On the edge of breaking up – That sweet spot of being right on the edge of breaking up is the reason tube amps are so sought after. It’s when you can play quietly with plenty of detail and clarity but trigger that overdrive when you dig in more. You can get this sound going straight into the amp without any pedals. If you have a bright-sounding guitar, adjust the amp settings to counter it; treble around 11 o’clock and boost the bass a little.
Tube Amp Buying Guide
The genre you play will heavily influence the type of guitar tube amp you are after. A Jazz aimed tube amp will be nothing like a distortion amp and so on.
The majority of guitarists often have an individual preferred they are seeking and others like to switch it up during performances so the type of musician you are will really influence what you want from a great tube amp. Other things to consider are venue and audience size as this affects the watts of power required.
Whether you already intend to use a range of pedal effects with it is also important as it renders complex in-built tones a costly and useless extra. So to help prospective buyers pick out a vacuum amp that suits you as a player here are some frequently asked questions answered before you purchase a suitable electric guitar tube amp.
What is a Tube Amp?
Tube amps is a term given to vacuum amps (or valve amps in the UK) because they contain vacuum tubes within that control the electric current inside. Forcing the current to only run one direction. A pioneering technology invented over a century ago.
A very simple example of a vacuum tube is a diode. Containing a cathodes and anodes. One sends electrons the other collects them and sends them to a control grid. They utilize thermal energy, take a while to warm up and produce a soft glow. This is why they generally have a higher energy consumption than a solid-state amp.
However, modern Tube amps have managed to miniaturize the technology and they are capable of running at a much lower wattage these days.
Why choose a Tube Amp?
The benefits of a good tube guitar amp far outweigh those of their digital counterparts though this is a topic which is widely debated. Tube amps produce pristine clean tones, something which most experienced guitarists endeavor to achieve and value above all else. They have what is described as a warmer sound.
Traditionally, they are considered the best amplifiers with a preferable tone quality. They have proven significantly lower-harmonic distortion and great high-power and high-frequency operation than a transistor driven solid state amp. They also provide a more musical tone once they are pushed which is notable in comparison to an over-driven solid state transistor amplifier which frequently sound almost artificial.
Tube amps clip in a softer, less audible manner and use and need much less negative feedback. Output transformers within most tube amp circuits help prevent speakers from shorting whereas transistor driven amps will usually blow the speakers if they are not fused.
Best Small Guitar Tube Amp
There is nothing quite as liberating as just letting rip on a great tube amp but it can be impractical especially in a residential area. Luckily in this day and age, there are a number of more compact models that are still authentic vacuum tube amplifiers giving that sought after sound and experience without noise complaint.
If you are looking for a good small practice tube amp you are still going to want a relatively compact cabinet dimensions as well as smaller speakers. With a multitude available for sale these days, it should be easy to find the one that is right for you and your needs.
Whilst lower watt tube amps for guitar will undoubtedly mean lower decibels as will more compact design, but make no mistake the high volume break-ups on these smaller scale models can still pack an admirable punch. Today’s leading brands have truly taken innovation to the ultimate miniature performance level.
Best 25 Watt Tube Amp
There are many low watt options currently on offer to consumers. The Bulgera 5 Watt above is clearly an obvious contender. If you are looking for a tube amp with low consumption or low output benefits it is also worth remembering that some of the higher watt amplifiers on our list also offer low watt settings to easily switch between for user managed energy consumption control.
The Peavey Valve King we have reviewed in this article is another model which offers built in settings for use at just one solitary watt like the Bulgera does but has the added ability to crank it up when you feel inclined. This is one way to keep your options open regarding future use.
Best Budget Tube Amp?
This question is entirely dependent on the type of budget being referred to. If you are looking for a low budget tube amp the Monoprice or the Bugera 5 watt above are great examples of cheap tube amp choices. They both produce a fair amount of bang for your bucks and offer comparable clean tones.
When determining your level of budget, you need consider your needs. Is it for practice, performance or perhaps recording purposes as this is a major factor which will heavily influence your requirements. If you are just practicing you wont need a whole lot of volume at your fingertips, you may even want to opt for a headphone output and practice morning noon and night until your hearts content!
Tube amps provide a top notch, incomparable natural sound, they produce smoother, warmer, clearer sounds they are subtler and affix harmonic distortion. The majority of solid state alternatives constantly promote themselves, earnestly highlighting their capabilities of replicating tube amp tones to a high degree, but why choose a flattering imitation over the real thing when the costs are really only marginally different? If you are looking for a tube amp for solely its tone benefits, there are plenty of amazing products on the market.
When all is said and done what to look for in a good tube amp really does differ from person to person each favoring their own unique tones or even respected brands. This makes finding the best tube amplifier down to you as an individual but we hope our article helps make the decision a more informed one.
If you are still undecided about tube-driven amps in the digital age, we recommend going for a hybrid amp model which employs a combination tube pre-amps and transistors technology. They deal well with both low and high end frequencies and still have that desirable tube-tone.
Did You Know?
When tested with a sine wave producer, results showed the physics of a valve amp give users more option for shaping the sound. If you push the overdrive a little bit flattens the top of the sound wave a when you push harder, it flattens the bottom also. So tube amps for guitar really do respond in a more sensitive manner and the amplification stays true to the dynamics of the guitarists playing skills.