Best Tube Amp

Vox Practice Amp

Having taken a look at some of the best solid state amplifiers on the market, we thought we'd better balance things up by looking at some of the top tube or valve amps on offer.

It isn't easy trying to find the best tube amp out there, but there are certainly a few contenders. To help you in this difficult quest, we will take a close look at a couple of tube amps whilst also providing a list of some of the others that are in contention.

What Is A Tube Amp?

If you have read our guide to the best practice amps, you will probably already know the answer to this question but, without getting too bogged down in the details, let's give you a quick overview anyway.

Unlike a solid state amp, which uses transistors and diodes in the amplification circuit, a tube amp uses vacuum tubes to amplify the signal. These tubes are also known as valves, hence the reason a tube amp is also known as a valve amp.

If you play rock guitar, you've got to seriously consider purchasing the Marshall DSL40C

Valve amplifiers were around long before their solid state counterparts and, because of the way the vacuum tubes behave, they are much more responsive and efficient. This results in a very pleasing organic tone that is much more in touch with the way the guitar is played. Anyway, besides all this, the Beatles used them so that's good enough for us!

The main downsides to tube amps are their initial cost, the size and weight of the amp (due to the valves) and general reliability when compared to the solid state variety (valves again!)

Anyway, who cares about downsides? We're talking valve amps people! So come on, let's take a look at a couple of the best affordable tube amps available today.

Marshall DSL40C

Marshall DSL40C

If you play rock guitar, you've got to seriously consider purchasing the Marshall DSL40C! This modern update of the classic DSL series (which is in itself an extension of the JCM800 as played by the likes of Metallica, The Smashing Pumpkins, Slash, Jeff Beck etc.) kicks out 40 watts of classic Marshall valve tone through a 12inch Celestion speaker. You can even damp the power down to 20 watts when you don't need that full on output. With 'Classic Gain' and 'Ultra Gain' channels and a three-band EQ, you are sure to dial in the sound you want. By all accounts, the DSL40C sounds very similar to the JCM800 of its heritage.

As we said, if you are serious about your rock music, this tube amp has got to be worth a closer look.

Fender Hot Rod Deluxe III

Fender Hot Rod Deluxe III

The Hot Rod Deluxe was based on the Fender Blues Deluxe. The Deluxe III has a few mods including an easier to read control panel and tighter overdrive. Some users even reckon the clean sound is better than that of the classic Vox AC30. That is a matter of opinion though.

If you are looking for hard overdrive, you are probably better off sticking with the Marshall DSL40C, as we discussed earlier. For a clean sound, probably more suited to blues and country music than heavy rock, (although it can certainly dish out some great hard rocking tones) this is probably ideal. Like the Marshall, the Fender also kicks out 40 watts through a 12 inch Celestion speaker, so it is certainly loud!
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Is The Best Tube Amp On Our List?

If the amplifiers above aren't to your liking, maybe one of the valve amps below will take your fancy?

Image Model Power (W) Review Price More Info
Peavey 6505+ 112 Combo Peavey 6505+ 112 Combo 60 n/a get best price

Blackstar HT Venue Studio 20 black Blackstar HT Venue Studio 20 black 20 n/a get best price

Laney VC30-212 Laney VC30-212 30 n/a get best price

Mesa Boogie Express 5:50+ Mesa Boogie Express 5:50+ 50 n/a get best price



Hopefully You Found The Tube Amp Tone You Were Looking For

In some ways it can be harder to find the right valve amp than it can a solid state or modelling amp. Once you've purchased your tube amp, you are more or less stuck with the sound. Modelling amps or other solid state amps are a bit more versatile and have a wider variety of tones available. On the other hand, because each tube amp has such a distinctive warm tone, it almost makes your choice easier!

In an ideal world, as a guitar player, as well as owning a solid state modelling amp, a little practice amp and so on, you would definitely be in possession of at least one tube amp.

If you haven't bought one yet, take another look at our list. You've got to start somewhere right?

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