The 10 Best Low Watt Tube Amps (2022)

The good old tube amp has a sound that’s very hard to replicate using other means, even when using advanced processors, modeling amps, or software.

Despite the spectacular sound quality, tube amps weren’t very practical in the past. Those who play on tube amps know very well that a real sound can’t come until you crank the volume up. Considering the loudness of these amps, it seemed impossible to play them without disturbing neighbors.

Fortunately, today’s market offers plenty of low-wattage tube amps, which are perfect for practice, small gigs, rehearsals, and similar venues.

My top pick is the Fender 68 Custom Princeton Reverb, an excellent old-school amp that provides the iconic 60’s Fender tones with high sonic versatility and performance.

My budget pick, BUGERA V5 Infinium, is an affordable low-watt tube combo amp that features a great value for the price with its high sound quality and versatility for home practice and small jam sessions.

The Best Low Watt Tube Amps (2022) – At A Glance

And now onto the full list:

1. Fender 68 Custom Princeton Reverb

Top Pick
Great compact tube amp with 60s old-school iconic Fender tones.
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Fender is one of the first brands to come to mind when talking about tube amps. Their vintage reissue Fender 68 Custom Princeton Reverb is a great low-watt tube amp that brings you the fantastic clean Fender tones from the ’60s and ’70s.

Pros

  • High sonic versatility with or without pedals
  • Can be used in the studio, in small gigs, or for home practices
  • The package includes a footswitch and cover
  • Portable design

Cons

  • A bit pricey
  • Metal feet

The amp is equipped with a deliciously musical reverb, and warm retro tremolo effects take you back to the iconic Fender tones from the greatest era of rock music. There is no buzzing or rattling, and the amp responds great if you use it with pedals. The volume is quite loud, making the amp quite versatile and usable for small gigs, in the studio, or for home practices.

The amp is relatively portable for a valve amp and is easy to carry around. Plus, it comes with a footswitch to turn the iconic reverb and tremolo effects on or off and a dust cover to protect your device.

Output 12 Watts
Speaker 10″ Celestion TEN 30 speaker
Number of Channels1
Tubes 3 x 12AX7, 1 x 12AT7, 2 x 6V6 (power), 1 x 5AR4 (rectifier)
Controls Volume, Treble, Bass, Reverb, Speed, Intensity

The only drawbacks of this amp are the price and the metal feet, which scratches the floor. You can use some plastic covers for the feet to solve the problem. Overall, Fender 68 Custom Princeton Reverb is a great tube amp if you like the vintage tones and want to have the iconic Fender clean tones that rocked a generation.

2. BUGERA V5 Infinium

Budget Pick
Great tube amp for practice with a great blend of affordability, quality, and versatility.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

BUGERA V5 Infinium is a small 5-watts tube amp that is a great choice for home practices as it successfully combines affordability, portability, quality, and versatility. The feature-packed amp comes with a wattage attenuator to adjust your output and an 8” Turbosound speaker, which sounds great even in lower volumes.

Pros

  • Great value for the price
  • Great sound quality and versatility
  • Wattage attenuator
  • Portable, great for home practices and small jam sessions

Cons

  • Not really suitable for live performances due to low output
  • No FX loop

The amp features a great value for the price offered with its high sound quality and versatility. It has gain, tone, volume, and reverb knobs, giving you enough control to tweak your tone as you like – the crunch and the reverb sound quite impressive, like the warm and dark tones of the 60s.

The amp has a small footprint and is quite portable to travel with. As it is a small amp with 5 watts of output power, it is by no means a gig amp and is aimed at home guitar players. Additionally, it does not have an FX loop which is not a dealbreaker but would be a nice addition.

Output 5 Watts Class A (5W/1W/0.1W settings)
Speaker 1 x 8″ Turbosound speaker
Number of Channels1
Tubes 1 x 12AX7, 1 x EL84 (power)
Controls Gain, Tone, Volume, Reverb

BUGERA V5 Infinium is a great practice amp who wants that 60’s rock tones in their home during their practice sessions.

