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Maximum sound with minimum dimensions! – Review Hughes and Kettner StompMan

When the Hughes & Kettner company introduced the Spirit Tone Generator a few years ago together with their BS 200 series, a worldwide murmur went through the scene. Never before it has been possible to get so close to the sound of a vacuum tube with a transistor amplifier. Due to the patented, purely analogue circuit, the amplifier managed to bridge the gap between the light, inexpensive but also poorly-sounding transistor amplifiers to the top league of all-tube amplifiers in terms of sound, which unfortunately also have a high transport weight and, due to their components, have a significantly higher price .

It was immediately clear to me that this part would be a box office hit, but even I didn’t expect the immense success of this amplifier series. Other products such as the Nano Heads or the AmpMan followed and, with the help of the Spirit Tone Generator, were able to deliver a significantly higher quality sound than what the retail price would suggest. But Hughes & Kettner wouldn’t be Hughes & Kettner if they weren’t constantly striving to expand and improve their portfolio, which is why the latest addition to the Spirit Tone Generator family is called StompMan and again comes with a number of very well thought-out and extremely practical ones Features would come up.

The structure of the Hughes & Kettner StompMan

The experienced reader will probably be able to guess for which application the Hughes&Kettner StompMan was designed after just a quick look at the layout of the amplifier in combination with its name. The dimensions of just (W x D x H): 132 mm x 52 mm x 153 mm and the weight of 650 g suggest that the amp was designed for floorboard use. In order to be able to operate the amp, on the other hand, the included power supply unit must be used, since the performance characteristics of 24 V and 2.5 A cannot be supplied by any multi-voltage power supply unit that is normally used in floorboard operation. But the whole thing shouldn’t be a real problem, since the power supply was designed to be relatively flat and narrow and should therefore fit under most floorboards beyond the Nano / Mini series with 2 cable ties or the like. The power supply works worldwide due to its voltage processing of 100 – 240 volts.

The concept of the amplifier, designed as a single channel, is based on the AmpMan, which is characterized in terms of tone control by dispensing with a three-band tone control in favor of a tone controller. In addition to the master volume and the gain controller, the Hughes&Kettner StompMan offers three controllers from the power amp area, which are divided into the areas of resonance, presence and sagging. The sagging controller in particular is a unique selling point, as it emulates the saturation behavior of a tube power amp and can play to its strengths, especially in the crunch area.

The amp delivers 25 watts into 8 ohms, which is more than enough for a regular club gig. Since it is a transistor output stage, the power output varies depending on the impedance of the box, i.e. the amp offers almost 12.5 watts at 16 ohms, but 50 watts at 4 ohms. The Hughes&Kettner StompMan offers 2 footswitches, a solo switch with which the output level can be increased by up to +6 dB (adjustable via a potentiometer on the front) and a bypass switch whose function can be combined on the front with a mini switch FX-Loop toggle switch and we will go into its exact function in a moment.

The design of the amp The Hughes & Kettner StompMan, with its single-channel orientation in the stand-alone function, is based on the “more-or-less-clean” and distorted sounds of the 60s and early 70s, which can be found as a house number in the JMP and JCM area, or to put it another way, Clean is done with the volume control of the guitar and lead / high gain with an overdrive / distortion pedal connected in front of it. The gain range was designed to be rather moderate and focuses more on the power amplifier work, which can be varied very well with the sagging controller even at low volumes. If bypass is activated, gain and tone are taken out of the signal path, but presence, resonance and sagging are still available and deliver finely controllable tube power amp sound. So far everything is fine, but that alone would not necessarily be a strong argument for the amp, so we now come to the application examples of the amp!

The application examples of the Hughes&Kettner StompMan

Unlike guitarists who need a modeller as an “all-in-one” solution, a typical pedal board player mostly wants a modular solution where they can express their individuality using their personal pedals. He may also want to connect additional preamps and, depending on the area of ​​application, use separate speaker emulations for direct to FOH or in-ear applications and may also use external noise gates. Here the StompMan can help with a comparatively simple but ingenious setup:

1.) As a full-fledged single-channel amp

Use with booster, fuzz, overdrive, chorus, flanger etc. in front of the input, and reverb or delay effects in the loop is the main application of the Hughes&Kettner StompMan. Here the StompMan is used like a classic single-channel amp including pre- and power-amp sound parameters with a guitar box, with the convenience of a switchable FX loop and a clever solo function to relieve the FOH .

