Vox AC15C1 Custom Low Watt Tube Amp
Marshall SV20C MK II Low Watt Tube Amp
Bugera V5 Infinium 5W Small Tube Amp Combo
Table of Contents
If you want a responsive amp with a dynamic sound, there’s nothing like a genuine tube amplifier. Tube amps have been the gold standard in guitar tone for more than 60 years and, today, there are more options than ever.
We’ve picked the Vox AC15C1 Custom as the best low watt tube amp on the market. It packs legendary British tone and the articulation of a massive cabinet into a 15-watt amp that’s perfect for the studio and stage.
Even if it’s not the perfect fit, we can guarantee at least one of the 14 small tube amps in our roundup will pique your interest. No matter what tone you’re chasing, you’re sure to find the best low watt amp for your needs on this list.
The 14 Best Low Watt Tube Amps:
|Image||Low Watt Tube Amps||Summary||Check Price|
|Vox AC15C1 Custom Low Watt Tube Amp Combo|
Best Choice: The best low watt tube amp for classic British tone on stage and in the studio
|Bugera V5 Infinium 5W Small Tube Amp Combo|
Best Value: All-tube construction and warm tone at an affordable price
|Marshall SV20C MK II Low Watt Tube Amp Combo|
Premium Pick: Vintage Marshall crunch in a combo that’s suited for the studio and stage
|Orange Amplifiers Rocker 15 Low Watt Tube Amp Combo|
Versatile Micro Sized Tube Amp: Orange’s legendary saturation for practicing, recording, and jamming
|Fender Blues Junior IV Guitar Combo Low Watt Tube Amp Combo|
Superb Blues Combo Amp: A 15-watt combo with the perfect grit for blues and soul
|Fender ‘57 Custom Champ 5W Small Tube Amp Combo|
Big Vintage Sound in a Small Package: Vintage Fender tweed goodness in a compact 5-watt cabinet
|Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 Guitar Combo Low Watt Tube Amp Combo|
Perfect For The Home Studio: The best low watt tube amp for recording, with glassy American cleans and rich, gritty overdrive
|Fender ‘65 Princeton Reverb Guitar Combo Low Watt Tube Amp Combo|
Blast From The Past: Legendary combo with clear, bright voicing, warm distortion and onboard effects
|Vox AC4 4-Watt Guitar Combo Small Tube Amp Combo|
Micro Amp With A Big Bite: Scaled-down AC15 offers British crunch in a smaller package
|Tone King Gremlin 5-Watt Small Tube Amp Combo|
Premium Tube Combo Packed With Tone: Two legendary American voicings packed into one 5-watt combo
|Blackstar HT-20R MkII Low Watt Tube Amp Combo|
Quality Made Affordable: Versatile 20-watt combo with voicings for players in all genres
|Orange Rocker 15 Terror Low Watt Tube Amp Head|
Highly Versatile For all Music Types: The crunch and power of Orange’s Rocker combo in a portable head design
|Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister Deluxe 20 Low Watt Tube Amp Head|
Ultra Modern Features: Hi-fi amp head with powerful EQ and versatile three-channel setup
|Bugera G20 Infinium Low Watt Tube Amp Head|
All Round Performer: A low wattage head that’s versatile enough for any genre at a great price
Vox AC15C1 Custom Low Watt Tube Amp Combo
Few amp brands can match the reputation of Vox. From the Beatles to Brian May and Radiohead, the British company’s amps are behind some of the most legendary tones ever recorded.
The AC15C1 Custom condenses the tone of the flagship AC30 into a smaller, more convenient package.
This low watt tube amp runs with EL84 tubes for a classic “British” sound signature. The low end is tight and controlled, while the top end offers bell-like clarity. There’s also the classic Vox top boost channel, so you can add some extra sparkle to your rhythm and lead parts.
With overdrive, Vox amps also offer a beautiful saturation with plenty of harmonics. If you want vintage classic rock tones that balance depth and bite, the AC15C1 is one of the best low-watt tube amps out there.
