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Best Tube Amp for Live Performance and Home Practice 

 June 15, 2021

By  Zen Chung

If you're looking for a professional quality or studio-grade sound, then a great guitar amplifier will help you achieve this. The best tube amp is a great choice when you're looking for an amplifier for live performance because they give a richer and deeper tone.

Tube amplifiers will not only amplify the sound but will also improve the sound it produces. Although these tube amps produce an amazing sound compared to a solid-state amp, they can be quite expensive and fragile.

However, you shouldn't worry about finding the best tube amplifiers because we have compiled a review of the five best tube amps in the current tube amp market, their pros, and cons, as well as the important factors you need to know before buying a guitar amp.

5 Best Tube Amps

1. BOSS KTN-50-2 Katana-50 MkII-50-watt 1x12 Guitar Combo Amp

BOSS KTN-50-2 Katana-50 MkII-50-watt 1x12 Guitar Combo Amp (KTN-50-MK2)
  • 50/525/0. 5W 1x12" Guitar Combo Amplifier with 5 Amp Voicings
  • Cab-emulated Headphone/Recd Output
  • 4 Tone Slots
  • 60 Effects
  • USB

The BOSS KTN-50-2 Katana-50 Guitar combo amplifier is the best tube amp for practice and home playing. This is because it features five different amp characters that include lead, clean, crunch, brown for Waza amp, and acoustic for acoustic-electric guitars.

It comes with a 12-inch speaker, amazing design, and powerful controls to ensure you'll have great music even with low volume settings. This 5o-watt amp features a great selection of power control, dedicated gain, customizable effects, EQ, tone-setting memories, etc.

This power amp also features a BOSS tone Studio software that enables you to make routing configurations. The Tone Settings memories feature allows you to store effect and amp settings for easier retrieval. The usability is easy, too, with a power amp section of modelers.

Moreover, with the Boss KTN-50-2 Katana-50 guitar combo amplifier, you can connect the external footswitches for hands-free operation. The input can be easily optimized using the Tone Studio editing software for your particular gear with a high-pass filter and adjustable gain.

Pros

  • Easy to use.
  • Great value for money.
  • Multiple high-quality effects.
  • Amazing bass response.
  • More versatility with five amp characters and ten overall tones.
  • Full throttle sound.
  • Easy to use.
  • Affordable.

Cons

  • Lacks a built-in tuner.

2. Fender Blues Junior IV 15 Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier

Fender Blues Junior IV 15 Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier
  • 15 Watts
  • Celestion 12" A-Type speaker
  • Preamp circuit modified for increased fullness
  • Spring reverb modified for improved smoothness
  • Includes 1-button footswitch for fat Mid boost

Fender amps are considered one of the best power tubes in the market today, with the Fender Junior IV 15 Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier being our favorite. It is a hot rod amp that boasts an amazing Fender tone with additional flexibility to help you create your own signature sound.

Although it is a small combo amp, it is packed with impressive features that come at a reduced price. It features great aesthetics, enhanced smoothness, a Celestion speaker 12-inch A-Type, spring reverb, and modified preamp circuitry to increase the fullness.

This 15 watt Fender Blues Hot Rod tube amp is popular for rock and roll with a classic sound and a modern touch, making it an ideal option for studio and stage use. It includes a footswitch that is used to activate the fat switch, which boosts the midrange to give a pronounced tonal thickness when soloing.

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Amazing reverb and sound.
  • Great channels.
  • The sound is warm and loud enough.
  • Steel handle for comfortability and durability.
  • Modified preamp circuitry.
  • Fat switch.

Cons

  • A bit pricey.

3. Monoprice 15-Watt Guitar Combo Tube Amp

Sale
Monoprice 15-Watt Guitar Combo Tube Amp (611815)
  • Superior guitar tone and flexibility using this 15-Watt, 1x12 Guitar Combo Tube...
  • Features a 15-watt tube power amplifier and a Celestion brand speaker. Amplifier...
  • Uses three ECC83/12AX7 preamplification tubes and two EL84 power tubes for the...
  • Handles frequencies between 80Hz and 10kHz, with hum and noise -75dB below the...
  • The cabinet is ported in the rear and features a leather handle, cloth speaker...

