Best Tube Amp – Buying Guide, Advice and Reviews for 2019

Tube (or ‘valve’) amps are famous for producing warm, fat tones as well as generating natural distortion. They’re also incredibly responsive – if you pick gently, for example, they respond accordingly. This is why they’ve been every guitarists favorite for so long, from Jimmy Page to Angus Young.

In this article, we’re going to look at the reason why you’d want to buy ones of these very cool amps. We’ll look at the best small amps (5 and 10 watts), mid-sized (15 watts) up to 85 watts. As well as combo, we’ll also look at tube amp heads.

If you’re in a rush, here’s a quick peek of the products we review.

At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best Tube Amps on the Market

Best Small Tube Amps (Combo Amps, 5 – 10 Watt)

Best 15 Watt Tube Amps (Combo Amps)

Best 30 Watt and Above (Combo Amps)

Best Tube Amp Heads

Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

Ok, let’s get started. Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

What is a Tube Amp?

A tube amp uses tubes to generate sound.

Speak to anyone about why they like tube amps, and they’ll tell you it’s due to the warmth they create in terms of sound. That warmth is literal – these machines have tubes inside them which heat up and glow.

How Do They Work?

The tubes they have in them are similar to light bulbs, meaning that they can burn out and cause noise or signal loss. If/when this happens, you will need to replace them. They differ from light bulbs in that they have an extra electrode inside which works to modulate the current and electronically amplify the sound.

Tubes used to be the only way of electronically amplifying sound, although, in the 60s and 70s, digital amplification began to take over due to the ease of maintenance.

The warmth of the tone is encouraged by the way distorted valve signals produce even harmonics, which are naturally musical.

Natural Overdrive

These tubes amplify the signal from your guitar and the more strain that is put on them (i.e., the higher the volume), the louder the signal sounds. When they’re turned up loud, the tubes distort the guitars sound. This is what takes it from clean to a ‘cranked’ overdriven sound.


Headroom refers to how much space you have before the clean tone on the amp starts to break up, giving you the overdriven sound we mention above. Low-watt tube amps often have less of a way to go before they start distorting than higher watt amps do.

This is important to bear in mind when using a valve amp, as it’s probable that you’ll want to get out of that ‘headroom’ at least some of the time. Unlike with solid-state amps, your choice of wattage will make a real difference to your day-to-day tone, so it’s important to pick one which you can get the max out of at a volume that’s appropriate to where you’re playing.

Benefits of Tube Amps


The tone you get from these machines is difficult to put into words, but it’s something most guitarists love. The tube amp offers a lush tone that you don’t just hear: you feel. The organic way in which amplification is achieved using valves may contribute to the naturally pleasing sounds these amps create.

Ease of Troubleshooting

As well as being easy to control when they sound good, these things are easy to fix when something does go wrong. If the valves burn out, the amp will either stop working or will demonstrate a noticeable degradation in tone. This is easy to troubleshoot and easy to fix (by replacing the valves).


Due to the natural, old-school way they work, they respond better than digital/transistor amps. As you play through a tube amp, your signal remains transparent, and as you control the dynamics on your guitar, you simultaneously control the tone of the amp.

Disadvantages of Tube Amps

Of course, for all their advantages, there are a few reasons why you might choose a solid state one.


These amps are significantly more expensive than digital ones. Even those of a lower wattage can take a big chunk out of your bank account, which is enough to put many musicians on a budget off the idea.

There’s also the fact that the valves are going to need maintenance and probably replacing at some point, which ups the cost even further.

Warming Up

These amps sound best when they’ve been left to warm up for a while.

The general rule of thumb is that you turn it on 20-30 minutes before you want to play with it, for it to sound its best.

This is fine if you remember and if there’s the option of waiting 20-30 minutes with your amp plugged in and ready to go. However, if you’re playing a tight-changeover gig, this isn’t always an option, meaning your amp won’t be producing its best sound.

No Onboard Effects

Unlike digital boxes, there aren’t a bunch of built-in effects on tube ones. You get reverb sometimes, tremolo less commonly and less commonly still you might see delay and chorus. However, generally, reverb is the most you can expect.

This can put some players off, who don’t want to make the additional purchase(s) of effects pedals.

