- Choose From The Best Tube Amps
- What Is A Tube Amp?
- The Power Is Yours
Let’s make your search for the perfect guitar amplifier easier by exploring our comprehensive guide to the best tube amp available in 2023. Whether you’re a gigging musician in need of the ideal stage partner, a home studio enthusiast ready to elevate your sound, or just a gearhead craving a new tone, our guide’s got top-rated, proven suggestions for you.
Tube amps, with their warm, organic tone and responsive dynamics, have a unique charm that’s kept them at the heart of iconic hits for decades. Get to know the distinctive features, unique benefits, and potential downsides of these top tube amps before you invest.
After all, the key to your legendary sound might just be nestled in the heart of these venerable valve amps. Let’s reveal the best tube amp of 2023.
The Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb is a reputable and well-loved amplifier, recreating the iconic sound and aesthetics of the original 1960s model that has been used on countless hit recordings.
This reissue model is valued for its precise tone, loud volume, and classic look. It’s an all-tube amplifier rated at 22 watts, with a 12″ 8-ohm Jensen C-12K speaker, offering a sound that is surprisingly loud for its size. It’s designed with two channels (normal and vibrato) and is capable of achieving a natural overdrive tone at higher volumes.
- A faithful recreation of the classic 1960s Deluxe Reverb amplifier
- All-tube amplifier providing a warm and superior tone
- Features dual 6V6 Groove Tubes output tubes, one 5AR4 rectifier tube, four 12AX7 preamp tubes, two 12AT7 tubes
- Offers two channels (normal and vibrato) with tube-driven Fender reverb and vibrato
- Produces a surprisingly loud sound for a 22-watt amp
- Lightweight and portable, ideal for gigging musicians
Though the exact pricing may vary depending on the retailer, the Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb reissue is generally considered more affordable than the original vintage models, offering similar tone and performance without the hefty price tag that comes with vintage amplifiers.
Drawing from various comments and feedback, there are several notable pros and cons to the Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb. On the plus side, this amp is celebrated for its great tone and classic Fender sound. Its tube construction contributes to its feel and low-end response, and it’s been highlighted for its bright top end, provided by the 12-inch Jensen C12K speaker. The amp’s versatility is also a strong point, as it’s capable of producing clean tones and can be pushed into classic rock territory. Its light weight makes it portable and suitable for gigging musicians, and its durability is another commendable aspect.
However, the Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb is not without its downsides. Some have noted that it may not have as much headroom as other amps, potentially making it less suitable for larger venues without proper amplification. Its bright tonal quality may not be to everyone’s taste, and some musicians have found the bass response lacking when using single-coil pickups. Additionally, while the amp’s reverb is generally praised, the quality of this feature is subjective, with some preferring the reverb on the Tone Master Deluxe Reverb. Despite these few points, the Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb remains a reliable, versatile amplifier that delivers classic Fender tones suitable for a variety of playing styles and settings.
The Two-Rock Studio Signature head is a medium-sized amplifier that serves as an alternative to the Classic Reverb Signature while still producing 35 watts of power from a pair of 6L6 output valves.
This amplifier is designed to be a versatile clean amplifier, capable of providing many ways to fine-tune frequency response and dynamic feel.
The amp doesn’t operate in the traditional way, requiring the gain and master controls to be set high to achieve overdrive. The tone controls, and frequency boost switches provide numerous variations on crystal clear sound and refined excellence. The Studio Signature is also a great pedal platform, offering pristine clean and edge-of-breakup tones.
- Versatile clean amplifier with many options for fine-tuning frequency response and dynamic feel
- Stellar pedal platform, offering pristine clean and edge-of-breakup tones
- 35 watts of power from a pair of 6L6 output valves, ideal for those who don’t need a 100-watt power stage
- Tone controls and frequency boost switches provide endless variations on crystalline clarity and refined excellence
- Made in the USA and weighs 11.8kg/26lb, ensuring easy transportation
The Two-Rock Studio Signature head is a 35W amplifier with a black chassis. It is currently priced at $3,599.00. There’s also a 1×12 combo version available, priced at $3,899.00.
Speaking from my perspective, the Two-Rock Studio Signature is a versatile and high-quality amplifier. It’s designed as a solid pedal platform and offers a master gain control that adds a light overdrive when cranked. The amplifier is powered by a pair of 6L6 tubes and is known for its clean tone and impressive volume. Despite its compact size, it offers plenty of clean headroom and low-end, which is surprising yet pleasing.