The Monoprice 15-Watt Guitar Combo Tube Amp is another one of the best tube amplifiers that features two EL84 power tubes for amplification, a Celestion Red Truvox 1215 speaker, and three ECC83/12AX7 pre-amplification tubes.

The EL84 power tube helps to produce a full output from smaller signals that you can overdrive to give a treble-heavy and chiming sound. It can handle frequencies of between 80Hz and 10kHz, with 0.5% total harmonic distortion and low noise at -75dB. It has a high input that is simpler to overdrive and a low input attenuating the signal by 50%.

The spring reverb can be maximized and remotely enabled using the footswitch. You will be able to also receive or send FX to a processor or use it for line in and line out connections. It comes with gain, volume, and tone controls as well as three-band EQ knobs and built-in spring reverb.

Pros

  • Nice clean tones.
  • Great effects and line out.
  • Quite loud.
  • You can use it even with drums.
  • Affordable and great value for money.
  • Impressive mid-gain tone.
  • Versatile and flexible.

Cons

  • The build quality looks cheap.

4. VOX VT40X Modeling Amp, 40W

Sale
VOX VT40X Modeling Amp, 40W
  • 40 Watts; 1 x 10" Speaker
  • VET (Virtual Elements Technology) delivers stunning sound quality
  • Valvetronix preamp uses a vacuum tube multi-stage amplification circuit
  • 11 realistic amp models; 13 high quality on-board effects; 33 preset programs
  • Built-in tuner, AUX in jack, Headphones out, and USB connectivity; Optional VFS2...

The VOX VT40X Modeling Amp, 40W uses VET (Virtual Elements Technology) to produce realistic and accurate sounds. It is basically a digital modelling technology that gives a clean sound depending on the analysis of the amp circuits and components in an amplifier.

This great tube amplifier features a multi-stage Valvetronix preamp that ensures fine total adjustments of vacuum tube amps by incorporating authentic analog circuitry. It has 33 preset programs, 13 high-quality effects, and 11 realistic amp modes to help you get started. It also has a VS-5 footswitch makes it simple to switch between the programs.

Moreover, unlike most tube amps, this one features a built-in timer, headphone out, AUX-in jack, and USB connectivity that comes in handy to help you connect and integrate with your computer. It uses the new VOX Tone Room software to help you customize the existing effects and amps.

Pros

  • Lightweight.
  • Great dynamic range.
  • Easy to use editing software.
  • Big sounds, especially in closed rooms.
  • Built-in.
  • Multi-stage preamp circuit.
  • Realistic and accurate sounds.

Cons

  • The amp won't support wireless editing.

5. BUGERA V5 5-Watt Class Amplifier Combo with Infinium Tube Life Multiplier

BUGERA V5 5-Watt Class Amplifier Combo with Infinium Tube Life Multiplier...
  • Hand-built 5-Watt Class-A amplifier driven by 1 x EL84 tube
  • Revolutionary INFINIUM Tube Life Multiplier technology:
  • Way cool vintage look and feel
  • World-famous, British engineered 8'' TURBOSOUND speaker
  • Authentic preamp design from the '60s featuring 1 x 12AX7 tube—everything from...

The BUGERA V5 5-Watt Class Amplifier Combo with Infinium Tube Life Multiplier boasts the popular British engineered 8-inch Turbosound speaker. It features a vintage feel and looks that give you the impression of silky smooth music production in the ancient days.

This power amplifier also features authentic preamp tubes that have a 12AX7 tube and EL84 power tube to help you get an incredible crunch as well as purring blues. It also has a power attenuator that provides more flexibility in finding the best volume for music production.

The BUGERA V5 5-Watt Class Amplifier Combo offers consistency and reliability of the sounds. It comes with digital reverb, a simple tone knob, master volume control, and independent gain control that helps to achieve high caliber and authentic sounds. It is an affordable tube amp that you can use for rehearsals.

Pros

  • Sounds great.
  • Great build quality.
  • Power attenuator.
  • Headphone mode.
  • Master volume and independent gain knobs.
  • Uses an Infinium tube life management system.

Cons

  • You may experience buzzes and rattles with lower frequencies.

