Best Tube Amps of 2020 – Complete Review

One of the main components of your guitar gear is the amplifier. This will shape your tones or, on the other hand, might muddy them out.

If you’re already here, it means that you decided on a tube amp instead of a solid-state – well, congratulations, the easy part is out of the way!

Now, let us walk you through the best tube amps and why they are worth your attention.

Comparison Chart of the Best Tube Amps

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Marshall 2525C Mini Silver Jubilee

  • Best tube amp for the money
  • 12” speaker and has an effects loop
  • High quality 20/5 watt tube guitar amp
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Supro 1696RT Black Magick Rever Combo Amp

  • 25 watts output power
  • Superior all-tube circuit
  • 2 band EQ and 2 channels
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Monoprice 611705 5W 1x8 Guitar Tube Amp

  • Best tube amp for the money
  • Able to handle frequencies from 80 Hz to 10kHz
  • Comes with Celestion Speaker and a synthetic leather design
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California Tone Research Set5 Single End Tube Guitar Amp

  • Best Small Tube Amp
  • Well-built with durable materials
  • Minimalistic design with controls for volume, treble, and bass
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Bugera Infinium 55W 1x12" Tube Guitar Combo Amp

  • Best Tube Amp Under $500
  • Controls for EQ, presence, reverb, gain, master, volume
  • Extremely durable and reliable due to Infinium technology
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Marshall Amps Guitar Combo Amp (M-DSL40CR-U)

  • Best Tube Amp Under $1000
  • Has reverb effect with power settings
  • Includes dedicated resonance control, two volume controls, and gain
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Vox AC4

  • Loud 12” speakers
  • Vintage style aesthetics
  • Best Low Watt Tube Amp
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Bugera T5 Infinium

  • Best 5 Watt Tube Amp
  • Infinium technology for long life and durability
  • A complex blend of traditional clean and crush to modern high gain
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Vox AV15

  • All analog circuitry
  • Best 15 Watt Tube Amp
  • The design improves resonance and tone
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Fender Bassbreaker 30R Guitar Combo Amp

  • Best Tube Combo Amp
  • 30 watts tube amplifier with 12” speaker
  • Four power tubes and three preamp tubes
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What is a Tube Amp, and What is it Used For?

A tube amp is an amplifier that takes your guitar’s electric signals and amplifies them using vacuum tubes. If you have an electronic instrument (guitar or bass), the signals are what is made by pickups, and they go through the preamp tubes, power tubes, and exit through the speaker. 

The tube amps can be categorized as either a class A or class AB – typical examples include Vox AC30 for a class A tube amp and others such as Fender, Mesa/Boogie, and Marshall amps are considered class AB devices. 

How Does a Tube Amp Work?

The tube amplifier makes use of a fair, simple principle to work. The main component that makes a tube amp function is the transformer. This piece will transform the AC (alternative current) input voltage into another format, which can be used to complete the circuitry so that electricity is supplied to it. 

In other words, the tube amplifier can be viewed as a type of electronic amplifier. The vacuum tubes inside basically amplify or enhance the power of any signal – this power is technically known as amplitude. 

What to Look For When Buying a Tube Amp

Here are a few considerations you need to keep in mind when you purchase a tube amp:

Purpose

Tube amps come in a large variety. Firstly, you need to establish what you will use it for – is it for home practicing, gigging, are you a student or a beginner? For instance, if you decide to use it at home, a decent one would need 5 watts or less, and maybe you should consider if you can connect it to headphones​, or for rehearsal rooms, you can get one with more control and flexibility.

Wattage

Briefly mentioned above, wattage is really important. Why would you buy a 5-watt one instead of 30 watts when you can take it down, too? Simply because the amp does its best when it reaches the limit, so low volume settings won’t perform as well. 

Type of the Tubes

The last consideration would be the type of tube used. Right now, the most common one is 6550, which is quite clean and interesting. You may also find variations such as the EL84, EL34, 6L6, 6V6 – they all produce different and distinctive sounds. 

Review of the Best Tube Amps

Now that you have all the information you need when it comes to choosing a tube amp, let’s explore some of the best options you can select from.