The amp comes in various finishes, adding an aesthetic appeal to its already impressive technical specifications. It’s highly recommended for those looking for a high-quality compact amp with a classic reverb signature. However, the amp may not be suitable for those who prefer rocky and rough-edged guitar tones. But if you’re after pristine clean and edge-of-breakup tones, this amp shines bright.
The Fender Blues Junior IV is a compact, single-channel, all-tube 15-watt combo amp that offers a robust and full-bodied tone. It features EL84 power tubes and three 12AX7 preamp tubes that deliver powerful sounds, a Celestion A-type speaker that creates an authoritative bark in overdriven settings, and a snappier chime for cleaner tones.
The amp is known for improved sound and performance, thanks to modifications to the preamp circuit and spring reverb, which have resulted in increased headroom and a forceful midrange presence.
The Fender Blues Junior IV is versatile, reliable, and perfect for gigging guitarists.
- Portable and lightweight, making it easy to transport for gigs
- A Celestion A-type speaker that provides authoritative overdrive and snappy clean tones
- Modified preamp circuit offering greater tonal definition, clarity, and headroom
- Smooth-sounding spring reverb that adds a spacious and natural decay to the overall tone
- A versatile amp that can accommodate different styles and guitars
- A great pedal platform amp with simplicity and reliability
- A single-channel design with volume, treble, bass, middle, master, and reverb knobs, as well as a fat switch for preamp gain boost
We recommend checking with authorized dealers for up-to-date pricing.
From my perspective, the Fender Blues Junior IV is a versatile all-tube amplifier that adjusts beautifully to the dynamics of the volume control. It cleans up wonderfully when turned down and amplifies more volume and gain as it is turned up. With its various tone options, it offers beautiful clean tones on a strat, a great off-clean rhythm sound, and a fat boost switch that fills out the sound. It’s also capable of producing old-school rock and roll sounds with the gain and volume cranked.
One drawback, however, might be its loudness. It can be too loud for apartment living, but it’s a popular choice for those living in houses where they can make more noise. Furthermore, the amp is known for being a little on the bright side, but the treble can be adjusted to achieve the desired tones.
The Mark 4 version of the Blues Junior has a more vintage look with creamy white control knobs and lightly-aged silver grill cloth. Its onboard spring reverb has been modified to offer a more subtle and balanced effect, enhancing its appeal. Overall, the Fender Blues Junior IV is a highly regarded valve combo amp that is suitable for various playing styles and popular among musicians for its responsiveness to volume control dynamics and its ability to deliver great tones at different volume levels.
The Vox AC30 Custom C2 is a 30-watt, 2×12-inch tube combo amplifier, offering a more stripped-down version of the classic AC30, focusing on affordability and authenticity.
This amp embodies a vintage-inspired design, featuring chicken-head knobs, a purple top panel, gold piping, and brown diamond grille cloth.
The amp is built around a modern PCB design and incorporates a solid-state rectifier instead of a valve rectifier. It comes with Celestion G12M Greenback speakers, but there is also a version available with Celestion Alnico Blue speakers.
With both a Top Boost channel and a normal channel, this amplifier offers a wide variety of tones, ranging from chiming clean tones with a gritty edge in the Top Boost channel, to cleaner tones in the Normal channel.
- Varied tones at an attractive price
- Top Boost and normal channels for different sound profiles
- Onboard reverb and tremolo sections applicable to both channels
- Versatile amplifier, suitable for a range of styles
- Comes with Celestion G12M Greenback speakers, with an alternative version available with Celestion Alnico Blue speakers
- Modern PCB design and solid-state rectifier
The Vox AC30 Custom C2 is a quality, all-valve 2×12 combo offered at an attractive price point, making it a great option for players looking for classic Vox flavor with modern usability.
From the first strum, you could tell that the Vox AC30 Custom C2 was something special. Its classic British tone and versatility were truly impressive. It’s a 30-watt, all-tube amp that features two channels, each with its own volume control and tone shaping options, powered by four EL84 power tubes and three 12AX7 preamp tubes, contributing to a rich and dynamic sound. The bonus of a built-in tremolo effect and a spring reverb added to its sonic capabilities.
This amp is celebrated for its ability to deliver both sparkling clean tones and gritty overdrive, making it suitable for a wide range of musical styles. Coupled with its responsiveness and touch sensitivity, this amp allows players to easily shape their tone with their playing dynamics. However, it’s worth mentioning that the reverb on the amp is sometimes considered weak, but this may be due to individual units.
