If you are looking for a tube amp it means you already know what you are looking for. We don’t want to show off, but nobody is minding if we go through the technical info once again. So, valve amplifier, aka “tube amp” is an electronic amplifier that increases the amplitude or strength of the signal with the help of vacuum tubes. You can use the valve amplifiers as guitar amplifiers, audiophile stereo amplifiers and even in military applications or satellite transponders.
Let’s get clear
For us it’s very clear that you need a professional user in order to be in need of a tube amp. Some stereo fans that actually militate for the use of tube amplifiers for home listening as the tube amp are able to give a more natural valve sound. It’s especially the audiophiles in Eastern Europe and Asia that promote this idea.
If you are a professional guitar player, we all know you use the tube amps due to their renowned tone. Tone relates to pitch color, timbre and it’s up to each one of us to decide what we like/not.
We’re not going to play the high card and not admit that most musicians out there use the solid state amplification technology because it’s very easy to carry around and quite affordable. The quality of the tone counts less in some cases.
Getting more precise, in tube amp, the transition from liner amplification to limiting is smoother than in a solid state unit. But, this is a continuous debate theme in the guitarist community and it’s not today’s topic.
The pros and cons
Power valves need higher voltages typically and lower currents and many power valves give good linearity. A signal amplifier that uses tubes is actually able to have high frequency response ranges. The tube amp fit better the high voltage circuits and very linear so you may use it in low distortion linear circuits, having minimal to no negative feedback.
Very solidly build, tube amps may take overload for quite some minutes. They are constructed on a scale that dissipates great heat and the go great in the high power applications (do you know radio and TV transmitters?)
Going on with the pros, we need to mention their utility in some military and industrial applications as they can take high transient peak voltages safely. As they are not used at their maximum ability on regular basics, tube amps actually have a long life span. And, if you are the audiophile that knows stuff, you must feel that softer clipping when overloading the circuit gives a nicer and softer sound.
Playing fair and square, we need to go through the cons. The tube amps do need a cathode heater and higher voltages for the anodes. The tube amps are a bit bigger than the solid-state devices and come in only one polarity. A valve circuit has to stay away from introducing a noise from Ac heater supplies and let’s not forget valves live less than the solid state parts.
Last, but not least, we need to remind you that valves do get sensitive at times to sound and vibration, acting so much as a microphone. And it may be disturbing…to say the least.
There are ups and downs for the tube amps and you don’t have to pay the extra buck right from the beginning if you’re not sure if it’s going to worth it or not. You can start low, with a budgeted tube amp and see and listen carefully. You can find good quality tub amps for lower prices and you can decide afterwards if it’s something you’re willing to pay more the next time.
TOP 5 Best Affordable Tube Amp
Just because you’re not paying much for your tube amps, doesn’t mean you can’t get good quality. It’s the case of the Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Mini Audio HiFi Stereo Headphone Amp that gives good performance, despite its small size.
The tube amp gives the dedicated audiophile better sound and the tube amp can give power to well-known head-phones like HD 580, HD600, HD650, K701, K702, Q701.
When we go through the technical info, we the 3.5 mm input and output audio jacks and the output power ≥1100 mW (32 ohm).
If the Headphone Adapter Impedance is 18-600 ohm, the Total harmonic distortion is <0.005% and SNR is ≥110 db.
The tube amps give a good range of frequency response, 20 Hz – 30 kHz to be more precise.
The tube amp is pretty powerful, considering its size and may work on powered speakers also.
It looks pretty nice with its attractive bronze trim and the blue light under the tubes.
The tube amp has a pretty good, quite solid build and it’s all metal. This is why it has it feels pretty solid, by the way.
The tube amp is able to boost quite bit the low ends and creates more separation between the high/mids and lows.
It has dual voltage and looks great. It’s better to follow the instruction of use in order to expand its life span.
The short list of pros:
- The tube amp is all metal and has a pretty solid build and appearance
- The tube amp boosts the low end and separates the high/mids/lows
- The tube amp looks nice
- The tube amp is pretty strong, considering its size
As for the cons, we don’t have that many:
- Due to the quality of sound, some doubt this as being tube amp
- There is some hissing at time
- The power jack has a short in it
All in all, considering the price and size, we’d say the tube amp is a pretty good deal when in need.
