, just from the circuitry aspect and the family connection to the TM36 but, as I said, there are major differences in circuitry between the 18 and 36 which will mean definite differences in tone and response.  From the point of view of the TM36/GM36, I do feel they do metal and high gain stuff well.  That is what the amp was designed for.  A lot of high gain players want that upper hardness (cutting through the mix they call it) and lack of bass (clarity they call it).  They want the magnificent Clean channel for the bits in between the thrashing and neck writhing where they can convince an audience they have soul and emotion by twiddling their pseudo finger style folk passages. Wink  I don't have bouffant lacquered hair, I don't wear skin tight spandex striped jester pants, I don't have a need to expose my castanets and piccolo on stage, I don't play high gain or metal!  (I jest from a sense of fun guys.  clown )  (Or do I?  scratch )  While I feel the GM36 does some things magnificently, I realised that it would never give me the tone I needed for my own choice of music.

    I spent a lot of time modelling the amp on computer to see if it was possible to mod it and improve the classic tones. It was just too plain complex in the way H&K had interwoven the voicing of the different channels. You could improve one and ruin another. When the fun of the intellectual exercise wore off I eventually just gave up on that. I couldn't go back to using my '60s Marshall 1959 Super Lead 100 as it is just too damned loud to get into the zone even at pub sized gigs.  That problem had driven me to the H&K in the first place.  So I picked up a Marshall JVM205H for a steal very near my home.  Problem sorted!  A real variety of Marshall tones which I love in one amp and not too loud to use at home and small gigs if you know a neat little trick.

    With a 16ohm cabinet and an amp with 4/8/16ohm outputs with double sockets for 4/8ohm like my Marshall gear there is one cheap and easy piece of gear you can make up.  Get one each of 50W 16ohm and 5.6ohm power resistors, these are about £1.50 each from a decent supplier like RS or Farnell.  You can get these already encapsulated in an isolated aluminium case for cooling.  Look up Arcol HS50 for something to use as a guide.  You fit each of these onto their own jack plug with a very short length of wire so it simply hangs out into the air, mine is only an inch or two of twin core between plug and resistor.  Putting your 16ohm cabinet with the 16ohm resistor into the 8ohm sockets gives the amp its 8ohms with only half the power direct to the speaker and with no resistors in between it and the amp.  Doing the same thing with the 5.6ohm resistor into the 4ohm socket pair gives 4.15ohms, (the amp would not even notice that tiny discrepancy), with quarter power to the speaker.  My 50W amp can be a 25W and a 12.5W. You can drive your amp harder for tone with correct matching but have reduced power direct to the speakers, and with the transient nature of guitar signals the resistor doesn't even get really hot.  It isn't a perfect solution as the amp output stage has an easier load to drive so its distortion is not quite the same, and the speaker is still not driven as hard as it likes to open up fully but it really improves things.

    Anyway, I'm rambling now.  It sounds like you have a bit to think about with your definite dislike of the TM18 sound.  There is nothing I can suggest other than turn up the Amp Gain, turn the Guitar Volume down, increase the Guitar Volume to suit the overdrive you need and then set Amp Volume for level.  Oh, maybe one other bit of info if you haven't already done this, try running it with unusual power soak settings.  Don't just use the Power Soak to set the level you want, try running lower level playing through the amp at 18W so you have to reduce the level earlier in the chain.  Likewise run the amp on lower Power Soak levels but flat out.  You can get very different tones with both of those approaches.  It kind of works for me to get Bluesy stuff out but the tone is still not ideal.  With the current popularity of H&K gear, maybe you won't have to take too much of a loss if you move on to something more suitable.  I wish I found that side of owning gear that simple!

    Finally I'll repeat, the speaker choice is the most significant one you can make with the H&K amps to correct tonal issues.  It may take a bit of time to get that right but, over the years, on this site we have seen so many people sort out their setup by correcting that one aspect.  It's the most difficult to address of course and just taking the advice of others online is never going to get it right for you.  Their advice can steer you towards a solution but taking your amp down to your local store and asking to play it through a variety of cabinets so you can hear it with your own ears has to be the answer.  It should not be too awkward, any decent store will let you do that without any complaint.
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    Justarandomname

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    Re: Cabinet and Audio interface for the Tubemeister 18.

