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

The Highest Rated Combo Guitar Tube Amps

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Guitar amplifiers are so vital to electric guitar tone, that they are considered as instruments themselves. This is especially true for tube amps, because they shape and color your tone in a way that is felt by many to be unique and better than the emulations produced by modern solid-state and digital technology.

Here we feature the best tube amps that fit the average guitarists' budget, based on the most current user feedback and market sentiment up to November of 2019.

Our recommended list starts off with affordable practice-friendly tube amps that are priced under $300. It also features recording and gig ready sub $500 tube amps and ends with the best road-worthy amps that you can get for under $1000.

The Best Tube Amps

The Best Tube Amps Under $300

Amps of all power ratings were considered for this section, however the amps with high enough ratings for us to recommend in this price range are all rated at 15-Watts or less.

Monoprice 611705 - 5W 1x8"

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$135
Monoprice 611705 Tube Guitar Combo Amp 5W 1x8

The Monoprice 611705 is a tube combo amplifier with impressive specs at a very affordable price point. At its core is a 5-watt amplifier with a single 12AX7 preamp tube, and a 6V6GT poweramp tube - a combination that big name manufacturers, and even expensive boutique amp builders go for.

While the amplifier section is generic, it is tasked to drive a branded 8" Celestion Super 8 GBA-15 speaker, which is quite special considering its price. It also comes with a standard input (High) and an attenuated input (Low) which can be used for handling active pickup equipped instruments, or for taming guitars with hot pickups. The manufacturer specified that it handles frequencies between 80Hz and 10kHz, with low hum and noise.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 5W
  • Preamp Tube: 1 x ECC83/12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 1 x 6V6GT
  • Speaker: 8" Celestion Super 8 GBA-15
  • Controls: Power Switch, Tone and Volume Chicken Head Knob
  • Input: Low (Attenuated) and High inputs.
  • Output: 1/4" External Speaker Jack
  • Cabinet: Rear Ported
  • Weight: 16.6 lbs

Pros
The response to the Monoprice 611705 tube amp continues to be overwhelmingly positive, with value for money being its standout attribute. Many guitarists love its warm tube tone and appreciate how it works well with pedals, making it a great sounding practice amp. Some even describe it as a good quality clone of the popular 5F1 Champ from Fender that you can get for cheap.

Cons
There are a few users who feel that it is too clean sounding for their taste, requiring too much volume get good overdriven tones. Some minor build quality issues come up in reviews, but even those who report them still rate the amp highly for its overall quality and value.

Overall
If you're looking for a plug-and-play tube amp, or you want an affordable way to get into the vintage tone hype, then the Monoprice 611705 is for you.

Bugera V5 Infinium - 5W 1x8"

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$199
Bugera V5 Infinium

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 poweramp 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". In addition, 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 seem 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"

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

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

At time of publication this was the highest rated guitar combo tube amp under $300.

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 incllude 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 obviously the main selling point of this amp, and it is working quite well based on reviews. It's not just about savings for some users, because they are impressed with its tone, especially its mid-gain tone. Even the amp's clean tone gets a number of 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
There are some users who aren'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.

The Best Tube Amps Under $500

Amps of all power ratings were considered for this price range, and although the V55 and V22 from Bugera are two well-known amps that are also in this price range, only amps with 15-Watts or less rated high enough for us to recommend them here.

Marshall DSL1CR - 1W 1x8"

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$350
Marshall DSL1CR

At time of publication this was the equal highest rated guitar combo tube amp between $300 and $500 along with the Ibanez TSA15, Vox AC10C1 and Marshall DSL5CR.

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 back side 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. Finally, this combo 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, stating that it has monstrous tone for its size. And while most reviewers who are happy with its tone are referring to overdriven tones, there are also some who 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 sesions.

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.

Vox AC10C1 - 10W 1x10

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$432

At time of publication this was the equal highest rated guitar combo tube amp between $300 and $500 along with the Ibanez TSA15, Marshall DSL1CR and Marshall DSL5CR.