The amp’s design didn’t just stop at sound; the attention to visual detail on the amp was impressive too. Unfortunately, due to its quality build, the amp is quite heavy and isn’t fun to carry around. I’d recommend having a dolly or cart handy.
Overall, though, the Vox AC30 Custom C2 is a versatile and well-built guitar amplifier that offers a range of sonic possibilities. It’s become a favorite among guitarists for its responsiveness, versatility, and iconic design. I could easily see why it’s been a staple in the music industry for decades.
The Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker, revered as one of the most influential guitar amps of all time, is a hand-wired homage to the past.
The product is a notable addition to Marshall’s flagship Handwired range, and it’s well-regarded by today’s guitar players. The 1962 combo is equipped with Celestion’s G12 Greenback Speakers and boasts period-accurate hardware and appointments. It is also available as a head-only option. The hand-wired turret board circuit inside the amp is a work of art, with the wiring and component details receiving utmost attention.
It uses original-spec Drake transformers and a pair of KT66 output valves, crucial elements to the Bluesbreaker tone. The amp is designed with the aim of satisfying Marshall purists who yearn for the tone and reliability of early hand-wired amps.
• Combination of Celestion’s G12 Greenback Speakers and original-spec Drake transformers provide unique and rich tone
• Dual-channel design offering a Normal and Bright channel for varied tone options
• Features a tremolo effect with adjustable speed and intensity controls
• Thorough attention to detail in the wiring and components of the hand-wired turret board circuit
• Aimed at Marshall purists, providing the tone and reliability of early hand-wired amps
The Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker is on the expensive side. However, when compared to vintage options with maintenance and reliability issues, it offers good value.
From what I’ve gathered, the Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker is adored by guitarists across the globe. Chris Ke, a musician who plays with Amy McDonald, appreciates the warmth and versatility of the Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker. He finds it remarkable how he can manipulate the tone to his liking. Additionally, Captain Anderson speaks highly of the limited edition Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker, applauding its faithful reproduction of the original amp.
On the downside, some users have voiced concerns about the amp not living up to its price. One user, who had experience playing the Bluesbreaker, was not overly impressed given the price tag. Another user who has owned both the original and the reissue found that the reissue lacked the depth of the original. Additionally, one user found the Bluesbreaker to be muddy and flabby when it was driven too hard and suggested modifications to improve its sound. However, it’s always important to remember that these are personal opinions and experiences, and they may not necessarily reflect the overall quality and performance of the Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker.
The Fender ’64 Custom Princeton Reverb is a reissue of the iconic blackface Princeton Reverb amp. It replicates the timeless tone, feature-set, and performance of the vintage model, but without the hefty price tag.
The amp is a single-channel, 12-watt all-tube design with reverb and tremolo. It utilizes a pair of 6V6 tubes for power and 1 1/2 12AX7 tubes for the preamp. The amp also features a 10-inch Jensen alnico P10R speaker, which offers a warmer tone than the original ceramic magnet speakers.
- The Fender ’64 Custom Princeton Reverb delivers the timeless tone and performance of the classic blackface Princeton Reverb.
- It provides a more affordable alternative to vintage models.
- The amp features a single-channel, 12-watt all-tube design with reverb and tremolo.
- The 10-inch Jensen alnico P10R speaker offers a warmer tone, compared to the original ceramic magnet speakers.
- The high-quality components used in the amp, including Fender Vintage Blue tone capacitors and Groove Tubes, are meticulously chosen to match the specs of the original model.
- The amp’s clean tones are among the best available, with ample body and percussive attack.
- It is versatile and can deliver satisfying overdrive tones without becoming compressed or losing note definition.
The Fender ’64 Custom Princeton Reverb is a more affordable option compared to its vintage counterparts. We recommend checking official retailers for up-to-date pricing.
From a personal standpoint, the Fender ’64 Custom Princeton Reverb has plenty to offer. It’s a vintage-style guitar amp that truly pays homage to the classic Princeton Reverb from the mid-’60s. The hand-wired circuitry and high-quality components ensure top-notch performance and an authentic vintage tone. The simplicity of the control layout with knobs for volume, treble, bass, reverb, speed, and intensity makes it easy for players to dial in their desired sound.
The tube-driven reverb and tremolo effects add a rich and vibrant depth to the overall tone, which is beautifully balanced and articulate, thanks to the 10-inch Jensen C10Q speaker. The 12-watt output is ideal for small gigs, home practice, or recording sessions, providing just enough power to cut through the mix without overpowering it.
