Are you looking for the best tube amps for home use or maybe you an aspiring musician? Even if you are someone who just loves music, the importance of having an amplifier sound cannot be ignored. It is important for playing and listening to music alike.
An amp that has been popular and remains popular for decades is the tube amplifier. Thankfully, there isn’t a need to spend much as you can find the best tube amp.
The market for tube or valve amplifiers has been growing tremendously since its inception in the market. There are lots of brands, which may make the selection process quite overwhelming.
Nonetheless, keep in mind that the best should have all the necessary features. This includes high-quality speakers, equalizer, sound quality and other extra features that enhance its functionality (Source).
If you are in a dilemma, consider our roundup of the best tube amps under below $1000.
Best Tube Amps
1. Vox AC 15C1X Tube Amp – Best Classic Valve Amp
Of all the companies, Vox played a critical role in shaping the sounds of various iconic artists and bands such as the Beatles and Rolling Stones. With that, it isn’t surprising that an amp like the Vox AC 15C1X amplifier is still a favorite for many guitarists.
Though not exact, the modern day model of this valve amp comes with minor changes that enhance its overall performance besides adding value to the amp. It provides extra flexibility, thanks to the amp’s two-channel design that allows users to choose from the Top Boost or Normal play mode.
Those who have tried this tube amp described it as the best bedroom valve amplifier. This is perhaps because of its 1W rating, which allows most users to play overdriven tones without making noise to their neighbors. Others find its versatility incredible, perhaps due to the ISF technology.
For many, the Top Boost route would be the obvious choice as it provides incredible bass and treble. However, don’t down look the normal channel as it comes in handy when there is the need for a less tone coloration.
Additional features of the Vox AC 15C1X amp include the tremolo knobs for adjusting speed and depth and built-in reverb that provide great sound effects to the amp.
Those who have used this tube amp say a lot of great things. Notable comments include the amp’s dynamic tone and clarity. Some reviewers described its sound as magical with clean settings. Build quality, as well as workmanship, is also appreciated.
- Classic tones
- Harmonic balance with natural compression
- Usable volume
- Premium build quality
- Quite heavy
- Doesn’t come with a footswitch
2. Fender Blues Junior IV Tube Amp – Best Tube Amp for the Price
Since the 1950s/60s, Fender’s blackface and tweed amps have revered for their undoubted great tones with historical significance. However, they have since been outlasted by the currently popular Blues series.
This tube amp is compact dimensionally, lightweight and pedal compatible, perhaps the credentials that made it one of the most popular models in the world. The cabinet styling of this amp is quite similar to the 50s narrow paneled tweed amp. The external black vinyl yellow silvered grille cloth is inspired by the 60s reverb equipped blackface.
The cabinet internals are unaltered, with large single-sided board supporting most of the components, including the amps top panel controls. They are joined by ribbon connectors, which hold the five valves together.
The amp’s reverb spring is driven by a dual op-amp. Controls for this device include the bass treble, gain, middle, master volume, and reverb level. When in use, the Fender Blues Junior IV Tube Amp combines its stunning range of fender tones for classic rock.
Regardless of the guitar you use with, the Fender Blues Junior IV Tube Amp flatters the single coils and humbuckers, not to mention the drive pedals that produce plenty of volumes. Sounds of this amp are top-drawer that compares well with the so-called boutique amps that cost approximately four times its price.
- Stunning clean drive sounds
- Works excellently with pedals
- Great build quality
- Lacks much high-gain potential without pedals
- Doesn’t provide enough clean headroom for large gigs
3. Blackstar HT – 1R Tube Amp – Most Compact Tube Amp
Rated to consume at least 1W, the Blackstar HT – 1R Tube Amp is among the smallest tube amp on this list. Yet with its small and diminutive size, it doesn’t stop from scoring huge ratings and being a favorite to many, thanks to its sonic flexibility and intriguing sound quality.
The amp comes with ECC83 preamp tube, essentially a 12AX7 tube named differently. The power amp section contains an ECC82 tube that works together with the preamp tube and Blackstar’s patented infinite shape feature to enable the amp to produce a wide array of tones.
