Amplifiers are essential tools for electric guitarists. Many musicians prefer the sound of a traditional tube amplifier to the more modern digital sound of solid-state amplifiers or emulators. Tube amplifiers have a sound of their own that’s difficult to replicate. If you want to get the best sound out of your guitar, you should invest in a good tube amp.
Below, we will explore the best tube amps under $600. So if you are in the market for a new tube amp, keep reading.
What is a tube amp?
Tube amps amplify electric guitars or basses. The tubes inside the amplifier produce heat, which increases the signal’s volume.
Many musicians love tube amplifiers because they distort at higher volumes. The organic sound is pleasing to the ear, creating tat classic rock n’ roll music and its iconic timbre.
Fortunately, many all-tube amplifiers on the market are incredibly affordable. They still have that authentic tube amp sound.
Tube amps come in various sizes, shapes, and price ranges. Some of them even include features such as headphone jacks, speaker cabinets, and footswitches.
Best Tube Amps (Quick Summary)
- Explore rich harmonics and overdriven tube tone with a single EL84 power tube and 2- 12AX7 pre-amp tubes pumping out a glorious 7 watts of big tone
- Take your tone far from clean with the vintage-style treble-booster circuit that adds pre-amp gain and additional harmonics.Single 10 inches 8-ohm Celestion Ten 30 speaker
- Use the ¼ Line Out Jack to feed the line level output of the amp to a recording device or another line input of an amp
- Durable meets dark with the bold gray lacquered tweed, black grille clothe grille and white stitched black leatherette wide handle
- Enjoy the peace of mind that the Fender Bass breaker amps are backed by a 5 year transferable warranty (1 year on the speaker 90 days on the tubes)
The Fender Bassbreaker amp produces thick, gritty tones for those who love the sound of classic rock, blues, and heavy metal. Imagine if Leo Fender went in the direction that Marshall did back in the day. Enter: the Fender Bassbreaker 007.
The Bassbreaker series from Fender first came around in 2016. Since then, these amplifiers have gained serious popularity. They come in combo form (with the speaker inbuilt) or head form (just the amplifier).
The Bassbreaker 007 is a Class-A combo tube amp powered by 7 watts. This amount of power is enough to get some serious volume during a live performance, but it’s not too much to be able to use at home without bothering the neighbors.
The Fender Bassbreaker comes with two channels: clean channel and crunch channel. You can switch between these channels using the footswitch or by pressing the channel button on the front panel. The crunch channel is closer to that classic tube bass sound, while the clean channel produces the more familiar pristine tones you might know Fender for.
The amp also features a master volume control which allows you to adjust the overall level of the amp. If you’re looking for a gritty rock amplifier, look no further than the Fender Bassbreaker 007.
- Powerful for its size
- Very affordable
- It gives you a versatile range of tones
- No effects loop
- Power: 20Watt (hybrid)
- Tube: one 12AX7 (preamp)
- Controls: Gain, shape, volume
- Impedance: 8 16 ohms
- Headphone out with CabSim circuit
Big things indeed come in small packages with this Orange hybrid amp. Although it is a hybrid, it does have a 12AX7 preamp tube to give you that authentic tube overdrive sound. That’s what makes it a tube amp in our books!
This small but mighty beast weighs a mere 1.7 lbs and is only 6.5” by 5.31”. Despite its small size, the sound produced by this amplifier is pretty big.
Orange has kept things nice and straightforward with the Micro Dark, using only a few knobs that give you enough control to shape your tone. The Micro Dark can be used with a cabinet or even straight into a PA system, including cabinet emulation technology. You can even use it with headphones.
The cabinet emulation convincingly reproduces the sound of a 4 × 12” guitar cabinet, which is immersive when listening on a good set of headphones.
This amp is for lovers of heavy metal and hard rock. You can get all those heavily saturated tones that you’ve been dreaming of with high-gain circuitry. It can also output 20 watts; this amp can provide some serious volume. You can connect it to any cabinet with 8 to 16 ohms impedance.
- Great range of different tones
- Features cabinet emulation for headphone use
- Compact size
- Requires separate cabinet
- Limited EQ controls
- 2-channel All-tube 1×8″ Guitar Combo Amplifier with Infinite Shape Feature
- Reverb – Bronco Grey
- Voice Switch
- USB Output
This tiny 1-watt tube amp packs a punch that will surprise you. Despite its super compact size, it produces full, rich tones with plenty of low-end. This is the perfect low-wattage tube amplifier for home use.
Since Blackstar burst onto the guitar amp scene back in 2007, they have garnered a positive reputation for making low to mid-range guitar amps that are very high in build quality. Today, they are a leading brand in this space.
Don’t be deterred by the HT1R’s small wattage, as this can put out a surprising volume and an assortment of rich and full tones. Its small size and lightweight make this a great amp for home use, particularly if you have limited space.
This amp features in-built digital reverb that sounds incredible. It adds dimension to your sound. Additionally, the amp does a great job emulating classic British and American tones. You can easily switch between these two sounds using the ISF knob, which stands for Infinite Shape Feature.
If you’re looking for a high-quality, tube-powered practice amp for home use, the Blackstar HT1R MkII is the way to go.
- Compact size
- Versatile tones
- Great for home use
- Limited EQ controls
- Not suitable for jam sessions with a full band
- POWER RATING: 10 Watts / 6 Watt RMS
- SPEAKER: 1 x 10 Inch HH Custom
- CHANNEL: Single with Switchable Boost
- EQ: 3 Band
- POWER AMPLIFIER: 1 x EL84 Tube
The Laney Cub Super 10 is a great budget all-tube amplifier that produces unique classic-rock tones. Laney has been in the amp game since the early 60s, and they’re well-known and well-loved for making great-sounding amps at various price points.
