8 Best Tube Amplifiers for your guitar
Who doesn’t enjoy a great tube amplifier? Before playing a large open E chord, putting your guitar into one of the best tube amps gives you an almost primordial sense of fulfilment. Bam!
What is it about tube amps, then? There is, of course, the tone. Whether it is smooth, dark, and deep, or clean and dazzling, it always sounds organic and complex. Another factor is the way a tube amp feels under your fingertips when you manipulate the strings to produce notes, saturating the tone as you press harder and clearing it up as you ease off.
The last option is simplicity. The use of tube amps is rarely complicated; frequently, there are only a few channels that you can customise with half a dozen chicken-head knobs and possibly some authentic spring reverb. I’m done now. Oh, and they naturally respond very well to pedals.
Although a lot has changed in terms of technology since the height of rock ‘n’ roll, many guitarists still regard vintage-style tube amplifiers as the pinnacle of guitar tone. Even the most well-known digital amplifiers spend the majority of their processing power trying to imitate the heart-pounding tones of the past.
best tube amplifiers to buy in 2022
Let’s take a quick look at the best tube amplifiers to buy in 2022:
- Fender 68 Custom Pro Reverb
- Fender 68 Custom Vibro Champ
- Tone King Gremlin Head
- Supro 1696RT Black Magick
- Supro 1812 Blues King 12
- Orange TremLord
- Blackstar JJN-20R combo
- Marshall Studio Vintage SV20H
Fender 68 Custom Pro Reverb Tube Amplifier
- PORTABILITY & FLEXIBILITY: The ’68 Custom Pro Reverb takes its cues from the original 40-watt model by reducing the cabinet size and weight, moving to a single-channel format and single 12″ speaker, and adding a middle tone control.
- CLASSIC STYLE: The ’68 Custom Pro Reverb also comes with vintage-style two-button foot switch and fitted cover.
- CONVENIENT & EFFECTIVE: This refined and upgraded amp is the perfect size and volume for almost any gig, and may be the ultimate pedal-friendly platform.
- GREAT FEATURES: Amplifier comes with vintage-style two-button foot switch and fitted cover.
- EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO START PLAYING RIGHT AWAY: Adding value to your purchase, Austin Bazaar bundles your instrument with necessary accessories.
|Color||Black Bundle w/ Tuner|
|Output Wattage||40 Watts|
The first of two Fender ’68 reissues on this list, the ’68 Custom Pro Reverb, features some very outstanding vintage Fender amp tones. A bias tremolo and tube-driven spring reverb tank make it simple to reach surf zone, but because of the extended spring length, modern ambient washes are also accessible.
Although clean tones may come to mind when thinking of older Fender combos, dialling up the volume still adds a lot of hair to the mix. Due to the 40-watt power rating, lower volume levels aren’t exactly quiet, but on this end of the volume range, there’s plenty of clean headroom if you want to utilise delay and reverb pedals without experiencing extreme compression.
Fender 68 Custom Vibro Champ Tube Amplifier
- Output Power / Output: 5 Watts
- Controls: Volume, Treble, Bass, Reverb, Speed, Intensity
- Amp Type: Tube
- Preamp Tubes: 2 x 12AX7
- Power tubes: 1 x 6V6
|Output Wattage||5 Watts|
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||20.5 x 19.5 x 12.5 inches|
|Item Weight||26.4 Pounds|
This could end up being one of the best home tube amplifiers money can buy because of its modest size and five watt output rating. It will also generate a maxed-out tube amp tone for smaller gigs where you don’t need to be too loud. Despite the lack of a dedicated overdrive setting, the amp may easily be pushed to its maximum due to its low power output and limited headroom. You may produce a more recognisable distortion sound by incorporating driving pedals into the setup.
The controls are simple and include knobs for volume, treble, and bass as well as controls for how much reverb and how quickly and intensely the built-in tube-driven tremolo will play. The five watts power a 10-inch speaker.