Marshall 2525C Mini Silver Jubilee - 20/5W 1x12' Combo

PROS

  • Extremely easy to use
  • Compact and extremely portable
  • High quality sounds at all volume ranges
  • Crystal clear sounds with rich, but warm overdrive
  • Ideal for bedroom practice because you can attenuate power

CONS

  • No matching extension cabinet
  • Becomes a bit flabby when wound right up
  • Quite heavy compared to other 20-watt units

What Recent Buyers Report

The Jubilee is heavier than other 20-watt amps, but you will find that the sound quality far outweighs this minor drawback. You can either transport it with you for rehearsals, for a studio recording or just practice at home. It is a great alternative to many bulkier tube amps.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The tube amp uses three ECC83 preamp tubes, paired with two EL34 power tubes, to deliver high-quality sound at all volume levels. What is more, you can hardly miss its looks – with a signature silver, chrome and grey vinyl, it definitely competes as one of the best looking gear you can get.

Who Will Use This Most

What’s truly great about this tube amp is its versatility. Whether you want to practice at home or have a quick solo, you can set it to 5 watts through the output switch to the ‘low’ settings. Otherwise, it is the perfect asset for studio recording – it also comes with a channel footswitch.

Bottom Line

Overall, this tube amp is our top recommendation for its quality and value for money. It includes a series effects loop, a wide selection of five speaker jacks which can support a heavy setup and a footswitch so you can easily toggle the channels as you wish. And, of course – it is built like a rock!

Supro 1696RT Black Magick Reverb Combo Amplifier Bundle w/Cable and Cloth

PROS

  • Distinctive sound qualities
  • Includes master volume knob
  • Smooth overdrive, but ferocious
  • Sturdily built with premium quality materials
  • Shining distortion, best for classic rock tones

CONS

  • Limited treble
  • Limited headroom
  • Not particularly versatile

What Recent Buyers Report

This tube amp performs flawlessly if you are looking for the old school rock tones. It has a smooth, but quite ferocious overdrive and bites into every note with a tenacity you’ve merely ever heard before. Although some complain about lacking treble and headroom, this is not designed for a clean and clear platform.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This reverb amplifier stands out to us due to its high-quality abilities to replicate the signature sounds of classic rock. It has all-tube reverbs and a 2 band EQ, with control for volume. You can link together the two pre-amp channels in order to have the best results.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are looking for clean and clear – this is definitely not for you. This tube amp was designed to give you a plethora of overdrive textures, yet it does not become harsh due to the decreasing treble. It is perfect for replicating Jimmy Page’s colored textures – the sound is brighter when the volume is up.

Bottom Line

If you are a classic rock lover, this tube amp might be just the right option for you. It is not a fully packed amp – we know it, and we love it for both what it is and what it is not. The question is – what about you?

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

PROS

  • Ideal for blues
  • Distortion is harmonic
  • Astonishing looks and design
  • Portable size, perfect for traveling
  • Controls include volume and tone
  • Humble price range, high value for money

CONS

  • No reverb effect
  • Not so durable build
  • Cannot be connected to headphones

What Recent Buyers Report

The design is truly breath-taking – and it is only topped by the buttery, smooth, and clean sounds it produces. The low input is ideal for overdrive, while the high input is extremely powerful and has great headroom. Definitely a must-have for blues players!

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Monoprice stands out through the quality of the sounds – which are generated by the outstanding quality of the Celestion Super 8 speaker. You can easily get balanced mids and highs, but with a rich and full bottom end – exactly what you should expect from an amp.

Who Will Use This Most

This tube amp is great for blues players and offers a fair degree of controllability. It has a sturdy build; you can adjust the tone and volume to your liking – although it might sound simplistic, this is more than you need if you are a beginner. It is compact, portable, and the tones are harmonic, rich, and clean. Ideal for practice!

Bottom Line

The Monoprice offers 5-watt output but can be turned down as low as 1 watt if you need a lower output. Despite this, the sound quality is consistent, giving you warm, yet crisp sounds. If you want a simple to use amp, great for practicing, this one offers all you need.

CALIFORNIA TONE RESEARCH SET5 Single End Tube Guitar Amplifier

PROS

  • Affordable price range
  • Dense, high-quality tones
  • Highly portable and minimalistic design
  • Ideal dense tones for blues, jazz or surf’s rock
  • Tone control flexibility (volume, bass, and treble)
  • The output power of 5 watts, perfect for practicing

CONS

  • No aux input/output
  • Does not have a reverb effect
  • Cannot be paired with headphones or recording devices

What Recent Buyers Report

This affordable 5-watt tiny tube amp breathes life into your guitar from the first moment you plug it in. It probably is the best value for money you can get, and it is the perfect asset for any guitarist. It is hum-free and offers clean tones.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The California Tone Research Set5 tube amplifier is tiny, yet durable and compact. It has a 12AX7 preamp tube, so the single end design works consistently to provide you with tonal purity. It is definitely a must-try for home practices or small gigging sessions!