The Vox AC10C1 is a 10W tube amp that's designed to be a portable grab-and-go alternative to the company's popular AC15 and AC30 models. It essentially houses the same Vox flavor tones in a streamlined and compact configuration. It has none of the bells and whistles found in other amps, but it does come with all the essentials, including two 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL84 tubes, along with the company's popular Top Boost circuit. It also features a 10" Celestion VX10 speaker that's housed in a closed back cabinet, both of which are meant to complement the amp's voicing. All of these features add up to give you the same clean punchy tones that Vox is popular for, with just the 2-band EQ and built-in reverb for a bit of tone personalization.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 10W
  • Preamp Tube: 2 × 12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 2 × EL84
  • Speaker: 1 x 10-inch Celestion VX10
  • Input: 1/4"
  • Output: 1/4" External Speaker
  • Cabinet: Close Back
  • Controls: Power Switch, Gain, Bass, Treble, Reverb, Volume
  • Weight: 27.12 lbs

Pros
Many users are impressed with how easy it is to get the AC10C1 to sound great, even experts are convinced that it reproduces Vox's Top Boost Tone nicely. Case in point, a Guitar World editor made this comment, "What makes it impressive is how detailed and focused its Top Boost tone is no matter what guitar is plugged into its input.". For a 10W amplifier, many say that the AC10C1 is very loud, more than enough for professional gig use as attested to by many reviewers.

Cons
While many love it for its Vox tone, there are some users who find it too bright sounding. And since it is a single channel amp, there's no getting around that Vox shimmer, so look elsewhere if you're not into the classic Top Boost tone.

Overall
You can't get more Vox than this amp in this price range, so get the AC10C1 if you're looking for this particular tone.

Ibanez TSA15 Tube Screamer Combo Guitar Amp 15W 1x12"

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$450
Ibanez TSA15 Tube Screamer Combo Guitar Amp 15W 1x12

At time of publication this was the equal highest rated guitar combo tube amp between $300 and $500 along with the Marshall DSL1CR, Vox AC10C1 and Marshall DSL5CR.

At first glance, the Ibanez TSA15 seems to look like an average tube amplifier, but it does come with a simple yet effective feature - it comes bundled with a boost / overdrive circuit that is based on the popular Tubescreamer pedal. As such it gives you access to the overdriven sound that iconic guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Carlos Santana, Eric Johnson and more use.

The amp section is not bad by itself, with two 12AX7 preamp tubes and two 6V6GT poweramp tubes, but combining this with its built-in boost circuit makes it a nifty practice amp to have, giving you gritty tones at lower volume levels.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 15W (Built-in Power Attenuator - 5W)
  • Preamp Tube: 2 x 12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 2 x 6V6GT
  • Speaker: 1 x 12" Celestion Seventy80
  • Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (Footswitch), 1 x 1/4" (FX Loop)
  • Output: 5 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (FX Loop)
  • Cabinet: Open Back
  • Control Knobs: Bass, Treble, Volume, Tubescreamer (Overdrive, Tone Level), Boost
  • Weight: 33.07 lbs

Pros
It's not surprising that the Ibanez TSA15's most commended feature is its overdriven sound, specifically when used in blues and rock styles. But on the flipside, it is quite surprising that there are those who find its clean tone to be just as good, especially when you add in a bit of grit. There are also reports of the amp behaving nicely with pedals, which makes it viable for rehearsing your live performance parts at lower volume levels without compromising the tube sound that you prefer.

Cons
The Tubescreamer type overdrive tone is simply not for everyone, especially if you're looking for modern high-gain tones.

Overall
If you're into the grit and overdriven tones of classic blues and rock songs, then you'll definitely like the Ibanez TSA15.

Marshall DSL5CR - 5W 1x10"

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Marshall DSL5CR

At time of publication this was the equal highest rated guitar combo tube amp between $300 and $500 along with the Ibanez TSA15, Vox AC10C1 and Marshall DSL1CR.

Another compact Marshall amp makes it to this list, the DSL5CR, rated at 5W (that can go as low as 1W via power attenuation). To faithfully reproduce Marshall's familiar overdriven tones, the amp is equipped with two ECC83 tubes in the preamp section, and a ECC99/12BH7 poweramp tube. Like its smaller sibling, the DSL1CR, this amp lets you switch between 2-channels, Classic Gain and Ultra Gain, and it comes with a slightly bigger 10" speaker from Celestion. Other features include a lineout with Softube's emulation of a Marshall 1960 cabinet, rear-panel effects loop, and built-in reverb.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 5W / 1W (Via Low Power Button)
  • Preamp Tube: 2 x ECC83
  • Poweramp Tube: 1 x ECC99/12BH7
  • Speaker: 1 x 10" Celestion Ten-30
  • Input: 1 x 1/4" (Instrument), 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
  • Output: 1 x 1/8" (Softube emulated out), 1 x 1/4" (Internal speaker),
  • Cabinet: Rear Ported
  • Control Knobs: Gain & Volume (Per Channel), 3-Band EQ, Reverb
  • Weight: 27.9 lbs