As your taste and expectations get bigger, you can try a tube amp that fits better your standards. You can give it a go with the Appj Pa0901a 6n4+6p14 Mini Tube Amplifier Black that has a small foot print, but gives great performance.
The tube amp has a minimalist design and comes with one pair of RCA inputs. The passive volume control lowers the output of the classical tube circuit compromised of a 6N4 twin triode, giving a single 6P14 per channel. The driver is 6N4 and the power is 6P14.
The tube amp features a sophisticated switching power supply that gives 3.6 watts output per channel.
If you want to look over the numbers (some find it extremely helpful), we specify the power output of 3.5W+3.5W@ 8 ohms, the frequency response ranged between 30 and 40Khz (+-1db) and the Input Sensitivity of 500mV.
If the Input Impedance is 50K ohms, the Output Impedance is 8/6/4 ohms. The Signal-to-Noise Ratio is 80dB / 3.5W and the tube amp comes with a Residual Noise < 1mVac. You need an Input AC Voltage of 100-250Vac and RCA Jacks input. Banana Jacks are used as output and the AC is Standard IEC Jack with Fuse protection (2A Fuse).
The tube amp consumes 38W and it’s better not to connect regular headphone jack to amp, but use Lineout Jack instead. The tube amp lights up when powered and fits great in a record cabinet.
As we go over the performance, we see the bass getting tighter and the treble more crystalline and smooth. The output increases and the sound is great.
The frequency response lowers, in a good, not muddy way. The tube amp gives plenty of power and it’s quite easy to use.
The power switch is placed in the back and the tube amp has a small foot print.
Let’s highlight the main pros:
- The tube amp gives plenty of power
- The sound gets better and the bass gets tighter
- The tube amp is very easy to use
- The tube amp has a small foot print
We don’t forget about the cons:
- The unit gets hot after a while
- You need to give it some running until it gives great results
The cons aren’t deal breakers and the tube amp improves the sound the longer you are running it.
There are many good things we like about the GemTune X-1 Class-A Tube Amplifier, and its price considering the quality it gives is sure one to begin with.
The tube amp is a Class a Single Ended Amplifier that lowers distortion. The 5Z3P/5U4G are randomly distribute, 6N9P, EL34.
The tube amp is entirely hand made and has a self-biasing design. The device features analog inputs and output for speaker impedance 4/6/ 8ohm. You need 110V for the input voltage, considering the input impedance is 100Kohm. The input sensitivity ranges from 500mv~2000mv, whereas the frequency response is placed from 20Hz to 25kHz.
The distortion is 1% (1KHz) and the tube amp gives a signal/noise ratio is 88dB. The tube amp is rather small and becomes pretty silent when the music stops. It provides a good bass and high frequency response.
The tone is clear and tube amp gives no hum and no buzz either. The tube amp doesn’t need to break in for start improving the sound especially on chords and vocal music. The tube amp looks solid and has a simple appearance.
If you want the tube amp to last longer, it’s better not to only use Lineout Jack.
It ships to you very well packaged so it gets not damage.
Let’s list our pros:
- The tube amp doesn’t need time to break in
- The tube amp becomes silent when the music stops
- The tube amp gives better sound for vocal music and chords
- There is no hum, no buzz and the bass gets better
We don’t forget to mention the cons:
- The RCA connectors are not quite firm
- The durability may be questionable
Despite the cons, as it gives immediate results on the sound, the tube amp is a great device for any audiophile.
Nicely looking and giving nice sound for a very good price, the Yaqin Mc-84l 6p14 X4 Class a Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier is an option for the audiophile that doesn’t have the big budget just yet.
The tube amp is great ultra linear push-pull circuit that gives nice, rich sound. The SRPP preamp circuit widens the frequency response and minimizes distortions. The output transformer is made with audio-specific oriented silicon steel the wire is made of free-oxygen high-intensity enameled copper. In order to give the tube amp, the best performance, you can use the audio-grade
Electrolysis and Philips MKP non-polar AC capacitor. The useful numbers include the output Power of 12W+12W (4Ω-8Ω), a frequency Response ranging from 6Hz to 60KHz. The distortion is ≤1.5% and the SNR is ≥78dB>.