2) As a power amp (bypassing the internal preamp)

Thanks to the integrated bypass, the user does not need to “abuse” the FX return to bypass the internal preamp so that external preamps can be boosted. Bypass removes gain and tone from the signal path, the power amp sound parameters presence, resonance and sagging as well as the FX loop can still be used. To adjust the input level of the StompMan to the output level of the connected preamp, the StompMan offers a trim pot on the underside.

3) Recording via FX Send/Line and Software Cab-Sims

Whether with or without ballasts or preamps, the StompMan output labeled “FX Send / Line” picks up the signal directly in front of the master, so it already contains presence, resonance and sagging. Ideal for going into the line input of the DAW and using software cab sims and effects.

4) In Ear / Direct to FOH / FRFR

Appropriate hardware cab sims can be used for direct to FOH or in-ear applications. Instead of going into the return of the StompMan, at the end of the signal chain you simply go into the input of the Cab Sim and from its output to the console. It is still possible to use the power amp of the StompMan: if you connect the output of the Cab Sim to the return of the StompMan, its power amp amplifies the full-range signal of the Cab Sim FRFR boxes can be operated at the speaker-out of the StompMan.

The Hughes&Kettner StompMan in practice

In the practical part, I concentrated on the stand-alone operation of the amp, since the sound effects of external pedals would change the sound of the amp too much. The first thing that strikes you once again is that the tone control actually makes 80 – 90% of all three-band settings superfluous. On the contrary, the risk of an incorrect setting is massively reduced. Left stop has the typical British mid boost, right stop has a typical scoop alignment, everything in between is infinitely adjustable.

As with the big example of the Hughes & Kettner StomMan (I guess it’s supposed to be a 2203), the tonal effectiveness is kept very moderate, i.e. even with long control paths the change in sound remains moderate. So you can z. B. like to set the Resonance control to the right stop without causing a lot of pumping, but that’s exactly what makes u. the sonic appeal. Once again you have to keep in mind that this is not an all-tube amp, because the analog circuitry in combination with the sagging control makes it really difficult to filter out the difference in sound. The amp is highly dynamic, hangs very well on the guitar’s volume control and offers the perfect basis for classic riffing in blues, rock and traditional hard rock.

For the American clean sound, the Hughes&Kettner StompMan also offers very variable options, for example I was very impressed by a clean gain setting with a strong sagging component. To hear the sagging effect in an A/B comparison, I recorded the same riff with and without sagging, the result speaks for itself. In conclusion, the StompMan can only be given top marks. The amp convinces with tiny dimensions with a very good sound, which is really, very close to the originals in the style of a 2203 or 2204, but has a significantly higher circuit flexibility, which again significantly increases the portability.

Hughes&Kettner StompMan – Clean

Hughes&Kettner StompMan – Crunch 1

Hughes&Kettner StompMan – Crunch 2

Hughes&Kettner StompMan – Humbucker No Sagging

Hughes&Kettner StompMan – Humbucker With Sagging

Conclusion

With the Hughes & Kettner StompMan, the German company has landed another big hit. The excellent-sounding amp impresses with a clever concept, which puts it in the front row of working musicians in terms of transportability and flexibility.

If you want to get the maximum sound out of your floorboard, you should definitely try the amp.

For further information about the amp, please check out THIS LINK and check your language at the upper right corner.

GET YOUR BEST PRICE AT MUSIKHAUS THOMANN OR AT AMAZON

Written by Axel Ritt for Neworleansmusicians.com







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This Guy Levi

“I got inside of it (the tomb)… I dug down a little further, and it was about the size of a cigarette pack. It looked like the little bible you get from Sunday school. And I knew immediately what it was… I could barely read any of the words. It was weathered and in bad shape. But I read those words, that poem, and it hit me what this guy was going through.” What Levi held in his hands was actually a diary containing the last words of a man headed off to battle in the Civil War. He would go on to include this in his upcoming EP, Gettysburg.