Pros
Users are happy with how the DSL5CR provides good Marshall tone at manageable volume levels. It receives plenty of kudos for its crunch tone and the responsiveness of its EQ. It is also described as pedal friendly. Finally, most owners also agree that it feels solid, and there are reports of long term use without much issue.

Cons
Some experienced guitarists are not impressed with its build-in reverb. And there are a few who feel that the tone lacks bottom end, but this can be said to most, if not all, compact amps.

Overall
This is tube amp is a no-brainer for fans of the good old Marshall crunch tone. It is also a great way to test the waters for those who want to get into genuine tube tone without going over the budget or over the neighborhoods sound volume limit.

The Best Tube Amps Under $1000

We only considered amps rated at 16-Watts or greater for this section because we have a special guide to 15-Watt and lower tube amps where you can see the highest rated options across all price ranges: The Best Small / Low Watt Tube Amps - Combo & Amp Heads​.

Blackstar HT-20R MKII 20W 1x12"

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$600
Blackstar HT-20R MKII 20-watt 1x12" Tube Combo Amp w/ Reverb

At time of publication this was the equal highest rated guitar combo tube amp between $500 and $1000 along with the Marshall Origin20C.

The HT-20R MKII is a 20-watt 1 x 12" combo tube amp with Blackstar's ISF (Infinite Shape Feature), which provides sonic versatility without resorting to digital modeling. While the versatility of its all-tube overdrive channel is its strong suit, it does have a boutique amp inspired clean channel. Another cool feature of this amp is its built-in power attenuator, which lets you switch between 20W and 2W, taming the amp for practice or recording. To meet the demands of today's players, Blackstar equipped this amp with USB output for direct recording, built-in digital reverb, an MP3 line in, and a speaker emulated output. What's even cooler is that it you don't have to buy a footswitch separately because it is already bundled with the amp.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 20W, 2W (Via Power Attenuator)
  • Preamp Tube: 2 x 12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 2 x EL84
  • Speaker: 1 x "12
  • Input:1 x 1/4" (instrument), 1 x 1/8" (line in)
  • 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: Rear Ported
  • Control Knobs: Clean: Volume, Tone / Overdrive: Gain, Volume, 3-Band EQ, ISF, Reverb, Master
  • Weight: 35.7 lbs

Pros
Rightly described as a tone monster, the HT-20R impresses guitarists with its high-gain tones, and thanks to ISF, it's not stuck to being a one trick pony. Even those who are into slightly dirty and crunch tones are pleased by the amp. There is also plenty of positive feedback regarding its clean tone. Output flexibility is also commended, you can use the amp on stage with its DI out, or you can record via USB. Nick Guppy of Music Radar is equally impressed, summarizing his review by saying that it has impressive versatility, no tonal weak points and great connectivity.

Cons
While this amp is quite straightforward, coaxing out good tones will require some tinkering, so it may not appeal to those who just want a plug-and-play tube amp.

Overall
With its sonic versatility and good connectivity options, its hard to go wrong with the Blackstar HT-20R MKII.

Marshall Origin20C - 20W 1x10"

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$650
Marshall Origin20C 20-watt 1x10" Tube Combo Guitar Amp

At time of publication this was the equal highest rated guitar combo tube amp between $500 and $1000 along with the Blackstar HT-20R MKII.

As the name implies, the Origin20C 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
The Marshall Origin20C continues to get high ratings from guitarists who find its classic tone convincing. The way it works with pedals also make it a crowd favorite, especially when considering that it has a DI output for stage use, and power attenuation for more intimate playing. Richard Purvis of Guitar.com commends the Origin20C for being "convincing in low power modes" and he is also pleased with its DI output.

Cons
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
If you're gunning for the classic rock tones (i.e. Plexi Marshall tone), this compact tube amp will not disappoint.