You will like the overdrive switch that allows you to switch from the normal to overdrive mode easily. Including the 8-inch speaker, emulated speaker with headphone output and MP3 line input provide an assurance that you have everything you need for practicing or recording.
Further Review of the Blackstar HT Tube Amp
The Blackstar HT – 1R Tube Amp’s stereo reverb controls provide an easy way to control the level of reverb effects. Having control fully clockwise, there will be no reverb. On the other hand, when fully anti-clockwise, reverb will be in maximum.
Blackstar produces the sound in your head. Its patented ISF control works well with the bass, middle and treble to give you unlimited access to new sound possibilities. Through this, you can design your own sound or fix that sound in your head.
Unlike initial models where jamming to your favorite song was quite a task, the Blackstar HT – 1R Tube Amp makes it easy to jam to your favorite song. This is supported by the MP3 line input that allows the user to play a backing track through the amp while recording or practicing.
- 1W rating
- Volume, gain, ISF tone control
- Overdrive switch
- MP3 line input
- Emulated headphone output
- Lacks basic EQ which can be annoying
4. Fender Super Champ X2 Tube Amp – Best Bang For The Buck
The Fender Super Champ X2 Tube Amp combines its 15W rich, dual-channel tube amp with modern and versatile amp voicing as well as wide selection of digital effects for a revitalizing amp experience. Simply put, it’s simple, flexible, tuneful and comes with easy computer connectivity.
Perhaps the highlight of this amp’s features is the overdrive channel that is equipped with voice knob with digital effects. The voice knobs allow the users to choose up to 16 voicing that covers various tones. Additionally, the digital effects section comes with 15 crucial effects including reverb, tremolo, delay, modulation among others.
Other essential features of the Fender Super Champ X2 Tube Amp include the tap tempo control that provides precise delay time adjustment, ¼” line output, USB output for users with speaker-emulated digital recording as well as external speaker capabilities.
With the Fender Fuse software, you can get access to tonnes of tonal variety, ready with easy customization of amp voicing, effect parameters, deep editing and online access to other Fender community content.
Users of the Fender Super Champ X2 Tube Amp consider this as the best amp per buck. This is because its price is incomparable with everything it can do. The amp isn’t all about the features and price but also enjoys positive comments from its basic overdrive and clean producing tones.
- Best for the buck
- Excellent overdrive and clean tones
- Modern/digital tube amp
- Good for practicing, recording and performing
- Gain tines are quite tweaking
5. Monoprice 611705 Tube Amp –Best Tube Amp Under $300
All the tube amps in this list come at affordable price tags. However, none of the above mentioned beats the Monoprice 611705 Tube Amp. It is an impressive feature packed amp at an affordable price point. Below are some of the interesting features of this tube amp.
First, it comes with an industry standard preamp tube that drives a single 6V6GT tube, providing a well-rounded tone, rich and smooth distortion. You will also enjoy the simple and minimalist controls that keep the amp’s circuit clean as well as producing pure tones, perfect for pedals.
The amp’s classic styling is the other notable feature. With this, you get to enjoy the 40s and 50s tone and styling yet with classic cream-colored, synthetic leather exterior amp with chrome corner guards.
To finish it off, the amp comes with separate tone and volume controls contained in one slid frame with classic styling.
- Versatile and durable
- Simple controls
- Classic styling
- Industry standard preamp tube
- Minor build quality problems
Things to Consider Before Buying a Tube Amp
With the diverse brands available on the market, finding your best choice can be difficult. This is why we thought our guide below can come in handy.
Consider the following features before buying a tube amp.
Tube Amp Sound Quality
This is one of the most important factors when looking for a tube amp. Whereas opinions can differ on the specific amp that produces better sound, most enthusiasts will agree that the dynamics, clarity, and articulation are of immense importance.
Since this is subjective in nature, it is prudent to judge this feature on your own as you consider other objective factors. That will help you make the right choice.
Amp Voicing or Tone
Different tube amps come with different voicing. While some differences are very subtle, others are obvious and easy to perceive.
Some manufacturers divide the amps to flavors labeled American that emphasizes highs and lows, British that emphasize mids and punch among others. Despite seeming like a broad generalization, this can help you recognize tonal differences easily.
