Best Tube Amps For Home Use - 2020

25 Comments

Although cranking tube amps right up and letting rip feels and sounds amazing, it's not always practical when you're at home. If you want that gorgeous valve amp tone without having to blow out your windows or annoy your neighbours, here's the best tube amps for home use.

best tube amps for home use

Valve or Tube amplifiers are made to be played loud - any musician will tell you! They sound amazing when you absolutely crank the life out of them and you start to feel those tubes screaming. There's simply nothing else like it. Until recently, however, the only way to achieve this tonal sweet spot was to turn the volume ALL the way up and rock out - not ideal if you value your hearing.

Driving your valves as hard as possible to get that coveted "breaking up" sound is not always possible, especially if you don't want to be evicted, annoy your neighbours or blow out your windows. So where do you go from there? What do you do when you want that all-valve sound at a lower volume? You downsize, without downsizing in tone! Let's take a look at 7 of the best tube amps for home use, designed to be neighbour friendly without ever sacrificing tone.

1. Orange Rocker 15 1x10 Valve Amp

orange rocker 15

The people at Orange Amps understand all too well the importance of driving a valve amp hard - they've been making amplifiers for the worlds stages for years! However, they also make a great deal of amplifiers ideal for practice backstage and at home utilising a mixture of valve and solid state technology so you can get that gorgeous valve sound and response at a lower volume. But alas, there's simply no substitute for the "real thing" so the team at Orange have crafted the ultimate option for lovers of tube amps - the Orange Rocker 15.

Why is this a good tube amp for home use?

The huge benefit to the Orange Rocker 15 amp lies within the "Bedroom/Headroom" switch, which allows you to change the output power of the amplifier. Although it's a 15 watt amp, you can drop to 7 watts or as low as 1 watt via the flick of a switch. This means you can enjoy all that tube amp sound, whether clean or dirty, at home without destroying the relationship with your neighbours! Simply flick it back up to 15 watts when you're ready for the stage or when you're in the practice room. If you want to go louder, there's the Orange Rocker 32, which is a 30 watt amp capable of dropping to 15 watts - ideal for the gigging musician - or someone who hates their neighbours/housemates/windows. Already got a cab? Well, the Orange Rocker 15 Terror 15W Valve Amp Head is a head only version, which is great if you have a cab that's lying around gathering dust.

2. Marshall Studio Classic SC20C 20W Valve Combo Amp

Marshall Studio Classic SC20C 20W Valve Combo Amp

Since the original Marshall JCM800 2203 amplifiers were released in 1981, the amplifiers have taken on an almost God-like status as the ultimate "must have" for tone snobs. Unless you wanted to get evicted due to noise complaints, playing one cranked at home has been almost impossible - until now. The Marshall Studio Classic SC20C 20W Valve Combo Amp has been constructed for those of us who want the sound of this seminal amp, in a smaller, more compact package.

Why is this a good tube amp for home use?

The Marshall Studio Classic SC20C combo is a great gigging amp thanks to the fact you have 20 watts of power at your disposal, however you can use the three position standby switch to drop the power output to 5 watts. This means you get the same JCM800 roar at a lower volume - perfect for recording at home or just jamming. The 10" Celestion V-Type speaker also harks back to the sound of 1980's Marshall amps offering an overall vintage tone ideal for the likes of 80s and 90s style rock lovers. Adjust your gain, presence, bass mids and treble and enjoy the beautiful tones on offer at all volumes thanks to the separate preamp and master volume control controls which you can use to get those lush tones regardless of your environment.

3. Fender Pro Junior III Combo Amplifier

Fender Pro Junior III Combo Amplifier

The Fender Pro Junior III Combo Amplifier has quickly become an industry standard amplifier for those in need of a portable valve amp that is small enough for home and studio use, but loud enough for the smaller stages of the world. It's an extremely straightforward amplifier to use with a single channel, making it a great first amplifier for the valve amp "first timer", professional gigging musician or home studio owners.

Why is this a good tube amp for home use?

This nifty little amp is packed with 15 watts of power through 2 x 12AX7 preamp tubes, 2 x EL84 power tubes, and 1 x solid state rectifier tube as well as a 10" Special Design speaker, so getting that authentic "tube break-up" sound isn't a problem. The single volume and single tone knobs make it extremely easy to use and the fact it only weighs 9kg means bringing it home from practice wont break your back! It's also quite small too at around 40cm high/wide so it won't become an obnoxious focal point of your room. A beautiful sounding amplifier ideal for practising at home or mic'-ing up on stage.

