17 Best Small and Low Watt Tube Amps in 2021

Tube amps are often perceived as being louder than solid state amps, which is technically true. A low wattage tube amp, of say 10 or 15 watts, will actually sound as loud or louder than a solid state amp of 50 watts or more. Speaker impedance, which is the amount of resistance that a speaker offers to the current that flows through it, actually depends largely on the nature of the frequencies that the speakers are reproducing, and the hard clipped signals produced by solid state amps strongly reduce the available power, giving them higher speaker impedance and less overall power.

Best Small Tube Amps and Low Watt Tube Amps (Featured Image)

The difference in power and signal clarity is one of the main reasons why you will find 5 Watt, 10 Watt, and 15 Watt tube amps priced in the same neighborhood as high quality 50, 60, and 100 watt solid state amps. However, for some players, the fact that you have to push the tubes in your power amp at very high volume to get the saturation that modern lead players are looking for makes tube amps impractical. This is why many amp manufacturers have outfitted their tube amps with power reduction switches and attenuators that allow you to push the power tubes at lower volume, essentially making it easier to overdrive the amp.

We’ll start this article by discussing the best small tube amps at each price point. We’ll cover tube amps of all types, whether you are looking for a combo or head unit, something with low watt output or an attenuator to reduce the output, great overdrive tone or clean tone, we’re sure to cover something that fits your needs. If you’d prefer to read more about low watt tube amps before diving into product reviews, you should start with my buying guide at the bottom of the page here.

Name of ProductImage of ProductDescriptionPrice RangeFull Review
1. Friedman Runt-20 (Best Overall)Friedman Runt-20Output: 20w
Number of Channels: 2
$1600Read Full Review Below
2. Vox AC15C1 (Best Value)Vox AC15C1Output: 15w
Number of Channels: 2
$700Read Full Review Below
3. Marshall SV20H Studio Vintage (Editor’s Choice)Marshall Studio Vintage SV20HOutput: 20/4w
Number of Channels: Single channel
$1500Read Full Review Below
4. Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb (Best Under $1000)Fender ’65 Princeton ReverbOutput: 15w
Number of Channels: 1
$1100Read Full Review Below
5. Fender '57 Custom Champ (Best Small Tube Amp Combo)Fender '57 Custom ChampOutput: 5w Class A
Number of Channels: 1
$1000Read Full Review Below
6. Mesa Boogie Mark Five 25Mesa/Boogie Mark Five:25Output: 25W Class AB (10W triode setting)
Number of Channels: 2
$1600Read Full Review Below
7. EVH 5150III LBXIIEVH 5150III LBXIIOutput: 15w
Number of Channels: 2
$700Read Full Review Below
8. Supro Blues King 12Supro Blues King 12Output: 1w class A
Number of Channels: 1
$400Read Full Review Below
9. Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr.Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr.Output: 15w
Number of Channels: 1
$2400Read Full Review Below
10. Marshall DSL5CRMarshall DSL5CROutput: 5W
Number of Channels: 2
$500Read Full Review Below
11. Magnatone Panoramic StereoMagnatone Panoramic StereoOutput: 2 x 12W stereo amp
Number of Channels: 1
$3000Read Full Review Below
12. Orange Rocker 15Orange Rocker 15Output: 15W (7W/1W/0.5W settings with Attenuator switch)
Number of Channels:
$800Read Full Review Below
13. Marshall 1974XMarshall 1974XOutput: 18w
Number of Channels: 2
$3500Read Full Review Below
14. Morgan Amps AC20Morgan Amps AC20Output: 20W (variable with power scaling control)
Number of Channels: 1
$1800Read Full Review Below
15. Supro 1605R ReverbSupro 1605R ReverbOutput: 5W Class A
Number of Channels: 1
$1000Read Full Review Below
16. Tone King GremlinTone King GremlinOutput: 5W, built-in variable attenuator
Number of Channels: 2
$1300Read Full Review Below
17. Magnatone Super FifteenMagnatone Super Fifteen Amp HeadOutput: 15W Class AB
Number of Channels: 1
$2000Read Full Review Below

Here Are the Best Small Tube Amps / Low Watt

1. Friedman Runt 20 (Best Overall)

Friedman Runt-20 Guitar Amp

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Estimated Price $1600
Output 20w
Number of Channels 2
Speaker 1×12″ Celestion G12-M Creamback
Tubes Preamp Tubes: 3 x 12AX7, Power Tubes: 2 x EL84
Weight 41.5 lbs.

My Review: This compact 20-watt two-channel all-tube combo amp is perfect for small-room gigs and studio recording, with great versatility and tonal full-spectrum quality. You can run the gamut from crisp cleans to high gain, perfect for creating your own sound. The touch response is on-point too. And with the cab-simulated XLR output, you can achieve silent performance with comparable sound quality to a digital cab-sim.

Overall Build: The Runt-20 is constructed with Baltic birch with black Tolex, and comes with an inbuilt 12 inch Celestion G12-M Creamback speaker, three 12AX7 preamp tubes, two EL84 power tubes, one 1/4- inch (instrument) input, two 1/4- inch (speaker out) outputs, and one XLR (direct out) output. There’s also a buffered series effect loop.

Control and Built-In Effects: There’s one 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (channel; 1-button footswitch included) and 3-band EQ

Conclusion: This 20 watt combo amp is all-tube, delivering smooth, old-school sounds from a 12 inch Celestion G12M-65 Creamback speaker. The two channels are clean and dirty, making it a great genre-bender that can go from crisp cleans to crunchy rock and metal. It’s made from rugged Baltic birch to take a bit of manhandling, so it’s great for the guitarist on the go. The analog cabinet-emulated XLR output is a great point of difference – the sound quality is on par with top-notch digital emulations. It also comes with an internal speaker load allowing you to run directly without the need to plug a speaker in, and features Friedman’s beloved transparent series effects loop. In my opinion, this is the best small tube amp out there.