The Cub Super 10 is a 10-watt combo with a 10” speaker. It doesn’t have a lot of different features, and there is no reverb circuit, unlike the Cub Super 10’s big brother, the Cub Super 12, but what it lacks in parts, it makes up for in portability.
The controls are designed to be easy to use, making this amp great for beginners to intermediate players. This amp has two preamp tubes and two power amp tubes that produce a classic British tone with an organic-sounding overdrive.
Tone can range from a bluesy transparent tone on the verge of breaking up to a fully-saturated heavy metal tone. Think Black Sabbath, and you’re on the right track. If you’re after an all-tube amp at a very reasonable price, the Laney Cub Super 10 is a great place to start.
- Compact and portable
- Easy to use
- Great British tones
- No reverb control
- Lack of functionality and outputs
- 2-ch All-tube 1×12″ Guitar Combo Amplifier with Reverb
- Selectable Triode Pentode Operation
- Tube Life Multiplier Technology
- Nmal Bright Inputs
- 2-button Footswitch
Bugera is a brand of amplifier made by Behringer. Behringer is well-known for making very affordable audio equipment. But some Behringer releases can vary on build quality.
The Bugera range of tube amplifiers has a boutique look and sound. You’ll be pleased to know that this boutique look isn’t superficial. This amp sounds incredible at a reasonable price.
This budget-friendly all-tube amplifier can run 22 watts of power through a 12” Turbosound speaker. Surprisingly, you have a wide range of controls and input options for a tube amp at this price. You have a three-band EQ and in-built reverb. There is also a presence knob and a master volume.
The Bugera V22 Infinium has a switch that lets you lower the amp’s wattage to 7.5 to play at lower volumes. This makes the amp suitable for home use, as well as being able to play at gigging volumes at full power. For an affordable boutique-style amplifier that gives you a lot to work with, the Bugera V22 Infinium is an excellent option.
- Great value for money
- Many tone-shaping options
- Features 2 channels
- The stock tubes are low in quality and cheaply produced
Tube amplifiers and budget-friendly are not two phrases that you often hear put together, but there is a good range of affordable options on the market, as we’ve shown in our list.
What tube amplifier is suitable for you is highly dependent on your specific situation and your needs. Things that should inform your decision include the amount of space available, if the amp is for home use or live performance, and if you want to use effects pedals with your amplifier.
What is Better – A Combo Or Head Amp?
Amps can either come in a combination of the amp itself and an inbuilt speaker, or you can get the amp as a standalone unit. The benefit of a combo is pretty self-explanatory, and it’s an all-in-one product that is easier to move and transport.
The benefit of having a standalone amplifier is that it can be used with different cabinets, depending on the size of the room in which you’re playing. So there is more flexibility.
If you’re a gigging guitarist, you may want to bring a head amp. You can plug it into whatever cabinets they have at the particular venue. A small head amplifier such as the Orange Micro Dark is easier to carry around than a larger combo amp.
What Wattage is Good for an Amplifier?
Tube amplifiers vary a lot in terms of power. The amount of power that an amplifier runs is a good way of determining how loud it is. For home use, you won’t need a large amount of power unless you want to bother your neighbors.
A small-wattage amp such as the Blackstar HT1R has sufficient power for a home-use situation. If, however, you plan on playing with a live band, you will require a little more power to be heard above a drum kit and other live instruments.
Features And Effects of Tube Amps
Some guitar amplifiers have inbuilt effects, such as reverb. Hybrid amplifiers, such as the Orange Micro Dark and the Blackstar HT1R, give you the authentic tone of an analog tube amplifier with the added benefits of digital technology, such as digital reverb and cabinet emulation and other digital effects.
If you prefer to use effects pedals, this might not be necessary. Also, you may select an all-tube amplifier. If that is the case, you may want an amplifier with an effects loop, instead of running your effects directly into the amplifier’s front end.
Does Size Matter With Tube Amps?
The size of the speaker, if you’re looking for a combo amp, will have a significant effect on the overall tone. Larger speakers produce a more comprehensive range of frequencies, most notably low-end or bass frequencies.
Smaller combo amplifiers tend to have more of a “boxy” sound due to their smaller speaker size. Although, small combo amps do have their sort of character, which may be something you like.
However, you’ll want to look more at the build quality. While bigger amps are great, it’s more about the power (watts) behind the amp.
Today, there are many different tube amplifiers available on the market, and finding the right one for you can be quite the task. Our list and buyers’ guide should help you understand what type of amplifier is the right one to suit your specific needs and what you should consider before deciding on a tube amplifier to purchase.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Best Amps For Blues?
However, when it comes to blues music, you can’t beat the tone of any of the authentic tube amplifiers in our list above.
What Amps Are Good For Heavy Metal?
If you’re into hard rock and heavy metal, then it’s worth looking at a budget amp with a little more distortion on tap – most amps will have some sort of digital replication of a bunch of classic metal amps.
How Do I Add Effects To My Guitar?
Many great budget guitar amps even have effects built-in so that you can expand your sounds even further. However, tube amps do not have these digital modeling and effects capabilities. So you will need external effects pedals.
Are Tube Amps Better Than Solid State?
It’s all a matter of taste and what works for you. Today, amp emulation is insanely accurate, and it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference between a legitimate analog tube amp and a digital, solid-state guitar amp emulation.
Solid-state amps have a wide range of benefits, but you can’t beat a real tube amp for a rich, authentic tone for most traditionalists.