Buying Guide – Things to Consider When Purchasing a Tube Amp

Personal Use or Gigging?

Most players will agree that the sound of a valve amp comes to life when it’s turned to 3 or above.

However, if it’s mainly for practice, it doesn’t make sense to buy one with a high wattage. If you do, it’s unlikely it will ever make it into its sweet spot, and you’ll be spending all of that money for nothing.

Amps for home use are anywhere from 5 to 20 watts. Some of these small amps even have inbuilt attenuators so that you can adjust it between very quiet and pretty loud, with the sweet spot remaining in the same place.

If you’re buying one for gigging, 100 watts or more makes sense, unless you’re only going to use it in intimate venues, in which case you can go for a smaller alternative.

Clean or Distorted Tones?

If you are after one which will deliver mainly clean tones of high quality, you should look one with plenty of headroom before it starts to ‘clip.’ If overdrive is what you’re after, you might want something with less headroom.

If you’re looking for an amp which can do both well, and you’re likely to switch between the two, look for something with two channels. This enables you to adjust your clean settings and your overdriven settings, leave them there and flick between the two.

Amp Tone / Voicing?

Some amplifiers emphasize highs and lows, whereas some focus more on mids and punch. If you’re looking for one which delivers American rock sounds, something which emphasizes high and low frequencies will be appropriate.

If you’re looking for a more British rock sound,  you want one which emphasizes middle frequencies and punchiness.

If you’re a jazzer, the Fender Twin Reverb will deliver a beautifully transparent, clean tone that will allow you to feel as though it’s a part of you coming out of there.

Heavier players might like something with included distortion, and lots of EQ controllability.

Combo amp or Head & Cabinet?

Whether you go for a combo or a head and cabinet depends on how big the venues are that you’re going to be playing. Some combo amps are big enough for small venues, but as the size of the place gets bigger, they might struggle to fill the room.  A head and cabinet are capable of pushing out more sound.


Do you need EQ? If so, would you like separate EQ settings for the different channels, or would you prefer to keep the EQ consistent, even as you shift between different sound settings?

Maybe you’re not interested in having EQ on the box, and would rather control this using a separate pedal.

Amps differ when it comes to EQ controls, varying from multiple controls for each channel, to combined controls for both channels to just one ‘tone’ control.

If you want to be able to shape your tone using just your guitar and your amplifier, look for one with at least a high, mid and a low control.


Some products have built-in power attenuators. This allows you to lower the power rating and make the amp quieter. Reducing the power like this also lets you crank the gain at more modest volume levels, so you can achieve superior tones without playing at an excessive volume.

You can buy external attenuators, but if it’s something you’re going to require, then it makes sense to have it all in one unit.

Speaker Size

Different size speakers produce different sounds. Smaller speakers tend to produce higher frequencies than larger speakers, while larger speakers are usually more effective at bringing out the low end. Mid-sized speakers are best at bringing a mid-range emphasis.

Preferring the sound of a smaller speaker doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice your right to be loud, though. With some decent mic-ing up, you can gig with small amps, and many artists choose to as they prefer the sound.

Certain speakers are of higher quality, too. Celestion speakers, in particular, are renowned for their ability to produce a loud volume that remains crisp and clear.

Input/Output Options

Some of these amps have more than one input, which can be useful if you need to plug more than one instrument in.

There are also sometimes multiple output options. If you need additional speakers on a larger amp, look for a speaker out. If you’re seeking silence as you practice, look for a headphone out on a practice amp.

Some modern amps include a USB in/out so that you can hook it up with your smartphone or computer.

Cabinet Types

Cabinets come in a few different shapes and sizes. Closed back cabinets push the sound of your guitar forward, producing a bright and punchy tone. They are easy to mic up, so are often the preference of sound engineers.

Open back cabinets are often the preference of drummers. They let the sound spill out of the back of the amp as well as through the front, and they fill the stage better.

Ported cabinets have small ports at the back, which some sound leaks through. They tend to emphasize low-end frequencies, so can be the preference of ‘beefier’ players.

Build Quality and Durability?

How tough do you need your tube amplifier to be? What are you doing with it? Are you keeping it at home, gigging a lot, taking it on tour?