2. Vox AC15C1 (Best Value)

Vox AC15C1

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Estimated Price $700
Output 15w
Number of Channels 2
Speaker 1×12″
Tubes Preamp Tubes: 3 x 12AX7, Power Tubes: 2 x EL84
Weight 48.5 lbs.

My Review: This 15-watt combo amp is part of a proud heritage of Vox amplification, with famous players like Brian May & Tom Petty shaping that classic British sound. The Celestion 25-watt Greenback speaker helps soften out harsher frequencies; combined with the power and preamp tubes, there’s a really iconic Vox tone. The AC circuit goes well with your favorite array of pedals, so you can tone-tweak to your heart’s content. At 15W, it’s powerful enough to deliver a full, clear sound when you’re gigging or in the studio, too.

Overall Build: The Vox AC15C1 is a two-channel amp with one built-in 12” Greenback speaker, three 12AX7 preamp tubes, two EL84 power tubes, an effects loop, two 1/4-inch inputs (normal & top boost), and two 1/4- inch outputs (speakers).

Control and Built-In Effects: Master volume, master tone cut, and normal volume; Top Boost volume, bass and treble; speaker level, tremolo (depth & speed), and reverb. One 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (normal & top boost; footswitch not included).

Conclusion: Vox amps are the stuff of music legend, and this 15 watt combo guitar amp sure doesn’t disappoint. The Celestion 25 watt Greenback speaker really mellows out the harsher frequencies, for reliably full & attractive sonic quality. The EL84 power offers up great chime, and there are normal and top boost channels, tremolo, and spring reverb. All-in-all, a powerful amp with great tone. I’d say this is the best 15 watt tube amp for the money right now.

3. Marshall SV20H Studio Vintage (Editor’s Choice)

Marshall Studio Vintage SV20H

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Estimated Price $1500
Output 20/4w
Number of Channels Single channel
Speaker none
Tubes Preamp Tubes:3 x 12AX7, Power Tubes:2 x EL34
Weight 20.4 lbs.

My Review: The Marshall brand has been legendary in the world of rock music for decades, and the Studio Vintage takes all that Marshall awesomeness and packs it into a 20-watt head amp with serious firepower. It’s a low-watt version of the 1959 Plexi, which basically led the rock revolution and was played by Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Johnny Ramone, and plenty more of the greats. Iconic vintage Plexi tone with the saturated grit and biting leads that enraptured the crowds at Woodstock, now in a compact low-watt package that’s perfect for studios and gigging alike. It also comes with a bunch of features you wouldn’t find on the original Super Lead, like an effects loop to integrate your pedals and external processors, and a power reduction circuit to adjust the wattage down to 5 watts for home practice, and cranked tones on the quiet. There’s also a DI output so you can easily record or route to a PA. Classic sounds, with modern convenience.

Overall Build: This 20W (adjustable to 5W) single-channel tube amp made out of Black Tolex comes equipped with three 12AX7 preamp tubes and 2 EL34 power tubes, two 1/4- inch inputs for high & low treble input, and two more 1/4- inch inputs for high & low normal input. There’s an impressive six outputs in total: one 1/4- inch output (16 ohm), two 1/4- inch outputs (single 8 ohm or two 16 ohm), two more 1/4- inch outputs (single 4 ohm or two 8 ohm), and one 1/4- inch output (DI out).

Control and Built-In Effects: 3-band EQ as well as presence, high treble/loudness I, normal/loudness II and low/high power mode selection switch.

Conclusion: This awesome reissue delivers the beloved tones of an original ’59 Super Lead into a compact but powerful 20 watt head amp that offers up the legendary Plexi sound. With four separate inputs, you can really craft something special, and there are also high and low-sensitivity loudness knobs. There’s also 3-band EQ with presence control, making this perfect for someone looking for a flexible amp that lets you get that sound you’re looking for. With the power reduction circuit, you can go down to 5 watts, making it perfect for bedroom practice without waking the neighbors, and the DI output means you can easily record or route to a PA. I’d say that this is easily one of the best low watt tube amps on the market right now.

4. Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb

Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb

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Estimated Price $1100
Output 15w
Number of Channels 1
Speaker 1×10″ Jensen C-10R
Tubes Preamp Tubes: 3 x 12AX7, 1 x 12AT7, Power Tubes: 2 x 6V6, 1 x 5AR4 (Rectifier)
Weight 34 lbs.

My Review: Channel the original 60s Princeton Reverb amp in its full legendary Fender glory! It’s great for small gigs, recording, and home practice, and with its compact, tough and durable design, it’s easy to move around.

The amp delivers 15 watts of power and with its specially voiced Jensen 10” speaker, you can produce a range of awesome guitar tones. Whether you’re plugging it right in for that iconic Fender tone or developing your own sound with your preferred pedals array. And as the name suggests, you’ll get seriously world-class reverb (and vibrato, too). The original ’65 Princeton Reverb has been a favorite for generations and is a hard-to-find and expensive collector’s item nowadays, but this vintage reissue offers all the big tube tone of the original, at a much pocket-friendlier price.

Overall Build: This 15W single-channel amp offers 15W of power, with a single Jensen C-10R speaker, three 12AX7 and one 12AT7 preamp tubes, two 6v6, and one 5AR4 (rectifier) power tubes, two instrument inputs, and two speaker outputs.

Control and Built-In Effects: 2-band EQ (bass and treble), reverb, volume, speed, and intensity. 2-button footswitch with a 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (reverb and vibrato).

Conclusion: This vintage reissue tube amp delivers up 60s old-school sounds, with an iconic Fender tone that’s become part of rock history. There’s a 10 inch Jenson Special Design C-10R speaker on board, for great sound whether you’re playing clean or crunch, and the reverb and vibrato effects are awesome for sound crafting. This single-channel amp comes with controls for speed, intensity, reverb, bass, treble, and volume, and is loaded with three 12AX7s, one 12AT7, two 6V6s, and a 5AR4 rectifier tube. There’s also a two-button footswitch that you can use for handsfree reverb and vibrato on/off.

