With its TubeMeister 18 topping the USA amp sales charts, German-based Hughes & Kettner have a tough act to follow. Summoned to H&K's St Wendel HQ we had no idea what we'd see but it clearly wasn't going to be just another amp.
Indeed, the so-called GrandMeister 36 is no normal amplifier. It's based on the TubeMeister 36 head so the back-lit blue light facia and all of that amp's features remain. What the GrandMeister adds, however, are reverb, tap delay, flange, phase, tremolo and chorus and full programmability of the four valve channels, effects and power soak. The amp can be fully controlled by any MIDI controller or H&K's new FSM 432 MKII floorboard with real time control via an auxiliary expression pedal and footswitch.
The GrandMeister 36 can also be controlled and programmed via an iPad–the necessary free app is already available in the App Store – which also allows you to name the patches. However, even without the MIDI controller, or iPad, the four-channel amp is perfectly useable thanks to clever Smart Rotary Controls which avoid it being overladen with onboard knobs and buttons.
H&K believe it's the first all valve analogue amp that is completely programmable; even the onboard digital effects are placed in the equivalent of a parallel FX loop to preserve the analogue signal. And, of course, if you're MIDI literate you can control all your amp/effects changes via MIDI in the studio or live (especially if you're running a click track).
The GrandMeister is available now and is priced at £1,129; the FSM 432 MKII costs an additional £169.