The tube amp has an input Sensitivity ≤300mV and the tube is: 6P14*4 12AX7*2. You get a load Impedance ranging from 4Ω-8Ω and the tube amp has a maximum power consumption smaller than 90W.
The sound is rich, pure and the tube amp handles spikes in the unit. The mids stand out the most and the tube amp comes with headphones jack.
The tube amp has 3 inputs and volume control.
Here are the most important pros:
- The tube amp gives nice, warm sound
- The mids are amazing
- The tube amp looks nice and has a solid build
- The tube amp has headphone Jack
As for the cons, we don’t have many:
- There is some popping at times
- The LED in the front panel might be too bright for some
The cons are minor when you look at the big picture and see a nice looking tube amp that gives great mids and comes at a very good price.
You might feel like hearing instruments you have never heard before when using the Yaqin Mc-10t El34b*4 Hi-Fi Integrated Push-Pull Tube Amplifier and this is never a disappointment to any audiophile.
The tube amp is powered by EL-34B tubes and the SRPP preamp circuit ensures wider frequency response and low distortion.
The output transformer is made of silicon steel sheet and free-oxygen high-intensity enameled wire. This gives wide frequency response and nice tremble and bass.
The tub amp gives low-noise and is a great option when listening some Jazz.
The numbers you’re interested in include an output power of 40W+40W (8Ω), a Frequency Response ranging from 10 Hz to 76KHz(±2dB). The distortion is ≤0.9%（28W and SNR is ≥85dB. The tub amp has an input Sensitivity is smaller than 0.26V. The included tubes are EL34B*4 12AX7*2 12AU7*2, whereas the load Impedance is placed between 4Ω and 8Ω.
The tube amp consumes a maximum of 220W.
If we go further with the details, we have to mention the nice, elegant appearance of the tube amp and the sturdy build. The value is amazing for the money you pay and the sound is warm.
The tube amp is a great choice when you want to listen the instruments or the distinctive, clear voices.
Our most important pros would be:
- The tube amp has a great appearance
- The build is strong and durable
- The tube amp is a great choice for jazz
- The voice is clear and distinctive and you can hear every single instrument
As for the cons, we only need to mention the tube amp needs around 30 minutes to warm up. Other than this, we are happy with the warm, natural sound we get with the device.
Best affordable tube combo amp
Versatile and reliable, the Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt 1×10-Inch Guitar Combo Amp is a great, well priced device for any guitar lover.
The 15 Watt tube power amp features two 6V6 tubes and one 12AX7 preamp tube. The 10inch Fender Special Design speaker is efficient and nice looking.
The voicing knob gives you 16 various amp types (Metal, Blackface, Tweed and so on) and no less than 15 effects. The effects have adjustment control and TAP tempo control for delay time/modulation rate adjustments.
The combo has two channels with channel switching format and optional footswitch.
The USB output for speaker-emulated digital recording is a practical feature and you can plug the combo into your computer.
The combo is very easy to use, versatile and gives nice tones. You can also custom tailor your amp’s voicing and effects just the way you like it. There are so many tones you can try when rehearsing with the combo.
The rich tones, the tones on the high-end spikes and the great range of tones add up to the performance of the combo.
You can win even more tonal versatility if you download the Fender Fuse software. You may customize the amp voicing and effects defaults, effects parameters deep editing. You may also get online for more Fender community content.
The combo is rather lightweight and of good build.
Here are some of the most important pros:
- The combo has a durable build and isn’t heavy weight
- The combo may be plugged into your computer
- The combo is very easy to use and versatile
- The tones range widely and you may customize combo’s performance on so many levels
We do need to mention the cons:
- The combo doesn’t come with a cover
- The combo doesn’t feature a footswitch
When in need for an affordable tube combo amp, don’t overlook the combo as it gives a great range of warm and natural tones with plenty of features to customize.
