The Best Tube Amps for Guitar - Combo $100 to $1000

The Highest Rated Guitar Tube Combo Amps

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A good guitar is nothing without a good amplifier. Even the most amazing vintage or boutique guitar will sound lackluster if not amplified through a great tube amplifier. Despite modeling technology getting better and better, there's still nothing like a guitar going through a roaring (or chiming) tube amp.

In this 2020 update, we have gathered the best tube amps at three different price points to make it easier for you to decide which one is the best for you. Whether you want a loud gig-worthy tube amp or a small blues box, we've got you covered.

Our recommended list starts with affordable tube amps that are priced under $300. These are usually lower in wattage and are best suited for an enjoyable playing experience at home or in the studio. The $500-range tube amps bring on more wattage, better speakers, or more features and effects. The last price point shows the best tube amps at under $1000. These represent a nice balance between value and performance short of boutique and signature offerings.

The Best Tube Amps

The Best Tube Amps Under $300

Bugera V5 Infinium - 5W 1x8"

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$235
Bugera V5 Infinium

At time of publication this was the Equal Highest Rated Guitar Combo Tube Amp Under $300 along with the Monoprice 611815.

Bugera is a sub-brand of Behringer, tasked to make tube amplifiers more accessible. The V5 Infinium is one of their more popular Class A tube combo amp, rated at 5W with a single 8" speaker.

This particular model is meant to be a practice friendly amp with genuine tube tone with its built-in power attenuator that lets you switch between 5W, 1W, and 0.1W. This allows you to crank the amp's 12AX7 preamp and EL84 power amp at very low volumes.

Other features include digital reverb and Infinium technology, which extends the life of tubes by monitoring and maintaining their ideal operating level.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 5W (5W|1W|0.1W settings)
  • Preamp Tube: 1 x 12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 1 x EL84
  • Speaker: 8" TurboSound Speaker
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4" Internal Speaker, 1 x 1/4" Headphones
  • Cabinet: Open Back
  • Controls: Power Switch, Power Attenuator Switch, Gain, Tone, Volume, Reverb
  • Weight: 22.1 lbs

Pros
For something so small and cheap, many are impressed with how much tone they are getting, to be more specific, people love its overdriven tone. Paul White of Sound on Sound even commented commented "...it does deliver a raunchy crunch tone reminiscent of ZZ Top, as well as being a very nice blues amp with the warm and responsive sound that only valves seem to give". Also, there are plenty of positive responses that point to the amp's power attenuator.

Cons
As expected in this price range, some users recommend swapping out the default tubes to get the most out of this amp. Also note that while the overdriven tone is well-loved, the clean tone seems to be off the mark for some users.

Overall
The Bugera V5 Infinium is an affordable tube amp for those who want nothing less than genuine tube tone for their practice.

Monoprice 611815 - 15W 1x12"

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$250
Monoprice 611815 - 15-Watt 112 Tube Combo Guitar Amp

At time of publication this was the Equal Highest Rated Guitar Combo Tube Amp Under $300 along with the Bugera V5 Infinium.

This affordable tube combo amp comes in a 1 x 12" combo package, with three ECC83 preamp tubes and two EL84s in the power section.

And while the brand of the amp itself is not traditionally well-known, it does drive a nice 12" speaker from a popular brand - a Red Truvox 1215 from Celestion.

It has controls for gain, volume, and tone, as well as 3-band EQ knobs. For the price, it also comes with built-in spring reverb.

Other features include having a cream-colored synthetic leather exterior and cloth speaker grill.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 15W
  • Preamp Tube: 3 x ECC83 (12AX7)
  • Poweramp Tube: 2 x EL84
  • Speaker: 1 x "12 (Celestion Red Truvox 1215)
  • Input: 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4" Speaker Out, Effects Loop
  • Cabinet: Rear Ported
  • Control Knobs: Gain, Volume, Tone, Bass, Middle, Treble, Reverb
  • Weight: 31.62 lbs

Pros
Value for money is the main selling point of this amp. Though it's not just about being budget-friendly for some users because they are impressed with its tone; especially its mid-gain tone. Even the amp's clean tone gets many kudos, some users even write that with its tone, they would still buy this amp even if it was priced higher. The amp's spring reverb is another great addition according to many owners of the amp.