5. Fender ’57 Custom Champ (Best Small Tube Amp Combo)

Fender '57 Custom Champ

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Estimated Price $1000
Output 5w Class A
Number of Channels 1
Speaker 1×8″ 4 ohm Weber Special design Alnico speaker
Tubes Preamp Tubes: 1 x 12AY7, Power Tubes: 1 x 6V6 Power tube, 1 x 5Y3GT Rectifier
Weight 15 lbs.

My Review: This lightweight, compact 5 watt vintage reissue of the legendary 1957 Fender Champ combo amp brings you that vintage sound and classic appearance that has made 1950s Fender Champ tube amps the stuff of legend for seven decades and counting. It comes with an 8” Weber Special Design speaker that delivers old-school sound thanks to its alnico magnet, while the carefully handwired circuits offer up diverse, responsive sound. It’s also seriously good-looking, with a solid pine cabinet, oxblood grille cloth, real leather strap handle, and iconic tweed look; you can pretty much channel Marty McFly rockin’ out at the school disco scene in the first Back to the Future! The look is a serious point of difference for this amp, with period-correct golden hues and an overall look that’ll be eye-catching at home, in the studio, or on-stage.

The original ’57 Champ was used by many beloved artists like Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton (including on his iconic song “Layla”), and with these striking looks and unique tweed tone, it’s easy to see why. They sound great when cranked up too; warm, fat overdrive with a vintage sound that’s made the 1950s Champs such collectibles. It’s a very recognizable, inimitable sound that you won’t quite find anywhere but with this series, and its latest incarnation does not disappoint. Thanks to the careful hand wiring, it’s also very responsive to your sound and your pickup positions and delivers diverse tonal quality with less fiddling.

Overall Build: This single-channel 5W Class A combo amp comes with an on-board 8 inch 4 ohm Weber Special design Alnico speaker, one 12AY7 preamp tube, one 6V6 power tube, one 5Y3GT rectifier, one two 1/4- inch inputs (high, low instrument).

Control and Built-In Effects: Keeping it simple 50s style, there’s just a volume controller and that’s it; the out-of-the-box sound of this amp is part of its appeal, after all. Yeah, it’s easy to use!

Conclusion: This vintage reissue of an iconic ’57 Fender Champ combo amp is carefully constructed and hand wired to be true-to-form with the original, with authentic coupling capacitors. If you love that vintage Fender sound, you’ll love this amp, with old-school sound delivered from a Special Design Weber alnico speaker. With its super simple 1 knob control panel, you’ll deliver up awesome tones with less effort. I’d say the Fender 57 Custom Champ is the best small tube amp combo available right now. If it’s out of your price range there are some other great options on this list as well.

6. Mesa Boogie Mark Five 25

Mesa/Boogie Mark Five:25

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Estimated Price $1600
Output 25W Class AB (10W triode setting)
Number of Channels 2
Speaker 10”
Tubes Preamp Tubes 6 x 12AX7, Power Tubes 2 x EL84
Weight 24 lbs.

My Review: This 25W two-channel tube amp boasts six style modes, for that legendary Mark Series preamp sound. It’s compact, portable, responsive, and versatile; channel one lets you flip between sweet clean to crunchy gain, while channel two lets you get that iconic Mesa lead tone. The built-in Celestion Custom G10 Creamback speaker gives you that instantly recognizable British warmth and growth, and with the Cabclone speaker-emulated direct output, it’s perfect for gigging and recording alike.

Overall Build: The Mark Five is a two-channel tube amp constructed from Black Taurus Vinyl with Black Jute Grille. It boasts 25W of total power, and a 10W triode setting when you want cranked sound at low power. There’s one 10 inch speaker on board, six 12AX7 preamp tubes, and two EL84 power tubes. There’s also one 1/4- inch (instrument) input, and four outputs in total (one 1/4- inch (internal 8 ohms), 2 1/4- inch (4 ohm parallel), and one XLR (CabClone DI out), as well as effects loop and a 1/4- inch headphone jack.

Control and Built-In Effects: Control and Built-In Effects:5-band Graphic, Treble, Mid, Bass EQ. Two-button footswitch included, with one 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (channel & EQ).

Conclusion: This two-channel tube combo amp comes with six total style modes to explore, for impressive tonal diversity and versatility in a little low-watt package. You’ll be able to enjoy the same preamp tone as Mesa’s iconic Mark V, Mark IV, and Mark IIC+ preamps, and that custom G10 Creamback speaker delivers warm, expressive sounds in a compact 10 inches. The Cabclone speaker simulator and internal load box are great for direct tone, and you can apply the all-tube spring reverb to each channel separately. Lastly, the aluminum chassis makes this a very durable amp that should last you for forever, so it’s great for guitarists on the go. Comes with a two-button footswitch (channel 1, channel 2, and EQ) and a slipcover.

7. EVH 5150III LBXII

EVH 5150III LBXII

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Estimated Price $700
Output 15w
Number of Channels 2
Speaker none
Tubes Preamp Tubes 4 x JJ ECC83S, Power Tubes 2 x JJ EL84
Weight 16 lbs.

My Review: This little amp packs a big punch, with the same powerful clean and crunch channels as the higher-wattage amps in this series. The green channel’s clean tone is great for a variety of genres, and the blue channel gives you that high gain tone that EVH’s known for. A lunchbox amp, with epic tones! At 15 watts, this head amp is perfect for gigging, and you can dial it down all the way to 3.5 watts when you’re playing at home. And with the late, great Eddie Van Halen’s seal of approval, you know it’s gonna be an amp worth considering.