    Post by Justarandomname on Thu Oct 26, 2017 8:15 am

    Yeah, I figured I need to try different cabinets. I'm trying to get over my fear of demoing gear on guitar stores. Frankly, people are doing their job there and all I feel is that I annoy them. I've always played really timidly on guitar stores, which doesn't allow me to evaluate perfectly if I like what I'm hearing or not.

    I forgot to say that I've tried the TM18 using the speakers of a Fender Deville once. The fender is a combo by itself, but through a mod you can use it as a standalone cab. It's been sometime, but I remember the tone being
    quite a bit better than the one at my home. For the first time it felt like the tube amp it is supposed to be. However, the fender sounded and played better by comparison, but that may be because the speakers were designed for it.

    Anyway, at this point no one on the internet could probably help me. I need to check this on my own.
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    Justarandomname

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    Re: Cabinet and Audio interface for the Tubemeister 18.

    Post by Justarandomname on Fri Oct 27, 2017 11:38 am

    So I went to local stores to try some cabs.

    The first one was a YAMAHA THRC112, it sounded like plain crap. The lead channel sounded like a fart, no kidding.

    Second one was an Orange, I'm not sure which model, shop guy told me it was worth about 200€. It sounded a little bit better but nothing to write home about.

    The third one was a MARSHALL JVMC-212, costed at about 600€, and holy shit did my amp sound awesome through it. You didn't even need to turn the boost on, the lead channel cranked had amazing balls and sustain. For the first time ever, the tubemeister felt and played like a tube amp.

    I may be sounding like I'm reinventing the wheel here (more expensive=better sounding, I know right?), but it was a first time experience for me.

    At least I know now that the amp CAN sound good, the problem is that I don't have 500€ to blow up on a cab.
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    bordonbert

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    Re: Cabinet and Audio interface for the Tubemeister 18.

    Post by bordonbert on Fri Oct 27, 2017 11:56 pm

    Hahaha!  And you are now one of the great unsatisfied, just like the rest of us.  You have reached enlightenment and experienced the almighty "could be..." and made the great realisation "...if only I had the cash!"

    I have just spotted one on ebay for £250 if it helps which seems a fair benchmark for a second hand version.  You can look for other makes now which are based on the same drivers or similar.  It might be helpful to find out whether your good sounds have to come from exactly the same drivers as the JVMC-212, or if it is just any good quality driver from the Celestion G12 family in any decent cabinet.  I think I mentioned before, I use G12M Greenbacks which are a really big improvement over the V30s in the Harley Bentons. You do then have the option of looking into other cabinet makes with similar setups.  I discovered Cash Converters recently and picked up that JVM205H I mentioned there virtually brand new for a song so that is another route to take. They want to buy 'em cheap and shift 'em quick so you can get a good price if you push hard.

    As to cabinets, I would be careful with only one thing which you may already be well aware of.  In general, most speaker cabinets made nowadays are MDF construction.  By that I mean in the outside world, not just guitar cabinets.  It is often insisted that MDF is a poor material choice for a speaker cabinet but that is completely wrong, it's only a poor choice for a guitar speaker cabinet.  It is chosen for hifi cabs because it has a more non-resonant structure which means a dead cabinet which does not give out its own sound and that is perfect for hifi.  Plywood cabinets are said to make a more resonant lively cabinet which is generally preferred by guitarists, in particular thicker 5/8" plus plywood.  I have to say that I agree with that if the cab is a closed back, though it doesn't mean that all MDF guitar cabs must be crap and all plywood ones must be good, it's still a matter of decent design and build and of course personal preference.  That said, the design of a decent guitar cabinet is not at all demanding, unlike a hifi cabinet.  I would say just be careful with any cabinet choice which is a known MDF cabinet without being absolutely sure you have auditioned it to exhaustion at working levels.

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