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Hughes & Kettner Statesman Dual EL84 Combo Review

Hughes & Kettner Statesman
Download Example 1
Clean
Download Example 2
Crunch & Lead
Download Example 3
High Gain
Clips were recorded with a 2008 Les Paul Standard. SM57 on center, Neumann U87 room.
Clean: Clean channel, Bridge pickup, reverb on 2
Crunch and Lead: Bridge and Neck pickups, gain on 7
High Gain: Bridge pickup, gain on 10
Hughes & Kettner make fine products. They’ve been around for several decades now and I can clearly recall when they brought out the Cream Machine and Blues Master back in the late eighties—those were favorites in my circle. In 2008, the not-so-recent trend of low powered heads and combos appeals to a very large population of players, especially those who love EL84-based amps. Besides that, PA systems are efficient these days and nobody likes arguing with the soundman… or going to their chiropractor! Knowing the beauty of EL84 power tubes, H&K has tapped their high gain, low(er) volume capability and put them to good use in the Statesman Dual EL84 Combo.

Offering 20 watts of power in an attractive, Chocolate Brown 1x12 combo (Eminence Rockdriver Cream) with basketweave grill, the STM Dual EL84 boasts 2 channels, a shared 3-band EQ, FX loop, “boost” and “twang” modes, and an Accutronics spring reverb. It weighs in at 43 lbs and comes with a protective cover for storage or travel. For an MSRP of $1395, it sits in a comfortable price range, while not being exactly inexpensive. Still, compared to the prices of boutique combos, it’s still significantly lower in cost than many others on the market. So how does it stack up?

Plugging In
I had the opportunity to have the amp around for a while and was able to use it in a variety of situations in my work at the studio. My first dealings with the amp were in extremely low volume settings and the amp reacted much like any tube amp would. Sure, it was quiet, but it didn’t really stand out as anything special. It wasn’t until the amp was opened up a bit that its true voice became apparent. With my Les Paul the clean channel exhibited many of the good characteristics of classic American amps: shimmery, with a bit of a mid scoop, and a good amount of twang. Engaging the “twang” button brought out a lot of spank in the guitar and it almost surprised me how Strat-like my LP could sound. I did find that you have to be careful with the voicing of the amp, as it tended to get a little boxy in the midrange area depending on how far the mid knob was cranked. Where most Marshalls seem to like the mids up, this amp favored them slightly lower in 12 o’clock position with many of my guitars. Still, there is enough travel in the EQ to find a sweet spot on just about any guitar. The reverb didn’t seem to have a lot of dimension to it. Cranking it all the way up brought out the springiness, but not necessarily in a surf-rock way. Backing it down made it less audible but the overall effect of the reverb wasn’t comparable to the great, classic reverb amps we know and love. That said, I should mention that the amp offers a “reverb balance” control on the back panel that lets you regulate the ratio of reverberation between the Clean and Drive channels. This is a first for me, and I enjoyed the ability to push the reverb more on the clean channel and let the drive channel stay drier. Very cool. The FX loop proved to be an excellent way to add in various time-based effects and reverbs that I had on hand. It never compromised the integrity of the tone and was very quiet to boot.