Overall Build: The EVH 5150III LBXII is a tiny, lightweight overachiever with two channels, 15w (adjustable down to 3.5w), with four JJ ECC83S preamp tubes and two JJ EL84 power tubes. One 1/4- inch input and one 1/4- inch output (4/8/16 ohms) and an effects loop. It’s a tube head amp with no inbuilt speaker, but all the better – just hook it up to your best gear for some serious sounds.

Control and Built-In Effects: The amp includes 3-band EQ for bass mids, treble, and presence. The presence control boosts up those upper-mid-range frequencies so that voices and instruments that are similar in tonal range get more of a presence, while resonance boost the bass frequencies. The amp comes with a 1 button 1/4- inch footswitch.

Conclusion: Designed with that unique Van Halen sound in mind, this 15 watt tube amp is great for high-gain. The adjustable power means you can crank it up at different volumes without losing quality, and you can easily switch between clean and crunch using the two foot-switchable channels. There’s also resonance and presence controls and an effects loop, so you can craft unique sounds across genres.

8. Supro Blues King 12

Supro Blues King 12

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Estimated Price $400
Output 1w class A
Number of Channels 1
Speaker 1×8″ Custom Supro BK8
Tubes Preamp Tubes:1 x 12AX7, Power Tubes:1 x 12AU7
Weight 15 lbs.

My Review: This single-watt tube combo amplifier is taking the reins from the classic Supro amps that shaped the Chicago rock scene, in a compact little 1-watt amp that’s perfect for practicing at home: crank up the input volume and keep the master volume low for rocking out with crunch and saturation at a bedroom-friendly volume. The Blues King comes with a vintage style Class A power section, an 8-inch Supro speaker that’s been custom-made to capture their iconic tone, and easy controls so you can get your best sound with less fuss. Tweak the master tone and use the foot-switchable boost to develop your unique sound.

Overall Build: The Blues King is a single-channel amp with 1W (class A) of total power, a custom 8-inch Supro BK8 speaker, one 12AX7 preamp tube, one 12AU7 power tube, one 1/4- inch input, and two 1/4- inch outputs (internal speaker & line out).

Control and Built-In Effects: This amp comes with volume, tone control, master volume, boost, and one 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (boost; footswitch not included.)

Conclusion: Bluesy Chicago sound in a compact 1 W package that’s perfect for practicing at home! This amp delivers up saturated tones at bedroom-friendly volumes, and the BK8 speaker adds extra oomph to your sound. With the line output, you don’t need to mic your amp for recording, and the Class A power section means you can enjoy the tones that have made Supro’s name. There’s also a boost for a great midrange response, with an optional footswitch to engage boost handsfree. This is easily one of the best low watt tube amps under 500 dollars.

9. Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr.

Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr.

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Estimated Price $2400
Output 15w
Number of Channels 1
Speaker 1×12″ Celestion G12M Greenback
Tubes Preamp Tubes: 3 x 12AX7, Power Tubes: 2 x NOS Russian 6n14n (EL84), 1 x 5Y3 (rectifier)
Weight 44 lbs.

My Review: This 15-watt tube combo amp is a homage to its big brother, the original Z Wreck that Dr. Z is so renowned for. It’s also got the benefit of a master volume control, for awesome tonal range and fantastic touch response, and a post-phase inverter volume circuit so you can keep things quiet while still enjoying top-notch sound quality. The on-board speaker is a 12” Celestion Greenback, which has a great reputation among guitarists for its rich British sound. They’ve also kept the same sturdy construction of the Z Wreck, so you can take it along to gigs and the studio for many years to come.

Overall Build: The Z Wreck Jr is a single channel 15W amp with one built-in 12 inch Celestion G12M Greenback, three 12AX7 preamp tubes, two NOS Russian 6n14n (EL84) power tubes, and one 5Y3 (rectifier) power tube. It also comes with a 1/4- inch input and a 1/4- inch output (internal 8 ohms) and is constructed from black Tolex with black piping.

Control and Built-In Effects: This amp comes with bass, treble, and cut (which acts like presence). Simple but effective controls.

Conclusion: This 15 watt tube combo amp was based on its big brother, the legendary Z Wreck which was originally built for American country music star Brad Paisley. Thanks to the 12 inch Celestion Greenback speaker (which is pretty legendary in its own right), you’ll be delivering up classic tones that you’ve heard played by musos like Eric Clapton and Angus Young. The high headroom has exceptional touch response, the NOS Russian EL84s offer fantastic sonic quality and extended longevity, while the simple-is-best control set (volume, bass, treble, and cut) lets you dial in those awesome tones with less fiddling.

10. Marshall DSL5CR

Marshall DSL5CR

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Estimated Price $550
Output 5W
Number of Channels 2
Speaker 1×10″ Celestion Ten-30 speaker
Tubes Preamp Tubes: 2 x ECC83, Power Tubes: 1 x ECC99/12BH7
Weight 27.9 lbs.

My Review: This ready-to-rock 5-watt combo amp in a small package is a new-and-improved offering in the legendary DSL series, with that classic Marshall tone. You’ll find per-channel gain and volume controls, reverb, and adjustable power level to 1 watt so you can get the tones you’re looking for even when you’re keeping the volume low. The line output comes with an on-point emulation of Marshall’s renowned 60s speaker cab, and Marshall’s also upped their tone-tweaking game with an improved EQ section, too; from clean to crunch and seriously high gain, you can achieve your unique sound.

Overall Build: The DSL5CR comes with two channels, 5 watts of power (adjustable to 1 watt), one built-in 10 inch Celestion Ten-30 speaker, two ECC83 preamp tubes, one ECC99/12BH7 power tube, one 1/4- inch (instrument), and one 1/8 inch (aux in) input, and two outputs (one 1/4- inch internal speaker, and one 1/8 inch Softube emulated out).