Tone King Gremlin Head Tube Amplifier
- Design type: tube
- Power: 5W
- Channels: 2
- Sound control: 1x tone
- Preamp tubes: 2x 12AX7
- Power amplifier tubes: 1 x 5881
- Impedance: 8/16 ohms
- Special feature(s): internal Ironman II power attenuator.
|Package Dimensions||48.26 x 43.18 x 25.4 cm; 13.15 Kilograms|
|Item model number||GREMLIN HEAD-TURQUOISE|
|Output Wattage||5 Watts|
|Item Weight||13.1 kg|
This little head amp comes in a variety of colours, but more importantly, it has a power output of five watts that is meant to replicate the sound of a classic black-panel Fender amp turned up to its loudest setting without being too loud for home use. There are two channels: Lead, for an overdrive in the tweed style, and Rhythm, for more headroom and “bell-like highs.”
These tones are produced with a 5881 power amp tube and two 12AX7 preamp tubes. On the amp’s face, there are only two inputs—one for the lead and one for the rhythm—and two controls—tone and volume. On-the-fly cable switching is still a viable option, or you could utilise the two inputs in conjunction with an ABY pedal to switch channels with a footswitch.
With the Gremlin from Tone King, you can overdrive the amp’s power section while keeping the volume under control thanks to the Ironman II attenuator that is included. To preserve the amp’s feel independent of output level, this uses a “reactive load.”
Supro 1696RT Black Magick Reverb Combo
- Tube Amplifier Head
- Tremolo – Black
- Spring Reverb
- with 2-b EQ
|Output Wattage||25 Watts|
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||24.2 x 16.1 x 11.9 inches|
|Item Weight||1 Pounds|
This 25-watt, 112-piece setup offers a distinctive tone we’d describe as “old-school heavy rock in a box,” and is based on the legendary Supro Jimmy Page used in the 1970s. The tonal characteristics of Overdrive are distinguished by a thick and forward midrange. It is smooth but exhilaratingly aggressive, clinging to individual notes with a ferocity akin to a Rottweiler. This is not—and wasn’t intended to be—a clear and tidy pedal platform, despite the fact that at first glance it might seem to have a little less treble and headroom than you’d want.
Supro 1812R Blues King 12 Tube Amplifier
- 1 x 12″ Tube Combo Amplifier with 3-b EQ
- Pigtronix FAT Mode
- FET-driven Boost
- Line Out – Black
- Spring Reverb
|Output Wattage||15 Watts|
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||9 x 6 x 4 inches|
|Item Weight||1 Pounds|
The Blues Junior may have finally found competition in the relatively priced 112 stakes, but we rarely award amplifiers a perfect 10/10 rating, and this one did. Other than adding a tremolo circuit, it’s impossible to imagine how Supro could have crammed more into such a little cabinet.
At both stage- and home-friendly volume levels, The Blues King offers a wide variety of Americana tones, from vintage cleans to worn-out overdrive and explosive fuzz. If you consider the price, buying it is a no-brainer.
Orange TremLord Tube Amplifier
- Single channel, hybrid valve pre amp with solid state power amp, aux in for MP3 or CD
- Preamp: 1 x Ecc83/12ax7
- Cab: 1 parallel 1/4 inch input jack, hard wearing woven paper grill cloth
- 1 Specially Designed Orange Speaker, 8 ohm, Power Handling 20w
- Head and Cabinet together. Includes AC Adapter and Speaker Cable
|Output Wattage||20 Watts|
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||10.63 x 9.45 x 21.65 inches|
|Item Weight||1 Pounds|
Despite having many cosmetic similarities to Orange’s other modern products, it is instantly obvious when plugged in that this 30-watt combo is neither a Dual Dark or Thunderverb. The vintage-sounding TremLord is all about characterful cleans, thrilling reverb, and throbbing tremolo and provides a punchy platform for contemporary pedal fans. Overall, we like that Orange’s latest album has a much more nostalgic feel than we’ve come to anticipate from them in previous years.
