The proper amp could be the best purchase for you besides your guitar itself. To get a good tune, the amp is the most significant gear for you. You need to choose the best one that fits your playing style. Small tube amps benefit in many ways in the studio. They provide better sound at a lower level and they are also easier to swap in and out and a bit less expensive.
Tube amps produce 80% to 90% of their power regardless of the frequencies produced by the guitar. Again, the smooth and overdriven tone of the tube amps is more tolerable and less harsh, pleasant to the ears and louder compared to the solid state amps.
There are some facts and things that you have to know and consider before buying your perfect amp which will fit your playing style.
Watts needed for the Amp
Tube amps take one third watts of the solid state amps to produce the same amount of sound. With the same amount of watt tube amps will produce more sound than the solid state amps.
Tube amps perform best when it has been pushed to a certain degree. That means while you are playing in your bedroom or in a small space you don’t need a 100 watt amp that would be great for a large room. A 5-watt would be enough for your bedroom.
Class A, AB and B Amps
The class amp will sound better at the same watt level than the class AB amp and the current is max always. That means even when you are not playing the tubes are still in use. Class B amps have no current flow when the device is not in use. The class B amps have a slower slew rate which leads to a soft sound.
The class AB got more headroom, long tube lives and high power rating than Class A amps. But they are a bit less responsive, quieter and less smooth than Class A amps.
Also, tube amps are smaller in size that makes them portable, light weight, easy to move and place anywhere. Some of them are suitable for a bigger space and metal genre.
15w power rating
12’’ celestion G12M greenback
Bugera V5 Infinium
Built-in digital reverb
British engineered Turbosound small 8’’ speaker
Good build quality with portability
3 position OP level knob
ISF and EQ
Orange Micro Terror 20-watt Head
AUX in for mp3
So small in size
Fender Blues Junior IV
One knob control panel
Solid pine cabinet
1. Vox AC15C1
Vox AC15C1 is one of the best tube amps in the market from Vox Amplification. It could be an amazing choice for pop and blues or rock and also the built in tremolo and reverb makes some amazing tunes. This amp was in behind of some great tune created by the ‘Beatles’
This two channel amp has a built in 12’’ speaker, two EL84 power tubes, 3 12A*7 preamps, an effect loop, two normal and top boost ¼’’ inputs and two ¼’’ outputs.
For the control and effects it has master volume and tone cut, normal and top boost volume, bass and treble, speaker level, tremolo for depth and speed and reverb.
The harsher frequencies are softened with the Celestion 25-watt greenback speaker.
The low end is well tight and controlled and the top end provides clarity. The classic top boost channel of Vox will give you some extra spark on your rhythm while playing.
2. Bugera V5 Infinium
Those who look for an amp for practice or a small jam session, Bugera V5 Infinium could be a perfect choice for them. This 5 watt V5 Infinium comes with a vintage vibe. The colors and the materials are pretty nice with good weight balance and structure.
The V5 Infinium has a gain knob beside the ¼’’ guitar knob, a tone knob to control bass and treble according to your style, volume knob and reverb to get into the desired digital reverb.
There’s a small toggle switch in the back for an attenuator which will help you to select between 5-watt, 1-watt and .1-watt. The headphone jack on the rear side could become very handy for those who want to practice in silence. There’s also a 12AX7 preamp tube, an EL84 power tube and a British engineered Turbosound small 8’’ speaker.
The power attenuator is very useful. You will get full tonal at normal 5-watt, a sweet vintage overdriven tone at moderate volume will be delivered while switching it down to 1-watt. While switching it to 0.1, you will get a quiet sound to practice in the bedroom and apartment. This is a good amp for recording.
3. Vox AC4TV
Vox AC4TV comes with a 12AX7 preamp tube and an EL84 power tube. This is a 4 watt, all-tube combo amp. The Celestion VX10 designed speaker is 10’’. The AC4TV has 3 simple controls. The first knob is tone to adjust the amp sound. The next knob is volume and it’s there to control the output level.