4. VOX AC4C1-12 Custom Series Guitar Amplifier Combo

VOX AC4C1-12 Custom Series Guitar Amplifier Combo

Vox amplifiers are renowned for their "cranked tube" sound, but getting that classic tone means cranking the volume too - which is not always practical! Thankfully, the team at Vox understand how important it is to achieve that sound at a lower volume, hence the introduction of the VOX AC4C1-12 Custom Series Guitar Amplifier Combo.

Why is this a good tube amp for home use?

The Vox AC4C1-12 is a highly portable amplifier packed with 4 watts of power and a Celestion 12" speaker. The fact it's only 4 watts means you can drive the 2 x 12ax7 preamp tubes and el84 power tube without destroying your hearing. You have that classic Vox tone at lower volumes! The addition of the Top Boost tone switch means you can add more high-end dynamics and bite to your sound, which is extremely useful for those in need of that coveted tube grit! The team at Vox are yet again proving you don't need a huge amp for a huge sound!

5. Orange Brent Hinds Terror 15w Signature Valve Amp Head

Orange Brent Hinds Terror 15w Signature Valve Amp Head

The Orange Brent Hinds Terror 15w Signature Valve Amp Head is one of our favourite tube amps designed in conjunction with the legendary Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds - so you know you're in good company with this.

Why is this a good tube amp for home use?

The cool thing about the Orange Brent Hinds Terror 15w Signature Valve Amp Head (aside from the fact it's the legendary guitarists signature amp) is the introduction of the output power switch, which allows you to drop the output of the 15-watt amp to 0.5, 1, 7 Or back up to 15-Watts when you're gigging. This means you can make good use of the Dirty and Natural channels within the amp and push those Ecc83 power tubes as much as you want without the huge volume. A great amp that you can use to perfect your sound at home and then transfer to the live arena by flicking the switch back to 15 watts! We also think it's one of the best tube amps for those on a budget as it's way under £500!

6. Blackstar 10th Anniversary Series One Combo Amp

Blackstar 10th Anniversary Series One Combo Amp

Achieving the tone and crunch of a fully cranked 100 watt amplifier without damaging your hearing (and that of those around you) is nigh on impossible, yet the team at Blackstar Amps have managed to reproduce those characteristics in a 10 watt all-valve amplifier! The single-ended Blackstar 10th Anniversary Series One Combo Amp has a great reverb effect, Clean and Overdrive setting as well as the patented ISF circuit technology so you can sculpt your perfect tone. Whether you love the sound of classic British amplifiers (fully CW) and all the 'woody tones' they're famous for or the more American characteristics in an amplifier (fully CCW) with a tighter bottom end and overall more aggressive tone you can achieve it all at lower volumes.

Why is this a good tube amp for home use?

Did we mention that the Blackstar 10th Anniversary Series One Combo Amp is 10 watts? You'll be surprised at the amount of tone and sound on offer here. You'll also love the fact you can utilise all the lush gain from the amp, but turn the volume down to neighbour friendly levels via the Master volume. The KT-88 tubes provide the lush tonal response of a classic valve amplifier and the Celestion 70/80, 12" loudspeaker provides you with a clear sound, whether you're driving the 'Overdrive' channel or enjoying the bell-like cleans on the 'Clean' channel. A perfect amplifier for those in need of a versatile, studio ready amplifier or a great all-valve practice amp that can be enjoyed at lower volumes.

7. Fender Bassbreaker 007 Combo Guitar Amp

Fender Bassbreaker 007 Combo Guitar Amp

Finally, we have the Fender Bassbreaker 007 Combo Guitar Amp, which has become a go-to amplifier for both tone snobs and discerning musicians in need of an all-valve amplifier that can achieve that cranked valve sound at lower volumes. With 2 x 12AX7 preamp tubes and a single EL84 power tube, you get 7 watts of gorgeous Fender tone in a small, compact (and stylish) package.

Why is this a good tube amp for home use?

Due to the fact the Fender Bassbreaker 007 is a 7-watt amplifier,  you run less of a risk of annoying your neighbours when you decide to crank this thing! However, to achieve that awesome Bassbreaker tone you don't have to push it to the limit. The vintage-style treble boost, which can be activated by the optional footswitch or button on the top offers a lush amount of drive and added harmonic content, even at lower volumes. A gain and master volume pot means you can enjoy those glass-like cleans and gritty crunchy tones Fender amps are renowned for, at any volume. By far one of the best tube amps for home use available on the market.

Want more? Here's our Best Tube Amps For Home Use video with Dagan, from PMT Newcastle:

Check out a full selection of valve amplifiers over at PMT Online.