Best affordable tube amp head
If price is the main thing that’s bugging you when shopping for a tube amp head, then all your worries are gone with the Bugera T50 Infinium 50Watt tube amp head is handmade and is a guitar head driven by 4x 12AX& and 2XEL34 tubes.
The 2-channel preamp design is original and nice and the tube amp gives great sounds. The device is made with Infinium Tube Life Multiplier technology.
The tube amp may be used in mono and comes with a useful footswitch. The footswitch is quiet when pressed so it doesn’t interfere with your sounds.
The clean channel is really clean and has a bright, lively vibe. As for the lead channel, there is plenty of gain on this one also.
The tube amp gives great reverb and is cabinet emulating direct, which is a nice touch, we all have to admit.
The tube amp is small and very easy to carry around. It gives great reliability and consistent tone for a longer life span of your tubes.
The tube amp is a multi-class A/AB operation and expands the life of your power tubes a lot.
Let’s pin point the things we like the most:
- The tube head amp is small and easy to carry around
- The clean channel is very clear
- The lead channel gives plenty of gain
- The tube head amp is handmade
We also need to pinpoint the things we like less:
- The tube head amp comes with no cover, nor a carrying case
- It needs a more potent eq
We’re not going to be very picky though and see only the good side of the tube head amp which makes us see a good device that gives nice sounds.
Best affordable tube preamp
Efficient and easy to use, the Presonus TubePre v2 Tube Preamplifier DI Box is a sure buy when you want to give a warm sound to your music.
The little device is a 12AX& tube-based preamp with XMAX solid-state input stage. This gives the device versatility and longer life span. You get tube sound, for quite some time.
When we go through the features, we see the gain control and the tube drive saturation control. The low-noise dual-servo (no capacitors) gain stage.
The device comes with separate instrument and mic inputs. Note to self: get a good quality mic to see best results.
The Phantom power makes the system more efficient. The HP filter, the -20dB. pad add to the value of the device. We don’t forget about the polarity-reverse ensures safe use at all time.
The device has a compact shape and it’s easy to store and to carry around. It has a 1/3U rack-mount
chassis and it’s quite durable. It’s transparent, which makes it fun to watch.
The preamp begins with low noise, high headroom Class A XMAX preamp input stage and the subtle elements, along the high-voltage operation gives good range and details.
As for the performances, we mention the not harsh treble and the warm sound. It gives nice color to vocal recordings and it’s great for voice over work also.
Let’s pinpoint the main pros:
- The preamp is compact, transparent and durable
- It gives warm sound and nice treble
- It’s great for voiceover work and vocal recordings
- It’s easy to use and to store
Along with the pros, come some cons:
- The phase button is a bit weird
- The stock tube may be changed for better performance
Despite the cons, we still think the preamp is good device to take, especially when checking the price and the performance.
Best affordable tube headphone amp
When you want to get better sound on your headphone, give it a go with the Little Dot MK2 MKII 6J1 X2 6N6 X2 Headphone Amp Amplifier Pre-Amp Tube.
The device gives a better dynamic range, output impedance and ensures harmonic distortion.
The headphone amp has the driver tube-rolling options and it may roll 6JI, WE403A/B, GE5654, M8100, CV4010, EF95. It comes with factory jumper setting and jumper pins shorted (EF92, CV131) and all equivalents and drop-in substitutes.
The device comes with a gold plated unbalanced (RCA) Jack output and has a frequency response of 20Hz to 50kHz(minus 1dB). The input impedance is 50kOhms and the pre amplifier output impedance is 600 ohms.
The device comes with pre amplifier voltage of 10V RMS and the pre amplification circuit includes driver and power tubes just as well. The headphone amp has a 28W power consumption.
The device has a good balance and the sound is clear. You get smooth mids, clear highs and the bass is refined. The sound is spacious and clear.
The device is very well made and has a good size. The build is solid and amp is so musical you can actually hear the decay. And, it also looks great.
Let’s highlight the most important pros:
- The device is very well made and has a good build
- The sound is clear and spacious
- It has gold plated unbalance RCA Jack output
- The device ensures good dynamic range
As for the cons, here they are:
- The instruction manual could be better
- There is some hissing
All in all, for a very good price, you get a good, reliable device that gives clear sound and great dynamic range.