3. Marshall SV20C

Pro Pick
Premium quality tube amp for professional players.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

There is no doubt that Marshall produced some of the greatest tube amps over the years, which provided some of the most iconic tones of rock history. Marshall SV20C packs all that Marshall quality and iconic tones into a 20-watt amp. 

The Marshall SV20C is the reissue of the iconic 1959 Plexi, one of the most iconic amps ever used by many great musicians like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and many more.

Pros

  • Great iconic Marshall Plexi tube amp sound
  • Versatile and feature-packed design with many controls
  • Power reduction circuits for different use
  • Great workmanship

Cons

  • Pricey device

The amp has many controls and features like the 4-band EQ, high- and low-sensitivity loudness controls,  low-high power mode, FX loop, DI output, and the power reduction circuit. With all these features, you can customize your sound and adjust it to different use areas like stage or home.

The amp is extremely well-constructed with 4 separate inputs to blend your sound, along with a classic Marshall style design with gold and black. The 10″ Celestion V-type speaker sounds great for home practice or stage.

Output 20 Watts (5W setting)
Speaker 1 x 10″ Celestion V-type Speaker
Number of Channels1
Tubes 3 x 12AX7, 2 x EL34 (power)
Controls 4-Band EQ (High Treble, Treble, Mid, Bass), Normal, Presence,  high- and low-sensitivity loudness controls,  low-high power mode

Marshall SV20C is my recommended amp for professionals, so the price is high. But, it is a great amp if you want the iconic tube amp tones in your house, studio, and stage.

4. Fender '57 Custom Champ

Portable, Great Sound
A compact and lightweight tube amp with an iconic vintage look and sound.
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Fender ’57 Custom Champ is the reissue of the legendary 1957 Fender Champ combo amp, which precisely provides the iconic vintage sound and look. The vintage warm, fat overdrive sound of the amp is highly recognizable, and the great response and the diverse tonal quality with less fiddling make this amp ideal for recording.

Pros

  • Great vintage tone, ideal for recording
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Iconic tweed look
  • Hand-wired authentic construction

Cons

  • A bit pricey
  • Very limited controls and versatility

The 5-W single-channel amp is relatively compact, lightweight, and portable, while it looks fantastic with its vintage tweed design. It is equipped with an 8″ 4 ohm Weber Special design Alnico speaker, which succeeds in delivering great tones.

The amp is great for recording and home practices but would be too weak for stage use. It also has limited controls as it only features the volume knob. The sonic versatility is limited, but Fender ’57 Custom Champ’s sound quality is amazing. This is thanks to its great hand-wired authentic construction.

Output 5W Class A
Speaker 8″ 4 ohm Weber Special design Alnico speaker
Number of Channels1
Tubes 1 x 12AY7, 1 x 6V6 Power tube, 1 x 5Y3GT Rectifier
Controls Volume

Overall, it is a great amp but sits a bit on the high-end side. When the limited versatility is considered, it may not be the best amp for tight budgets, but if you can afford it, this amp’s sound is as close as it can get to the vintage tube guitar amps.

5. VOX AC15C1

Versatile, Great Value For Price
A great low-watt tube amp with great versatility and control options.
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Vox is one of the “Big 3” with Marshall and Fender when it comes to tube amps. The iconic model Vox AC15C1 1×12″ 15-watt Tube Combo Amp is a great low-watt tube amp that provides you with the great Brian May and Tom Petty style classic British sound. The 15-watt amp is powerful enough to deliver a full, clear sound on the stage, in the studio, or at home.

Pros

  • Great sound and sonic versatility
  • Relatively portable
  • 2 channels and many control options

Cons

  • No mid controls
  • Footswitch not included

The amp sounds great with mellowed out harsher frequencies and a full and attractive sonic quality. The sound has a good chime, and the tonal versatility is provided by many different controls and modes on the amp, such as normal and top boost channels, tremolo, and spring reverb effects. 

