Tube or solid-state – In most cases, a solid-state amp is the safer bet. Solid-state amps are cheaper, less delicate, and far more reliable. You don’t have to replace any tubes occasionally as you do with a tube amp. But, your inner rockstar doesn’t want reliability; it’s about playing on the edge. So, if you want that organic tone breakup, it has to be a tube amp.
Small Tube Amp Buyers Guide
If you need to play at bedroom levels, crave an authentic tube tone and simply won’t settle for solid state or digital modeling amp then a small tube amp is going to be on your wish list.
The best small tube amps not only provide a lower output, but they are so much easier to carry about. Anyone who owns a high output all tube amplifier knows they can sometimes be pretty strenuous to transport.
There are many reasons why you might want to look for a small tube amp option perhaps you are specifically interested in low watt guitar amps but typically it is to lower the decibels in the effort to be good a neighbor, a considerate spouse or reasonable roomie.
What is a small tube amp?
A small tube amp as the description might divulge is a tube amplifier which is in a smaller size, the tubes themselves and circuitry is smaller as well as the cabinet it is housed within.
Tube amps generate heat as they warm through playing so they need some space or cooling method implemented especially in a more compact model. Typically they will be ported or open backed to make sure low ends are capably dealt with as well as let air into it.
It is also important to note for those of you who haven’t played with a tube amp, they need breaking in, so to speak. The sounds you get form your brand spanking new amp will not be the general sound capability of your amp it will take a fair few hours of play to warm up to it’s potential. Once broken in you will get the lovely, rich, buttery-warmth synonymous with traditional analog amps.
Which is the best small tube amp for Jazz?
Generally speaking for a Jazz amp you will want a better range of clean tones, for keeping your more intricate work clear. There is a range of decent jazz amps out there many with extra treble control featured brighter or twang-ier tones.
From those we have reviewed here today, we suggest the California Tone Research SET5 it is reasonably priced has a lovely smooth jazz vibe and a surfs rock twang. It is affordably priced and if the wattage is not quite enough they make higher output versions to cater to your needs.
How many tubes should a small tube amp have?
A low watt guitar amplifier, in general, will have fewer components to run. It should have a minimum of one pre-amp tube and one power tube typically you will find the cheap small tube amps will have this exact setup and not a lot more. The more tubes in the circuitry the more cash you are going to have to fork out. If you really only need solo practice volume levels you won’t need much more through the headroom won’t be huge before it breaks up.
On a budget? Consider a guitar amp under 200 dollars.
Where can you get a small tube bass amp?
Small tube amps are better suited to guitars because once they hit a certain clean volume level they begin to break up and distort which is great for a heavy lead break, but not so desirable for a bass.
Bass guitars are therefore limited to the amount of headroom available before the amp distorts with their total volume capped where the clean ends.
For bass guitar amplification you want something with a decent output around 500 watts minimum, with plenty of room to reverberate, as well as cool the tubes in. This is why bass amps tend to be much bigger in size. There are some small tube amps out their aimed at catering to basses and if it is just to practice audibly they may do the trick but be warned small amps running low frequencies tend to be fuzzy.
Our advice would be not to look at anything below 60 watts minimum and not to expect much below 100 watts.
What is the smallest tube amp?
There are a number of companies competing on micro tube amplification and as result we even see 1-watt tube amps being produced. The smallest tube amp title for us is awarded to the Zvex nano guitar amp, it is a revolutionary palm-sized, micro tube amp that packs a surprising punch running an output of just ½ a watt, and has some great features. It is a fantastic tool for traveling guitarists to practice on the road. Check out this video review;
The benefits of having something smaller to kick around the house on are glaringly obvious. The majority of us don’t practice new tunes on our gigging amps. For bedroom levels, something ridiculously high output is just overkill and will quickly rub the neighbors up the wrong way.
Having a smaller quieter option in modern times is practically essential, not to mention they have the advantage of being taken as a traveling amp. Having access to traditional tube amplification with a smaller footprint and a lower output is a blessing. There are plenty of products to peruse, of those we reviewed we lean towards the Orange Rocker 15 but if the money simply won’t stretch to that end of the budget scale you might want to try the Marshall instead. Despite its meager 10 watts is makes for one of the best small tube combo amps about. As ever we are optimistic our small tube mp buyers guide will have answered your niggling questions and given you enough insight into what to look for before you buy the best small tube amp for you.
If you regularly perform or need to be able to turn it down when it is inconvenient for others another idea might be to look at a tube amp head as a small tube option. You can hook them up to bigger rigs when the mood and timing suits or disconnect it for a lower level.
Did you Know
The thick full warmer sound of tube amps comes from their (at the time) revolutionary BBD circuitry.