Cheap Tube Amp Roundup
Cheap doesn't have to mean low quality - so here we take a look at some great low-cost tube amps that deliver those smooth valve tones without breaking the budget - updated for 2014.
There are a range of cheap tube amps you can get for under $200, and as you'll see below, even Gretsch have a tube amp in this price range.
A good place to start is with Bugera
The Bugera BC15 is a great tube amp for beginners - for less than $110 you get a real 15 Watt amp with an 8" speaker using a 12AX7 Valve. It also has a headphone out so you can practice quietly at the same time you have the valve cranked up. You can get it at Amazon - latest price and reviews.
More experienced players will be drawn to Bugera's V range. The best of the cheap end is the Bugera V5 - as the name implies it's a 5 Watt tube amp.
This is a step up from the BC15, with a range of more advanced features including a built in 3-way power attenuator which lets you drive its 12AX7 valve hard even at low volumes - you can run it at 5, 1 or 0.1 Watts. It also has built in Reverb and Tone controls.
You can buy the Bugera V5 for under $200 at many online stores - here's a link to the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com.
Although not exactly super cheap, an honorable mention goes to the Bugera 6260 - it's what we might call 'reminiscent' of the well regarded Peavey 6505, however it sells for less than half the price - usually under $550 - here's the price and latest reviews at Amazon.com.
Kustom Defender V5
The Kustom brand name has been around since 1966 - they actually started out making solid state amps when most other manufacturers where working with vacuum tubes.
Today they produce a range of tube amps, and the Defender V5 is their entry-level option producing 5-Watts from its 12AX7 preamp tube and EL84 power tube going into an 8" speaker. It has both Input and Master volume along with controls for Bass, Middle, & Treble EQ, as well as built-in Reverb.
The Defender V5 is one of the best in this price range in terms of features - it usually sells online for under $170 at major online stores - at the time of writing this zZounds have some in stock and you might be able to get a good deal at Amazon.com.
Separate Amp Head and Cabinet
As an alternative to the combo version of the Defender V5 you can buy the amp head and/or speaker cabinet as separate items - it's the same amp but with a little more flexibility as you can use your own cabinet if you already have one.
Laney All Tube Series Cub8
The Laney Cub8 amp features vintage looks and sounds inspired by the earliest tube amps of the past. It has a single ECC83 preamp tube and a single 6V6GT output tube that generate 5 watts RMS of classic "chimey" clean tube tone. The amp drives a Celestion brand 8" speaker, which is great for its price.
The control on this amp is even simpler, with just a volume and tone knob. Tone lets you emphasize or cut the higher frequencies, while the volume knob increases your volume by driving the output section. Since Class A amps are generally louder, going higher than 5 on the volume will easily fill your room, apartment or studio.
If you are looking for an affordable clean tone tube amp that works great with pedals then you should check out the Cub8, which is currently retailing for $199. Go to Amazon.com for the latest price and reviews.
The Ibanez TSA5 is a relatively unknown gem, probably because the meaning of its name, "Tube Screamer" Amp, was not clearly spelled out. Banking on the popularity of their Tube Screamer pedal, the company had the popular overdrive circuit built into this all-tube amp. You are basically getting a classic pedal and a tube amp in one package at a ridiculously affordable price!
This 5 Watt tube amp is driven by a single 12AX7 preamp tube and a single 6V6 power tube. It also drives a genuine Celestion speaker which makes the deal even sweeter. The lucky ones who chanced upon this affordable amp agree that this is the best value amp in this price range, and like us they highly recommend it.
Now that the secret is out, might as well get one for just under $180 before the TSA5 gets sold out. Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com.
Gretsch Electromatic G5222 Tube Amp
Here is a cool cheap tube amp from Gretsch. The 5-Watt Electromatic G5222 is inspired by vintage amps with a 12AX7 in the preamp and a 6V6 in the power amp. The blond outer layer gives this amp a genuine '50s era Gretsch look.
This small tube amp is ideal for small-room jam sessions or recording and it produces some versatile sweet sounding tones by simply adjusting the control knobs to taste.
The Gretsch G5222 amp is getting rare, but we did find a few stocks available online retailing for under $200 - and you can get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com.
Peavey ValveKing Royal 8
Peavey knows how to hit the sweetspot where budget and quality meet, case in point is the ValveKing Royal 8 affordable tube amp. It features Class A amp design with EL84/6BQ5 output tubes and one 12AX7/ECCC83 preamp tube that delivers impressive rock tones that can easily fill your room or studio.
Controls are simplified with just three knobs for controlling gain, tone and master volume. The gain and master volume controls are designed to behave much like bigger tube amps, allowing for classic rock "breakup" tones which can be achieved by cranking the gain and reducing the master.
There aren't too many Peavey ValveKing Royal 8 available now, so better check it out while supplies last, it is currently retailing for around $190. Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com.
Remember it's always best to check the major retailers like zZounds, Sweetwater, Guitar Center etc, to see who has the best price when you're ready to buy - sometimes they'll have specials you weren't expecting and you can save yourself a few extra dollars.
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