The 12 Best Low Watt Tube Amps Under $500 That Will Rock You!

Want that creamy overdriven tube tone or classic Marshall crunch of a 100w stack without deafening yourself (or the neighbors)? You want a small, low watt tube amp.

Bedroom amplifiers are great for practicing clean tones, and maybe a little overdrive. But what happens when you want to crank up the gain and really drive your amp hard?

Historically you would have needed to turn the volume up to 11 to get the kind of breakup for a hard rock or metal tone and then it’s just too loud for everyone around you.

On the one hand what you needed was a tube amp with enough headroom (but not Max headroom ) for the clean tone, but on the other hand you needed an amp that would break up well before you got to deafening levels.

Low watt tube amps are the best of both worlds, and here are the best of the low watt amps on the market today (many for less than $500).

Some are decidedly vintage style, while others are classic or modern style. Whatever your personal taste, you should be able to find a low watt tube amp to your liking on this list of the best small tube amps available today.

Low Watt Tube Amps For Under $500

Blackstar amps

Looking for a low watt high gain amp?

Check out these great offerings from Blackstar: the HT5R, HT1R and the HT1MC.

Blackstar HT5R

The Blackstar HT5R is a 5 Watt, all-tube amp (1x ECC83 (12AX7), and 1x 12BH7 tubes) with a single 12-Inch speaker.

Blackstar-HT5R

  • 2 channels (clean, and overdrive)
  • 3-Band EQ and reverb
  • Series effects loop
  • Stereo MP3/Line input
  • Headphone out
  • Comes with a footswitch for switching channels.

Another really cool thing the Blackstar HT-5R brings to the party is the ability to model 1×12 or 4×12 in a line out, which is awesome for recording.

CONCLUSION:
The Blackstar HT5R delivers crunch and tube breakup tones that you’d expect from a 100 watt amp through the use of a 12BH7 dual triode valve in push-pull configuration. The result is a big sound, from a modest, 5-watt amp.

Check Availability

Here’s a great all-around demo

Blackstar HT1R

Blackstar-HT1R

The Blackstar HT1R is the “mini-me” to the Blackstar HT-5R.

  • 8″ speaker
  • 1 watt, powered by a single ECC83 (12AX7), and single ECC82 (12AU7) power tubes.
  • Reverb
  • Line out for external cabinet

CONCLUSION:
The Blackstar HT1R can also be plugged into an external speaker cab, and can easily drive a 4×12 cabinet.
An excellent variation on the HT-5R

Check Availability

Here’s a Demo

Blackstar HT Metal Series HT1MC 1W 1×8 Combo w/Reverb

Blackstar-HT-Metal-Series-HT1MC-1W

The Blackstar HT1MC is the low watt Metal brother to the HT1R. It’s also a true tube amp powered by an ECC83 and ECC82 tube combo.

  • 1 watt
  • 8″ speaker
  • Reverb
  • Speaker out emulation

CONCLUSION:
What sets the Blackstar HT1MC apart from other tube amps on this list however is it’s look. The Blackstar HT1MC is a “stripped-down, tube-driven metal monster” and it looks the part!

Powerful enough for great metal crunch tone, but won’t disturb the peace. But it’s also versatile enough for rock and blues.

Check Availability

Check out the demo (More than just Metal!)

 

Low watt tube amps by VHT

Looking for an amp you can modify? The VHT is for you!

These VHT amps are a modder’s dream…

VHT AV-SP1-6

vht_special_6

The Special 6 Combo Amplifier is built with modders in mind, so if you’re handy with a soldering iron, the sky is the limit!

  • 6 watt
  • Single special high sensitivity 10″ VHT Special Design speaker.
  • 1x 12AX7 Preamp Tube
  • 1x 6V6 output tube
  • footswitchable boost mode
  • 4, 8, and 16 Ohm speaker out jacks for driving larger cabs.

The VHT Special 6 also features a High/Low power switch that enhances low-volume tones with extra-smooth richness.

This amp is great for home or gigging! Here’s why…

In low power mode, you can get great distortion with a reasonable volume for home practice, and in high-power mode, it is loud enough to compete with a drummer for practice or small gigs.

The VHT Special 6 is a modders dream that excels at both clean and overdriven tones.

Check Availability

 

Low watt tube amps by Bugera

Looking for a low watt amp that won’t blast a hole in your eardrums or your budget? Bugera is for you.

Bugera V5 Infinium

bugera_v5_infinium

The Bugera V5 Infinium is a 5 watt all tube amp for less than $200.

Let that sink in for a moment.

