Hughes & Kettner offer different amps that cater to both types of guitarist but in this instance we are dealing with the German company’s latest all-singing-all dancing metal-tastic flagship. Coreblade tube amp head is the flagship of Hughes & Kettner’s line of programmable tube amps. This amp is for those guitarists who like to play metal but who also like to tweak. There are so many features on the head! Still criminally overlooked in the search for great tone, Hughes & Kettner’s range is stunning from cost effective solid state designs such as the Attax, to the mindblowing exotica of the digital Zentera and TriAmp.
A combination of valve amp and digital effects with full MIDI programmability, with 4 independent channels, 3 parallel FX modules, an intelligent noise gate, automatic power tube management, and analog programming technology add up to an awe inspiring arsenal of merciless sounds. And that makes Hughes & Kettner Coreblade amplifier the top notch tube amp of choice for modern metal axe slingers. It can also do the vintage thing, as Puretone owners will testify. So the new Pro Class flagship head, the Coreblade, has quite a reputation to live up to.
Image Source: wwbw.com
Model: Hughes & Kettner Coreblade
Headline: Metal Head 2010
Channels: Clean, Drive, Ultra I, Ultra II
Power: 100 Watts
Poweramp: Shipped with 4x EL34, but also 6L6GC applicables
Footswitch/Stageboard: MIDI-Board FSM-432 MKII included
Switching Functions: 4xPreset, Bank up, Bank down, Tap Delay
Special Features: All Controls are fully programmable; Adjustable Noisegate; USB-Backup; Tube Safety Control (TSC)
Presets: 128 user presets
The Coreblade is a four-channel amp with separate Clean and Drive channels, plus two dedicated high gain overdrive channels with individual voicing that covers just about every tonal spectrum between ‘apocalypse’ and ‘Armageddon’. There’s also a boost switch that can be programmed on or off for each channel, making for a total of eight basic sounds.
The Clean channel sounds a little flat without the boost engaged. The Drive channel is perfect for crunch rhythm or an alternative solo tone, though it’s a little too aggressive to be called vintage or classic. The dual high-gain channels offer tremendous versatility from a hard rock or metal player’s perspective thanks to the facility to dial in a classic ‘scooped’ rhythm tone with the mids dropped way down so as to enhance the low and high frequencies; complimented by a solo channel with smooth liquid mids. But This two lead sounds are different, althought not as much as we’d like. Ultra 1 is smoother and more tightly controlled, while Ultra 2 has a more open character with increased low-end chunk for detuners.
The ultra precise, remarkably musical Intelligent Dual Breakpoint (IDB) noise gate (which simultaneously measures the gain at the input jack and after the preamp, to react perfectly in any given situation) is available for all channels. This gate can be switched on or off (and is saved in your preset memory too) and on the back panel there is a knob for adjusting its intensity. The noise gate present must be commended, monitoring both the signal at guitar input and preamp out. It makes for a far more open-minded approach to suppression, allowing musicality and nuance whilst keeping tone steady. The power amp feedback circuit reconfigures to tap the full sonic potential of each channel, evoking sounds that do everything from sparkle and chime, to sing and scream. But it can’t be changed independently.
There are three independent digital effects processors onboard; Reverb (with a single control), Modulation (with one control for Effect Depth and one for Effect Select, between chorus, flanger, phaser and tremolo that progresses from slow to fast speeds before switching to the next effect and repeating the speedup) and Digital Delay (controls for Level, Feedback and Time). The on-board effects enhance tone without sacrificing integrity. The innovative IPM (Inversed Parallel Modulation) circuit lets you blend the wet signal in with the dry, dialing not only in reverb and delay, but also in chorus, phaser, flanger, and even tremolo. Digital effects are taken care of by a group of six smaller control knobs to the left of the panel. A bunch of blue buttons next to the master volume handle your effects loop on/of and series/parallel duties, as well as buttons for turning on the adjustable noise gate and for storing your settings.
Programmable and maintenance free, PRN (Programmable Resistor Network) potentiometers are the most sophisticated analog sound shaping tools. Which lets the user adjust the resonant peak of the speaker cabinet to dial in extra low end thump should they need it. Only Hughes & Kettner has mastered the science of these elaborate knobs to benefit your art. The really cool thing about the Resonance control is that the extra bottom end comes at no expense to the power amp, so that even at fairly modest volumes the Coreblade conveys the impression that the amp sounds absolutely huge.
The Coreblade is able to store 128 user presets, and you can store your settings on a USB memory stick and recall this quickly and easy via footswitch. Talking of the footswitch, another thing in this amp’s favour is that the footswitch is included in the price and is vital to gain access to all of the 128 separate presets. With up to three separate effects available per channel, there is no compromise when sorting out the perfect sound for any song or set list and the effects themselves sound as cool and vibey as any good quality stomp box. An included MIDI board affords easy access to presets. What’s more, Hughes & Kettner Coreblade is the first tube amp worldwide that downloads presets directly to USB sticks and uploads presets at the touch of a button.
On the back panel, there is an LED system which tells you what tubes need replacing, and when you insert a guitar pick into the back slot, you get a tube readout which tells you the condition of your tubes. They call this ‘TSC’ or ‘Tube Safety Control’. It’s a power tube management circuit that automatically biases the amp to ensure stable sound and long tube life. It also shuts down defective tubes to get you through the gig, and indicates ratings to make tube selection an exercise in convenience. So, you can use EL34s or 6L6s, in any combination, and even do your own matching using a clever function that’s activated simply by pressing the recessed switch with a plectrum.
This’s a review video about H&K Coreblade
Overall, the feature set is amazing and it is the most versatile and adaptable amp, with feature-wise that aimed primarily at touring pro players, any serious metalhead who wants real valve amp sounds, effects and programmability wrapped up in one neat box. This amp is very simple and straightforward to use after reading through the manual. The included guide is both simple and intuitive, just like the amp. The price of Hughes & Kettner Coreblade’s about $2.119,00