Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 18 Twelve review

A combo with cajones

  • £749
  • €777
  • $999
The 18 Twelve melds a TubeMeister 18 head with a 60-watt Rockdriver speaker

MusicRadar Verdict

A lightweight, versatile combo that offers straightforward functionality and packs tonnes of great tones.


  • +

    Portable and very functional. Wealth of tones to suit all tastes.


  • -

    Compact enclosure and direct projection won't be to everyone's tastes. Rear reverb control.

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We've always found plenty to praise in H&K's TubeMeister series, and in recent years, the TubeMeister 18 has become the best-selling valve head in the USA.

To sate demand for a low-wattage giggable combo, H&K has launched the TubeMeister 18 Twelve, which includes all the features of the 18 Head with a 1x12 closed-back format, rather than the regular combo's single 10-inch speaker.

The speaker itself is a H&K-branded 60-watt Rockdriver, while the cabinet features a closed-back design, which tightens and focuses drive tones but makes the amp more directional.

"Power it up, and the sparkling clean channel offers a neutral platform for changes in pickup and dynamics"

Despite the increase in size, the 18 Twelve retains a seriously compact enclosure. At 15kg, it's one of the lightest amps in its class, and even comes with a soft cover to protect against wear and tear.

It is, however, one of the most heavily laden in terms of features, with two channels and switchable lead boost; power soak from 18 down to five, one or zero watts; and built-in H&K Red Box cabinet modelling.

A shared three-band EQ works across both channels, while the valve complement comprises two EL84s in the power amp and a pair of 12AX7 tubes in the preamp.

Around the rear of the amp, you'll find an XLR out for the built-in Red Box cabinet modelling, power soak control and H&K's TSC (Tube Safety Control) indicator, which monitors and readjusts the amp's bias to ensure the power valves operate reliably. A reverb control and effects loop complete the feature set.


Anyone who's tried a TubeMeister head or combo in the past will know that H&K is onto a winning formula, and the 18 Twelve is no exception.

Power it up, and the sparkling clean channel offers a neutral platform for changes in pickup and dynamics, not to mention your pedalboard, ably channelling the characters of various overdrives and distortions.

Add in a little of the subtle digital spring reverb - using the slightly annoyingly located rear control - and you have a clean for all seasons.

The cleans don't start to break up until around one o'clock on the volume control, and although the break-up tones are solid you'll get better results from switching channels.

At lower gain levels, the lead channel yields a driven sound not far off a pushed Top Boost Vox, but the H&K goes way beyond that; from open-chord crunch to searing shred leads courtesy of the lead boost, it's a seriously versatile channel.

One minor complaint lies in the shared EQ, which can prove awkward if, say, you want a darker clean tone and brighter distortion sound. But on the whole, both channels are voiced so well at 12 o'clock that it didn't bother us as much as expected.

Michael Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.