When moving it from gig to gig, it’s likely that they’re going to get bashed about. Good corner protectors are worth looking out to avoid inadvertently bashing the corners while transporting.

The thickness of wood used to construct the cabinet can also make it more sturdy, as well as improving the quality of sound. When a thin wood is used, there’s a risk of the speaker vibrating until it is loose. A thickness of half an inch or more will sound strong and last well.

Extra Features You’ll Find on Some Tube Amps


Some of the products we review include reverb settings.

These can be analog or digital but tend to be analog in keeping with the organic nature of the amp. These additional effects are welcome on the vintage-style gear and can boost your options.

More advanced models include effects such as delay, chorus, and distortion. If you’re likely to use these effects, look for one which has some built-in to save you time and money with pedals.

Footswitch Pedals

To control the built-in effects, or to switch between clean and overdriven channels, tube amps also sometimes come with footswitch pedals.

These are extremely useful for performers who need to swap channels on stage but even for those who are practicing at home will appreciate not having to walk over to the amp to change their sound. This isn’t to mention the fact that pedals also keep your hands free (to play the guitar!).

Product Round-up & Mini Reviews – Best Tube Amps

Best Small Tube Amps (Combo, 5 – 10 Watt)

Monoprice 611705 5-Watt 1×8 Combo

Monoprice 611705 5-Watt 1x8 Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier - Tan/Beige with Celestion Super 8 Inch Speaker, 12AX7 Preamp, Versatile and Durable For All Electric Guitars

The Monoprice 611705 is a 5-watt amp, but it can be adjusted so that it’s 1 watt if you need less volume with the same sweet spot.

There’s a Celestion speaker which is of excellent quality and gives it a bright sound which is warm as well as crisp.

As well as the 5W/1W attenuator, it has a tone control and volume control, keeping things simple and allowing you to memorize your settings quickly.

Who is this best suited for?

This is perfect for the guitarist who wants to practice at home with something that sounds good and doesn’t want the hassle of multiple EQ controls or more than one channel. It will be less suited for those who need to quickly switch between clean and overdriven sounds or those who require more control over their EQ.


  • Simple controls keep the tone of your guitar transparent.
  • One watt /5-watt switch enables you to attenuate the signal and get a meaty sound at a lower volume.
  • The Celestion speaker offers a detailed and crisp sound which has well-balanced mids and highs as well as a warm low-end tone.


  • There’s no onboard reverb.
  • There’s no headphone output.
  • There’s just one channel.


BUGERA V5 5-Watt Class Amplifier Combo

BUGERA V5 5-Watt Class Amplifier Combo with Infinium Tube Life Multiplier Black (V5INFINIUM)

The BUGERA V5 is another 5-watt amp with a built-in attenuator. As well as being able to adjust it to 5 watts, you can also turn this one as low as 0.1 watts, making it the quietest one here.

There’s a built-in reverb so that you can replicate classic rock tones and there’s also a gain, volume and tone control.

It also comes with a headphone output, so you can practice without your neighbors hearing you at all, and it has a nice vintage look about it.

Which sort of player is this for?

It is perfect for those who want something to practice on that won’t disturb those next door. It will also suit traveling guitarists who want something that they can use in a hotel room. It would be less suited to guitarists who need something with more advanced EQ controls, or who aren’t interested in being as quiet as they can be.


  • The power is switchable between 5W, 1W and 0.1W, so you can achieve overdriven sounds even at a minute volume.
  • Has gain, tone, volume and reverb controls which allow you to shape your sound to achieve classic rock tones.
  • Includes a headphone output, so you can practice without disturbing even those in the next room.


  • There’s no footswitch option.
  • There’s just one channel.
  • It seems to focus heavily on lower frequencies, giving it a bassy sound which might not suit everybody.



Vox AC4TV All-tube Practice Amplifier

The Vox AC4TV is very stylish, and can be adjusted to 4 watts, 1 watts or ¼ of a watt.

Like the Monoprice above, it has just two simple controls for tone and volume, making it easy to use and great for the beginner.

It has an external speaker output, should you wish to create a bigger sound, and includes a high-quality Celestion speaker which gives it clarity and smoothness.

What type of player will love this?