With just 15 watts, you can overdrive the AC15C1 fairly easily. However, compared to some other low-watt amps it’s still extremely powerful. It’s got enough headroom to jam with a drummer, and can even stand in for some small gigs as well.
Bugera V5 Infinium 5W Small Tube Amp Combo
While professionals love tube amps for their dynamics and tone, they’re often too costly for new or cash-strapped players.
Thankfully, Bugera offers the V5 infinium — a budget single channel tube amp that’s perfect for practice and small jam sessions. The five-watt combo amp offers a vintage vibe with streamlined controls.
The front panel features dials for volume and tone along with a gain control and an onboard reverb control. The tube complement skews British, with a 12AX7 preamp and a single EL84 power tube. While those tubes combine for five watts of power, you can also attenuate the amp to 1 watt or 0.1 watts for quieter practice.
This gives the Bugera V5 Infinium great high-end clarity and sharp, clear note definition. When overdriven, it’s rich and saturated with a lot of emphasis throughout the midrange.
This makes the Bugera V5 perfect for rock, blues and country, although it can also serve for modern alternative, indie and grunge styles as well. The eight-inch Turbosound speaker overdrives easily, although it can sound a bit flat at louder volumes. Low watt tube amps with larger speakers might provide more sonic depth.
Marshall SV20C MK II Low Watt Tube Amp Combo
Marshall amps, like the 1959 Super Lead Plexi, provided the quintessential tone for guitar heroes like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. The SV20C is Marshall’s move to emulate a Super Lead in a smaller combo amp for studio and bedroom use.
The design uses EL34 power tubes for British-style tone, with a three-band EQ section to sculpt your entire response. Inside, there’s a 10-inch Celestion V-Type speaker. These use ceramic magnets for low-end warmth without sacrificing grit and drive through the midrange.
They’re perfect for classic rock and blues, although their crunchy overdrive is pretty versatile.
If you love the natural compression and searing overdrive of a full Marshall stack, this single channel amp is the best low-watt tube alternative.
The SV20C offers an onboard attenuator as well, which can drop the wattage from 20 to five watts. This is perfect for solo practice, because it lowers the overall output and helps the amp break up at lower volumes.
Orange Amplifiers Rocker 15 Low Watt Tube Amp Combo
The Rocker 15 is Orange’s low wattage tube amp, designed to give you everything from classic rock crunch to crushing metal distortion.
The amp splits into clean and overdrive channels, so you can fine-tune how much grit you want in your sound. The dirty channel provides a three-band EQ and gain control, along with a dedicated volume control.
When you crank up the dirty channel, the Rocker 15 shines. At high gain settings it provides a fuzzy, thick saturation with almost limitless sustain. The distortion sounds fantastic in rock styles, but there’s enough gain on tap for some metal genres as well.
Though Orange amps are known for their grit, the Rocker 15 delivers surprisingly warm and full clean tones as well. If you like British-style cleans and light breakup tones, you’ll have a great time with this amp. It also takes pedals well, thanks to the all-tube effects loop onboard.
To make the amp more versatile, Orange has built in multiple attenuator controls. Together, they let you adjust the output to 15 watts, 7 watts, 1 watt, or 0.5 watts. At full power, it’s loud enough for jamming, while the attenuated settings are best for practice.
Fender Blues Junior IV Guitar Combo Low Watt Tube Amp Combo
The Blues Junior is Fender’s entry-level tube amp, but don’t let that fool you. This 15-watt tube amp has enough power for the studio or small stages and it shines both clean and with overdrive.
The Blues Junior offers the pick response and boxy, mid-focused overdrive of Fender’s legendary tweed amps. It breaks up easily, so you can dial in some rich harmonics and fuzzy overdrive while keeping the volume manageable.
The Celestion 12-inch speaker is another major plus. It provides more depth and low-end kick than competitors with eight-inch or 10-inch speakers.