Cons
Some users weren't happy with the quality of the default tubes used in the amp. They recommend replacing the tubes, especially the preamp tubes to make the most of the Monoprice 611815. Ironically, this issue also hurts the overall value of the amp, because you'll have to spend a bit more to do that. Still, the overall expense is lower compared to amps with similar specs from some popular brands.

Overall
The value of this budget 1x12" tube amp is hard to beat, definitely worth considering if you're looking for a tube combo amp.

Marshall Origin5C 5W 1x8

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 90+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Marshall Origin5C 5W 1x8 Tube Guitar Combo Amp

Marshall's Origin series is a line of amplifiers that focuses on a blend of the most memorable single-channel Marshall sounds in history.

These amps feature all-tube circuitry and an innovative "Tilt" knob that functions as a blend between what would be the normal and bright channels of a vintage Marshall.

The 5C, the 5-Watt option of the line is catered towards bedroom/studio players that want great British tone at more manageable volumes.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 5W
  • Preamp Tube: 2 x ECC83
  • Poweramp Tube: 1 x EL84
  • Speaker: 1 x 8" Celestion Eight-15
  • Controls: 3-band EQ, Tilt control
  • Input:1 x 1/4" (instrument)
  • Output: 1 x 1/4" (internal speaker 16 ohm)
  • Cabinet: Open-Back
  • Weight: 20.7 lbs.

Pros
One reviewer noted that it is a "toy for the big boys". While it does bring a smile to many users for its great sound at low volume, many other users are starting to discover that it makes a great recording amp as well with its chunky saturation at lower volumes.

Cons
The 1 x 8" speaker can sound boxy and won't provide the amount of "oomph" that some look for.

Overall
If you're looking for an enjoyable amplifier that you can saturate without disturbing your neighbors, the Origin 5C is a great pick. It also makes for a great recording amp.

The Best Tube Amps Under $500

Marshall DSL1CR - 1W 1x8"

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$350
Marshall DSL1CR

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Guitar Combo Tube Amp between $300 and $500.

Marshall's tube-driven crunch tone continues to be the go-to overdrive / distortion tone for many players. The DSL1CR gives you that familiar crunch tone, albeit in a smaller and quieter profile, allowing you to conjure classic rock tube tones while keeping the peace at home and in your neighborhood.

This combo amp is rated at 1W, with two ECC83 preamp tubes, and a single ECC82 in the power amp section. At the rear of the amp is a power attenuator switch that reduces the wattage further down to 0.1W, if you want to crank the amp's gain levels while keeping the overall volume low.

Also, this amp has two channels, Classic Gain and Ultra Gain, and it comes packed with a single 8" Celestion Eight 15 speaker.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 1W / 0.1W (Via Low Power Button)
  • Preamp Tube: 2 x ECC83
  • Poweramp Tube: 1 x ECC82
  • Speaker: 1 x 8" Celestion Eight 15
  • Input: 1/4" Instrument, 1/8" Aux
  • Output: 1 x 1/8" (Softube Emulated out), 1 x 1/4" (Internal Speaker)
  • Cabinet: Rear Ported
  • Control Knobs: Classic Gain Channel: Volume, Ultra Gain Channel: Gain, Volume, Treble, Middle, Bass, Reverb
  • Weight: 17 lbs

Pros
One user aptly describes the Marshall DSL1CR as a little monster amp. And while most reviewers who are happy with its tone are referring to overdriven tones, some are pleased with this amp's clean tone. The ability to lower the power rating further down to 0.1W is also very well received, especially for those who are looking for killer tones for their practice sessions.

Cons
There are a few who are not that impressed with the DSL1CR's tone, especially in low gain settings. Thankfully they are far outnumbered by happy and satisfied owners of the amp.

Overall
The Mashall DSL1CR is quite a catch for those who are looking for a quiet practice amp that utilizes genuine tubes.