Levi Clark grew up in Metairie, Louisiana in typical American hard-working household. They built cars, they played football, they worked on dead people, and they played music. Okay, maybe not entirely typical. But they were close knit and full of life. The youngest of five children, he began to gravitate toward music at a very early age. And there was certainly a wide variety where he was raised. Levi remembers, “My brothers were listening to Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin; there was Woodstock basically in that room. And my sisters listened to LTD, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Peabo Bryson. Mom had Coltrane and Billy Holiday. Dad had Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, ZZ Hill, Muddy Waters.” His first experience making music was on his brother Avery’s drum set. At the age of six, he snuck into his brother’s room with the intention of figuring out what drums were all about. But with no drum sticks in site, he proceeded to break a drum head using a brush and a comb. Being a percussionist, part of the discipline his father handed down was playing Led Zeppelin IV over and over, and making Levi learn how to play the proper way, this time with actual drum sticks. “Every time I made a mistake, I got popped with a drumstick. And when this (interview) comes out, my brother Avery will find out how I learned that because he has no idea that I got my ass tore up for breaking his drum”, Levi recalled.

            At family gatherings, the Clarks didn’t break out the radio. The family would bring their instruments and a live session would serve as entertainment for the occasion. With his brother Avery on drums, his other brother Ronald on bass, his step-brother Donald on keys, and his cousin Wade on guitar, the gatherings became real events. “They were kids, barely in their 20’s! And they’re back there playing Hendrix. And they’re back there playing Muddy Waters, and Sly and the Family Stone” Levi exclaimed. Music would always be a huge influence in Levi’s world as a child and even to this day. At the young age of five, he got a chance to see his father DJ at a dinner reception for his brother. And one could argue that this experience forever changed his life. The place was packed, everyone was on the dance floor. And to close out the night, his father played Who’s Loving You by the Jackson 5. Levi explained, “I had already known that Michael was my age when he sang that. And I’m watching these grown, drunk ass men belt out the words being sung by a 5-year-old. At that point it became my disease. I thought, I wish I could create something that made people move the way I saw those people move.”

            With an ear for the drums, Levi would spend the rest of his life in pursuit of his new found passion. Though his first band was known by the name of Never Fall, his first gig was a sold-out show at the municipal auditorium with a band by the name of House of Dread. He was just sixteen years old. Accompanied by his two cousins, he showed up with all his gear only to find out that, unbeknownst to him, the band had hired a guy named Kufaru to replace him. Yet he didn’t cower, nor did he break. Wounded, betrayed, and dressed to the nines, Levi got on stage anyway. “It’s a live gig man”, said Levi. “Shit’s gonna happen that’s out of your control. Not everything is going to go the way you want it to happen. You just have to duck and cover and move forward.” With a hard lesson learned, he went back to playing with Never Fall which, according to Levi was a three-piece progressive rock band influenced by bands like Rush and Saga. And oddly enough, he would be using his brother Avery’s drum kit. On the bill with Big Sum, Exhibit A, and Dead Eye Dick, Levi recalls one night playing at Muddy Waters, in Uptown New Orleans. “So I’m on stage during our last song doing my Neil Peart thing, my big rock thing (insert mouth drum sounds here), you know. I hit the last note and found out that someone had put a door behind the drum riser. When I hit this last note, the centrifugal force threw me back and through the door to the outside. I had to run back inside and up on stage to close out the set.”

As Levi was well aware, paying dues came with the territory. But the common goal was always to make it to the big leagues. One time at practice, he found himself face to face with an A&R for Sony Music Group. The only thing more they wanted was a bassist and a rhythm guitar player to make the outfit complete. At the time, Levi was occasionally jamming with another band by the name of Sobriquet. From that experience, he was able to call on some friends. As Levi explained, “I contacted Michael Prado and a guy by the name of Brad Richoux. They were ready but Adam and John decided that school was more important. And they were right. John went on to be a banker or some shit but Adam went on to do work for Steve Vai.” Always moving forward, Levi would form his new band Cain immediately following.