Control and Built-In Effects: 3-band EQ, tone shift, deep, reverb, effects loop, and a 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (channel and effects loops; two-button footswitch included).

Conclusion: This tone beast delivers those classic Marshall tones that have been such a part of music history, and with two channels (classic gain and ultra gain) you’re ready to dial up some serious overdrive. The high and low power modes mean you can maintain the tonal quality on the shush, and the line output offers up a very accurate emulation of a Marshall 1960 cab. There’s also fantastic tonal flexibility thanks to the refined EQ section, while the studio-grade digital reverb and rear-panel series effects loop mean that you’re really poised to develop your own sound.

11. Magnatone Panoramic Stereo

Magnatone Panoramic Stereo

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Estimated Price $3000
Output 2 x 12W stereo amp
Number of Channels 1
Speaker 2×10″ Ceramic speakers
Tubes Preamp Tubes: 3 x 12AX7, 1 x 12AU7, Power Tubes: 4 x EL84
Weight 36.5 lbs.

My Review: So much versatility in a tiny package! This 2×10” all-tube combo amplifier offers up the crystal-clear cleans and gritty overdrive that Magnatone have built their name on as a “sleeping giant” of rock history. It also comes with onboard effects and two 12w power sections for vintage sound options like stereo pitch shifting, spring reverb, and tremolo. And with the two built-in Magnatone Custom 10” speakers, it’s ready for gigging, recording, and practice alike as you surround yourself with rich, textured stereo sound. The amp is powered by two 12-watt power sections which you can run in stereo or mono, and with the amp’s onboard effects, you can really make the most of the three-dimensionality of the sound. The effects can all be controlled using the footswitch that comes with the amp and can be used in stereo mode.

Overall Build: This single-channel 2 x 12W stereo amp constructed with brown Tolex comes with two 10” ceramic speakers, three 12AX7 preamp tubes, and one 12AU7 preamp tubes, as well as four EL84 power tubes. There’s two 1/4- inch inputs, and a total of four 1/4- inch outputs (two remote speakers, two-line out).

Control and Built-In Effects: 2-band EQ (treble & bass), 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (2-button footswitch included); tube driven, long spring tank reverb, and effects (pitch shifting vibrato/tremolo).

Conclusion: This classic-sounding all-tube combo amp in a compact package delivers true stereo performance and a very nuanced tone that lets you easily dial between sparkling, chiming clean or vintage breakup. There are two custom Magnatone 10” speakers on board, driven by two separate EL84 power sections, as well as an external speaker and line outputs. The stereo pitch shifting, tremolo, and Accutronics reverb offer up great sound shaping, too.

12. Orange Rocker 15

Orange Rocker 15

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Estimated Price $800
Output 15W (7W/1W/0.5W settings with Attenuator switch)
Speaker 1×10″ Gold Label speaker
Tubes Preamp Tubes:3 x ECC83, 1 x ECC81, Power Tubes:2 x EL84
Weight 29.9 lbs.

My Review: The Rockerverb series has brought us high-gain Orange Amplification tone for two decades and counting, and this all-tube Rocker 15 is a new & improved iteration of that legendary amp. It’s easy to use and versatile, with clean and dirty channels to get your on-point sound. The clean channel has a single volume control and is carefully voiced to make the most of your strumming, while the dirty channel is perfect for guitarists who love crunch and high-gain. And thanks to the power scaling adjustable to 15 watts, 7 watts, 1 watt, and 0.5 watts, you can enjoy the tone of a cranked amp with volumes that suit gigging, studio, and bedroom practice alike. And with the all-tube design, it’s not just the preamp and power sections that are tube-driven, but also the buffered effects loop for that inimitable tube tone.

Overall Build: This two-channel 15W amp has four power settings in total, switchable with the attenuator switch. It comes with one 10” gold label speaker, four preamp tubes (three ECC83 and one ECC81), and two EL84 power tubes, as well as a tube-buffered effects loop and one 1/4- inch (instrument) input.

Control and Built-In Effects: 3-band EQ and one 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (channel; footswitch not included).

Conclusion: The two re-voiced channels on this new and improved iteration of the Rockerverb series go from chiming to grinding with absolute ease, and the four selectable power wattages mean you can keep your volume low without compromising on the depth and quality of sound. There’s a buffered tube-driven effects loop, and a 10 inch Orange Voice of the World Gold Label speaker for a distinct, inimitable tone. With a dual EL84 power section, the voice is perfect if you’re looking for a British tone profile.

13. Marshall 1974X

Marshall 1974X Handwired Combo Amp

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Estimated Price $3500
Output 18w
Number of Channels 2
Speaker 1×12″ Celestion Greenback T1221
Tubes Preamp Tubes: 3 x ECC83, Power Tubes: 1 x EZ81 (rectifier), 2 x EL84 (power)
Weight 41.89 lbs.

My Review: This is the first hand-wired Marshall amp in many years, following the tradition of the Handwired series which are some of the world’s most coveted all-tube Marshall amps. With true tube tone and easy operation, this authentic vintage reissue comes with original components and materials, as well as aged Greenback T1221 speakers, for a new and improved version of the beloved late-sixties model 1974 combo amp that still closely duplicates the original. The aged speakers are particularly noteworthy because the Celestion Greenback speakers soften with age; for this amp, Celestion has gone back to the original speaker and aged it, for a new Marshall-exclusive speaker that’s a real selling point. These amps were created with point-to-point authenticity in mind, and they’ve really delivered with this painstakingly re-created reissue – from circuitry to 1960s construction methods, tone, and feel.

Overall Build: The Marshall 1974X is a two-channel 18W amp with one onboard Celestion Greenback T1221 speaker, three preamp ECC83 tubes, one EZ81 power tube (rectifier) and two EL84 power tubes, three inputs (two 1/4- inch, channel 1; two 1/4- inch, channel two high/low sensitivity). The construction materials are Baltic Birch Cabinet with a Gray/White Grille.

