Which high-end tube amp is best?
When it comes to shaping guitar tone, finding the right high-end tube amplifier is one of the most important parts of generating the instrument’s overall sound. However, what kind of sound and style you’re looking to emulate depends on you and will ultimately determine which amps are best for your needs.
The criteria for finding the best high-end tube amplifier depends largely on your tastes and the sound style you wish to achieve. The Fender’s Twin Reverb Tube Amp Reissue offers two speakers for an insane amount of headroom, as well as that timeless Fender sound that has defined so many North American guitar recordings.
What to know before you buy a high-end tube amplifier
Recording vs. live performance
Whether in recordings or live performance, tube amps remain some of the best guitar amps available. Solid-state and modeling amps do an impressive job creating artificial versions of classic vintage amp sounds. They are also a decent choice for live situations since they’re lighter, cheaper and easier. However, high-end tube amps are still widely used in live music and recordings by those who can afford them.
Sounds you’re hoping to achieve
Ultimately, the guitar sound you’re hoping to achieve will determine which tube amps may be best for you. A good way to narrow down which amps may be a good fit for your intended sound is to look at live videos of your favorite guitarists’ amp and pedal setups and pick out similar amps, companies, or pedals.
Amp heads vs. combo amps
While many high-end tube amps come in the form of amplifier heads with a separate speaker cabinet to produce the sound, combo amps are a simplified option that combines both of these elements. Combo amps have become more popular in many scenarios, though amp heads are still widely used in some live and recorded settings.
What to look for in a quality high-end tube amplifier
Ultimately, the money you pay for a high-end tube amp is going towards the high-quality combination of speakers, tubes and wiring that makes up your guitar’s tone through a specific amp. The guitar’s tone is made up of several things, but a high-quality tube amp will add a vintage-like warmth to your guitar, along with typically allowing the user to customize their sound with onboard gain, EQ, tone and effects knobs.
Another important feature of high-end tube amplifiers is how many speakers you want in an amp. Even small, single-speaker amps will be loud enough in most live settings, though many prefer dual or quad-speaker amps or cabinets for louder amplification.
Output wattage is often used as a rough estimate of how loud an amp can be, though it’s not directly correlated. Still, some find lower output wattage amps are easier to use to generate breaking up sounds at lower volumes, while those that want extremely loud amps can find a safe bet in amps with output wattages of 30 and above.
How much you can expect to spend on a high-end tube amplifier
Truth be told, the sky is kind of the limit when it comes to the price of a high-end tube amplifier. While custom tube amps can easily cost several thousands of dollars, the average consumer will find most high-end tube amps $1,000-$3,000 sufficient, depending on what exactly the need.
High-end tube amplifier FAQ
Do tube amplifiers sound better?
A. Sound is subjective, so it’d be tough to say that any amp sounds better than another. With that being said, there’s also a reason why people will pay more for tube amplifiers and why professionals across the industry use them.
How do tube amplifiers work?
A. In short, tube amplifiers work by sending the flow of electrical current through vacuum tubes, which amplify audio before pushing it out to the speakers.
What’s the best high-end tube amplifier to buy?
Top high-end tube amplifier
What you need to know: The Twin Reverb is a powerful two-speaker amp from Fender, modeled after the company’s classic 1968 amplifiers that so deeply influenced a wide range of genres.
What you’ll love: Fender’s Twin Reverb offers super-versatile tube amp sound with its dual Celestion G12V-70 speakers and bright switches on both the custom and vintage channels, as well as tremolo and reverb effects. In addition, the Twin Reverb includes treble, middle and bass knobs, compared to just treble and bass knobs on the Deluxe Reverb.
What you should consider: This amp may be too loud for those looking to get the classic “breaking up” tube sounds at lower volumes.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top high-end tube amplifier for the money
What you need to know: Slightly cheaper than Fender’s dual-speaker Twin Reverb is the company’s modern Super-Sonic design tube amp, which is an ideal single-speaker tube amp for high-gain tones.
What you’ll love: Along with offering a single Celestion G12 Vintage 30 speaker, the Super-Sonic has a wide range of available tone options – including normal and fat, settings on one channel, vintage and burn settings on the other, and built-in spring reverb. This amp is also available in both cream and brown or the classic Fender black silver face schemes.
What you should consider: This amp only includes one input, unlike many high-end tube amps out there.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: The Supro 1659T Black Magick is among the best out there, offering a convincing vintage tube amp sound with a built-in tremolo.
What you’ll love: This amp is perfect for those that use their own effects pedals and just want a beautiful, British-style clean tone to work off of or a nasty, high-gain break-up sound at higher volumes.
What you should consider: While the natural sound of this amp is crisp and organic, some users prefer amps with more onboard control over the tone, making this amp best for those who use guitar pedals to generate the tone.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Zachary Visconti writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.