When it is about choosing an amplifier for a professional live performance, then a tube amplifier is undeniably the most popular of the choices. The main reason is that even a cheap tube amp offers a deep and richer tone and an incomparable clean sound as compared to a solid-state amp that doesn’t have a good reputation in the music circles.
Although a tube amp is considered to be a little pricier alternative to the newer adversaries, a cheap tube amp can be found at an affordable, competitive price range because of the advancements in the niche, as well as a reduction in fabrication costs.
On the other hand, if you are planning to get one for yourself or are looking to get a gift for someone who is passionate about guitar and has been long chasing the dream of becoming a professional guitarist, then there is nothing better than getting a high-quality tube amp for them.
Gone are the days when guitarists were required to carry a heavy and ungainly amp along with them wherever they go. The newer models of amps by Fender, Bugera, Vox, and Randall among others are not just lightweight and compact but also provide excellent sound clarity and distortion that is comparable to the best tube amps.
Some of these amps even have in-built speakers which means that you don’t have to buy them separately. So, if you are also looking for a lightweight tube amp that can easily be carried around for your live performances or just sessions with friends at home then read on as we list the best tube amps.
List of the best tube amps for guitar
Having so many cheap tube amps available in the market, it can indeed be a minefield to navigate when it is about the choices, but you have an option to narrow down your requirements on what will be the top cheap tube amp that can fit your needs.
California Tone Research Set5
This is an A-class, 5W cheap tube amp that features a 12AX7 pre-amp tube as well as an E84 power tube to give you the purest of the tones on an 8-inch speaker. There is one input along with the volume levels, bass, and treble control, and for the 8 and 16 ohms speakers, it has two 1/4 inch outputs. The best feature of California Tone Research Set5 is its simplicity, and it is able to break up nicely at high volume levels to give you bare bone tones.
- 5W tube amp
- Has pre-amp tubes of 12AX7 and E84 power tube
- Purest of the tones on an 8-inch speaker
- Speakers are 8 ohms or 16 ohms with 1/4 inch outputs
- Good quality sound at an affordable price
- Has in-built speakers
- Not very versatile for complex music styles
Best suited for:
As the name says, California Tone Research Set5 is perfect for those who are into clean country, rock, or blues genres of music. This cheap tube amp will give you the optimum sound quality even at higher volume levels while playing the guitar.
Fender Pro Junior III
You can have a unique and identifiable Fender tone with the Fender hot series amplifiers. These small tube amps by Fender are affordable, reliable, and very loud with a 10-inch speaker and can rival the vintage Fender amps. Junior III by Fender is a 15-watt tone machine that offers a fundamental approach to amplification. Although this cheap tube amp may not give you all the bells and whistles, you can surely get a bit of sensitive authentic tubes sound with this guitar amp.
- 15W tube amp
- Single channel and 1-12 inch speaker
- 3 band EQ and simple controls
- Good build quality with reliable tubes
- Loud for its size, great for small gigs or home practice sessions
- Might not be loud enough for live performances or large venues
Best suited for:
This is indeed one of the best tube amps for beginners because it offers great sound quality and has in-built speakers that help beginners to focus on learning the mechanics of the guitar rather than spending time in setup. It can also be used by professional solo acoustic artists who may not require additional features such as pedals to adjust the distortion or any other effects.
Marshall 2525C Mini Silver Jubilee
The Mini Silver Jubilee is a miniature version of the well-known Marshall Silver Jubilee that comes with a trademark sound. This cheap tube amp has all the traditional pre-amp hallmarks in an amplifier that is low-powered and has three 12AX7 pre-amps, a three-band EQ with 2 EL-34 amps. Its dimensions are constructed to the greatest attainable measures at the Marshall factory. With this powerful yet cheap tube amp, you can be sure to get the original features of the Jubilee Series and the quality amp tones.
- 4.5W tube amp
- 3 band EQ with 2 EL34 amps
- Tube preamp with 12AX7 tubes
Powerful for its size, great tonal quality without much fuss.
Cannot be used in large venues because of the low wattage and also not all effects could be used due to the single-channel
Best suited for:
Marshall 2525C Mini Silver Jubilee is a cheap tube amp that is perfect for home practice. With this 4.5-watt cheap tube amp, you can get that signature Marshall sound and has in-built speakers to allow your audience to hear every note being played.
Vox AC4 4W
You will find Vox AC4 4W to be an all-tube and hassle-free miniature combo amp that delivers you the same boost tones that have been able to enchant the guitarists for the past few decades. This cheap tube amp comes with two 12AX7 pre-amp tubes, has all of the essential controls as well as an EL-84 power tube. The essential controls include bass, treble, and an excellent 12-inch speaker. Vox AC4 has all the outstanding looks of the old Vox, which comprises a basket weave vinyl exterior and a diamond grille cloth.
- 4W tube amp
- 2 AC – EL84 tubes
Good quality sound reproduction and easy to use.
As it is a low wattage, cannot be used in large venues
Best suited for:
Vox AC4 4W is one of those cheap tube amps that can perform well on its own or as a low-watt power amp or an extension speaker. It is suitable for home use, private performances, and jamming with friends.
Blackstar HT1R Series
HT1R is a cheap tube amp by Blackstar that provides you with vintage tube tones in a compact amplifier of 8-inches. It has user-friendly controls, including the volume level, ISF tone control, and comes with a high-build quality overdrive switch. With the HT1R series, you can expect some excellent breakup and crunch characteristics that one can expect from a 100-watt amplifier even when the volumes are low.
- 8W tube amp
- 1V8 preamp tubes
Has an excellent tone with a responsive EQ. Perfect for low-volume practice and at-home use.
With the wattage being on the lower side, cannot be used in large venues or by professional musicians without running into issues
Best suited for:
Blackstar HT1R is perfect for practicing and jamming at home as well as by professional solo musicians who perform in small venues. It has a responsive EQ that offers great tonal control, especially when it comes to classic rock clean sounds. While the volume level may not be loud enough for large performance stages, it works well as a cheap tube amp that can produce high-quality sounds even when the volume levels are low.
With a tube amp, you can have an incomparable and top-notch natural sound as it is subtler and produces warmer, smoother, and clear sound as well as affix harmonic distortion. Many solid-state alternatives promote themselves in the market, but it is always better to choose a real thing that may be marginally different in costs. Even a cheap tube amp can offer you tone benefits, and you will be able to find plenty of such products on the market.