Stamer Gruppe Milestones

40 Years‘ Spirit of Innovation




Lothar Stamer, an engineer, and his brother Hans, a financial expert, founded Stamer Musikanlagen to offer more sophisticated, better-sounding speaker systems to musicians and event organizers. Initially a custom shop that designed and built systems to purpose, the company soon set up a PA-for-hire service that handled major events throughout southwestern Germany.

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After five years of steady growth, the time had come to think bigger. Advanced products that benefit users in even more ways, paired with an exciting new brand identity – that was our plan for penetrating the international market. It was set in motion in October 1984 with the first product to bear the new brand name Hughes & Kettner. The groundbreaking QX4 made a big splash in Germany that soon spilled over to Europe. Adjusting our production practices to meet the great demand, we put our handmade custom builds on the backburner for a while to become a manufacturing enterprise.

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The QX4’s success gave rise to a full line of loudspeakers. With demand for Hughes & Kettner products soaring, it was high time for the next step. We in-sourced our marketing communications and set up the sales division that would later become Music & Sales.

The first Hughes & Kettner instrument amplifier debuted that year. The world’s first fully programmable guitar amp, the AS64 hit home with many guitarists and opened doors to key markets such as the USA.

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With our first headquarters in the Saarland hamlet of Münchwies bursting at the seams, we relocated the company to a new industrial park in the town of St. Wendel. Designed to meet our needs and offering plenty of room to expand, these buildings would gradually be fitted with industrial production lines.

Our big hit that year was the Hughes & Kettner Cream Machine, another groundbreaking design that resonated with guitarists. The first of our products to crack the 10,000 -mark in sales, it flew off shelves. Its circuitry would go on to feature prominently in many successful Hughes & Kettner guitar amps.

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One brand, two target groups with very different needs… – that hardly sounded like a recipe for sustained success, so we decided to give each target group – audio users and guitarists – a brand of its own. The first HK Audio product, the P1 system, hit the market in 1989. By the time the 1990s rolled around, all PA speakers from St. Wendel sported the new brand logo. Hughes & Kettner has since been the brand reserved for instrument amplifiers.

That year, we installed our first computer-controlled milling machines to scale up production, tighten up tolerances, and usher in the age of Industry 2.0 in our factory.

The Red Box was a milestone product. This ingenious little DI box would become the template for a new category of product that continues to inspire imitations to this day.

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HK Audio put premium audio quality within reach of smaller PA companies and bands for the first time with the LINEAR PRO line. Today’s LINEAR series continues this tradition.

Hughes & Kettner presented another inspired idea that year – tube-tone to go. The wonderfully portable Tubeman remains a go-to tool in many studios. Sought after by collectors, it also fetches a pretty price on the used market.

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Seeking to put the flow in workflow, we reorganized our shop floor so there would be nothing to lift, carry or haul between stations. The revamped production line made working life easier for everyone on the shop floor and boosted productivity.

HK Audio rolled out its new line of large PAs. Called the R-SERIES and featuring the world’s first FIR controller, this system’s performance on stadium tours with German rock giants such as Westernhagen and the Scorpions is the stuff of legend.

Hughes & Kettner presented its new flagship amp, the TriAmp.  Carlos Santana, Alex Lifeson and Nuno Bettencourt were quick to embrace its six channels of sonic sophistication.

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That year would bring the next big improvement on the shop floor: an automated paint line. Its robots can coat 600 speaker cabinets a day with a tough, eco-friendly and phenomenally uniform skin.

HK Audio launched LUCAS, the Stamer Group’s most successful product line to date, in 1998. Its success, too, was born of an innovative concept. The first sophisticated PA system to feature a plug ‘n’ play design, LUCAS affords easy access to great sound. Even novice users get to enjoy excellent results, instantly.

The first rotary cabinet simulator to serve up authentic sound, the Hughes & Kettner Tube Rotosphere, would go on to become a crown jewel in the rigs of rock royalty such as Jon Lord and Jeff Beck.

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We had made the most of our Magdeburger Straße, St. Wendel facility. With no more room to expand, we branched out to a second location a few hundred meters away on Tritschlerstraße. This has been home to the Stamer Group’s admin, sales and marketing offices, the R&D lab and our electronics production unit ever since.

We also have an EMC testing lab of our own and Europe’s largest Class 1 acoustic measuring room, which we share with a prestigious partner in science, the Fraunhofer Institute.

Hughes & Kettner launched its first modeling amp, the zenTera. Several years in development, it was the first device to use Dynamic Sector Modeling, a pioneering method of generating guitar tone. Released to much acclaim, it would come to be called “the boss of digital amps”.

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Our new metalworking shop added another asset to our manufacturing arsenal. It has since produced all our metal enclosure parts and speaker grilles.

That year, HK Audio also rolled out the brand’s first large line array system, COHEDRA. It remains the go-to choice for users seeking pure, unadulterated sound for large-scale applications.

The HK Audio demo hall opened in 2004 on our premises. It has since hosted user training and dealer events.

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Hughes & Kettner unveiled the Switchblade, the world’s first fully programmable tube amp, in 2007. It came with an innovative circuit called the Programmable Resistor Network that enabled players to store all sound parameters via an analog signal path. This circuit remains a mainstay of many Hughes & Kettner products.

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ELEMENTS’ trailblazing design made it the year’s most highly regarded innovation. In the ensuing years, it would become the HK Audio brand’s most successful standalone product.

Hughes & Kettner redefined what a modern compact tube amp has to be and do with the Tubemeister. Its features and benefits remain the industry benchmark to this day. The Meister line of amps were the USA’s best-selling tube-amp heads for several years running.

ELEMENTS and Tubemeister were the first of our products to be made in an international alliance that strikes the best balance between the St. Wendel parent plant’s capacities and the capabilities of our partners in Asia.

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This year’s new development, the Multicell Transformer, marked another major milestone for HK Audio. It brings the benefits of pristine sound and precise directivity to more compact designs. This tech debuted in the sensational LUCAS NANO 600 system, which sounds so much bigger than its small footprint would suggest.

We installed our first five-axis CNC milling machines for our cabinetmakers and new robots in the paint line. This was a big step towards fully networked, automatically controlled manufacturing – or what has come to be called Industry 4.0.

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HK Audio presented a groundbreaking new line array that year. The COSMO line is the first to combine components with different directivities in a way that does not comprise audio performance.

Our HKademy opened its doors to host events and train distributors, retailers and users.

Hughes & Kettner charted a new course for the future with Black Spirit 200, an advanced guitar amp featuring innovative ‘bionic’ sound generation.

This post is also available in: German

This post is also available in: German