Control and Built-In Effects: One 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (tremolo; 1-button footswitch included). Tube tremolo effects, and per-channel tone control.

Conclusion: This 18 watt, 16 ohm mono combo amp is a true-to-form painstakingly re-created vintage reissue and the first hand-wired amp from Marshall in many a year. The exclusive, aged reissue of the 20 watt ceramic magnet Celestion Greenback T1221 12 inch speaker used in the original is a fantastic selling point for this amp, and the high-grade Baltic birch cabinet with finger-locked joints make this a sturdy and good-looking amp you’ll be proud to own.

14. Morgan Amps AC20

Morgan Amps AC20

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Estimated Price $1800
Output 20W (variable with power scaling control)
Number of Channels 1
Speaker 1×12″ Celestion G12H-75 Creamback
Tubes Preamp Tubes: 2 x 12AX7, Power Tubes: 2 x EL84
Weight 49 lbs.

My Review: Cathode-biased Class-A tube amps are known for their melodious sound and clarity, and the Morgan AC20 1×12 inch combo amp doesn’t disappoint; it’s a firm favorite with many top-notch session guitarists for delivering harmonically rich tone whether you’re playing clean or in overdrive. It comes with great touch response and tone, too. The AC20 has power scaling running from a maximum of 20 watts all the way down to a bedroom-friendly 0.25 watts, with 100% variable control, and without compromising on tone. You can also get that fine-tuned perfect interaction between your guitar, pedals, speaker, and power amp.

That cranked-up Class A tube amp sound really drove the British invasion, and Morgan’s AC20 is perfect if that’s your go-to sound, but they’re also fantastic for clean and grit alike. It’s also a very easy-to-use amp; plug in and play to get that Class A tone, no fiddling required for a diverse tonal range. Less time playing with knobs, more time playing as you deliver fantastic sounds across genres.

Overall Build: This cathode-biased Class AA single-channel amp is constructed with Baltic birch, and its compact size makes it a perfect fit for the trunk of your car. It comes with 20W of power, which is variable with power scaling control all the way down to 0.25w. There’s one 12 inch Celestion G12H-75 Creamback speaker on board, with a warm & old-school sound; there’s also two 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL84 power tubes, as well as one 1/4- inch input.

Control and Built-In Effects: Simple but effective, with cut control, bright switch, and bass switch.

Conclusion: This all-tube Class A combo amp delivers 20 watts of power in a small package, with power scaling letting you dial it down to a mere quarter of a watt without compromising on sound. The 12” Celestion Creamback speaker offers up the warm, old-school tone, and the controls are simple but very effective; less playing with dials, more playing. All in all, it’s a diverse amp at a reasonable price point that’s packed with power and tonal diversity.

15. Supro 1605R Reverb

Supro 1605R Reverb

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Estimated Price $1000
Output 5W Class A
Number of Channels 1
Speaker 1×8″ Custom vintage designed speaker
Tubes Preamp Tubes: 2 x JJ 12AX7, 1 x JJ 12AT7, Power Tubes: 1 x JJ 6V6
Weight 25 lbs.

My Review: This combo amp is a vintage reissue of Supro’s original 1605R Reverb 1 x 8 inch 5-watt all-tube guitar amplifier, with all the awesomeness that comes with the original amp (played by iconic bands like the Rolling Stones). Thanks to this reissue, you can get your hands on those same classic rock tones! With single volume control and 2-band EQ, this simple amp packs some serious punch, especially when you crank it up for power-amp drive. Finally, the custom 8-inch speaker really brings to life the sound that the 1605s are so renowned for.

The 1605R Reverb comes with three innovative line-level outputs that open up diverse signal-routing options. The Wet output will separate out the reverb from your signal, so you’re getting a 100% wet signal to another amp, with your dry tone sent to the onboard speaker. The Dry output does the same but in reverse, while the Mix output attenuates them both together. It’s a nice, easy way to get a wet & dry guitar rig.

The custom 8 inch speaker is another win for this amp; they’ve carefully re-created the original speaker that gave these combos their character. Supro went to top-of-the-line engineers at Eminence, along with Iowa State University, to laser-scan the original speaker so they could really get as close as possible to the original design. Fun fact: Supro used a “golden sample” owned by Aerosmith’s Joe Perry to create this combo, really capturing the original amp’s character.

Overall Build: This single-channel 5W Class A combo amp constructed from blue rhino hide Tolex comes with one 8 inch custom vintage-designed speaker, with three preamp tubes (two JJ 12AX7 and one JJ 12AT7) as well as one JJ 6V6 power tube, one 1/4- inch input, and a grand total of six outputs (one 1/4- inch, 4/8 ohms; one 1/4- inch (dry out), one 1/4- inch (wet out), one 1/4- inch (mix out) and one 1/4- inch (power amp in)).

Control and Built-In Effects: 2-band EQ, tube-driven spring reverb, and one 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (reverb bypass; footswitch not included).

Conclusion: This combo amp delivers huge guitar tones in a small package, and the three-line outputs mean you can easily run a wet/dry guitar rig. 5 watts of power is just perfect for cranking it up at lower volumes, and the 2-band EQ and volume control offers up great sound with less fuss. The speaker is a great selling point, too: custom engineered in a collaboration between Supro, Eminence, and Iowa State University to closely approximate the original speakers that gave the original 1605R and its Supro contemporaries cult status.

16. Tone King Gremlin

Tone King Gremlin

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Estimated Price $1300
Output 5W, built-in variable attenuator
Number of Channels 2
Speaker 1×12″ Celestion 870 speaker
Tubes Speaker Size: 1 x 12″ Celestion 870 speaker, Preamp Tubes: 2 x 12AX7
Weight 29 lbs.