The amp is also quite portable and well-built with the classic Vox design. You can get many different tones from the amp, from crunchy overdriven to classic 60’s rock sounds. But, if you are after more modern tones, this amp is not for you.

You will need a footswitch to get the most from the amp’s versatility. It is a shame the footswitch does not come with the amp. Also, the lack of the mid-control knob on the amp is a letdown.

Output 15 Watts
Speaker 1 x 12″ Celestion Custom
Number of Channels2
Tubes 3 x 12AX7,  2 x EL84 (power)
Controls Volume, Tone Cut, Tremolo Depth and Speed, Reverb Level, 2-Band EQ, Volume

I can honestly say VOX AC15C1 is one of the best small tube amps on the market today. It may be pricey for some, but the value, versatility, and quality for the price are more than satisfying.

6. Orange Amplifiers Rocker 15

Entry-level
Easy-to-use simple tube combo amp with a great natural tone and portable design.
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Orange Rocker 15 is a great combo tube practice amp that comes with four selectable power wattages, two revoiced channels, a tube-driven effects loop, and a 10” Orange Voice of the World Gold Label speaker.  The amp can easily handle chiming to grinding tones, and the relatively portable design adds to the value.

Pros

  • Good value for the price
  • Great natural tone
  • Portable and simple design
  • Loud enough for different areas of use

Cons

  • Does not have built-in effects
  • No headphone jack

The 15-watt amp is excellent to use for home practices, but it can get loud enough for small gigs as well. It features a good value for the price, and the simplicity of the device makes it a great first-time tube amp for beginners.

The amp’s natural sound is quite great for Brit-rock, blues, and classic 70s rock lovers, but metal lovers should look elsewhere. There are no built-in effects such as reverb or tremolo in the amp, which may be a deal-breaker for some. Also, it does not feature a headphone jack.

Output 15 Watts (7W/1W/0.5W settings with Attenuator switch)
Speaker 1 x 10″ Gold Label speaker
Number of Channels2
Tubes 3 x ECC83, 1 x ECC81, 2 x EL84 (power)
Controls Volume, 3-band EQ, Natural-Dirty Switch 

In short, Orange Amplifiers Rocker 15 is a great low-wattage tube amplifier to use at home or for any small performance with its great classic 70’s rock tone that can go chiming to grinding with absolute ease.

7. Marshall M-DSL5CR-U

Portable, Entry-Level
Small and portable low-watt-tube amp with a great sound to use anywhere.
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Marshall M-DSL5CR-U packs up all the Marshall quality in a small 5-watt package focused on providing iconic Marshall tube tones anywhere you want.  The amp has ultra gain and classic gain channels to give you enough versatility to go from breaking up cleans to playing with some high-gain rock-solid tones.

Pros

  • Good tonal versatility
  • Good overall sound quality
  • Software emulated speakers sound great
  • Highly portable and compact design

Cons

  • Not loud enough for live performances
  • Reverb is not the best

The amp has high and low power modes to adjust the output volume as you’d like without sacrificing tonal qualities. The amp is also pretty versatile with the extended EQ, reverb, and gain adjustment knobs. The amp also features an effects loop and a 1/4″ footswitch included in the price.

Furthermore, the amp accurately emulates Marshall’s iconic 1960 speaker cabinet, which is created with software-emulated speakers. So, the amp sounds great for recording. Well, as a 5-watt amp, it is not meant for any live performances as the output volume is not loud enough.

Output 5W (0.5W power setting)
Speaker 1 x 10″ Celestion Ten-30 speaker
Number of Channels2
Tubes 2 x ECC83, 1 x ECC99/12BH7 (power)
Controls 3-band EQ, Reverb, Classic Gain Volume and Gain, Ultra Gain Volume and Gain

In short, if you are looking for a compact low-watt tube amp that delivers the iconic Marshall tones of rock history, Marshall M-DSL5CR-U would be a great choice.

