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

Tube or ‘valve’ amps are the most popular type of amp among guitarists due to their warm, fat tone and the way they generate natural distortion.

Many classic rock guitarists use tube amps, with some notable examples being Angus Young and Slash with Marshall stack valve amps, Jimmy Page with a variety of Orange, Marshall and Fender Valve amps and Eric Clapton through Vox, Futurama and Cornell tube amplifiers.

These amps use tubes to increase the amplitude of a guitars signal, usually sounding louder than solid-state amps of the same wattage. They’re not actually louder; but they distort in a smooth, warm way which is pleasing on the ear, whereas solid-state amps give a less pleasant distorted sound when they’re cranked up the same amount.

fender blues junior tube amp and telecaster

In this article we’re going to look at a host of reasons why you might want to buy a tube amp, and recommend some of our favourites. We’ll look at the best small amps (5 and 10 watt), the best mid sized amps (15 watt) all the way up to 85 watts. As well as combo amps, we’ll also look at tube amp heads.

If you’re in a rush, here’s a quick peek of the amps we review further down the page:

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

PREVIEW PRODUCT FEATURES

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

Monoprice 611705 5-Watt 1×8 Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier
  • Simple controls
  • Onboard attenuator
  • Well-balanced tone
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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

BUGERA V5 5-Watt Class Amplifier Combo
  • Attenuate between 5W, 1W and 0.1W
  • Gain, tone, volume and reverb controls
  • Includes headphone output
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Vox AC4TV All-tube Practice Amplifier

Vox AC4TV All-tube Practice Amplifier
  • Adjustable output level
  • Simple controls
  • Quality vintage styling
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Best 15 Watt Tube Amps (Combo Amps)

PREVIEW PRODUCT FEATURES

Orange Amps Amplifier Part (ROCKER15)

Orange Amps Amplifier Part (ROCKER15)
  • Two channels
  • 4 different output levels
  • Bass, middle and treble EQ controls
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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

Ibanez TSA15 1 x 12 15-Watt All-Tube Combo Guitar Amplifier
  • Attenuator lets you take it down to 5W
  • Celestion speaker
  • Built in distortion effects
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Fender Blues Junior IV 15 Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier

Fender Blues Junior IV 15 Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier
  • Bass/Middle/Treble EQ controls
  • ‘Fat’ button
  • Reverb
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Best 30 Watt and Above Tube Amps (Combo Amps)

PREVIEW PRODUCT FEATURES

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

Egnater REBEL (30 watt)
  • Two channels with separate EQ controls
  • Effects loop
  • Speaker mute for silent recording
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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

Fender Blues Deluxe (40 watt)
  • Bass, middle and treble EQ controls
  • Reverb with footswitch
  • 2 channels
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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

Fender Twin Reverb (85 watt)
  • Two channels with 3-band EQ
  • Reverb and vibrato
  • Celestion speaker
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Best Tube Amp Heads

PREVIEW PRODUCT FEATURES

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

Marshall DSL Series DSL100H 100-Watt All-Tube Guitar Amplifier Head
  • Reverb with footswitch
  • Multiple speaker outputs
  • 3-band EQ
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 20 Deluxe Head Black

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister
  • 3 channels
  • Effects loop
  • Built-in attenuator
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt Guitar Amp Head

Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt Guitar Amp Head
  • Lots of built-in effects
  • EQ controls
  • 2 channels
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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

What is a Tube Amp?

A tube amp, as opposed to a solid-state, hybrid or modeling amp, uses tubes to generate sound.

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

How do Tube Amps Work?

Tube amps work as the tubes (or valves) inside the amp receive signals from your guitar and amplify them.

The sound of these signals can vary as the volume on the amp is altered. When the amp is turned up very high, the valves change the shape of the sound wave, which distorts your guitar sound. This is what takes it from clean to a ‘cranked’ overdriven sound. These tubes amplify the signal from your guitar and the more strain that is put on them (i.e. the higher the amp is turned up), the louder the signal sounds. Unlike with digital or solid-state amplifiers, these amps don’t sound awful once they’ve passed the ‘clipping’ stage. Indeed, it is the tone that tube/valve amps make after they’ve reached the point of ‘clipping’ that makes them so sought after.

Guitarists tend to love this tone because of how smooth it is, even with its dirtiness. They are also very responsive, natural amps. If you pick lightly, the amp will know and your sound will come out more softly. Solid-state amps tend to have a more on/off response to your guitar playing.

What are Tubes Exactly?

Tubes 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 them 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. These amps also tend to have a sound which tilts towards the lower frequencies.

Headroom

Headroom is how much space you have before the clean tone on the amp starts to break up, giving you an overdriven sound.

