Which tube amplifier is best?
The category of the best tube amplifier is fairly subjective, although most can find their ideal tube amp within their budget, preferred sound needs and use cases. Still, a few tube amps stand out as some of the most-used models by some of music’s biggest names, giving them some status as acclaimed amps.
At one point, the 1968 Fender Deluxe Reverb was considered the most-recorded amp in history – so it comes as no surprise why Fender’s reissue of the classic amp remains a staple with its colorful, versatile and spring reverb-packed tone.
What to know before you buy a tube amplifier
Solid-state vs. tube amps
While the category of the best guitar amps category is still out for debate, there’s something to be said for the timeless, electrified sound offered by many tube amps that have made them so well-acclaimed by guitarists of all styles. While solid-state amps don’t include tubes and offer more affordable models and an impressive array of sounds, there’s just nothing quite like the classic rock and roll sound of an authentic tube amp.
While many simply use tube amp heads, which require a speaker cabinet to produce audio, others find that combo amps with both speakers and the built-in amplifier are more useful and convenient to move and use.
Guitar effects pedals
Another factor to consider is how much of your tone will come from your amp or if you simply plan to generate tones using guitar pedals. Guitar effects pedals can offer a wide range of versatile guitar sounds, including effects like distortion/overdrive, reverb, delay, tremolo, general equalization and a whole slew of others.
What to look for in a quality tube amplifier
Many prefer amps that give them a wide range of control over their guitar’s tone character, such as high, middle and low, also referred to as treble, mid and bass knobs. Though some also only include high and low controls. In addition, many tube amps include multiple channels, which can sometimes offer the user an extra high-gain, bright or effects-based tones or different guitar signal circuitry altogether.
An amp’s output wattage is a decent judge of how loud the overall volume will be, although it isn’t a perfect comparison. In general, most medium-wattage amps at 20 watts are loud enough for almost any application, though it isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Many amps also include multiple wattage configurations, like Vox’s flagship amp, which you can purchase in 15-watt (AC15) or 30-watt (AC30) models, among others.
How much you can expect to spend on tube amplifiers
The price of tube amplifiers can vary quite widely, but tube amps tend to be more expensive than most solid-state or modeling amps. In general, you can expect to spend $400-$1,200 for the average tube amp, with some outliers that are cheaper or more expensive than these.
Tube amplifier FAQ
Are tube amps fragile?
A. Since tube amps are constructed from glass, they are a bit more fragile than solid-state amps. To protect them, most companies build housing around the tubes, circuitry and other vulnerable components to keep them somewhat safe.
Can your guitar amp be used for other instruments?
A. While you can theoretically run any instrument through a guitar amp, you should only use instruments with low frequencies like bass guitars, synthesizers and pianos with a bass amp. This is because they can damage guitar amp speakers that are not designed for lower frequencies.
What’s the best tube amplifier to buy?
Top tube amplifier
What you need to know: Fender’s Deluxe Reverb amps are one of the most timeless single-speaker tube amps in history, and they boast beautiful clean and distorted tones, along with Fender’s signature spring reverb and tremolo effects.
What you’ll love: This particular Deluxe Reverb model is a reissue of Fender’s classic 1968 Silverface amp sound, offering a single Celestion G12V-70 speaker and an added Bassman tone stack on the custom channel. It also includes built-in spring reverb and tremolo effects, and is loud enough for most live and recorded settings.
What you should consider: Some buyers reported that these reissues arrived with damaged wiring or effects hardware. Others who wanted a Fender Deluxe Reverb elected to buy them used to find vintage models.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top tube amplifier for the money
What you need to know: This is by far one of the best amps at this price point, packing an impressive punch for being just 15 watts and including the classic Fender sound desired by many guitar players.
What you’ll love: Despite its small size, the Fender Blues Jr. is used by many professional musicians for its beautiful Fender tones and endless spring reverb. Along with sounding great, the Blues Jr.’s lacquered tweed on the outside of the cabinet makes for a super durable amp while offering a classic look.
What you should consider: Some users looking to use their amps for high-gain recordings preferred higher-watt Fender amps that can be turned up much louder.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: If you prefer a more British-styled guitar tone with a strong mid-range, Vox’s classic AC15 or AC30 models may be the way to go, featuring the company’s signature top boost input and some extra effects.
What you’ll love: Vox AC15 amps are well-known for their mid-range sound, and they also offer reverb and tremolo like many of Fender’s well-known amps. These amps are well-used in both live music and recording and feature especially tube-forward sounds at higher volumes. In addition, many love the classic diamond-patterned speaker grill cloth on Vox’s amps.
What you should consider: Some users find this amp unnecessarily heavy, despite only having one speaker.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Zachary Visconti writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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