Marshall Origin20C 20-watt 1x10"

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Marshall Origin20C

The Marshall Origin 20C is a modern take on early Marshall amps like the JTM-45 and the 1959SLP "Plexi". As such it is a straightforward low to mid gain amp, with 3 ECC83 preamp tubes and 2 EL34 power tubes, driving a 10" Celestion V-Type speaker - all of which work together to reproduce the classic Marshall sound.

Inspired by multi-input classic amps, Marshall added a Tilt control that lets you select between the bright and normal input tone, and blend it to your preference.

Another modern feature of this amp is its built-in power attenuator, which lets you switch between 3 power settings, Low/Mid/High, adding to the overall viability of the amp, be it on a loud stage or for quiet practice.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 20W / 3W / 0.5W Switchable
  • Preamp Tube: 3 x ECC83
  • Poweramp Tube: 2 x EL34
  • Speaker: 1 x 10" Celestion V-Type
  • Input: 1 x 1/4" (instrument)
  • Output: 2 x 1/4" (2 x 16 ohm / Single 8 ohm), 1 x 1/4" (DI OUT), 1 x 1/4" (Internal Speaker 16 ohm),
  • Cabinet: Rear Ported
  • Control Knobs: Gain with Pull Boost, Tilt, Bass, Middle, Treble, Master, Presence
  • Weight: 30.6 lbs

Pros
Users love how the Origin20c can morph between several different tones spanning decades. This makes it a very versatile amp within the general Marshall tonality. Others also found that the amp is a great pedal platform, taking in different overdrives, distortions, and fuzzes with great results while the effects loop keeps reverbs and delays pristine. Richard Purvis of Guitar.com commends the Origin20C for being "convincing in low power modes" as well as being pleased with its DI output.

Cons
It's not a high gain amp and many users who wanted more gain were not satisfied with the amount of vintage gain the Origin20C has. Having a small 10" speaker limits the low-end you can get from this amp. The amp's Tilt knob, affords some sonic flexibility, but it may still be not enough for those who want easy access to different tones in real time.

Overall
For great vintage Marshall tone without the Vintage Marshall price, The Origin 20C is a great tonal palette worth exploring if you adore the Marshall "house sound".

Fender Pro Junior IV 1x10"

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Fender Pro Junior IV 1x10" 15-watt Guitar Combo Amp

Don't be fooled by its diminutive stature and minimal controls: The Fender Pro Junior IV lives up to the "pro" in its name.

It's a fully capable gigging amp putting out 15 tube watts of power. 15 watts is loud enough for small club gigs or getting the attention of your neighbors.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 15W
  • Preamp Tube: 2 x 12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 2 x EL84
  • Speaker: 1 x 10" Jensen P10R
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Cabinet: Open Back
  • Control Knobs:Volume, Tone
  • Weight: 22.85 lbs.

Pros
Many people who loved the amp were drawn by its simplicity. They were also surprised to find out how versatile it is with pedals. On its own, the basic tone of the Fender Pro Junior IV is a sparkling and warm sounding clean and crunch that's perfect for blues and jazz. This polite tonality morphs into a monster when you run overdrives, distortions, and fuzzes through it.

Cons
May be too bright for some people. The small speaker won't be flapping trousers anytime soon.

Overall
For a great pedal platform or standalone blues amp, the Pro Junior IV delivers straight-to-the-point tone.

The Best Tube Amps Under $1000

Vox AC15C1 15W 1x12"

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$680
Vox AC15C1 15W Tube Combo Amp

At publication time this was Equal Highest Rated Guitar Combo Tube Amp between $500 and $1000 along with the Peavey Classic 50 212 II and Vox AC30S1.

The British Invasion starts here! The Vox AC15 is arguably the most important amp in the rise of the Britpop sound of the 60s.

Despite being 15 watts the humble AC15 was loud enough to keep up with a drummer and was a staple in many bands of the time.