Factors to Consider Before Buying the Best Tube Amplifier

1. Sound Quality

The sound quality is one of the most important factors that shouldn't be ignored when purchasing a tube amp. The articulation, dynamics, and clarity of the amp model you choose are important. Many might have different opinions when it comes to sound, and you should check several reviews to determine how good the amp sounds.

2. Amp Tone

Since different amps have different tones or voicings, ranging from subtle to obvious, experts have divided the tube amps into flavors that include British, which emphasizes the punch and mids, as well as American that emphasizes the lows and highs. This has made the description of tonal differences easier.

However, if you're unfamiliar with the amp tones, then the best thing would be to choose one with a similar sound to the one used by your favorite guitarists or check the reviews. Luckily, there are some manufacturers that will produce amps that have multiple voicing, which come in handy if you're looking for sonic flexibility.

3. Equalizer

The equalizer helps you improve the guitar tone using the EQ controls. Currently, there are pedals and rack effects that are able to accomplish similar equalization with more accuracy.

4. Speaker

Ideally, the bigger the size of the speaker, the better it reproduces lower frequencies. However, the bigger is not always the best, especially when you won't be using an amp. For jamming, practicing, and even recording, the medium-sized speakers are good enough and are preferred by guitarists because of their emphasis on mid-range.

5. Power rating

The power rating indicates how loud an amplifier is. Ideally, high power ratings are great for professional use, while low power amps are ideal for practicing. Moreover, some of these amps have a power attenuator that provides you the ability to lower the power output.

Lowering the output comes in handy when you want to customize the amp's volume and also allows you to crank the gain at a lower volume. This is ideal for getting amazing tones without disturbing your neighbors.

6. Cabinet

Although some people might ignore this factor, it is an important one because the cabinet type might affect the tone produced. Open back cabinets will project the sound to the back and front, producing a more natural sound. They are preferred since they are better at filling stages and rooms.

On the other hand, closed-back cabinets give a clearer and punchier tone and are preferred by sound engineers since they have a great front projection that is easier to mic. Lastly, back-ported cabinets will allow some of the sound to leak through the small ports at the back and are great for low-end emphasis.

7. Input and Outputs

While most affordable tube amps have a single input, there are some that come with two inputs that accommodate different types of guitars or different signal channels. Amps that with multiple inputs add flexibility and may sometimes allow two guitars to use a similar amp.

On the other hand, amp models with multiple outputs are reversed for amp heads, although there are combo amps with extension speaker outs and headphones. A headphone output will provide quiet practice. Some come with direct USB recording that makes the tube amp even more convenient.

8. Budget

In most cases, higher prices won't always mean that the product is of better quality, and the same applies to tube amps. While the best guitar amps can be a bit pricey, there are others that come at an affordable price and are equally great.

However, the bigger the budget, the higher the number of choices you have to find one that perfectly matches your needs and preferences. Luckily there are great tube amps for every budget.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs) on Tube Amplifiers

1. What is the best tube amp?

The best tube amp current in the market is the BOSS KTN-50-2 Katana-50 MkII-50-watt 1x12 Tube Combo Amp. With a power rating of 50 watts, this tube amp features five different amp characters that include lead, clean, crunch, brown for Waza amp, and acoustic for acoustic-electric guitars. It also comes with a 12-inch speaker, amazing design, and powerful controls to ensure you'll have great music even with low volume settings.

2. Are tube amps better?

Tube amplifiers sound better because they add euphonic distortions to the music. Although their initial cost is a bit higher than the solid-state amps, they yield a more musical and warmer tone as well as more musical-sounding distortion. They are more musical than artificial sounds from the transistor amplifiers when they are overdriven.

3. Are combo amps good?

Good quality and great-sounding combo amp is most likely the better choice of a guitar amp. If you have live performances, you might need something louder and bigger. Luckily, there are combo tube amps out there that provide great sounds as well as amazing stage volume. However, many guitar players may opt for a powerful head and an external speaker cabinet setup.

Zen Chung


I'm Zen Chung, a piano and violin teacher based out of Plano, Texas. I started this blog because my students (and their parents) kept asking about the best musical instruments to buy online. Look no further I'm here to save the day! 

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