Blackstar JJN-20R MKII Combo
- Enhanced Cleans: The JJN-20RH MkII has two footswitchable Clean Voices, one with an American character and the other with a Class A British sound. Voice 1 clean gives a bright and tight tone with a solid bass response, the tone shaping is positioned early in the gain structure for a refined American tone and response
- Enhanced Overdrives: The two footswitchable Overdrive Voices are characterised by a tone which is high in gain, but avoids any of the detached top-end fizz often found in other designs. This is the Classic “British” Blackstar overdrive. Rich and natural it goes all the way to Super Crunch gain but cleans up beautifully
- Patented ISF Tone Shaping: The conventional three way guitar EQ network, or tone stack (a.k.a. Bass, Middle and Treble), is a key to the characteristic voice of traditional guitar amplifiers. Classic amplifier designs have their own versions of this network which leads to their own tonal voicings. The ISF control allows you to infinitely adjust the response of the tone control network between any of the traditional voicings in a way that has never before been possible
- Professional Recording Connectivity: USB output have been added for the simplest way to get valve tone into your recordings. Also added is a pro balanced XLR D.I. output, which allows the speaker emulated signals to be connected to external devices for practicing, recording or live use
- Power Reduction: Inspired by the patented Dynamic Power Reduction circuit, simply switch down to 2 Watts at the push of a button without any loss of tone. Perfect for driving the EL84 power stage hard at lower volumes
|Output Wattage||2 Watts|
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||16 x 25 x 21 inches|
This two-channel tube combo offers a range of tones from lush and organic cleans to tight and strong driving tones, capturing Jared James Nichols’ no-nonsense blues-rock approach. Additionally, the 20-watt combo features speaker-emulated outputs, USB connectivity, Blackstar’s patented ISF control for EQ fine-tuning, and more.
Marshall Studio Vintage SV20H Tube Amplifier
- 1-channel Tube Guitar Amp Head with 4 Inputs
- High/Low Sensitivity Loudness Controls
- Effects Loop
- Power Reduction Circuit
|Output Wattage||20 Watts|
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||25 x 12 x 10 inches|
|Item Weight||25.77 Pounds|
Marshall’s SV20H preserves the spirit of a vintage Plexi while having a new, more controllable form factor and a small size. The abundance of crystalline clean and thick driving tones found here will be manna from heaven for fans of old Marshall, and the five-watt setting means you don’t have to be on a festival stage to get the full Plexi effect.
Tube Amplifier vs solid-state Amp: what should you choose?
Although there has been discussion about this issue ever since the invention of the transistor, the market for tube amplifiers has recently been severely damaged by advances in digital modelling technology.
There is also no denying that smaller, lighter amplifiers are getting more and more popular, and that volume restrictions at live venues have been considerably stricter. However, putting aside their practicality and ease, vintage tube amps continue to be incredibly inspirational and sentimental. Even high-end modellers still struggle to replicate their dynamic response, feel, articulation, and harmonic intricacy.
Buying a tube amplifier: what should you look for?
If this is your first venture into the world of tube amplification, picking a power rating is a wise place to start. You won’t be able to crank up your tube amplifier all the way to its loudest setting if it’s too high. Although some would argue that the ability to moderately overdrive low-powered tube amps is a fundamental component of their attractiveness, if the volume is too low, it will be difficult to locate any clean headroom. When examining wattage, you should also consider if your amp will accompany you on stage or remain in your bedroom.
If you can mic up your tube amplifier over a PA, we’ve found that the ‘Goldilocks zone’ for the majority of gigging players is 15–30 watts. You won’t have any trouble dominating the drummer, but it won’t be so loud that sound engineers will hate you. Keep in mind, however, that speaker effectiveness is quite important as well.
Without a power attenuation or master volume control, a 15-watt valve amp will likely be too loud for home use; even a 5-watt tube amp can make your neighbours bang on the walls. You might want to think about a digital solution for at-home practise if noise levels do disturb you.
Further factors to take into account are clean headroom and tone quality. Do you want to use your amp as a foundation for pedals or do you want to indulge in magnificent power-tube overdrive? Do you prefer a Vox chime or a Marshall grind? Do you prefer black-panel shine or tweed? Modern high gain or stoner sludge? What about the reverb in the car? There are numerous alternatives.