The styling is very vintage, and it will be suited to those who want something that will double up as a piece of furniture. It will be less suited to those who are looking for anything more advanced, as there are no effects on here and there’s only one EQ setting.


  • Simple controls keep the sound of your guitar transparent and responsive.
  • Output level can be adjusted to 4W, 1W or 1/4W.
  • It has quality vintage styling which will make most guitarists swoon.


  • There’s no built-in reverb.
  • There’s just one channel.
  • It seems to focus heavily on top end tone, which might not suit everybody.


Best 15 Watt Tube Amps (Combo)

Orange ROCKER15

Orange Amps Amplifier Part (ROCKER15)

The Orange Rocker 15 is another great looking machine which offers exceptional versatility.

There are two channels on this one: ‘normal’ and ‘dirty,’ and these can be flicked between using either the onboard toggle or a footswitch.

Like the others, there’s an adjustable output, so you can quietly practice at 0.5 or 1 watt, get a bit louder with 7 watts and perform a small gig at 15.

There’s also 3-band EQ on this model, so you have a high level of control over your tonal options.

It has classic Orange styling and will look equally good in any practice room or on a stage.

It will be suited to those musicians who want something that they can take around with them and use at an open mic night or even a gig.

It will be less suited to musicians who want something straightforward, although it is by no means hard to use.


  • Four different output levels give you lots of volume options.
  • There are two channels so that you can flick from normal to dirty with ease using either the toggle or a footswitch.
  • Bass, middle and treble controls give you full control over shaping your sound.


  • There’s no built-in reverb.
  • It’s pretty pricey.
  • There’s no headphone option.


Ibanez TSA15 1 x 12 15-Watt All-Tube Combo

Ibanez TSA15 1 x 12 15-Watt All-Tube Combo Guitar Amplifier

The Ibanez TSA15 is great for rockers.

It has three channels, one of which is the ‘tube screamer’, that’s capable of sounds which combine tube tone with legendary distortion effects. The other two channels are clean and boost, so you get some real versatility here.

There’s a Celestion speaker, giving it a crisp, detailed sound which still manages to stay warm, and there’s a standby switch so you can let it warm up without turning it fully on and ease the power off slowly without damaging the valves.

It includes an attenuator which makes it 5-watt, so it’s suitable for practicing with at home as well as for taking to small gigs.

Who is best suited to this?

It’s perfect for those who require something a bit heavier-sounding than a standard valve box. It will be less suited to jazzier players, who require sweet clean tones.


  • Combines tube overdrive with classic distortion effects so that you can achieve some real heavy sounds.
  • Includes an attenuator which lets you take it down to 5W.
  • The Celestion speaker offers a detailed and crisp sound which has well-balanced mids and highs as well as a warm low-end tone.


  • There’s no built-in reverb.
  • Although its compatible with a footswitch, this isn’t included.
  • There’s no headphone output.


Fender Blues Junior IV 15 Watt

Fender Blues Junior IV 15 Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier

The Blues Junior is a beast, even at its relatively small size.

There are separate bass, middle and treble EQ controls, which allow you to shape the sound of your guitar to exactly how it suits you.

There’s also a ‘fat’ button which you can use as a booster to instantly fatten up your sound. The Celestion speaker gives it a crisp and bright tone, making it perfect for vintage blues sounds.

There’s just one channel, but it’s perfect for those who like to get a tone and stick to it, perhaps just ‘fattening’ it now and again.

Who will love this?

It will suit bluesy players who want to keep things pretty clean. It will be less suited to those who want to shift between clean and overdriven or distorted sounds.


  • There’s a ‘fat’ button to instantly ‘fatten’ your sound.
  • Plenty of controls including separate bass/middle/treble EQ allow you to shape the sound extensively.
  • Includes reverb, giving you easy access to classic rock sounds.


  • There’s no footswitch option.
  • It doesn’t have an attenuator.
  • There’s just one channel.


Best 30 Watt and Above Tube Amps (Combo)

Egnater REBEL (30 watts)

Egnater REBEL -30 112 MARK II 30-Watt Two-Channel Tube 1 x 12-Inch Combo with Tube Mix, Reverb and Silent Record, 2 x 6V6, 2 x EL84 Power Tubes, 5 x 12AX7 Preamp Tubes

The Egnater Rebel 30 is perfect for the studio, with an output which feeds directly into a mixer without any volume coming through the amp. Pretty neat.