Today the Vox AC15C1 continues this legacy with the same chimey cleans and fat grit when pushed; perfect for today's brand of indie and alternative rock.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating:15w
  • Preamp Tube: 3 x12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 2 x EL84
  • Speaker: 1 x 12” Celestion G12M Greenback
  • Input:2 x 1/4" (Normal, Top Boost)
  • Output: 1 x 1/4" (16 ohms), 2 x 1/4" (single 8 ohm, 2 x 16 ohm), 1 x XLR (DI out), USB
  • Cabinet: Open Back
  • Control Knobs: Master Volume, Master Tone, Tremolo Depth, Tremolo Speed, Reverb Level, Top Boost Bass, Top Boost Treble, Top Boost Volume, Normal Volume
  • Weight: 48.5 lbs

Pros
Many users called this their dream amp, particularly fans of the Beatles. The unmistakable Vox chime is the holy grail for many users and most of them have been enamored by the sweet, harmonically rich tones from the AC15C1. The built-in reverb and tremolo were also praised to be good. The Celestion Greenback also modernizes the tone and for many users, this is a welcome tonality.

Cons
Purists who prefer the sound of the original Jensen speakers did not like the use of a Celestion Greenback: a speaker more commonly associated with Marshalls.

Overall
If you want a great, harmonically rich tone with a more modern voicing, the AC15C1 is the perfect companion for your strums.

Peavey Classic 50 212 II

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$900
Peavey Classic 50 212 II Tube Combo Guitar Amp 50W 2x12

At publication time this was Equal Highest Rated Guitar Combo Tube Amp between $500 and $1000 along with the Vox AC15C1 and Vox AC30S1.

The first Classic 50 was released in the early 1990s as a foil to the popular rackmount setups of the time, effectively bringing back interest in vintage style amplifier circuitry.

Though resembling a vintage F-style guitar amp, the Classic 50 has a sound of its own thanks to 3 12ax7 preamps and 4 EL84 Power amps driving a 2 x 12" Celestion setup.

The result is a versatile sound whether you're using pedals or cranking the amp on its own.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 50W
  • Preamp Tube: 3 x 12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 4 x EL84
  • Speaker: 2 x 12" Celestion
  • Input: 1 x 1/4" (instrument)
  • Output: 2 x 1/4" (8/16 Ohm Speaker),
  • Cabinet: Open Back
  • Control Knobs: Pre- and post-gain, Active presence control, 3-band passive EQ (bass, middle, treble), Master volume control, Standby switch, Reverb level control
  • Weight: 59.60 lb

Pros
Many reviews state that the Classic 50 has achieved iconic status as a great, gritty pedal platform with a lot of headroom and reliable service life. It brings classic Fender and Marshall tones into a happy medium that works for a variety of musical styles and genres.

Cons
Shared EQ put some off from the amp as they'd have preferred a separate eq for clean and drive channels. The amp is also heavy at almost 60lbs.

Overall
If you're looking for a loud, high headroom amp with a good amount of grit (if you wish), the Classic 50 212 II is a great pick that punches above its indicated price range.

Vox AC30S1 30W 1x12"

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$900
Vox AC30S1

At publication time this was Equal Highest Rated Guitar Combo Tube Amp between $500 and $1000 along with the Vox AC15C1 and Peavey Classic 50 212 II.

The Vox AC30S1 is as straightforward as it gets with its single-channel format coupled with a single 12" Celestion speaker. It is designed to be that way, to put the spotlight on the classic AC30 Top Boost tone, and nothing else.

At its core are dual 12AX7 preamp tubes and quad EL84 power tubes that give life to the touch-sensitive tone expected from a classic Vox tube amp.

Controls are also kept to a minimum, but enough to go from the familiar Chimey sound of old Vox amps, up to smooth overdrive.

Finally, this amp comes with reverb and an effects loop, which makes sense since this amp is designed for those who get their tone-shaping from pedals.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 30W
  • Preamp Tube: 2 x 12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 4 x EL34
  • Speaker: 1 x 12" Celestion VX12
  • Input: 1/4"
  • Output: 1/4" External
  • Cabinet: Rear Ported
  • Control Knobs: Volume, Reverb, Treble, Bass, Gain
  • Weight: 54 lbs

Pros
The tone is the most commended feature of this amp, to be more specific, owners love its clean chimey tone. Together with its effects loop, many find the amp's clean tone to be very pedal-friendly. There are also a good number of positive remarks on the amp's overdriven tone, which is described as smooth and responsive. Guitar Player Magazine's Dave Hunter concluded his review by saying: "All in all, the AC30S1 looks the part and delivers an admirable portion of the essence of this British classic in a compact and moderately priced package that’s much easier to schlep to gigs than a full-sized AC30."