For the price of a really good solid state amp, you can get an all tube amp. But that’s not all.

  • Class-A amp driven by a single EL84 tube with a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp.
  • Specially designed 8″ Turbosound speaker. (This is a classic combination for the British crunch and buttery blues tone)
  • Power attenuator, which effectively lets you decrease the headroom even more and get killer overdrive or distortion at a lower volume
  • Digital reverb capable of dialing in everything from subtle to downright cavernous.

CONCLUSION:
Where the Bugera V5 Infinium really makes its mark is with it’s Tube Life Multiplier technology. According to Bugera, this tech ensures:

.. greater reliability and consistent tone over the lifespan of your tubes by monitoring the performance of each of the amplifier’s output tubes and maintaining them at their ideal operating point for an evenly distributed load.

There’s also an LED next to each tube that lets you know when it’s about to die.

All for under $200!

Check Availability

 

Low watt tube amps by Vox

Vox is the clear choice if you’re looking for a classic vibe in a vintage package.

Vox AC4C1

The Vox AC4C1 is a 1×10″ 4 Watt Tube Combo.

  • Powered by two 12AX7 tubes in the preamp, and a single EL84 in the power amp section
  • It sports a 10″ Celestion Speaker
  • Basic Gain, Treble, Bass, and Volume controls.
  • External Speaker-Output terminals for driving an external speaker cab

CONCLUSION:
VOX-AC4C1-BLThe Vox AC4C1 has plenty of pure, tube driven Vox tonevox-AC4C1-4W-cream and style.

The 10″ speaker gives the Vox AC4C1 a wide, dynamic range and the EL84 gives it classic British crunch. It also has the Top Boost tone, made popular in the VOX AC30.

The Vox AC4C1 is available in 2 styles:

  1. Rich blue vinyl with the distinctive “domino style” Tygon grille cloth Check Availability
  2. Classic creamCheck Availability

 

 

Check out this Demo here:

VOX AC10C1

vox_ac10c1

Get high gain tone without cranking up!

  • 10 watt combo amp
  • Two 12AX7 tubes for the preamp and two EL84 tubes for the output
  • Volume, Grain, Bass, Treble and Reverb controls
  • 10 inch Celestion speaker
  • Speaker out jack so you can run it to drive an external cab.

CONCLUSION:
It’s got the classic Vox look and British crunch and chime. It should be noted that the reverb is digital and very sensitive- great for classic rock to full out surf. Think of the AC10 as the stripped down little brother to the AC15 – great for small gigs, studio and home playing.

Check Availability

 

VOX AC4TVmini 4W Tube Guitar Combo Amp

Vox-AC4TV

The choice for small profile, portable tube amp

The AC4TVmini is the smallest version of the AC4TV series. You’re basically trading some volume and dynamic range for greater portability.

  • 4W Tube Guitar Combo Amp
  • Powered by a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp section, and a single EL84 in the power section
  • 6.5″ custom Vox speaker.

Check Availability

Demo

 

Low watt tube amps by Marshall

For fans of the Marshall tube tone who don’t need a full stack.

Marshall DSL5C

A lot of people don’t get the Marshall DSL5C, especially Marshall fans. They just don’t see the point in low watt amps, and frankly look down on anyone who doesn’t play a 100w Marshall stack. Well, the Marshall DSL5C just isn’t for them. It’s perfect for fans of the Marshall tube tone who just want a rock solid tube amp for practicing or playing the occasional small gig.

The Marshall DSL5C is a versatile amp that truly delivers on Marshall tone – everything from Plexi-style cleans to JCM800 snarl to modern day high gain.

  • Powered by 3 ECC83 tubes in the pre amp, and a single 12BH7/ECC99 in the power amp section.
  • 2 channels: Classic and “ultra gain”. 🙂
  • Series FX loop
  • Headphone out
  • Audio in (for mp3 players)
  • Extension speaker for driving an external speaker cab
  • Footswitch
  • Celestion Ten 30 10″ speaker
  • Controls include: volume, gain, presence, bass, middle, treble, deep switch (increases low end frequency), and toneshift (which acts like a mid scoop)

 

CONCLUSION:Marshall-DSL5C
What makes the Marshall DSL5C even better is the power switch. Like the Vox AC4TV, the Marshall DSL5C can run at full wattage (5w) or lower wattage (1w), which means you get all that sweet crunch and tube saturated distortion at volumes low enough to not piss off the neighbors.

A lot of people don’t get the Marshall DSL5C, especially Marshall fans. They just don’t see the point in low watt amps, and frankly look down on anyone who doesn’t play a 100w Marshall stack. Well, the Marshall DSL5C just isn’t for them. It’s perfect for fans of the Marshall tube tone who just want a rock solid tube amp for practicing or playing the occasional small gig.