Vox AC30S1 30W 1x12"

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$759
Vox AC30S1 30-watt 1x12" Tube Combo Guitar Amp

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 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
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 concludes 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
I tried but could not find any ill comment towards the amp and its features. Still, it's 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.

Peavey 6505 Plus 112 - 60W 1x12

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$800
Peavey 6505 Plus 112 Tube Combo Guitar Amplifier 60W 1x12

The 6505 Plus 112 is a direct descendent of the Peavey 5150 Eddie Van Halen signature which up to this day is sought after its high gain tone. Peavey changed the name to 6505 after EVH parted ways with the company. This particular model is rated at 60W and equipped with a 12" Sheffield speaker. It has five 12AX7 preamp tubes and two 6L6GC power tubes, and comes in a 2-channel format with pre/post gain controls and 3-band EQ per channel. Other features include effects loop and built-in Accutronics 3-spring reverb.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 60W
  • Preamp Tube: 5 x 12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 2 x 6L6GC
  • Speaker: 1 x 12" Sheffield
  • Input: 1 x Instrument
  • Output: 2 x Speaker, 1 x MSCI (XLR)
  • Cabinet: Rear Ported
  • Control Knobs: Pre Channel: Presence, Resonance, Post, Pre, High, Mid, Low / Reverb
  • Weight: 64.2 lbs

Pros
As expected, most of the positive reviews are from rock and metal style guitarists who are into mid to high-gain distortion and the sustain that it affords you. Many appreciate the 6505 Plus 112's Pre / Post gain controls which allow them to better personalize their sound. It also gets a lot of thumbs up for being really loud when needed. There are even a few who report that they can get good clean tones out of the amp.

Cons
Speaking of clean tones, not everyone is pleased with it. At 64.2 lbs, this monster sounding amp can also be a monster to carry.

Overall
The Peavey 6505 Plus 112 should be at the top of the list for rock and metal players who are looking for a reliable high-gain tube amp.

Peavey Delta Blues 115 II - 30W 1x15"

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$800
Peavey Delta Blues 115 II 30W 1x15" Guitar Combo Tube Amp

The Peavey Delta Blues 115 is a two channel tube amp that goes from slightly dirty to medium gain. This particular model comes in a 30-Watt 1 x 15" combo profile, which should be loud enough for most small to medium size venues. It features three 12AX7 preamp tubes, and four EL84 power tubes, and has Pre/Post gain knobs for fine tuning your tone. The Celestion Fullback G15V-100 15" speaker is quite bulky and heavy for a guitar amp, but it does allow for more low-end frequencies. Matching its classic tone and aesthetics is its built-in revern and tremolo effect.

Specifications:

  • Power Rating: 30W
  • Preamp Tube: 3 x 12AX7
  • Poweramp Tube: 4 x EL84
  • Speaker: 1 x 15" Celestion Fullback G15V-100
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4" (Extension Speaker)
  • Cabinet: Open Back
  • Control Knobs: Normal, Pre, Post, Reverb, Bass, Middle, Treble, Tremolo Intensity and Tremolo Speed
  • Weight: 46.7 lbs

Pros
Blues, jazz and rockabilly players love the grit and response of this amp, some owners even favor it over their more expensive amps. Reliability is also big in reviews, with plenty of good testimonies from owners who have used the Delta Blues 115 for many years. It is also well loved for being pedal friendly.

Cons
This is not ideal for high gain distortion, although there are some who report getting good high gain tones when paired with a good distortion pedal. Having a 15" speaker means that this combo amp can be quite heavy, a few even complained that the amp should come with casters.

Overall
This amp is for you if you're looking for a reliable tube amp for blues and similar styles.

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 amps volume. In addition, 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 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, there are some that 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 headphone and extension speaker outs. Those looking for quiet practice will want a headphone output. Interestingly, there are some that 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

This guide was first published on May 27, 2017 and the latest major update was published on November 6, 2019.

We began by looking at combo tube amps for electric guitar at major retailers in the USA and ended up putting 33 of them on our short-list for closer examination. In the price range up to $500 we consider amps of all power ratings but we only included amps rated at 16 Watts RMS or more for amps priced between $500 and $1000. We then collected relevant reviews, ratings, videos, and forum discussions about each amp on our short-list - this came to a total of more than 6,300 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. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

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