If you like to play styles like blues, jazz and rock, that extra warmth will be very useful.
On the top panel, the Blues Junior IV provides controls for volume and master volume, along with a three-stage EQ and a reverb control. The first volume dial functions like a gain knob — you can crank that to push the amp into overdrive, then turn down the master to adjust your final output.
The detailed EQ provides meticulous control over your sound. While it’s a single channel amp, you can also engage the “fat” switch for a thicker tone that’s great for soul and blues.
Fender ‘57 Custom Champ 5W Small Tube Amp Combo
Though it debuted as an affordable practice amp for students, the Fender Champ became one of the best recording amplifiers on the market. Professionals loved its pure tube tone and extremely responsive overdrive — and its lightweight feel certainly didn’t hurt.
Today, the Fender ‘57 Custom Champ delivers 5 watts of tube power with an eight-inch Weber custom speaker. The circuit board is hand-wired for a shorter signal path.
This makes the Champ one of the most responsive small tube amps you’ll find anywhere; if you dig in or back off the volume knob, the amp responds beautifully.
The control panel is extremely simple, with just one input and a single volume knob. Like most pure tube amps, this volume knob will push the amp into overdrive when cranked up. So, despite the sleek layout, it doesn’t sacrifice a lot of control over your sound.
The smaller speaker and lower wattage of the ’57 Custom Champ also make it perfect for recording and studio use. If you’re looking for a low-watt amp that delivers vintage overdrive with a dynamic touch, this Champ is tough to beat.
Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 Guitar Combo Low Watt Tube Amp Combo
Blackstar guitar amps are known for meticulous design and outstanding versatility, and the Studio 10 6L6 is no exception. This small combo tube amp provides classic American amp tones in a one-by-12-inch cabinet that’s perfect for the studio.
The Studio 10 6L6 runs around a single 6L6 power tube; this gives the guitar amplifier a simpler circuit and a quick, precise response to your playing. This also makes it easier to achieve rich, harmonic overdrive, although the glassy clean sounds are some of the best you’ll find in this price range.
The sound signature emulates classic American guitar amps like Fender blackface models. It’s warmer and richer in the low end than British amps, although the trebles are nice and bright to cut through a mix.
When pushed to overdrive, it’s full and aggressive in the mids, with a lot of response to your pick attack.
To control the amp further, you can adjust the volume, gain and tone knobs on the top panel. The amp offers a separate drive channel as well, so you can access dirty tones without cranking the volume. Finally, there’s onboard digital reverb to give your tone a bit more depth.
Fender ‘65 Princeton Reverb Guitar Combo Low Watt Tube Amp Combo
While Fender’s tweed guitar amps are known for their gritty overdrive and responsive midrange, the company’s blackface amps offer sparkling, glassy clean tones that have become famous across genres.
The Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb is a faithful reissue of the 1965 design that popularized the blackface sound.
On the front panel, you’ll find two-band EQ controls and a volume dial as well as knobs for the genuine spring reverb and tube tremolo onboard.
The sound signature is bright and airy, with a distinctive scooped midrange. This makes the trebles sound a bit brighter and sharper, and helps preserve some clarity around the low mids.
The scooped sound also cuts through a mix more easily than British-style amps with a midrange bump. And, with 15 watts of power, there’s enough headroom in this guitar amplifier to play with a drummer in the mix.
With a naturally sparkling tone, the ’65 Princeton can get a little sharp at the top end. However, if you manage the treble response right, it provides some of the best clean tones and dynamic overdrives for studio and home use.
Vox AC4 4-Watt Guitar Combo Small Tube Amp Combo
If even an AC15C1 is too much amp for you, the Vox AC4 is the perfect solution. This is the smallest all-tube amp in Vox’s lineup and it takes the core features of classic Vox tone for a streamlined yet powerful experience.
This amp is built exclusively around Vox’s famous “top boost” circuit, which adds in some extra trebles for a dynamic and bright feel.