Check Availability

Demo

 

Low watt tube amps by Epiphone

Looking for a classic, funky vibe?

The Epiphone “1939” Century Amplifier

The Epiphone “1939” Century amplifier takes you back to the days when amplifiers were new. Its art Deco inspired look would be at home in Epiphone’s early days in Manhattan, but totally unique nearly 80 years later. You can rest assured that while the sound and look are vintage, the electronics are modern.

epiphone_1939_century_amplifier

The Epiphone 1939 Century amplifier:
– 18w, all tube Class A/B combo amp
– Powered by two 12AX7 and two 6V6 tubes
– 12″ Electar speaker
– Controls are simply a master volume and master tone, but the master volume has a pull mode for a “boost” effect.

CONCLUSION:
Where things get a bit more unique is with the inputs. There are three of them – bright, normal and dark. There is also an extension speaker out jack and internal bias adjustment for tweaking the response of the 6V6 power tubes.

Check Availability

 

Low watt tube amps by Fender

Past meets future in this hybrid amp

Fender Super Champ X2

And finally, we come to the Fender Super Champ X2 15w 1×10″ combo. At first glance, the Fender Super Champ X2 appears to be a more traditional amp with its black vinyl covering and silver grille cloth front. Although it doesn’t look as boutique as the Ramparte and Excelsior or as spacey as the Vaporizer, it’s not as traditional as it looks either.

  • 15 watt
  • Fender Special 10 inch speaker
  • Powered by a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp and a pair of 6V6 tubes in the power section

CONCLUSION:fender-super-champ-x2-angled
What sets the Super Champ X2 apart from other amps on this list is the way it blends the digital amp modeling (“voicings”) and effects found on Fender’s popular Mustang series of amplifiers.

The Super Champ X2 is a modern modeling amp in a traditional package that gives you the warmth of an all tube amp with the flexibility of more modern solid state amps.

Check Availability

Demo:

Low watt tube amps by Laney

Laney offers a family of 3 low watt amplifiers, each a little larger than its sibling.

Laney Cub 8 5w tube amp

laney_cub_8_5w

The first offering from Laney amps on this list is the Cub 8

  • 5 watt class A combo amp with a focus on tone and simplicity in a small package
  • 8 inch Celestion speaker
  • Hi & LO input (clean & overdrive) and a tone and volume knob
  • Powered by a single ECC83 pre amp tube and a single 6V6GT tube in the power section

CONCLUSION:
The Laney Cub 8 is a great low watt amp perfect for practice or home recording and really captures the classic fender tweed-like tone.

Check Availability

Laney Cub 10 10w tube amplaney_cub_10

Next up from Laney Amplifiers is the middle child of the Cub series, the Laney Cub 10.

  • 10 watt, class A/B amp
  • 10″ Celestion speaker
  • two ECC83 pre amp tubes and two 6V6GT output tubes
  • Controls and inputs are identical to the Cub 8.

CONCLUSION:
Where the Cub 10 differs from its little brother is in the sound and power consumption. Being class A/B, it’s a bit more efficient than the Cub 8 and doesn’t run quite as hot. The larger speaker and double tube compliment give the Cub 10 a bigger mid-range sound. Since the natural range of the guitar is the mid-range, this is perfect for guitarists who want to cut through the mix in a band or recording setting.

The Laney Cub 10 is a nice, low watt package for expressive mid-range clean tone to Zeppelin like gain and vintage tone.

Check Availability

Laney Cub 12 15w tube amp

laney_cub_12

Lastly, we have the big brother: the Laney Cub 12

  • 15 watt all tube class A/B amplifier
  • Three ECC83 tubes in the pre amp and two EL84s in the power amp stage
  • Digital reverb (
  • Tone and volume (as with the Cubs 8 and 10) and bass, middle treble EQ and gain control
  • FX loop
  • 12″ Celestion speaker

CONCLUSION:-
The tube configuration gives the Cub 12 a much bigger voice than the Cub 8 and 10. Also, if 12″ of Celestion isn’t enough for you, there’s also an external speaker out jack.

Instead of a Hi/LO input, the Laney Cub 12 has a 15w and <1w input. Jack into the 15w input and you get the full throated roar, jack into the <1w and you get a more manageable volume for practice, with substantially less headroom. This means that you can get those dreamy, creamy British overdrive tones that EL84s are known for at a much lower volume.

Check Availability

 

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

two × 3 =