            Cain would start out playing at The Abstract on Magazine Street, and even got an opportunity to Play with Green Day before they made it big. To hear him paint the picture, Levi described The Abstract as the CBGB’s of New Orleans. “They had Dang Bruh WhY, Cain, Apostacy, Abuse played there. One of Philip Anselmo’s projects called The Satanic had played there. It was a shithole. But it was the best shithole. It was the atmosphere, the ambiance. To get any further underground you’d have to go to Haiti. But it grew. It grew like an oak.”

            I wanted to shift focus a bit so I inquired about a bar in Fat City that so many people of that era used to frequent. Arguably, it was one of the most important bars for the metal scene in the greater New Orleans area. This gem was known as Zeppelin’s. With bands like Crowbar, Sevendust, Morbid Angel, Sepultura, Obituary, Anal Cunt and countess others, and often for as cheap as five bucks, you couldn’t find a better place to go see live rock music. Alongside this hotbed of talent came networking and opportunity. And Levi with his band Cain was eager to come up. He thought back to one such fortunate night playing at Zeppelin’s where his band scored a chance to perform on tour with Sevendust. “We showed up that night, played our asses off, and hit it off pretty well with Lajon. We threw all our shit in a minivan and followed them.”

            Remembering a time after a particularly rough day on the job at the funeral home, Levi told me how he came to meet his now guitarist and closest friend, Trey Heflin, at the Ski Lodge in Fat City. “I drive up with my entire 10-piece drum kit packed into my Nissan Pulsar, don’t ask me how. But I get in there and standing on the bar, smoking, drinking, doing shots is Trey Heflin. We had played with his band called Genocide at the time. And about a month after that gig we got a call from The Abstract to go do a gig at the New Orleans Music Hall. (We played with) MeJack, Gwar, and Rawg. That was insane. Genocide would end up being Cain’s brother band. We would play around town with them. I haven’t left that dude’s side since.”

            Albeit small, the metal scene was very interconnected at the time. Sometimes, the same guys you heard on the local radio station that day were the same guys you saw in the bar that night. And Levi’s experiences were no exception. “I was at Last Stop one night when I actually got a chance to hear the Down’s album NOLA record demo there. Philip (Anselmo) had gone in there some time after midnight when the crowd had thinned. I heard Temptations Wing, Underneath Everything, and Eyes of the South. I said to Philip, ‘man I don’t know if you know it man but that’s some bad ass shit.’ That was the first time I actually saw Last Stop…. Stop.”

            As a current member of not one but two bands, Misled and Southern Brutality, he’s somehow found time to cultivate a new sonic venture. Levi’s latest project, 1016, is named for the address of the house he grew up in, where his love and obsession for music began. Resonating an influence of blues from his mother and his father, he maintains that 1016’s style is raw, uncontrived and unpretentious. His vision is to see it fester into a disease that will infect as many people as possible. (That ought to trip a few Covid algorithms) Following 1016’s eminent EP, Gettysburg, their first album will come. And they hope to spawn a tour shortly thereafter. When asked about his vision for the band, he cited no one particular direction, literally. “I’ll put it to you like this. The same vision that Robert Johnson had, the same vision Leadbelly had; they had no vision. They just did it.”

            Whether it be visions or messages, both can be found hidden in the sounds coming through your speakers. Levi pointed out one such message conveyed through the power in 1016’s melodies. “The reason why we’re tuned to C and still playing the blues shit is to show people you don’t have to be blast heavy. The technique I’m using is a blues technique; the call and response technique. And the reason I do it tuned like this is to get rid of that whole death core, metal core, blues core… whatever you want to call that shit. It’s called Rock and Roll man.”

You can find footage of an interview with Levi on our videos page here or on our YouTube Channel.

BAND RUNDOWN

Jennifer Leach on vocals

Levi Clark on guitar

Trey Heflin on guitar

Jamie Clouatre on bass

Drummer TBA

The upcoming EP Gettysburg features Tiger Agnelly on vocals and Brian Ordoyne playing drums.

Author: David Trahan, President of Neworleansmusicians.com