In the AC4, that means you get sparkling, chiming clean tones along with Vox’s famous tube saturation.
Along with the classic Vox amps circuit, the AC4 runs with a custom 12-inch Celestion speaker. The larger size provides more low-end depth and a bit more sonic “space” than smaller eight-inch or 10-inch speakers.
The top panel offers streamlined controls, with knobs for master volume, treble, bass and gain. The two-band EQ is a major advantage over some other small tube amps that only provide a master tone control. The dials are very responsive, so you can dial back the top end for a warmer sound or adjust the bass to keep your attack punchy and tight.
Tone King Gremlin 5-Watt Small Tube Amp Combo
Tone King’s Gremlin packs the sounds of two famous American amp styles into a lightweight one-by-12-inch frame.
If you want dynamic Fender blackface-era cleans with smooth and rich tweed overdrive, this is one of the best small tube amps on the market.
The Gremlin runs with two channels for rhythm and lead playing. The rhythm channel offers more headroom and a brighter, smoother voicing reminiscent of blackface amps. The lead channel, meanwhile, provides the throaty punch of a cranked tweed amp.
At just 5 watts, you can push this combo tube amplifier to serious distortion at studio-appropriate volumes. The 12-inch Celestion speaker sounds rich and spacious whether you play clean or crank it up.
The control panel is extremely simple, with dials for master volume and tone. That streamlined layout makes the amp extremely expressive, with a unique response to your touch and an articulate voice.
The Gremlin also includes Tone King’s Ironman attenuator onboard. This technology reduces the output level of your amp while still pushing the tubes at their normal level, giving you a wide-open tone at much quieter volumes. The Ironman offers up to 35dB of noise reduction, which is great for bedroom practice.
Blackstar HT-20R MkII Low Watt Tube Amp Combo
Blackstar’s HT-20 is built for versatility both in the studio and on stage. It’s an EL84-powered tube combo with two separate channels for clean and drive sounds.
Each channel features a pair of different voicings for maximum flexibility.
The clean sounds range from smooth, sparkling tones to light crunch that’s great for rock and country. The dirty channel pushes that further into overdrive, with more compression and grit.
At the very top of the drive channel, you can even get into some metal territory. The second voicing offers additional gain to push you into punchy distortion with lots of saturation.
In addition to the EQ section, there’s also Blackstar’s signature “Infinite Shape Feature” dial. The ISF knob shifts the voicing from American to British tones, so you can adjust the mid scoop and top-end chime in your sound.
If you need to practice quietly, you can also take the amp down to just two watts. This gives you the amp’s full spectrum of crunch and overdrive at low wattage levels for your bedroom. On the other hand, the amp also includes speaker emulations for playing directly through the PA at a large gig.
Orange Rocker 15 Terror Low Watt Tube Amp Head
The Rocker 15 Terror is the head-only version of Orange’s famous Rocker 15 tube combo amp. If you’re looking for the best low watt head for rock and metal, this guitar amp needs to be on your radar.
The Terror preserves the two channels of the full-size Rocker 15. The “natural” channel is perfect for warm, smooth tones and light crunch, while the dirty channel cranks up the gain for hard rock and metal. This channel also includes a special EQ section, with dedicated controls for the bass, midrange and treble.
At high gain levels, the Terror responds with rich saturation and beautiful harmonics. It’s perfect for all styles of rock and has enough gain for some metal as well.
On the back of the Terror, you’ll find a speaker output, effects loop and Orange’s “headroom/bedroom” switch. Like the Rocker 15 low watt combo amp, this switch lets you attenuate the Terror to 7 watts, 1 watt, or 0.5 watts from the original 15-watt output.
The metal casing and carrying handle makes the Terror extremely durable, no matter where you need to gig. And at slightly less than 15 pounds, it’s one of the best small tube amps for taking on-the-go.
Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister Deluxe 20 Low Watt Tube Amp Head
Hughes & Kettner was one of the first boutique amp companies when it was founded in 1984. Since then, the German brand has won endorsements from legends like Rush’s Alex Liefson.
