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Top 5 Best Cheap Tube Amps

Updated on February 16, 2016

I love acoustic.

But if its not acoustic, the best amplified sound you can get is the tube amplifiers.

Sure, most of them these days is some combination of tubes and solid state transistors. And, granted, they are huge and heavy.

I still challenge you to plug your guitar into one and strum it. You'll see why my Pa always insisted on carrying his own amplifier with him everywhere he played.

Just to set expectations, its hard to get a lot of Tube Amp for an affordable price. At most, you'll end up with an Amp that you love playing gigs with and impressing your friends. Unless you are sold on the tube sound (ie a lot of blues and rock) you'll want to pay more. Additionally, you won't be able to find a great tube amp for heavy metal at this price point -- they just aren't built for that much sound.

Here's the top 4 Tube combo amplifiers in a great price range.

If it helps, I also have created a quick run down of the benefits at the bottom Why a Tube Amplifier?

[Picture above from Wikipedia]

Amplifier Face-Off!!!

Which do you Prefer?

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peavey valveking
peavey valveking

#5 - The Peavey ValveKing

Peavey was my dad's brand. Always a favorite for him, and although he has never gotten back into playing his electric bass, he's always tried to keep an amp - preferably a Peavey -- around the house.

(We kids plugged into our drum set. Mom loved that)

This Peavey comes with a lot of ability to handle distortion sounds. It uses a variable ClassA - A/B control which allows sweepable selection between both the Class A and Class A/B power structures, enabling you to pick out your own "sweet spot". Additionally, there is additional gain available on the lead channel for when you are soloing it.

The overdrive has been stated by some to be "too much". And that's the beauty of the Peavey. You just dial it back until your ears love it.

Once you get it all dialed in, you'll love playing with the buffered effects loop and the presence and reverb controls.

If you play a lot of Journey, this is probably the Amp for you

#4 - The Fender Super Champ X2

15W Amplifier Head. Combine With Your Favorite Fender Speaker!

This one isn't a combo amp. But for the sound and power and options I think it is really worth a mention. You can easily pick up a Celestion 12" speaker in a Fender cabinet and still keep the whole project super affordable..

This amp head gives you great sound with the added flexibility of being able to be used with different 8 ohm speaker set ups. You have a voicing knob with 16 different voice types preset.

Since it is a dual channel amp, you can hook in an optional footswtich to control the switching if you like.

It also has a USB output for capturing the real speaker sound when recording digitally.

This is the amplifier serious players will enjoy using in their garage to create a wide variety of music and who enjoy having a lot of options to fiddle with. Even better, with the Fender Fuse program you can edit the sound even further to record any type of music you desire.

#3 - The Orange Tiny Terror

This one should probably be ranked at #2, but I know most of you will be searching for combo amps. .

That said, the Tiny Terror is virtually a legend of its own and one this list would not be complete without.

It's a 1-channel head amp, with switchable outputs so you can choose between 15 and 7 watts. It has gain, tone and volume controls.

What really sets the Tiny Terror apart its its class A circuitry. Using this design it produces both the positive and the negative halves of the output signal, increasing the harmonics and creating an incredible crunch.

This is probably the most well-rounded studio amp you can lay your hands on, and even metal heads who are desperate for an amp in this price range will be pleased with how effectively they can drive this amplifier.

#2 - The Marshall Class 5

When the Brit, Jim Marshall started selling musical equipment back in the 1960s,he wasn't planning on developing one of the hottest amplifiers on the market.

But after enough customers complained about the sound of the other amps on the market, Jim Marshall sat down with one of his lead repair dudes and developed his own amp with its very own "Marshall sound". That sound became incredible popular, and, Marshall became one of the foremost producers of amplifiers.

Most of you are already looking at the 5 watts of power and wondering how the heck it can be loud enough. However, unlike solid state amps which MUST be measured by power, this one delivers all of the noise without the power suck. Basically, the wattage is ramped up in the pre-amp and then amped again in the power amp (all-tube design).

You'll have no problems staying louder than the drummer, and plan on playing this one in the garage sometime before the neighbors go to bed.

Volume, middle and bass controls along with a 10-inch Celestion speaker.

The coolest thing about this amp is how classic it is. Blues and rockers are going to love this one for its classic, throwback sound.

Its a small amp, but for solo playing and small gigs, its going to literally "rock your socks off."

#1 - The Bugera V55

It doesn't get more retro than this 2-channel 55 watt beauty.

And what really sets this one apart is how much power you are getting for how little money it is costing you

It comes with a 12" speaker -- more than big enough to share your talent with any audience. The 55 watts is more than enough power for any medium sized setting.

Bugera is the newest contender in the all-valve (all-tube) design, but they are already getting rave reviews.

And then, for the true vintage feel you have Bass Mid and Treble presence controls and even a footswitch to control the channel and reverb function so that you can adjust your sound on the fly without the audience being any wiser.

If you are looking for a combo amp that still has the true 60's sound, this is the one you want to with. Its warm sound will have you swearing it's the best amp you've ever owned. It comes with two main settings: the pentode overdrive for the "gnarly growl" and the the triode for a wamer, bluesy feel. Most use the triode.

For even more overdrive, consider pairing this with an overdrive pedal and even distortion pedals to get the sound you are looking for.

Why a Tube Amplifier?

Tube amplifiers were the original way of amplifying electrical signals and were crucial to the development of technology such as radio and television. For most applications, these vacuum tubes have mostly been replaced since the 1970s by solid state transistors and semi-conductors.

Tube Amplifier vs. Solid State Sound

The undisputed benefit of tube amplifiers is that they provide a much better sound. Scientifically, though, quality built amplifiers actually give the more accurate sound.

So which is it?

Turns out that the Tube amplifiers actually produce more distortion. And that distortion gives a more full sound that is pleasing to many an ear. It also can be overloaded to provide additional effects and overdrives such as with electric guitars for bluesy and rock effects.

Tube amps aren't cheap. But for the price, you are going to get a better sound, a louder amplifier, and a piece of history.

Don't sell yourself short. Find the right amp and go make your own history.

Single Channel Vs. Multi-Channel Amps

Back in the day, amplifiers were often used by small bands. Amplifiers would need one channel for the guitar and one for the microphone or some other instrument. These days some people still like multi-channel amps will run a different setting on each channel so that they can switch between them.

However, for most of what you do, a single channel will likely be fine.


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