It also has two separate channels, and there are EQ controls for each. Like a bit more low end on your overdriven sounds? No problem. There’s a lot of controllability here.

There’s an effects loop send and return which allows you to insert effects between the preamp and the power amp, allowing you to experiment with effects pedals and achieve the most effective sound.

You can shift the power from 30W down to 20W or even down to 1W, making the Egnator a great all-rounder for gigs, rehearsals, and quiet practicing.

The Egnator Rebel 30 will suit techy musicians who like to do their recording.

It will be less suited to those who like to keep things simple.


  • Two separate channels with EQ controls for each.
  • Effects loop send and return allows you to insert effects.
  • Speaker mute mode enables silent recording.


  • There’s no headphone socket.
  • It’s expensive.
  • The clean channel has fewer EQ controls than the overdriven channel.


Fender Blues Deluxe (40 watt)

Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40-Watt 1x12-Inch Guitar Combo Amp - Tweed

The Blues Deluxe is legendary with a vintage look and vintage tones.

There are two channels so that you can switch between clean and overdriven sounds with ease and it comes with a footswitch so you can tap from smooth to edgy with your toes.

There are bass, middle and treble EQ controls, so you can shape your sound to suit you, and there’s also a reverb feature which gives you access to some sweet, classic bluesy settings. The classic tweed finish and chicken-head pointer knobs aren’t to be sniffed at either.

Who is this suited for?

It will suit the Fender fanatic who enjoys the vintage vibe. It will be less suited to those looking for something modern.


  • Bass, middle and treble EQ controls.
  • Clean and drive channels to flick between.
  • Includes footswitch which controls drive and reverb.


  • EQ controls adjust both channels simultaneously.
  • There’s no built-in attenuator.


Fender Twin Reverb (85 watt)

Fender '65 Twin Reverb 85-Watt 2x12-Inch Guitar Combo Amp

The Fender Twin Reverb has an exceptional clean tone, partly thanks to its celestion speaker.

There are two channels, each of which has treble, middle and bass EQ controls and one of which includes vibrato settings.

You can turn the reverb and vibrato on and off using the included footswitch, and there’s a small button to boost the brightness.

Who is this for?

It’s well suited to jazz, thanks to its ability to deliver deliciously smooth clean tones, but this is also at home playing country music, blues rock or anything else that requires quality clean tones. It will be less suited to those looking for overdriven sounds.


  • Treble, Middle and Bass EQ controls for each channel.
  • Includes reverb and vibrato.
  • Celestion speaker gives you a well-balanced tone.


  • There’s no effects loop.
  • There’s no built-in attenuator.


Best Tube Amp Heads

Marshall DSL Series DSL100H 100-Watt

Marshall DSL Series DSL100H 100-Watt All-Tube Guitar Amplifier Head - Black

The Marshall DSL100H is a head which can be attached to 4, 8 or 16-ohm cabinets, making it versatile and a great addition to any studio or venue.

There are bass, middle, treble and presence controls which allow you to shape and sharpen your sound, including a reverb setting. You can turn the reverb on and off using the included footswitch, and you can adjust the amount of reverb that comes through both of the channels.

There’s a standby switch, so you can let it warm up before you play and ease off the power slowly.

Who will love this?

It will suit touring musicians who want a classic rock sound – it will be less suited to those who are playing at smaller venues and want something a little cleaner.


  • Footswitch included which turns reverb on and off.
  • Multiple speaker outputs for 4 / 8 /16-ohm cabinets.
  • Bass, middle, treble and presence controls allow you to shape the sound.


  • There’s no tremolo.
  • The wattage isn’t adjustable.


Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 20 Deluxe Head Black

The Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister has three channels: lead, crunch and clean, making it a great tool for shifting between different high quality, organic sounds at gigs without the need for pedals.

Each of the channels has its EQ settings, and there are master volume settings for each of them.

The wattage of this head can be adjusted from 40 right down to 20, 5, 1 or even 0 watts, making it versatile in terms of volume.