8. Laney CUB-SUPER12

Budget-Friendly
Great-value-for-price small combo amp with  punchy and musical British rock tones.
View Price at AmazonView Price at Guitar Center

Laney is considered a high-quality alternative for Fender, Marshall, and Vox users. It is well associated with Black Sabbath as Tommy Iommi used Laney for years. Laney CUB-SUPER12 is a hard-to-beat 1×12 tube combo with its affordable price, great boutique British rock tones along with power set to make it home-friendly or punchy and musical for recording or small gigs.

Pros

  • Great value for the price
  • Great boutique British rock tones
  • Top-quality reverb effect
  • Portable design

Cons

  • No headphone jack
  • No aux-in jack
  • To replace the valves, the whole chassis needs to be removed

The amp comes with a built-in reverb effect which sounds genuinely top quality. The drive tones are pretty punchy and are reminiscent of British rock tones from the 90s. The amp is quite portable with its compact and lightweight design.

You can use the 15-watt setting for recording, jamming, or small live performances, while the 1-watt power setting is perfect for bedroom practices.

The amp features a great value for its price but, of course, has some drawbacks. The first one is the lack of aux-in and headphone jacks. The second one is that the whole chassis has to be removed to replace the valves, which makes the process quite complicated.

Output 15 Watts (1 Watt power setting)
Speaker 12” HH Custom
Number of Channels1
Tubes 3 x 12AX7, 2 x EL84 (power)
Controls Volume, Reverb, Treble, Middle, Bass, Gain, Boost

Overall, if you are looking for a budget-friendly yet great-performing small combo amp, Laney CUB-SUPER12 is ideal.

9. Blackstar HT20R MKII

Versatile, Great Sound
One of the most versatile and high-performing small combo tube amps on the market.
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Blackstar HT20R MKII is considered one of the best small combo amps today due to its impressive versatility, great sound, and feature-packed design. The 20-watt 1 x 12″ combo tube amp comes with ISF (Infinite Shape Feature), which provides great tonal versatility without digital modeling, making the amp much more than a one-trick pony.

Pros

  • Highly versatile with a wide range of tones
  • Great sound and tonal quality
  • Great connectivity options
  • Feature-packed design with DI and USB outputs, ISF function

Cons

  • Not the most beginner-friendly as there are many sound-sculpting options

The amp has the power attenuator to use on the stage or for recording with 20 Watts power, while it can also work in a 2-Watts power setting as a bedroom-friendly amp. The amp’s all-tube overdrive channel sounds amazing, while the clean channel is also good with a boutique amp-inspired tone.

The feature-packed amp has a USB connection for direct recording, digital reverb, an MP3 line-in, and a speaker-emulated output.

While it is a truly impressive performing amp, the build quality is not the best, but it is durable enough. Also, it is not a beginner-friendly amp as its potential is released when some adjustments are tweaked rather than using it as a plug-and-play style device.

Output 20 Watts (2W setting)
Speaker 1 x 12″ Blackstar Designed Speaker
Number of Channels2
Tubes 2 x 12AX7, 2 x EL84 (power)
Controls Clean Volume and Tone, Overdrive Gain and Volume, 3-Band EQ and ISF, Reverb Level, Master Volume

It is hard to go wrong with Blackstar HT-20R MK, thanks to its high sonic versatility, great sound, and good connectivity options.

10. Tone King Gremlin

Vintage Style, Portable
Old-school sound meets with modern design.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

Tone King Gremlin is a great low-watt little tube head for guitarists who like the Blackface or Tweed-style amp tones. The vintage amp has an authentic old-school sound combined with modern technology and design.

Pros

  • Great vintage tones
  • Simple control layout
  • Portable

Cons

  • Limited versatility
  • A bit pricey

The 5-watt amp has a 1 x 12″ Celestion 870 speaker, which sounds loud enough for studio and home practice, but you can also connect an external speaker if you want more sound.