The vintage-style cabinet design, complete with a brown textured vinyl cover and a silver grille cloth, adds to the overall aesthetic appeal. This amplifier shines in a variety of musical genres, from blues and rock to jazz and country.
However, as with any product, it might have its limitations. The references do not provide any specific cons, but potential buyers should always research and try out the product themselves to ensure it suits their specific needs and preferences.
The Mesa/Boogie Mark V 35 is a versatile 35-watt amplifier that comes packed with a variety of features. This amplifier is smaller and more affordable than its bigger sibling, the Mark V, but it doesn’t compromise on quality or versatility.
It has two channels, each with three different modes, offering a total of six different available styles. Each channel also has an independent solo boost, and the well-liked Cabclone speaker emulated out. It comes with a 4-channel footswitch and cover. The Mark V 35 fills the gap between the full-fat 90W version and the newer 25W model, and is highly recommended for players who require more power and additional features.
- It offers incredible tonal versatility and classic Mesa/Boogie lead tones.
- The amp is exceptionally well-built with an all-aluminium chassis and responsive controls.
- The built-in CabClone feature is excellent for recording and headphone practice.
- It provides a wide range of tones, from sparkling cleans to tight high-gain madness.
- It offers a less cluttered front panel layout compared to the original Mark V.
The Mark V 35 is fairly priced, considering its build quality and the wide range of sounds it offers.
After playing guitar for almost 30 years and trying different amps, I find the Mark V:35 to be a great addition. This amplifier has a lot of versatility and tone, and it’s definitely a keeper. I was initially considering the Mark V:25 but opted for the 35W model. One minor drawback was that the clean setting on the amp seemed a bit thin, but I found my sweet spot on the “fat” channel with cranked gain and boosted mids.
I struggled a bit with adding warmth to the lead channel 2, but the M:IV setting gave me some great blues tones. The Xtreme setting offers a lot of versatility, but it’s not exactly my preference. The reverb on the amp is good, although not as good as an old Fender classic.
The independent solo knobs are a great feature, suiting my playing style perfectly. While the Cab Clone feature has a lot of uses, I still prefer using a mic. I particularly enjoy the EL-84 bite of the amp and find it to be powerful enough without needing a mic.
In comparison to the V:25, I believe the V:35 has a more rounded and fuller sound. While I don’t see it gaining the same popularity as the V:25, I still believe it’s a great amp, especially for smaller venues due to its smaller size and weight. It’s a great amp that offers great value for its price.
The Orange Rockerverb 50 MKIII is a dual-channel amp renowned for its high-gain capabilities and unique visuals. The amp stands out with its improved reverb and scalable power, enhancing its versatility.
It boasts a 12AT7/ECC81 tube and a custom transformer for the reverb circuit, plus a built-in attenuator for extra control over distortion levels. The amp is comparable in size to other full-sized Orange heads, has a sturdy chassis, and weighs just under 46 lbs. The no-text graphic labels add a touch of uniqueness to its facade.
- Versatility: The amp can transition from clean to fully saturated gain, catering to various playing styles.
- Improved Reverb: The reverb circuit has been enhanced bringing deeper and more full-bodied tones.
- Scalable Power: The amp can be set at full 50 watts or half power, making it suitable for different settings.
- High Gain Capabilities: Particularly loved by heavy players, the amp delivers a massive crunch that stands out in the context of a full band.
- User-Friendly: The amp features stepped controls on the front panel for easy recall of settings.
While the Orange Rockerverb 50 MKIII is on the pricier side, its wide range of features and capabilities justify the cost. The scalable power and attenuator add to its value, making it adaptable to different settings.
The Orange Rockerverb 50 MKIII has quite a few things going for it. Users appreciate the new Chime clean channel for its broad and even tone that works well with a variety of guitars and pickups. Cranking it up for a mild crunch brings a unique flavor that is hard to resist. The dirty channel is another highlight, producing a chunky, fluffy, sizzling, and growling tone unique to Orange amplifiers. It’s ideal for rock players and can slice through a loud mix with ease.
The amp’s powerful scaling options are a huge plus, allowing you to run it at full 50 watts or half power. This makes it suitable for home playing or recording. The musical and subtle reverb control is another feature that stands out, letting you dial in the perfect amount of reverb.
Despite its numerous benefits, the Rockerverb 50 MKIII does have some potential drawbacks. The amp’s weight and price may be off-putting for some. However, many users find the weight bearable, considering the amp’s robust build quality and the classic Orange tones it delivers. As for the price, most agree that the value it offers in terms of features and sound quality is well worth the investment.