The third knob is OP Level, which is a 3 position knob that is for selecting between 4 watts, 1 watt, and 0.25-watt operation. The built-in attenuator (1 watt and 0.25 watt) will keep the Volume knob in the same place. Moving to 4 to 1 to 0.25 cuts down the power for more manageable volume levels.
For playing live, on the back of the amp, there’s a 16ohm speaker output so that you can hook the amp to a bigger cabinet. This amp is so portable with just weighing under 20 lbs.
The Vox is suitable for blues, jazz, rock, and sometimes pop too but not for metal players. This is a good choice for playing at home, backstage also for recording. For recording set it to 4 watts to get the best output. Again, if you want more quiet practice then put it down to 1 or 0.25 watt.
4. Blackstar HT-5R
The Blackstar is new in the business but gaining popularity so quickly. The HT-5R comes with an elegantly dark look and a very top-quality build. This amp uses an EXX83/12AX7 and a 12BH7 power tube and also it's a 12’’ blackbird 50.
The HT-5R is a two-channel small tube amp, these are Clean and Overdrive. Both of them have their own control set where you can get Volume and Tone with Clean. The overall level is set by the Volume and the brightness or darkness of the clean set by the Tone.
The Overdrive comes with Gain and Volume adjustments. The Equalization section has 3-band EQ which is bass, middle and treble, and an ISF (Infinite Shape Filter) knob. The ISF set the mid-range.
The mp3 input is a good inclusion for practice. The headphone output will help you to practice quietly and the speaker output will hook the amp up to the speaker cabinet.
The overdrive of the HT-5R is amazing. The Gain produces fantastic tunes with its range even at low volumes. It is suitable for modern rock and metal also.
5. Orange Micro Terror 20-watt Head
The Orange Micro Terror 20-watt Head is very small and amazing looking good quality amp. This amp is 6.5 inches wide and the weight is only 2 lbs. with a metal chassis that can help itself surviving the fall.
The amp has cool graphics with an orange vibe and a JJ tubes 12AX7 preamp tube and also a 20-watt solid-state power amp. It’s a hybrid design.
The control of this amp is so simple. There are only 3 knobs which are Volume, Gain and Tone. As clockwise it's flat at 12 O’clock. It cuts high frequencies counterclockwise and cuts low in clockwise. It has a headphone jack for silent practice and ⅛’’ AUX In to plug in the mp3 player so that you can jam with music. There’s a speaker output in the rear side of 4 or more ohm. There’s no reverb, if you want you have to get an extra reverb pedal.
With higher guitar volume and Gain under 11 O’clock it remains decently clean. It starts to break up and shine after 11 O’clock.
Once you hit the sweet spot as the gain knob cranks, it will suit all the genres like jazz, country, rock, blues and some metal tones also in it.
6. Fenders ‘57 Custom Champ
The Fenders ‘57 Custom Champ comes with light weight, vintage sound and classic look. The 8’’ Weber special design speaker with alnico magnet delivers some amazing old school sound. For a shorter signal path the circuit board is kept hand wired.
The 5-watt A class combo amp has a 8 inch 4 ohm Weber special design Alnico speaker, a 12AY7 preamp tube, one 6V6 power tube, a 5Y3GT rectifier.
The control is so simple with one input and just a single volume knob. This knob will push the amp into overdrive when cranked up. It doesn’t lose much control over the sound.
The small size of it makes it portable and lower power makes it more suitable for recording or use in a studio. As there’s one knob control panel, you will be able to deliver some amazing tone with less effort.
In terms of buying new tube amps besides all the factors mentioned earlier, budget becomes another important factor. We all like to have a premium amp at a decent lower price range.
Higher prices don’t always provide superior services. So, before buying, short list your amps by your preferences, what would suit your playing style, the features you are looking for and fit with your budget. Good luck!
You can also read about Top 10 Guitar Amps under $200