Cons
Its lack of features can be a let down for those who want something more versatile.

Overall
If you're looking for a classic sounding plug-and-play tube amp that works well with pedals, then this should be at the top of your list.

Things to Consider when Buying a Tube Combo Guitar Amplifier

  • Sound Quality

    Sound quality is the main factor to consider when it comes to buying tube amps. While opinions may differ on which particular amp model sounds better, most will agree that clarity, articulation, and dynamics are important. Because of its subjective nature, individual reviews on tone are not conclusive, but when combined with other reviews, they provide us with a reliable representation of how good an amp sounds.

  • Amp Tone or Voicing

    Different amps have different voicings, and the differences range from subtle to obvious. Some experts (including manufacturers) divide tube amp voicings into flavors, usually labeled American (emphasizes the highs and lows) and British (emphasizes the mids and punch). While this may seem like a generalization, it does make the job of describing tonal differences easier. If you're not familiar with amp tones, the best course of action is to look at the amp used by your favorite guitarists and go for something similar sounding. Thankfully, some manufacturers (like Blackstar and Fender) produce tube amps with multiple voicings, they are ideal if you want sonic flexibility.

  • Equalizer

    Having the ability to shape the sound of your guitar via EQ controls is important, but it doesn't always have to be the amp that does this job. There are now many pedals and rack effects that can accomplish the same Equalization with more accuracy.

  • Power Rating and Attenuation

    Power rating dictates the loudness of an amplifier, along with its sonic headroom. The idea is that low power amps are ideal for practice while playing big venues requires more power. Some tubes amps are equipped with power attenuators that allow you to lower the power rating in case you want to tame the amp's volume. Also, lowering the power output also lets you crank the gain at quieter volume levels, which many use to get good tones without disturbing the neighbors. Note that tube amps tend to be louder than solid state amps of the same power rating specification.

  • Speaker

    The general idea is that the bigger the speaker size, the better it can reproduce lower frequencies. But bigger is not always better, especially if you're not planning on using the amp on stage. Medium size speakers are good enough for practice, jamming, and even recording. They are preferred by many guitarists for their mid-range emphasis.

  • Input/Output Options

    While most tube amps in this price range have a single input, some have two inputs to accommodate different types of guitars, or for routing your signal to different channels. These multi-input amps provide added flexibility, and at times allow for two guitars to use the same amp, albeit with some limitations.

    Multiple output options are usually reserved for amp heads, but there are some combo amps with headphones and extension speaker outs. Those looking for quiet practice will want a headphone output. Interestingly, some offer direct USB recording functionality, which makes tube amp recording even more convenient.

  • Cabinet

    Since Closed Back cabinets project the sound forward, they produce a punchier and clearer tone. They are often preferred by live sound engineers because of the front projection, which is easier to mic. Open Back cabinets project sound to the front and back, resulting in a more natural ambient sound. These are preferred by guitarists because they fill rooms and stages better. Back Ported cabinets let some of the sound leak through small ports at the back, and are usually designed for low-end emphasis.

  • Extra Features

    Extra features like reverb, tremolo, and even built-in multi-effects are welcome bonuses for practice amplifiers because they allow for straight to amp convenience. These extras won't get much use in stage settings when you use pedals to achieve the same effect.

Best Combo Tube Amp Selection Methodology

The first edition was published during May 2017 written by Alexander Briones and the latest edition was published on September 16, 2020 written by Raphael Pulgar with contributions from Alexander Briones.

We began by looking at combo tube amps for electric guitar at major retailers in the USA and ended up putting 58 of them on our short-list for closer examination. We then examined relevant reviews, ratings and forum discussions about each amp on our short-list - this came to a total of more than 11,500 sources. We used that information to report on the pros and cons of each amp we've recommended above and we also processed that data with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 which we used to select the highest rated amps to recommend above. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

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