Speaking of quiet, the STM has a very low noise floor. With the volume knob rolled down on my Strat, there was little hiss and hum to contend with even when the amp was cranked up. Sometimes it was a bit startling how loud the amp actually was when it was time to play. You wouldn’t expect it from the idling volume. Nice!
Moving on to the gain channel, I found it to be very robust and rich without being overly biting. Having the presence control helped to bring out more chime in the amp, and the midrange tended to sit nicely in the mix of my tracks that I’d recorded with the Les Paul. I’d characterize the sound of the amp as having a lot of “bark” to it. It has gain for days, but doesn’t get into modern metal territory. This is more of a classic-sounding amp, which I believe has a lot to do with its voicing. Even pulling the mids down all the way never scooped out the tone far down enough to get ultra chunky. That’s not a bad thing at all, by the way. Engaging the boost button adds more gain to the front end of the circuit. I liked this feature as long as the gain wasn’t set on 10. At that point it became a little too raspy for my taste, but that might be just the right thing for a single coil pickup.
The Eminence speaker held its own nicely, and never collapsed with the amp on 10. Rolling back the volume allowed for a decent clean on the gain channel, but not quite like a 100W EL34 amp would have. There was always a bit of hair on the tone unless the volume was backed off to 1 or so on the guitar. Again, this is more an artifact of the power tubes than the amp design. One thing I noticed is that because the EQ is shared by both channels, tones that were set up to sound good on one channel didn’t always allow for a well-voiced sound on the other. If I dialed in a great distortion tone, it invariably sounded either too dark or too bright on the clean channel. Conversely, a sparkling clean tone ended up making the gain channel too bright. Like many amps that share one EQ between two channels, you may find yourself in need of a quick adjustment to make the most of both sounds.
The Final Mojo
Overall, the STM is a nice combo amp with plenty of features that make it very competitive in its price range. Aside from a few issues, this amp sits nicely in the EL84 category and would make a great addition to anyone’s live or recording rig. At 43 pounds, it won’t break your back and sounds much bigger than its size. Good job Hughes & Kettner.
You’re looking for a competitively priced tube combo with plenty of features.
You want a true 2-channel amp.
MSRP $1395 - Hughes & Kettner - hughes-and-kettner.com