Best affordable Fender tube amp
One of the best Fender amps out there is the Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt 1×10-Inch Guitar Combo Amp.
The 15Watt tube power amp comes with two 6V6 tubes and one 12AX& preamp tube. It features a 10inch Fender Special Design speaker.
The device gives you a voicing knob that offers 16 various amp types: Metal, Tweed, Blackface, British and so many more. You also get 15 effects that are adjustable and a TAP tempo control for delay time/modulation rate adjustments.
The device is a two channel amp with channel Switching format and footswitch for just in case. You may find it very useful the USB output for speaker-emulated digital recording.
The amp is easy to use, toneful and flexible, highly customizable. It’s a great option for rehearsal and recording sessions. The reverb is good and the amp is highly portable. The build is great and long lasting.
The Fender FUSE software lets you get more tone versatility, with more options for amp voicing and effects defaults, effects parameters deep editing. Plus you can get online with other Fender users to learn from their experiences.
Let’s make a short list of pros:
- The amp is highly customizable
- The unit is portable, compact and easy to carry around
- You get 16 various amp types and 15 effects
- The amp comes also with a USB cable
We don’t forget about the cons either:
- It doesn’t come with a footswitch
- It’s a bit heavy because of the tubes
Despite the minor issue, the amp is a great example on how Fender gives you good quality tube amps for a good price.
Best affordable tube guitar amp
The Monoprice 611815 15Watt, 1 x 12 Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier with Celestion Speaker & Spring Reverb comes with many great features and has a good quality build, which makes it an option to consider when in need.
The amp gives high quality guitar tone and flexibility. It’s a 15 Watt combo tube amp with Celestion Speaker and Spring Reverb.
The devices has three ECC83/12AX& preamp tubes and two EL84 power tubes for the amplifier section. It’s able to take frequencies ranging from 80Hz to 10kHz, with hum and noise -75dB less than the rated power and a total harmonic distortion of 0.5%.
The tube amp comes with low input and high input and a latter that is easy to overdrive. It takes FX send and receive so that you can connect it to an effects processor or use for line out/line in connections the send/receive connections.
You can either select the full power mode or the 1 watt limited amplification mode when recording at night, for instance. The sound is nice, clear and may get pretty loud.
The port on the cabinet is in the rear and the device is highly portable thanks to its leather handle, cloth speaker grill. The cream-colored outer with chrome corner guards complete its nice appearance.
Let’s pinpoint the main pros:
- The device gives high quality guitar tone and flexibility
- The amp looks nice and is highly portable
- It comes with two inputs
- You can select the full power mode or the 1 watt limited amplification mode
We need to balance out the things a bit and list the cons also:
- The reverb is not that great
- There is some humming.
Best affordable tube amp stereo
Giving good quality for a very good price, the Monoprice Stereo Tube Amp Audio Component Amplifier is a 50Watts device. The channel Class AB power amp gives less than 0.1% total harmonic distortion and it’s a hybrid device that combines the tube stage with solid state power.
The stereo amp is Bluetooth 4.0 and ensures wireless streaming with one stereo analog RCA input and one stereo analog RCA output. The wireless streaming is clear and clean thanks to the Qualcom aptX Audio codec. The frequency response ranges from 20Hz to 20kHz.
The sound is warm and soft and the 50Watts power for each channel solid state combine very well. You can enhance the sound if you connect a subwoofer to the RCA preamp outputs.
The device has a solid build and looks nice. The black panels, lighted VU meter, chrome details and the nice glowing exposed tubes give you a minimalist retro looking stereo amp.
Let’s highlight the most important pros:
- The device is a 50 Watts per channel class AB power amplifier
- The tube amp sound is sustained by the solid state power
- The device come with Bluetooth
- The amp looks nice and has a good build
We also have some cons we have to mention:
- There is some smell when you use it for the first time
- It’s a hybrid amp
All in all, you get a long lasting, reliable stereo amp that gives nice tube sounds.