Who Will Use This Most

This product is the ideal companion for surf’s rock, jazz, or blues. You can enjoy high-quality, hum-free performances during your home performances, or you can even take it with you at small gigs. It lacks effects, although beginners should not worry about that for now.

Bottom Line

If all you need is a rock-solid, small tube amp to fire up your guitar during surf’s rock, jazz, or blues sessions, then you have found your partner. The SET5 will provide you with consistent quality, tonal purity, and all the controls you need to jump-start your career.

PROS

  • Normal or bright modes
  • Affordability and gig-readiness
  • Has a visually pleasing vintage design
  • Normal/bright modes for higher versatility
  • A high degree of adjustability due to numerous controls
  • 55 watts ensure enough output for most small- to medium-sized venues

CONS

  • Some might not enjoy the high gain tones

What Recent Buyers Report

This tube amp performs wonderfully for its humble price range. As opposed to many others, it is indeed well equipped for short gigging sessions, so you might want to take that into account. The 12” speaker is quite a nice addition to this tube amp.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This tube amp stands out to us due to its full package ready to rock on a stage or a gigging venue. It has two independent channels, EQ controls, reverb and gain knobs for higher versatility, and all you need to give your best performance.

Who Will Use This Most

This tube is perfect for beginners and intermediate players alike. You can take it a step further from your home practices and get going to your first gig, along with Bugera Infinium tube amp. We reckon you will be together for a while – the Infinium technology ensures that the power tubes are incredibly long-lasting at less than $500.

Bottom Line

This tube amp is great due to its essential gigging features and considerably more controls and even effects compared to our other recommendations. You can take it with you wherever you need, either on the stage, in the studio or rehearsal room, and it doesn’t break the bank either!

Marshall Amps Guitar Combo Amplifier (M-DSL40CR-U)

PROS

  • High-quality Celestion speaker
  • Includes effect loops and reverb
  • Can be used at full power or half only
  • Highly flexible, great for any skill level
  • Footswitch for effortless maneuverability
  • Includes EQ settings, resonance control, volume and gain

CONS

  • Quite bulky (50 lbs)
  • Digital reverb effect
  • Cannot be connected to headphones

What Recent Buyers Report

With a stylish and durable design, this tube amp is perfect for most occasions. You can either use it with 10-watt power or 20 watts, so it is quite flexible, depending on your location. You can make great use of all of its features, including the reverb effect and the FX loop.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This tube amp makes use of a semi-open back in order to deliver clear and pure bass notes. The Ultra and Classic channels allow you a higher degree of flexibility; however, they do share the equalizer. You can make adjustments for highs, mids, lows, presence, and resonance, among others.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are looking for more control and flexibility, the Marshall DSL20C amplifier is a great piece of equipment. You can fine-tune the sounds to your liking, and it is ideal for any skill level. It is durable, so it will be quite a long-term investment that will grow with you.

Bottom Line

Overall, what’s great about this amp is its versatility. Although quite bulky compared to other portable amps we reviewed, one might say that it is definitely worth the hassle. The adjustable power output of either 10 or 20 watts makes it a great companion for diverse events.

Best Low Watt Tube Amp:
Vox AC4

Vox Bass Amplifier Head, Black (AC4C1-12)

PROS

  • Nice, thick tones
  • Can be used in small gigs
  • Tiny sized 4-watt tube amp
  • Highly responsive to controls
  • Visually pleasing vintage design
  • Includes controls for treble, gain, bass and volume

CONS

What Recent Buyers Report

The AC4 is a sonically well-behaved single-ended amp, with a faint hum in the background, which is so familiar to this type of amp. You can use a low gain level in order to get a boxy mid-range, yet there is a faint zingy treble which needs to be carefully adjusted.

Why it Stands Out to Us

What we love most about AC4 tube amp is its classical mix – the rowdy top boost, but also a clean and classic tone. They are both trademarks of the VOX tone, which is only highlighted by its vintage looks. You can control the EQ, volume, bass, and treble, so we’d say it is fairly tweakable too.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are looking for a tube amp to help you with a frequent practice session, this small unit is best for you. It is not quite recommended for live performances or recording, so it could be a helpful and affordable asset if you are a beginner.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Vox AC4 is a low-priced, compact tube amp that you should definitely give some consideration to. Ideal for home practice or a low-volume quick gig session, it can offer you enough authority and punch to master your performance each time.

