Low watt tube amps have become a popular niche for players and manufacturers alike. It used to be that tube amps were reserved for the 50 – 100w range, for venues much larger than a bedroom. These tube amps were way too much power for the hobbyist to practice with at home. They were typically too damn big too.
These days, there are a host of lower wattage tube amps on the market, and 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 brings 3 amps to the low watt party: the HT5R, HT1R and the HT1MC.
Blackstar HT5R 5-Watt 1×12 Combo Amp with Reverb
The Blackstar HT5R is a 5 Watt, all-tube amp (1 ECC83 (12AX7), and 1 12BH7 tubes) with a single 12-Inch speaker. It’s got 2 channels (clean, and overdrive), 3-Band EQ and reverb. It also has a series effects loop, stereo MP3/Line input, headphone out and comes with a footswitch for switching channels.
Another really cool thing the Blackstar HT-5Rbrings to the party is the ability to model 1×12 or 4×12 in a line out, which is awesome for recording.
The Blackstar HT5R delivers crunch and tube breakup tones that you’d expect from a 100w 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.
Bottom line: the Blackstar HT5R is a great low watt practice and home studio amp, with killer tube powered metal tone, all for $499.99.
Here’s a great all-around demo
Blackstar HT1R 1×8 Series Combo Amp with Reverb
The Blackstar HT1R is the “mini-me” to the Blackstar HT-5R. Instead of a 12″ speaker, the Blackstar HT1R has a single 8″ speaker, and instead of 5w, the Blackstar HT1R is 1w, powered by a single ECC83 (12AX7), and single ECC82 (12AU7) power tubes.
The Blackstar HT1R can also be plugged into an external speaker cab, and can easily drive a 4×12 cabinet. It currently sells for only $329.99.
Here’s a Demo
Blackstar HT Metal Series HT1MC 1W 1×8 Combo w/Reverb
The Blackstar HT1MC is the low watt Metal brother to the HT1R. It’s also 1w, with a 1×8″ speaker configuration, features reverb, and speaker out emulation. It’s also a true tube amp powered by an ECC83 and ECC82 tube combo.
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. The Blackstar HT1MC has excellent clarity even at high gain levels, but can also do rock and blues and sells for $379.77.
Check out the demo (More than just Metal!)
Low watt tube amps by VHT
VHT AV-SP1-6 Special 6 Combo Amplifier
The out of the box configuration features One 12AX7 Preamp Tube, One 6V6 output tube and special high sensitivity 10″ VHT Special Design speaker. It also includes a footswitchable boost mode and 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. 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. The VHT Special 6 sells for just $249.99.
Low watt tube amps by Bugera
Bugera V5 Infinium
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.
The Bugera V5 Infinium Class-A amp is driven by a single EL84 tube with a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp and a specially designed 8″ Turbosound speaker. This is a classic combination for the British crunch and buttery blues tone. Another great feature is the power attenuator, which effectively lets you decrease the headroom and get killer overdrive or distortion at a lower volume. Besides the basic Volume, Tone and Gain controls, the V5 also has a sensitive digital reverb capable of dialing in everything from subtle to downright cavernous.
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 a startling $199.99!
Low watt tube amps by Vox
Vox AC4C1 1×10″ 4 Watt Tube Combo
The Vox AC4C1 is a 4w tube amp, powered by two 12AX7 tubes in the preamp, and a single EL84 in the power amp section. It sports a 10″ Celestion Speaker, and has Gain, Treble, Bass, and Volume controls.
Like most other amps on this list, the Vox AC4C1 has external Speaker-Output terminals for driving an external speaker cab, though it lacks some of the more modern recording features of the Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 5 Combo.
What the Vox AC4C1 does have plenty of is pure, tube driven Vox tone 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.
- rich blue vinyl with the distinctive “domino style” Tygon grille cloth. $319.99.
- classic cream $319.99.
Check out this Demo here:
Get cranked up tone without cranking up! The Vox AC10 is a 10 watt combo amp with Two 12AX7 tubes for the preamp and two EL84 tubes for the output. It’s got the classic Vox look and British crunch and chime. The controls include Volume, Grain, Bass, Treble and Reverb. It should be noted that the reverb is digital and very sensitive- great for classic rock to full out surf.
The Vox AC10 comes with a 10 inch Celestion speaker but also features a speaker out jack so you can run it to drive an external cab.
Think of the AC10 as the stripped down little brother to the AC15 – great for small gigs, studio and home playing and sells for $449.99.
VOX AC4TVmini 4W Tube Guitar Combo Amp
As the name suggests, the AC4TVmini is the smallest version of the AC4TV series. Like it’s larger brother, it ‘s powered by a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp section, and a single EL84 in the power section. But the 8″ speaker is swapped out for a smaller still 6.5″ custom Vox speaker.
You’re basically trading some volume and dynamic range for greater portability.
Low watt tube amps by Marshall
Marshall DSL5C 1×10 5w combo
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. It is powered by 3 ECC83 tubes in the pre amp, and a single 12BH7/ECC99 in the power amp section. It features 2 channels: Classic and “ultra gain”. 😀
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.
The Marshall DSL5C also features a series FX loop, and headphone out, audio in (for mp3 players) and an extension speaker for driving an external speaker cab.
The Marshall DSL5C comes with a footswitch and houses a 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). $499.99
Low watt tube amps by Epiphone
The Epiphone “1939” Century Amplifier
The “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.
The Epiphone 1939 Century amplifier is an 18w, all tube Class A/B combo amp. It’s powered by two 12AX7 and two 6V6 tubes and features a 12″ Electar speaker. Controls are pretty basic with a master volume and master tone, but the master volume has a pull mode for a “boost” effect.
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. $373.14
Low watt tube amps by Fender
Fender Super Champ X2 15w 1×10
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 spacy as the Vaporizer, it’s not as traditional as it looks either.
The Super Champ X2 is a 15w, low watt tube amp with a Fender Special 10 inch speaker, but it also 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.
The Super Champ X2 is powered by a single 12AX7 tube in the preamp and a pair of 6V6 tubes in the power section.
Low watt tube amps by Laney
Laney Cub 8 5w tube amp
The Cub 8 features an 8″ Celestion speaker, Hi & LO input (clean & overdrive) and a tone and volume knob. It’s powered by a single ECC83 pre amp tube and a single 6V6GT tube in the power section.
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.
The Cub 8 is a great little tube amp for only $199.95
Laney Cub 10 10w tube amp
Next of from Laney Amplifiers is the middle child of the Cub series, the Laney Cub 10.
The cub 10 is a 10w, class A/B amp with a 10″ Celestion speaker, two E CC83 pre amp tubes and two 6V6GT output tubes. The controls and inputs are identical to the Cub 8.
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 for only $249.95.
Laney Cub 12 15w tube amp
Lastly, we have the big brother: the Laney Cub 12 – a 15w all tube class A/B amplifier, with three ECC83 tubes in the pre amp and two EL84s in the power amp stage. This gives the Cub 12 a much bigger voice than the Cub 8 and 10. And if 12″ of Celestion isn’t enough for you, there’s also an external speaker out jack.
In addition, the Cub 12 also features reverb (digital), tone and volume (as with the Cubs 8 and 10) and bass, middle treble EQ and gain control. The Cub 12 also has an FX loop.
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. The Cub 12 sells for $399.00.