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’re going to 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.

There’s usually a switch on the amp to take you from a clean sound to an overdriven sound.

Benefits of Tube Amps

The benefits of tube amps include tone, ease of troubleshooting and response-ability.

Tone

The tone a tube amp offers is usually warm, smooth and rich.

This can be difficult to put into words, but it’s something most guitarists agree with. 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’re sounding 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).

Response

Due to the natural, old-school way tube amps work, they respond better than digital / solid-state 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.

Many digital amps reduce your control over dynamics quite significantly.

Disadvantages of Tube Amps

Of course, for all the plusses, there are a few reasons why you might choose a solid-state amp over a tube amp.

Price

These amps are significantly more expensive than digital amps. 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, in order 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 amps, there aren’t a bunch of built in effects on tube amps. 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

So, you know that you want the warm bluesy tones that a tube amp gives you, but you’re not sure where to start. There are so many to choose from. Which brand should you get, how many watts is right for you?

This article is here to help you to decide.

Personal Use or Gigging?

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

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

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

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

Clean or Distorted Tones?

If you are after an amp which will deliver mainly clean tones of a high quality, you should look for one with plenty of headroom before it starts to ‘clip’. Fender Twin Reverb amps are particularly good for this.

If overdrive is what you’re after, you might want something with less headroom. Most valve amps have a pretty low headroom, as the overdrive is so pleasing to our ears.

If you’re looking for an amp which can do both really well, and you’re likely to switch between the two, look for something with multiple 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 amps emphasise highs and lows, whereas some focus more on mids and punch. If you’re looking for an amp which can deliver American rock sounds, something which is emphasizes high and low frequencies will be appropriate.

If you’re looking for a more British rock sound, an amp with emphasizes middle frequencies and punchiness will be more suited to your style.

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 an additional included distortion, and lots of EQ controllability.

Combo amp or Head & Cabinet?

Whether you go for a combo amp or a head and cabinet really depends on how big the venues are that you’re going to be playing.

Combo amps are plenty big enough for most clubs and small venues, but as the rooms get bigger, a head and cabinet is capable of pushing out more sound.

EQ

Do you need EQ settings on your amplifier? 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 amp, and would rather control this using a separate pedal.

Different amps have different 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 amp, look for one with at least a high, mid and a low control.

Attenuation

Some tubes amps have built-in power attenuators. This allows you to lower the power rating and make the amp quieter. Lowering the power like this also lets you crank the gain at quieter 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, whilst 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 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 have the need to plug more than one instrument in.

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

Some more modern amps even include a USB in/out so that you can hook the amp 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 clear 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. These amps 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 emphasise low end frequencies, so can be the preference of ‘beefier’ players.

Build Quality and Durability?

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

When moving an amp from gig to gig, it’s likely that they’re going to get bashed about.
Good corner protectors are worth looking out for on an amp which you want to last.

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

Effects

Some tube amps include reverb settings and less commonly you’ll find vibrato.

These can be analogue or digital, but tend to be analogue in keeping with the organic nature of the amp.

These additional effects are welcome on the vintage-style gear, and can really boost your options.

More advanced tube amps can include effects such as delay, chorus and distortion. If you’re likely to use these effects, look out for an amp 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 practising 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 Amps, 5 – 10 Watt)

Monoprice 611705 5-Watt 1×8 Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier

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 simple amplifier with a superior tone.

It’s 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 the amp a clear sound which is warm as well as crisp.

As well as the 5W/1W attenuator, this amp has a tone control and a volume control, keeping things simple and allowing you to easily memorise your settings.

This is perfect for the guitarist who wants to practise 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.

PROS

  • Simple controls keep the tone of your guitar transparent.
  • 1 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.

CONS

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

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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 amp here.

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

This amp has a headphone output, so you can practise without your neighbours hearing you at all, and the amp has a nice vintage look about it.

This amp is perfect for those who want something to practise on that won’t disturb those next door. It would also suit travelling 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.

PROS

  • 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 practise without disturbing even those in the next room.

CONS

  • 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.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Vox AC4TV All-tube Practice Amplifier

Vox AC4TV All-tube Practice Amplifier

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

Like the Monoprice amp, 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.

The styling is very vintage and it will be suited to those who want something that will double up as 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.

PROS

  • 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.

CONS

  • 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.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Best 15 Watt Tube Amps (Combo Amps)

Orange Amps Amplifier Part (ROCKER15)

Orange Amps Amplifier Part (ROCKER15)

The Orange Rocker 15 is another good looking amp which offers an 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 practise at 0.5 or 1 watts, get a bit louder with 7 watts and perform a small gig at 15.

There’s also 3-band EQ on this amp, 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.