My Review: Old-school sound meets modern technology in this vintage-style 5-watt combo tube amp, delivering the raw, cranked sounds of tweed and blackface amps in a small, portable package that’s easy to use. There are two channels, for rhythm and lead; rhythm’s perfect for sparkling 60s cleans, while lead gives you a warm, gritty drive for those classic American tones. The control layout is super straightforward, for less fiddling on the fly: controls for volume, tone, and two inputs. And if you add in an optional A/B/Y footswitch, you can switch between tones and mash things up as you go. Very flexible! Also, thanks to Tone King’s proprietary variable power attenuator, you can enjoy all that richness of your preferred tones even with the volume down low – your Gremlin can sound the same whether you’re on-stage or playing at home.

Lastly, the tonal variety belies how small this amp is; you’ll fit it easily in the trunk of your car. Large tones, small size, and a 12” speaker that offers the clarity and oomph you’d expect from a much physically bigger tube amp.

The old-school look is another point of appeal, too; you can imagine amps looking just like this rocking the stage at the very beginning of rock!

Overall Build: This two-channel combo amp constructed with a Baltic birch cab comes with 5 watts of power and variable attenuation. It comes in various colors, from old-school cream to eye-catching turquoise. There’s one 12 inch Celestion 870 speaker on board, as well as two 12AX7 preamp tubes and one KT66 power tube. There are also two inputs – one 1/4- inch rhythm, and one 1/4- inch lead – as well as one 1/4- line out. There’s also a 1/4- inch footswitch I/O (channel & tremolo; the footswitch is not included).

Control and Built-In Effects: The Gremlin takes a simple approach, with volume & tone control and a 1/4- inch footswitch I/O. The footswitch is not included.

Conclusion: This compact, portable tube combo amp delivers gritty American tones and 60s cleans alike, with rhythm and lead inputs letting you tweak your headroom, gain, and tones. You can switch between channels easily with an optional added footswitch, too. The custom-voiced cabinet and sizable 12 inch speaker means this amp comes packed with a larger voice than you might expect, while the power attenuator means you can crank things up while keeping the volume down and maintain the same sound quality throughout.

17. Magnatone Super Fifteen

Magnatone Super Fifteen Amp Head

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Estimated Price $2000
Output 15W Class AB
Number of Channels 1
Speaker 1×12″ Custom Magnatone Ceramic Speaker
Tubes Speaker Size: Preamp Tubes:3 x 12AX7, Power Tubes:2 x EL84
Weight 46 lbs.

My Review: Magnatone started producing electric guitars and amps almost a hundred years ago in southern California, and they became a favorite with guitarists in the 50s and 60s for their iconic pitch-shifting vibrato effect that you can hear on Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley records.

Largely on hiatus from the 70s onwards due to business complications, the unique tones of this sleeping giant’s amps could still be heard now and then on recordings by aficionados like Neil Young and Slash; and in 2013, they re-appeared on the rock scene with a new, improved line of amps that are known for their full cleans, British crunch, and boutique handbuilt quality.

The Super Fifteen is no exception; this 15W Class AB combo tube amp is great for gigging and recording, with modern features like a tube-safe speaker-emulated output that’s perfect for silent recording and practice, and high and low gain inputs so that you can really craft your tone. The custom 12-inch ceramic magnet speaker is powerful enough to fill the room with sound, and if you’re playing a larger venue, there’s also an extension speaker output for your preferred speaker.

It’s easy to use, too – just dial in those sparkling cleans or edgy crunch depending on the tone you’re looking for. And thanks to the gain and master volume controls, you can really make the most of your preamp and power section to get that textured Class AB tube breakup and crank it up without losing sound quality.

With its small size, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s not going to be gig-able, but great news: this amp was born to be onstage. With 15 watts of all-tube power, you can easily cover a drummer when you’re playing smallish venues. And thanks to the reduced output and single 12-inch speaker, it’s perfect to bring along to the studio or play at home, so you can go into full overdrive without waking the neighbors. Lastly, the speaker-emulated line and headphone outs mean you can achieve high quality silent practice. It’s a handsome looking fella, too, constructed from birch plywood and with blond amp covering and a wraparound grille for a look that perfectly balances retro and modern; eye-catching on stage or even in the living room.

All in all, a great amp for lovers of classic old-school vintage big tube tones, powerful enough to get the job done, and with modern features that make it even better to use than its original big brothers. Handmade and hand-wired in the good ol’ USA with love and care, it’s easy to use, with that unique tone that’s secured Magnatone its place in rock history.

Overall Build: A satisfying 15W (Class AB) of power, with a custom 12-inch Magnatone ceramic speaker on board. Three preamp tubes (12AX7), two power tubes (EL84), and two 1/4- inch inputs (low and high). There are also three 1/4- inch outputs (internal speaker, extension speaker (8 / 16 ohm), and line out), and one 1/4- inch TRS headphone jack (32 ohm headphones). It also comes with an internal speaker load and speaker simulation level.

Control and Built-In Effects: 3-band EQ, and a buffered effects loop. Again, less fiddling – the amp’s unique sound and ease of use is a big part of its appeal.

Conclusion: Looking for a big tube tone at a reasonable price? This 12-inch combo amp delivers the best of American and British tones in a compact and easy to use package, handmade and hand wired for extraordinary and unique Magnatone sounds that have given these amps cult status. It’s more than just a clone of the old Magnatone classics; there’s new tech onboard, like speaker-emulated line and headphone outs for silent practice, or use the speaker extension output to scale up and play big-room gigs. The Magnatone custom-made ceramic-magnet 12 inch speaker is a big part of this amp’s charm, and with high and low-gain inputs you can really craft the sound you’re looking for.

Choosing the Right Small Tube Amp (Buying Guide)

Tube amps, as opposed to solid state amps, faithfully produce between 80% and 90% of their power regardless of the frequencies being produced by your guitar. Also, the full, smooth, and fat over-driven tone of a cranked tube amp are less harsh and more agreeable to the ear, making them more tolerable to listen to at high volume than solid state amps. In this way tube amps are both actually and subjectively louder than solid state amps.

