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Hughes & Kettner Tube Factor: REVIEW.


When my ancient Boss GT-5 was killed at the last gig of 2014, I ordered one of these.


Now the GT-5 is a completely different animal to the Tube Factor, so its not exactly a replacement, but just a change of approach.


The TF is just a pre-amp. Nothing more nor less. Its an expensive one. Its also been around for quite a while. I had some trouble finding one.


The main thing about the TF is that it uses a vacuum tube at its heart. Though in the UK we would call this a 'valve'.

Since my old Fender amp (Fender Stage 112 se) is solid state circuitry only, I thought I would add a tube/valve component and see if it performs better than the amps drive channel*.


(*Some people are of the mistaken opinion that the 112 se has tubes, it was advertised as a 'hybrid' in the shop I bought it from)


The TF is very simple in operation. It doesn't use batteries, and is supplied with a PSU.

It appears to power up when plugged in as the logo lights up immediately. It is actually just on standby.

The tube/valve itself is visible through a transparent window on the front of the unit. It has a dim orange glow.


It has 2 stomp buttons. The first turns on (engages) the unit. The second engages the 2nd drive 'factor'.


The 2 'factors' are low & high gain levels. The green light indicates factor 1 and the red light factor 2.


Factor 1 is subtle.

Factor 2 is higher distortion.


There are three dials to control the sound.



DRIVE: this determines the gain (distortion) level.

OUTPUT: This moderates the volume. A higher DRIVE setting will increase the volume, so the OUTPUT can back it down again.

VOICING: This sounds like compression to me. Its a useful extra control. I dislike a lot of compression, but a little can sound sweet and help separate the guitar from the other (live or studio) instruments sounds.


Its a high quality unit. String separation is pretty good, even at higher drive levels. It does have a tone that's distinct from the amps own drive channel. Its very subtle but very appealing too.


Now I tried out several tube amps before I bought the Stage 112, and I preferred the sound of the 112. Ok, maybe I'm a philistine, but my ears did the choosing. The point is that the amps drive channel sounds PDG.


The sound difference is difficult to describe, but once I found the sweet tone I forgot about the TF completely and just enjoyed playing for an extended period. For me that sweet tone was using factor 1 with about 45% gain and 30% voicing.



The sound inspired me to just keep playing. So the TF was worth the £219 price tag ($338). The amp was of course set to its clean channel.


I tried two guitars with the unit, a '95 Jackson soloist XL (the gigging guitar) and a Jackson Elite (the studio guitar).

The soloist sounded best using the neck PU with the tone on full treble. That PU is a passive single coil Jackson type.


The Elite sounded best using the bridge PU with tone at 50% and the presence** at 100%

(** 'presence' is a guess. Jackson don't give instructions or explain anything). That PU is a Seymour Duncan active humbucker.



I couldn't find a good demo of the TF (and have just had to replace the former one)but this will give you some idea

None of what you hear on this resembles the sounds I got from my rig.




The tube sound is certainly there. It is as I said a subtle sound. I only slighter prefer it to the Stage 112 drive channel. I have rarely used the the amps drive channel live (the dead GT-5 slaved the amp on its clean channel).


The unit itself is robust and is pretty big for a single stomp box. The PSU though, has a light thin cable. Good enough for its job certainly, but I would have preferred a heavier gauge outer 'skin' to stand up the rigours of live use. It would be a nuisance have to source a replacement in the future.


My Rating:

SOUND : 9/10


VERSATILITY: 2/10 (you cant easily swap between factors 1 & 2 because the volume will need adjustment)

BUILD QUALITY: 6/10 (would be 8/10 if the PSU was better).


Note: In addition to the IN & OUT jack sockets. there is a third REMOTE socket.


I was planning to debut the unit at a Blown Out gig. However, since then I have got another signal processor from Line 6 which has now taken precedence. I’ll post a review of that soon.

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