Best 5 Watt Tube Amp:
Bugera T5 Infinium

BUGERA T5 5-Watt Cage-Style Amplifier Head with Infinium Tube Life Multiplier and Reverb Multi Colored, (T5INFINIUM)

PROS

  • Highly affordable
  • Power attenuator
  • Authentic preamp design
  • Extremely versatile and flexible
  • Includes reverb effect and a vintage EQ
  • Durable build due to Infinium tube life technology

CONS

  • Quality control
  • Not suitable for gigs
  • Power attenuation maximum of 5 watts

What Recent Buyers Report

This tube amp is an excellent value for money. It is an all-tube amp that is masterfully handcrafted to deliver the best quality at one of the lowest price points you can find. It is sweetly balanced and has a warm distortion, tone-shaping a vintage feeling every time you use it.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The T5 Infinium is a compact-sized amp, with a balanced harmonics and natural tube compression. It is extremely portable and has attractive looks; additionally, it is perfect for anything from a purring blues tone to an explosive crunch. The tonal quality is quite chiming and crisp.

Who Will Use This Most

What is best about this amp is its reverb effect, so, if that’s appealing to you, you should definitely consider this option. The tone-shaping qualities are fair, allowing you great versatility – anything from a subtle, purring tone to a reverb modeling a huge arena.

Bottom Line

All in all, the T5 Infinium needs to get some credit for its impressive reverb effect. It is quite tweakable, and it offers decent value for money. It is definitely worth experimenting with its controls. If you’re a fan of vintage sounds or more modern high gain, be good to yourself and check this one out.

Best 15 Watt Tube Amp:
Vox AV15

Vox AV15 15w 1x8-Inch Analog Valve Modeling Guitar Amplifier

PROS

  • Contains eight preamp circuits
  • Designed with great attention to detail
  • Highly versatile unit with adjustable controls
  • Up to 15 watt output power and an 8” speaker
  • Top-notch quality sounds due to the all-analog circuitry

CONS

  • Only internal speaker output

What Recent Buyers Report

This amp is one of the most exciting VOX units. It comes with a unique all-analog circuitry, which is a major pillar to its outstanding quality of the sounds. The pre-amp circuits are classic, and also includes three effects, effects loop. It is definitely a unit worth tweaking with!

Why it Stands Out to Us

The VOX AC15 amplifier has multiple analog circuits that work together harmoniously to give you clean sounds but also a crunch, overdrive, and high gain tones, which can be adjusted using the bright/fat switches. The wide range of eight preamp circuits and the control knobs for other features are great versatile additions.

Who Will Use This Most

This amp is best used either during home practices or in the studio. It does not have an external speaker unit, although the internal one works just fine. Regardless of your music genre or play style, this tube amp can help you inspire and get inspired alike.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Vox AV15 is an outstanding all-tube amp that can get you started with your music career. It is affordable, yet it provides you with a fair amount of controls that can be adjusted to your liking and allow you to experiment as much as possible.

Fender Bassbreaker 30R Guitar Combo Amp

PROS

  • Two distinct channels
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Versatile unit with several controls
  • Has good power output of 30 watts
  • Easy to transport due to compact, minimalistic design

CONS

  • The reverb effect is not impressive
  • Overdrive works only with one channel (drive)

What Recent Buyers Report

The Fender tube amp is the perfect blend of versatility, low price, great tones, and power output. It is exceptional with the switch for clean and crunch and an effects loop. The Speaker is also high quality and can handle some small gigs from time to time.

Why it Stands Out to Us

With a completely distinctive tone, the Fender Bassbreaker is an astonishing 30-watt unit with a high gain distortion and good reverb effect. The tones are highly controllable due to the full channel switching ability, allowing you to distort or clean your tones as desired.

Who Will Use This Most

This tube amp is recommended for its sparkling personality and the raw power it delivers to you. Whether you are ready to rock on the stage, record your first song, or just want some home practice, this tube amp will definitely offer you a wide range of controls you need to impress.

Bottom Line

All in all, the Fender Bassbreaker is our last, but not least, recommendation for you. If you are still not happy with the other product selection, be assured that we outdid ourselves with this one. Whether you are looking for quality, price, or power, this tube amp is definitely worth your attention.

Pros and Cons of Tube Amps

Here’s a shortlist of common pros and cons of using tube amplifiers:

Pros for Tube Amps

There are quite a few upsides to tube amps, even though they are not the most mainstream option. Here are the main ones.