Attenuators are devices that soak up some of the power of the amp that would otherwise be sent to the speakers and they can either be external or built into the amp, as they are in models by Orange, EVH and Blackstar just to name a few. By soaking up the power, the attenuator allows you to overdrive the tubes at a lower volume. So you are able to get that fat, supersaturated tone that modern players are looking for, at a relatively low volume.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get serious bang for your buck when it comes to low-wattage tube amps. There are many deluxe models with features that are well worth the extra that they offer, but there’s also plenty of value-for-money all-tube tone monsters that give you plenty of tonal quality and versatility without breaking the bank. But it’s not a purchase you want to enter into lightly, either; there’s plenty of difference between amps even in the same price range, after all. With that in mind, here are some recommendations on what to look for when you’re looking at purchasing your brand spanking new amp.

What About Watts?

Firstly, let’s talk about how wattage actually works in a tube amp. If you’re thinking of switching from digital to the tube, it’s worth considering that tube wattage delivers quite a bit more volume than solid-state amps of the same wattage; tube amps only need a third of the equivalent solid-state amp wattage to deliver about the same perceived volume. That means if your 50 watt solid state amp is delivering enough volume for you, you can get about the same dB results from a 15 watt tube amp.

It’s also important to consider that output wattage is connected to volume increase, so a 10 watt amplifier isn’t ten times as loud as a 1 watt amplifier; rather, it’s twice as loud. Similarly, a 100 watt amplifier is twice as loud as a 10 watt amplifier, or four times as loud as a 1 watt amplifier.

In terms of the best wattage for the way you’re using or likely to use your amp. For example, tube amps sound best when you push them up to a certain degree, meaning that a 100 watt tube amp isn’t really necessary or useful for bedroom practice, but would be great for large room club gigs. If you’ve got other people living in your house, or neighbors who might not appreciate the free concert, then you’re probably looking more for around 5 watts.

Again, it’s worth considering that 100 watt tube amp isn’t twice as loud as a 50 watt amp; rather, it’s a difference of about 3 decibels. And more watts also mean a heavier amp, so if you’re lugging it around on the bus or train, or don’t feel like busting your back getting it in and out of the car, you’ll probably want something that’s both smaller and lighter.

What to look for in a tube amp

There’s a lot of jargon involved in amp specs: from preamp and power tubes to channels and EQ, clean and dirty, and a whole lot more. Lower output wattage amps tend to be more affordable, and can also deliver a crunchy tube tone without deafening your housemates. Higher-watt units will give you higher headroom, but it’s harder to get good sound quality out of a high watt tube amp at low volume, potentially leading to muffled sounds.

Understanding Tube Amps

There’s a bit to think about when it comes to tubes as well. The different kinds of power tubes deliver different kinds of sound; for example, 6L6 power tubes are known for clarity and roundness, while EL34 is known for tight lows, chimey highs, and pleasing mid-range sounds. The EL84s are lower output, but with smoothness, fullness, and bluesy harmonic distortion. Lastly, 6550s and KT88s are powerful, clean sounding, and tend towards the low end of the frequency spectrum.

Next, the preamp tubes. The preamp does the bulk of the tonal shaping, and what’s particularly important to look out for it’s the circuit type and the features it comes with, like effects loops, multiple channels, reverb, and so on. Amps generally come with between one and four channels, and if you’re looking for a bit of diversity in the distortion department, then an amp with multiple channels will be appealing. The advantage of more channels is basically relying less on pedals to get that overdrive happening, and making the most of gain controls for the respective channels of a tube amp. High gain amps will generally have two channels (clean and gain) or more, so you can turn up that preamp gain while leaving master volume at a quieter level for high distortion at lower volumes. It’s worth noting that preamp tube break up is less touch responsive than power tube break up, and the resulting sound is different too.

While multi-channel tube amps offer built-in flexibility, a player looking for purity of tone may be better off with a single channel amplifier. It is important to bear in mind that you will color your tone by running your guitar through springs in a reverb pan, multiple channels, or jacks and cables in and out of an effects loop. Simply put, the more components in the signal chain, the more the signal purity will be altered. And when a tube amp has three preamps, a reverb circuit, effects loop, buffers, and additional gain stages—but is the same price as a less complex model—costs were probably cut somewhere.

Class A, AB, and B Amps – What’s the Difference, Anyway?

You’ll often see Class A, Class B, and Class AB mentioned in amp specs; this refers to power amplifier classes and gives you a broad idea of the amp’s characteristics and performance. Class A amps conduct over the entire range of the input cycle, and are ready to amplify instantaneously at all times because the tube doesn’t have to “wake up”. A Class A amp will sound louder at the same wattage than a Class AB amp, and the current is at max all the time, leading to smoother compression. However, there are also disadvantages: max current at all times means that even when you’re not playing, the tubes are in use, leading to shorter longevity and a lower power rating. Conversely, Class B amps have no current flowing when the output devices aren’t in use, so they need to turn on from a zero-current state. Class B amps tend to have a slower slew rate, which can lead to a mushy sound; on the other hand, they’re quite affordable and their power supplies don’t have to be as durable.

Next up are Class AB amps, which are a bit more of a best-of-both-world situation. Class AB will have more headroom, higher power ratings, and longer tube lives than comparable Class A amps, and be less continuously demanding to the power transformer. On the other hand, they’re less responsive than Class A amps, quieter at the same wattage, and less smooth.

Budget

When it comes to buying your new tube amp, the dollars and sense will likely be the most important factor: we’d all like premium amps, but you have to make sure you’re not breaking the bank. In any case, higher-priced amps don’t always signal superior tone or quality, so narrow things down by looking at amps that are within your budget and work through these to decide what would suit the style you like to play and the features you’re looking for.

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