Tube amps, or valve amps as they’re also known, hold a special place in the hearts of guitarists like you and me for their warm, organic tone and dynamic response. One of the main perks of tube amps is their knack for producing a natural distortion and harmonic richness that’s often mentioned as a reason for their popularity. This inherent distortion and range of harmonics are usually favoured over the sound produced by solid-state amps, which, while reliable at higher volumes, don’t offer the same level of tonal complexity.
What’s more, tube amps are praised for their responsiveness to changes in your playing style, allowing for more expressivity. For instance, amps with vacuum tube characteristics are linked with a “warmth” and “richness” that musicians and audiophiles like us seek out. The resulting tube sound is a mix of various factors, including the circuit topologies used with tubes, the electronic characteristics of the tubes themselves, and the interaction between the tubes and other components in the amp. This is often linked with deliberate distortion and overdrive, creating a unique and desirable tone.
But, it’s worth noting that while tube amps are renowned for their high-quality components and durability, letting them last for many years, they do need regular maintenance. This includes replacing the tubes, which can be pricey. Also, given the higher-quality components and construction, tube amps are typically pricier than solid-state amps. They also generate more heat and can be loud, which might not be ideal or suitable for small rooms with poor ventilation or noise-sensitive environments. So, while tube amps can offer a unique warmth and tonal richness, they also come with their own set of considerations.
A tube amp, or valve amp, is an amplifier that uses vacuum tubes or valves to amplify electrical signals. These vacuum tubes are what give the amp its unique tone and response when you’re playing your guitar. They’re known for producing a warm, rich, and smooth tone, with a natural compression and harmonic content that you might find appealing if you’re a musician or audio enthusiast.
The tube amp’s main components are the heater, plate, and grid. The heater emits electrons, the plate collects them, and the grid controls the flow of electrons between the heater and the plate. This process needs high voltage, usually between 100 to 200 volts, which is a lot more than the lower voltage used by solid-state amplifiers.
The tone of your tube amp can change depending on the type of tubes you use. For example, if you use 12AX7 tubes in the preamp section, you’ll get a different sound than if you use 6V6, EL84, or EL34 tubes in the power amp section. If you’re looking for a specific tone or want to change up your sound, switching out the tubes in your tube amp can make a big difference. Different tubes have different tonal characteristics and responses, so you can customize your amp’s sound to your liking.
On the flip side, solid-state amps use transistors to amplify the guitar signal. They’re known for a cleaner and more precise tone, with less distortion. But, they don’t have the natural compression and harmonic content that tube amps are famous for. Some solid-state amps use digital processing to mimic the characteristics of tube components, but they’ll never sound exactly like a tube amp because of the differences in design and operation.
Choosing between a tube amp and a solid-state amp is a personal decision. It depends on what you prefer, the type of music you play, and your playing style. You’ll need to weigh the warm and dynamic sound of tube amps against the reliability, durability, and clean tone of solid-state amps. But no matter what you choose, both types of amplifiers have their own unique benefits and characteristics, giving you a wide range of tonal possibilities for your guitar.
Navigating the world of tube amplifiers can be a thrilling journey for you, whether you’re a guitarist or a sound enthusiast. Each tube amp delivers its own unique vibe, character, and tonal quality, giving you the creative toolbox you need to forge a unique sonic identity.
From the timeless tones of the Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb, the versatile clean sounds of the Two-Rock Studio Signature head, the rich, full-bodied tone of the Fender Blues Junior IV, the classic British crunch of the Vox AC30 Custom C2, the influential influence of the Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker, the faithful reproduction of the Fender ’64 Custom Princeton Reverb, the versatile tones of the MESA/Boogie Mark Five 35, to the high gain capabilities of the Orange Rockerverb 50 MKIII, a world of tonal possibilities awaits you.
Whether you’re a bedroom guitarist looking to take your sound to the next level, a gigging musician thirsting for that extra edge, or an avid audiophile seeking the intimate warmth that only a tube amp delivers, there’s a tube amp out there waiting to amplify your musical dreams.
The beauty of tube amps lies in their ability to respond to your individual playing style, giving full expression to your sonic creativity. And while no single tube amplifier can be deemed the ultimate choice, the joy lies in the journey of discovery – that magical meeting point of the right amplifier, the perfect tube, and your distinct musical expression, culminating in an enchanting symphony.