The control layout is straightforward, with rhythm and lead channels controlled with only tone and volume control knobs. The rhythm channel provides great 60’s style cleans while the lead channel delivers a warm and gritty drive tone similar to American overdrive tones.

The amp is pretty compact and lightweight, great for on-the-go musicians. The only drawbacks are the price and the amp’s limited versatility for guitarists who want a more flexible amp for different tones.

Output 5W, built-in variable attenuator
Speaker 1 x 12″ Celestion 870 speaker
Number of Channels2
Tubes 2 x 12AX7, 1 x KT66 (power)
Controls Tone, Volume

Overall, if you are looking for a portable and great-sounding vintage-style tube guitar amplifier, you should check out Tone King Gremlin.

What is a Tube Amp and how does it work?

A tube amp is an electronic amplifier with vacuum tubes to amplify a music instrument’s signal. The vacuum tubes perform tremendously and add a unique personality to the sound. The electrons in the tube interact and create natural harmonics, delivering the unique sound distortion of tube amps.

What is a Combo Tube Amp?

Combo tube amps have the amplifier and speaker in one cabinet. These self-contained units are more compact and cheaper than head-and-cabinet-style setups. A combo amp might be a better solution if you mostly play small gigs as opposed to big venues.

What is the difference between Tube and Solid-State Amp?

The main difference between tube and solid-state amps is that tube amps use vacuum tubes for amplification, while solid-state amps use electronic transistors. Solid-state amps are less versatile and can not deal with heavy distortion, while they are cheaper, less fragile, and low-maintenance.

How to replace Tubes in my Tube Amp?

With a screwdriver, you can replace the tubes in your tube amp. First, remove the back panel, then grip the base of the tube close to the chassis, and gently wiggle the tube from side to side while pulling it away. Ensure that the pins are aligned correctly, and gently insert the new tube back in.

You can check the video to have a complete guide for the replacement.

What to look for in a Tube Amp when buying?

When buying a tube amp, the most important things to consider are the tubes, the speakers, sound quality and versatility, as well as the price.

Tubes

As tube amps are powered and amplified by tubes or valves, the choice of tubes is vital for a decent sound. Different tubes have different tonal qualities. For instance, 6L6 power tubes provide clarity and roundness in the tone, while EL34 delivers a tone with tight lows, chimney highs, and a nice mid-range. 

The EL84 power tubes have lower output but sound smooth, complete, and bluesy with many harmonics. KT88s and 6550s are powerful tubes with clean sounds focused on the low-end spectrum.

Speakers

The speaker sizes and speaker model also affect the sound. As a general rule, smaller speakers produce more top end than larger ones. That means smaller speakers sound brighter and tighter while bigger ones have a darker sound. The most common speaker types are 10” and 12” ones, which have a nice balance.

Sound Quality and Versatility

Of course, the sound quality and versatility are vital for any amp. Sound quality is provided by the combination of tubes, circuits, and speakers, while the versatility is provided by built-in effects and controls on the amp.

Price

Tube amps are pricey gear, so you have to choose well if you have a tight budget. Brands like Marshall, Fender, and Vox have higher prices as they are some of the greatest tube amp manufacturers of rock music history. You can check other brands if you want something more affordable.

Verdict

Tube amps are the iconic gear of rock history with their unique warm tones with lots of harmonics provided by their vacuum tubes or valves. They are pretty pricey, fragile, heavy, and hard to maintain, but the rewards are fantastic with a truly vintage and warm tone. A low-wattage tube amp is great for home practice, studio recording, or small gigs.

My top recommended amp is Fender 68 Custom Princeton Reverb, which amazingly provides the iconic 60s old-school Fender tones.

If you want something more budget-friendly, you should check out BUGERA V5 Infinium, which perfectly blends affordability, versatility, and vintage tones.

Brian Clark is a multi-instrumentalist and music producer. He is passionate about practically all areas of music and he particularly enjoys writing about the music industry.

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