This amp 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 extremely simple, although it is by no means hard to use.

PROS

  • 4 different output levels give you lots of volume options.
  • There are two channels, so 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.

CONS

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

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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

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

The Ibanez TSA15 is great for rockers.

It has 3 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 the amp 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 adjust into a 5 watt amp, so it’s suitable for practising with at home as well as for taking to small gigs.

This amp is perfect for those who require something a bit heavier-sounding than a standard valve amp.

It will be less suited to jazzier players, who require sweet clean tones.

PROS

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

CONS

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

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Fender Blues Junior IV 15 Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier

Fender Blues Junior IV 15 Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier

The Fender Blues Junior is a very controllable amp which has access to quite a variety of sounds.

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 like a booster to instantly fatten up your sound.

The celestion speaker ensures that this amp sounds crisp and bright, making it perfect for vintage blues sounds.

There’s also a reverb setting, allowing you to achieve the sounds of classic players like Jimmy Page.

There’s just one channel on this amp, but it’s perfect for those who like to get a tone and stick to it, perhaps just ‘fattening’ it now and again. It will suit bluesy players who like to keep things pretty clean.

It will be less suited to those who want to shift between clean and overdriven or distorted sounds.

PROS

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

CONS

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

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Best 30 Watt and Above Tube Amps (Combo Amps)

Egnater REBEL (30 watt)

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.

It has an output which can feed you directly to a mixer without any volume coming through the amp. Pretty neat.

This amp 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/or achieve their 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 practising.

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

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

PROS

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

CONS

  • There’s no headphone socket.
  • It’s expensive.
  • Clean channel has less EQ controls than the overdriven channel.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Fender Blues Deluxe (40 watt)

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

The Fender Blues Deluxe is a popular, classic amp with a vintage look and vintage tones.

There are two channels, so you can switch between clean and overdriven sounds with ease and the amp even 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 in this amp which gives you access to some sweet, classic bluesy settings.

There are classic looks with this amp with tweed covering and chicken-head pointer knobs, so it will suit the Fender fanatic who enjoys the vintage vibe.

It will be less suited to those looking for something a bit more modern with innovative features.

PROS

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

CONS

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

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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 have 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 of the amp.

It’s well suited to jazz, thanks to its ability to deliver deliciously smooth clean tones, but this amp is also at home playing country music, blues rock or anything else that requires quality clean tones.

This amp will be less suited to those who are interested in buying a valve amp with little headroom, for overdriven sounds.

PROS

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

CONS

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

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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, and the amp includes 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 the amp warm up before you play and ease off the power slowly.

It will suit touring musicians who want a classic rock sound.

This amp will be less suited to those who are playing at smaller venues and/or want something a little more clean.

PROS

  • 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.

CONS

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

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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 own 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 really 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..
It will be suited to musicians who like to use overdrive and might need more than one overdriven channel on their amp.

It will be less suited to jazzers, or country players who need a consistently clean tone.

PROS

  • 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.

CONS

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

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

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 valve amp heads.

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

As well as a variety of effects, this amp 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 amp, the Super Champ does have digital features, but that doesn’t influence the pure, organic tone which is produced when the valves are pushed and this amp is more than capable of sweet, subtle overdriven sounds.

It will be suited to musicians who miss the digital features of solid-state amps but crave the tone of an amp with tubes.

This amp won’t suit tube-purists, who are looking for something vintage and natural.

PROS

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

CONS

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

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

What’s the Best Cheap Tube Amp?

If you’re on a budget, you might be worried that all of these amps 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 a volume control. The Bugera V5 is also not too expensive, and has added features including built-in reverb and a headphone output which will be attractive to some guitarists.

If you’re looking for something bigger, which you can use on stage, you’re obviously going to be spending a little more, but the most budget-friendly option that’s also stage-friendly is the Ibanez TSA15, which 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 above offer quite 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 practising 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 own EQ and a built-in attenuator. The Ibanez is great for rock, with its ‘tube screamer’ option and the Fender Blues junior offers exceptional, lightly overdriven blues tones.

The Fender Blues Deluxe and the Fender Twin Reverb are are a bit bigger, and both offer classic tones, the first of which is more suited to blues-rock and mild overdrive, whilst 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 special in that it has built in effects and combines analogue and digital circuitry, making it the most innovative of all of the models.

Playing through a valve amp is something which many guitarists do not turn back from. Although it can be difficult to articulate, the ‘feeling’ that you get from using and hearing others use this amp has proven to be unbeatable.

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’. These are digital amps which use clever programming to replicate the sounds made by valve amps. Although they don’t quite cut it, they can be a great starting point and sometimes work as an alternative.

Featured image: jboylan67 / CC By 2.0

Leave a comment