Hughes & Kettner amps prioritize hi-fi clarity and precise build quality so you get a great-sounding amp at a solid value.
Its Tubemeister Deluxe 20 is a powerful 20-watt amp head with outstanding versatility. It runs with 12AX7 preamp tubes and EL84 power tubes, giving it a British-style clean tone. The midrange offers plenty of punch, but the bass is thicker and more balanced than some other British-style amps.
The amp splits into three channels: clean, lead and boost. The clean channel breaks up naturally, with a bit of crunch that’s perfect for rhythm. On the lead channel, you get a thick, full-bodied sound that’s perfect for a wide variety of styles. Meanwhile, the “boost” channel offers the most gain yet, with a new voicing suited for hard rock and metal.
At full capacity, the Tubemeister 20 puts out 20 watts. For practicing on your own or recording in the studio, you can attenuate the amp down to 5 watts or 1 watt.
Bugera G20 Infinium Low Watt Tube Amp Head
If you want the convenience of a tube amp head on a tight budget, you should check out the Bugera G20 Infinium.
This 20-watt amp head offers a balanced, versatile sound with outstanding tonal control. It’s powerful enough for playing on stage, but it’s got the finesse required for studio recording as well.
The G20 uses EL34 power tubes and 12AX7 preamp tubes, giving it a bright, snappy voicing. It’s tuned for more warmth and depth than some British-style amps but has enough grit to play anything from blues to country, pop or rock.
The detailed EQ section and “morph” knob are key to that versatility. This dial lets you switch between American and British voicings, adjusting the midrange scoop, bass presence and top-end sparkle.
Another major plus is the analog reverb, which gives your guitar a lush, full sound. Compared to other low watt tube amps with digital reverb, the analog tank is fuller and more resonant.
Along with the sonic features, you also get an effects loop and emulated speaker output, so you can plug directly into a console with the simulated sound of a full cabinet.
What Is The Best Small Tube Amp?
If you want to get the best from your Les Paul, PRS, Fender or whatever you’re into, a tube amp is the perfect way to do it. These amps offer unparalleled response and tone, with a dynamic feel that’s captivated guitarists for decades.
To get the best model, you’ll need to consider the cost, wattage and intended use. For studio recording, the Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 and Fender ‘57 Custom Champ are smaller combos with plenty of punch. Meanwhile, larger models like the Vox AC15C1 and Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 20 are best for live performances.
To get a better feel for the best small tube amps, let’s break down a few common questions from players and analyze the best picks for every purpose.
Why Are Tube Amps So Expensive?
Tube amps tend to cost more than other alternatives because of the increased labor and circuitry involved in manufacturing them. Vacuum tube circuits are more complex than solid-state circuits, and vacuum tubes cost more than the transistors used in alternative amps.
The cost is even greater if you want a hand-wired amp. Hand-wired boards provide a straighter signal path, which some players feel makes their amp more responsive. However, that extra labor comes at a high price: a worker must wire the circuit board individually, from start to finish.
Tube circuits also tend to take up more space and weigh more. This makes them larger and much heavier than other types of amps, and increases the costs to build and ship them. As a result, tube amps are much more expensive for players at retail prices.
Low Watt Tube Amp Combos vs. Amp Heads
Low watt amp combos include both a power amp and a speaker in one cabinet, so you can start playing immediately. If you’re a new player looking for your first amp, a combo will suit your needs better.
Combos are also good for studio recording. Many of the most famous tones in guitar history were made with low watt combos like the Fender Champion, Princeton Reverb and Silvertone combos. These small amps offer a lot of character, which can shine through on your recordings.
However, for playing a small gig or jamming with friends, an amp head might work better. Amp heads provide a full amplifier in a smaller package, which are then connected to an external speaker cabinet to play. If you have speaker cabinets in your home studio or play venues with house speakers already set up, an amp head gives you much more flexibility.