Tone and Timbre

The warmer the tubes are, the more the sound changes; you can leave the amp on for a while before you start playing and you will notice some changes. Definitely worth experimenting with the warmer, richer tones the tube amp adds to your music.

Tunes are Easy to Replace

It is very easy to replace the tubes – all you need to do is to locate the faulty one and replace it, you don’t need to replace the entire amplifier.

Distortion

One of the main pros of tube amps is the smooth and warm distortion of the saturated tubes – most musicians choose them for this feature, as compared to solid-state amps

Power Handling

They can handle quite a lot of power – up to 100 watts in some cases.

Cons for Tube Amps

As with any product, there are a few downsides to tube amps. Let’s take a look.

Power-Hungry

A tube amp needs a high operating voltage. Plus, distortion is acquired by cranking the volume all the way up.

Correct Bias

When changing the tubes on some amps, you need to ensure that bias is correct – so best to leave the replacement to a professional or just check out our next section.

How to Bias a Tube Amp

When you replace tubes, you need to check the bias and make sure it is correct. If the bias current is too much, the tubes will become too hot and break quicker; if the bias current is too low, then the tubes will have a longer life, but the sound quality is affected. Here’s how to set the bias current to the middle, achieving a balance between good tones and long life:

Equipment:

Voltmeter

Steps:

  • Adjust a pre-set control to the inside of the amp where the bias circuit is;
  • If there is no potentiometer, you should replace the fixed resistor with one with a different value;
  • Measure the current which goes through the output tubes – only one, no need to measure all since they are all the same.

Alternatively, you can do the following steps. 

Equipment:

Bias Meter and Bias Probe

Steps:

  • Remove chassis
  • Place the new tube/s
  • Unplug one of the tubes and put in a bias probe
  • Plug the tube on top of bias meter

The bias meter will show the voltage on the tube, and the bias current in mA – the fixed resistor should be adjusted until there is the correct value in mA. 

Conclusion

Wrapping up, tube amps are quite special and dear to some musicians. They provide the distinct, specific warm, and richer sounds which other amps cannot do, and they are easier to fix when the tubes go down. What is more, we came to see that they are not so expensive overall and there are some budget-friendly yet high-quality options. 

People Also Ask

If you still have a few questions about tube amps, take a look below to find out more about these nifty units.

Are Tube Amps Worth it?

Most people think that they are not worth it because of maintenance. For instance, having to replace tubes when they break down. However, they do not need such maintenance on a frequent basis. The main part is to take care of your amp just like you do with the rest of the gear, and it will definitely be worth it, especially if you love the distinct tonality of a tube amp. 

What is the Advantage of a Tube Amp?

There are some perks of having a tube amp, although the main one is its personality. Solid-state amps are more digital, they are crisper, while the player’s style molds tube amp. A tube amp responds to the nuances of your playing, and it has the specific distortion of the classic rock styles. 

What’s the Difference Between a Tube Amp and a Regular Amp?

Mainly, there is a vast difference in how they work, but the most obvious part is how they sound. A tube amp is more ‘sensitive’ to the way you play – even the way you pluck the chords can influence the tonality of your song. Solid-state amps, on the other hand, are less personal, and they are crispier. 

Why are Tube Amps so Expensive?

Because they just are? Well, apart from this, manufacturers surge their prices because the costs of producing the tubes and wiring them together are quite high – all the hardware used is also quite expensive. Additionally, a tube amp requires more power (voltage) to work, thus, the power supply also needs to be extremely powerful. 

Are Tube Amps Louder?

They are not louder than solid-state amps, but they seem louder. The tube amp has a subtle (specific) distortion, which we hear as a slightly louder sound, while solid-state amps have a ‘stronger’ distortion, so we hear it as a distortion instead of louder sound. 

Do Tube Amps Sound Better Than Solid-State?

This is up to personal preferences, although most musicians who prefer tube amps do so because of their distinct tonality. They have a smoother, milder distortion that gives life to classic rock, blues, and jazz. They seem louder as well, and they are extremely sensitive to the guitarist’s playing style – the slightest change will also change the tones. 

Do All Tube Amps Hum?

Most likely, if you hear some humming with your tube amp, you need to check if all your tubes are still intact. Otherwise, they should not hum, but they do have distinct, often unpredictable sound qualities. If your tube amp hums, make sure you check whether it is caused by a bad ground connection or dirty power. 

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