There’s an effects loop, so if you do use effects you can plug them between the preamp and power amp, and this head also has a standby option, allowing you to warm it up before you start playing and ease the power off slowly without damaging the valves.

Who is this for?

This is for musicians who like to use overdrive and need more than one overdriven channel on their amp. Less suited to jazzers, or country players who need a consistently clean tone.


  • Two overdriven channels with 3-band EQ for each, and a clean channel.
  • Effects loop, so you can plug external effects in between the preamp and the power amp.
  • Adjustable wattage from 40 to 20, 5, 1 or 0 watts.


  • There’s no built-in reverb or tremolo.
  • Although it’s footswitch-compatible, it doesn’t come with one.


Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt

Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt Guitar Amp Head

The Fender Super Champ has a lot of extra features which you don’t usually find in heads units.

As well as reverb and vibratone effects, there’s a chorus, tremolo, reverb, and delay built into this amp. This will make those who rely on the built-in effects of transistor amps jump for joy.

As well as a variety of effects, this head has a voicing knob which makes it sound like 15 different amps, and there’s a USB output for digital recording.

You might have gathered, as well as being a valve unit, the Super Champ has digital features, but that doesn’t influence the pure, organic tone which is produced when the valves are pushed – and this machine is more than capable of sweet, subtle overdriven sounds.

Who is this best suited to?

It will be suited to musicians who miss the digital features of solid state amps but crave the tone of a tube amplifier. It won’t suit tube-purists, who are looking for something vintage and natural.


  • Includes reverb, tremolo, chorus, delay and vibratone effects.
  • Treble and bass EQ controls allow you to shape the tone.
  • Two channels with volume control for each.


  • The EQ controls adjust both channels simultaneously.
  • There’s no attenuator.


What’s the Best Cheap Tube Amp?

If you’re on a budget, you might be worried that all of these products seem to be a bit on the pricey side. However, there are a couple of them which won’t break the bank.

The Monprice 5-watt is a very budget-friendly practice amp that isn’t mouse-like in volume. It has a high-quality Celestion speaker which gives it a crispness alongside its warmth, and it’s easy to control with just one tone control and volume control. The Bugera V5 is also not too expensive and has added features including built-in reverb and a headphone output for those wanting to practice in private.

If you’re looking for something bigger, which you can use on stage, you’re going to be spending a little more, but the most budget-friendly option that’s also stage-friendly is the Ibanez TSA15. It can kick out some volume as well as some impressively heavy distortion and has a standby switch so that you can allow it to warm up without turning it fully on, and turn it off slowly without damaging the valves.

So, Which Should I Buy?

As you can see, the amps we’ve reviewed offer a variety of different features which will be suited to different needs and players.

If you’re looking for a practice amp, one of the 5-10W models will suit you best. If it’s simplicity you’re after, the Monoprice 5 watt will be best, if you want reverb and the option to use headphones, the Bugera V5 will suit you, and if you can’t resist vintage looks and tones, then the VOX AC4TV will be right up your street.

If you’re looking for something a bit bigger, which you can use for practicing as well as small gigs (or larger ones, mic’d up), the Orange Rocker 15, Ibanez TSA15 or the Fender Blues Junior will be best suited to you. The Orange Rocker is exceptionally versatile, with two channels which each have their EQ and a built-in attenuator. The Ibanez is excellent for rock, with its ‘tube screamer’ option and the Blues junior offers exceptional, lightly overdriven blues tones.

The Fender Blues Deluxe and the Fender Twin Reverb are a bit bigger, and both offer classic tones, the first of which is more suited to blues-rock and mild overdrive, while the second works particularly well with clean jazz and country sounds.

If you’re looking for something for the recording studio, the Egnater Rebel has a silent recording option as well as multiple EQ settings, two channels, and a reverb option.

If it’s a head you’re looking for, to be used with a separate cab, there are several options. The Marshall DSL100H is perfect for classic rock, both aesthetically and in tone, whereas the Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister offers a little more versatility with its extra channels. The Fender Super Champ is unique in that it has built-in effects and combines analog and digital circuitry, making it the most innovative of all of the models.

If the cost is putting you off, or you want to get to know a bit more about the different tones of various tube amps, you can try using a modeling amp.

Featured image: jboylan67 / CC By 2.0

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