Best Low Watt Tube Amps for Home / Studio Use
For use at home, you’ll want an amp that has a clear tone with great response and easy controls. Smaller combos like the Bugera V5 Infinium and Vox AC4 are perfect for practice. They’re lightweight, simple to control and work well for the house.
If you’re working in the studio, look for a combo that sounds great both clean and overdriven. Amps with multiple channels are another bonus, because they can emulate multiple sounds for different records.
The Tone King Gremlin and Blackstar HT20R-MkII deliver fantastic voicings, although you should also check out the Fender ‘57 Custom Champ and the Fender ‘65 Princeton Reverb: two amps with legendary history in the studio.
We’ve also compiled guides on the best home recording studio packages and the best audio interfaces. If you’re looking for a tube amp to build your home studio, these articles might help you in your search.
Best Low Watt Tube Amps for Live Performance
For performing on stage, you’ll need a versatile amp with more headroom to handle larger crowds. Look for a design with at least 15 watts, multiple great sounds and a powerful EQ section.
The Blackstar HT20R-MkII delivers on all fronts here. Its ISF EQ knob lets you switch between American and British voicings and its dual channels give you everything from pristine cleans to shredding metal tones. And, with 20 watts of power, it can get louder than most other amps on our list.
For British-focused tone, the Vox AC15C1 and Marshall SV20C are two other standout options. The Vox provides beautiful cleans and rich saturation, while the Marshall offers a tighter crunch with a bit more grit and bite. If you want a head instead of a combo amp, the Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 20 is another great option.
How Many Watts Does An Amp Need?
Lower wattage amps break up more easily and “open up” at low volumes. If you want your amp’s best tone at a quiet volume, then you might only need a 5-watt tube amp. Practice amps usually range from five to 15 watts, so you can dial in some overdrive and get great clean tones at low volumes.
For studio recording, smaller amps also offer more tones at lower volumes. Because they break up more easily, you can get both clean and dirty tones without hurting your ears.
If you want a larger amp for gigging and jamming, you’ll need more headroom. Amps with higher wattage outputs can reach louder volumes without breaking up, so you can play in larger spaces.
Some 15-watt amps are loud enough to gig with, although many players prefer tube amps ranging from 20 to 40 or more watts. With a PA system, you can always mic up a quieter amp to get your sound to a large crowd.
Why are Tube Amps Lower Wattage?
Tube amps offer a softer overdrive clipping than solid-state amps, which means that we perceive tube amps as louder than solid-state amps at the same wattage. While it’s common to see 100- or 200-watt digital amps, some players can gig with 15-watt tube amps.
If you’re looking for an amp for the stage, you should aim for 20 watts or more. The extra power will give you enough headroom to play clean passages without your amp breaking up.
Are Tube Amps Really Better?
Tube amps are the gold standard for guitar tone, but whether they’re “better” for your needs depends on your budget and ideal tone.
Tube combos are certainly preferred for professional artists and those who prioritize pick response. Vacuum tubes respond better to your pick attack than any other amplifier type, so tube amps feel more “natural” to play as a result.
However, there are a few drawbacks to tube amps that solid-state and digital models address perfectly. Solid-state amps often weigh much less than their tube counterparts and they can provide more onboard effects and voicings as well.
New digital amps can capture nearly all of the feel of a tube amplifier and offer thousands of sounds for less money than an entry-level tube amp. If you just want the most tones available for practicing on your own, a digital amp might better serve your needs.
After evaluating all of the options, we chose the Vox AC15C1 Custom as the best low watt tube amp. It offers legendary tone with enough power for studio recording and gigging alike.
Guitarists on a budget might prefer amps like the Bugera V5 Infinium or the Fender Blues Junior IV. If you want a more American-voiced amp, you should also check out the Fender ‘57 Custom Champ and the Blackstar Studio 10 6L6.
Do you prefer tube or digital amps? Where do you use your low watt amp? Let us know in the comments below.