Tube amps (also known as a valve amps) give you that a rich, distorted analog sound that many guitarists look for.
The problem is – most tube amps are pricey.
Most, but not all.
If you shop around, you can still find cheap tube amps with a decent analog sound.
Fortunately, we’ve gone ahead and done the research for you.
For this article, we’ve found and reviewed the top 8 cheap tube amps that you can buy today.
Ready? Let’s get started…
8 Best Cheap Tube Amps Reviewed
Cheap Tube Amps Buyer’s Guide
Still undecided? Our buyer’s guide will answer many of the questions you have about buying a cheap tube amp.
Cheap Tube Amp vs. Solid State
Is a tube amp even right for you? Tube amps use vacuum tubes (also described as valves sometimes) to amplify. Solid State amps use a combination of transistors, which gives a different tone.
There are good amps in both categories – the main difference is that a Solid State model doesn’t tend to distort as nicely. There isn’t a warmth or fuzz to the sound. The distortion sounds more digital and buzzy, and it’s been compared to a “clipping” sound.
Tube amps are known for their beautiful fuzz and deep tone that are great for distorted and overdriven sounds. The downside is that tubes can need replacing from time to time, which is more money you have to pay.
Tones and Voice
Almost every piece of equipment for a guitarist is about building a certain tone. Amps play a big part in that. Controls like EQ, tone dials and overdrive all impact how the guitar sounds. The included videos are a good guide for this.
When talking about tube amps, people use the terms “British” and “American” a lot. British amps tend to have a higher mid-range and more punchy sound, while American amps tend to have a “V-shaped” EQ, boosting both lows and highs.
If you want to use your amp in live settings, you’ll need more power. You can see the power rating by looking for the number of watts – the more watts, the more power. The power ratings on our list range from 20W to 1W. That’s a big range.
Tube amps may seem like they have less power than other amps since the wattage ratings are lower. But, since the way they’re amplified is more efficient, they often actually have more power.
Think about the scenarios in which you’ll be using the amp. Those with lower ratings may be fine for the studio or practice, but they’ll struggle in live settings.
These are worth mentioning when talking about power rating. An attenuator can “cap” the power to prevent the sound from getting too overpowering. It’s great for keeping the volume low so you can play wherever you need to.
An attenuator often caps at 10% of the power rating for quieter practice.
Combo Or Head
For more power and tone control, you might want to buy a tube amp head and stack it with a cab. This can boost volume, but it’s not as convenient as buying a combo amp.
A combo amp packs the cone of the speaker and the tubes amplifying the sound into one device. It’s easier to transport to gigs, and it means you only have to pay for one piece of kit, not two.
A lot of the tube amps on this list include effects. It’s not essential, since you can always add effects via your pedalboard, but it can be a nice added extra.
Effects such as EQ and reverb are commonly included. They can add another dimension and more control. You’ll be able to experiment a lot if effects are included. The Ibanez TSA15 even includes their famous “Tube Screamer” effect.
Conclusion & Takeaway
Most top guitar brands offer decent affordable tube amps. It’s just a matter of matching up your own unique needs to the right model.
If you’re looking for a convenient yet versatile amp that can handle recording as well as live use, the Vox AC4 is a good option.
For a tube amp that’s mostly for practice, consider the Blackstar HT1R. If you want to stack your amp with a cab, the Orange Micro Terror 20W Amplifier Head could be a great, fuzzy, and analog-sounding option.