Therefore, consider an amp with multiple voicing if you want some flexibility. If you aren’t sure about this, you can consult your favorite guitarist. Some manufacturers, such as Fender and Blackstar, provide multiple voicings with their tube amps. These are perfect for those wanting sonic flexibility.
It is important that you have the ability to shape the sound of your guitar through EQ controls. It doesn’t have to be the amp that does this. Modern amps come with pedals and racks that accomplish the same equalization with precise accuracy.
Power Rating & Attenuation
If you aren’t aware, the power rating of an amp determines its loudness as well as the sonic headroom. Low power amps are best for practice whereas high power amps are ideal for playing in big venues.
Some valve amps come with power attenuators that enable the user to decrease or increase the power rating depending on the situation. As a result, you will have better gain control.
For example, if you want to crank up the gain at a quieter volume level, simply lower the power output to enjoy good sounds without irritating everybody in your home.
As the rule of the thumb, the bigger the speaker size, the better it reproduces lower frequencies. However, bigger isn’t always better. This is especially true if you don’t have any plans of using the amp on stage. That said, medium-sized speakers are best for jamming, practicing and recording. This is due to their mid-range emphasis.
Input / Output Options
Whereas most tube amps available at this price range have single input options, some have dual inputs that accommodate different types of guitars. Aside from this, some tube amps allow you to route your signals to various channels.
Multi-input amps are good as they provide additional flexibility. They also allow two guitars to use the same amp at a time with certain limitations. Most multi-output options are designed specifically for amp heads. However, there are combo amplifiers with extension speaker and headphone outs.
You can also find some options with USB direct recording function. It can make amp recording easier and more convenient.
Apart from the complementary features, additionals are always welcome. Extra features including the tremolo, reverb and built-in multi-effects are an added benefit for practicing amps. Remember that these extras will not play a big role in the stage settings when you’re using pedals to get the same effect.
Frequently Asekd Questions
Q: How to Know if I should Replace a Tube Amp?
A: Did the volume level of your amp drop slightly? Or maybe it started to crackle or pop frequently. These problems may occur because of a failing tube. Additionally, other symptoms of failing or bad tubes include:
- Flat and lifeless sound
- Loss of volume
- Fuzzy sound
- No high frequencies
- Dead channel on the amp
Remember that tube amps work best with power tubes that are factory matched. Check the Troubleshooting Guide of your tube amp to find out how to replace it properly.
Q: Do I Need to Bias My Tube Amps?
A: When changing a power tube, you should adjust or re-adjust bias to get the most out of sound. This is only not necessary for cathode biased amps.
It is recommended to check and adjust your amplifiers from time to time as needed. Bear in mind that almost every tube amp has a lethal voltage inside. Be careful!
Q: Are Tube Amps Better Than Transistors?
A: Many people prefer tube to transistor amplifiers because they produce a better sound – cleaner, smoother, and warmer. It is all about the added euphonic distortions.
The way the tube amps distort when overdriven is more musical and cleaner than any artificial sound that comes from transistors. While casual listeners usually don’t notice anything special, dedicated music lovers and musicians appreciate these subtle effects.
Professional studio microphones have been using tube preamplifiers inside the microphones for decades. Their outputs are now supplied to tube preamps before becoming digitized for distribution and recording.
Q: Are Tube Amplifiers Louder Than Solid-State Amps?
A: No, they aren’t. However, tubes seemingly sound louder than solid-state amplifiers of the same power because of distortion. A louder sound should not be confused with the distortions.
Ready To Buy The Best Tube Amps?
Tube amps are meant to enhance your guitar’s sound quality. To achieve this, there is a need to find a good quality tube amp that meets your needs.
The five mentioned tube amps here are the best when it comes to durability, background noise reduction ability and sound distortion capabilities. Similarly, they are made from quality materials internally and externally.
This is perhaps the reason behind their exceptional sound quality, both at high and low volume. Always have an idea of what you are looking for when searching for the best tube amp under $1000. We are certain that our review will make your selection process better.
Even then, from the products we have mentioned, which one do you think is your favorite? Share with us in the comments section below!