Guitar Amps

Updated 2020-01-07

25 Comments on “Best Tube Amps For Home Use - 2020”

  • Patrick Irwin
    23rd December 2019

    Laney TI 15w 112, i just bought second hand is a great tube amp, with a 1w input for 'bedroom' use. Did its first gig last night and sounded great. (outdoors on Midland Oval). No mention on reviews for top 10 of the low wattage tube amps, as far as I can see.

  • Ginung Pratidina
    24th January 2019

    Now Marshall has DSL5 and DSL1. Its a monster tone in low watt.
    And if price is not a limit, try Bogner Atma. It has internal attenuator to switch the watt from 18 to 5 and even to 1 watt only

  • Myles
    26th November 2018

    The Bassbreaker 007 looks & sounds amazing, I am close to buying one but there are quite a few reviews online saying it has a fault, which is a buzz/hum, which gets even worse as the reverb gets turned up. Should this steer me away from the purchase of the Bassbreaker 007? Is the buzz/hum loud enough to get annoying?

    • Lee Glynn
      27th November 2018

      Hi Myles, I've never heard of or actually heard that buzz at all! I suggest trying one out for yourself, but I highly doubt there is a buzz or annoying hum. -Lee

  • Rob
    31st October 2018

    Thanks for the list, very helpful and informative. How would a ZT Lunchbox stack up against these?

    • Lee Glynn
      31st October 2018

      They're great amps too! I'd suggest trying them out yourself and deciding which you like the sound of better. -Lee

  • Thien Bui
    4th July 2018

    For bedroom/home use, if power tube saturation is what you are after anything over 1w is overkill for bedroom or home use. My JSX mini is only 5w with a volume and tone knob. To get it to sound good it needs to be turned all the way up, and by this time is ridiculously too loud. All your neighbours will hear you even if you live in your own house and its during the during the daytime (unless you have your own soundproof studio).

    • Lee Glynn
      5th July 2018

      Hi Thien, a lot of these amps have master volume or attenuation settings so you can crank these into tube saturation, but still have them at neighbour-friendly volumes. -Lee

  • billy
    20th February 2018

    I would recommend the Marshall JVM 1 for home users

  • Søren Løvfelt
    5th January 2018

    I think you must have forgot the Vox AC4 in its different configs. This is one of the best tubeamps for bedroom levels. UIse it with a good overdrive pedal, and you can get a roar without flipping the neighbour out. Real top boost sound.

  • Chris
    29th December 2017

    I've got a Bassbreaker 007 but bought the head version so I could use a larger speaker. Blackstar HT-5's are great too, great straight out of the box rock tones with that one, think Sabbath with some high output humbuckers, no pedals needed. I prefer the Bassbreaker clean and also think it sounds a bit more organic when driven but sounds better again with the right drive pedal. One thing in favour of both of these apart from that they sound great and that's their price. If I had to buy an amp all over again I'd struggle to look beyond these - unless I felt rich enough to buy the Marshall Jubilee.

    As an aside, do different amps on your list suit different guitars better? As in those with Humbuckers or single coils?

    • Lee Glynn
      4th January 2018

      Hi Chris, we love a Bassbreaker here! In terms of which guitars suit different amps, that comes down to personal preference of course! We'd suggest trying out a few different combinations to see what you think. -Lee

  • Les Clark
    8th December 2017

    There are no prices on these tube amps. I think its important info

    • Lee Glynn
      11th December 2017

      Hi Les, all prices can be found by clicking through to the product page. -Lee

  • Jim
    18th October 2017

    I have Bugera V5 for my home use as well. Great sounding unit that's well priced for home/apartment.

  • Ginung
    16th September 2017

    I still use my Bugera V5 for my home use :-) It has internal attenuator from 0.1 watt, 1 watt, and 5 watt. It's pedals friendly too.

  • Hamza
    2nd September 2017

    Nice amp selection, I use a Vox AC4TV8 that I bought years ago and i believe it has been discontinued, but I still love it, its sound and simplicity. I was wondering if you could do the same thing for simulation amps, is there any new amp out there that could compete with with the THR series? (Especially the THR10 and THR10C).

    • Lee Glynn
      5th September 2017

      Hi Hamza, if you wanted a few more options, we have another video with some great small practice amps and some have modelling capabilities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B489X4F1NuE -Lee

  • Richard
    15th August 2017

    I own a Blackstart HT1-RH and would totally recommend it to anyone who wants to get a loud-sound at low volume - I can play it in the evening when the kids are asleep and get great tones from it.

    The only criticism I have is that the EQ is quite limited. Blackstar's ISF is dead good, but a lack of a low/high knob or set of low/mid/high is limiting. My advice to anyone buying one would be to look at also getting either an EQ pedal or a boost/OD with a bit of colour. I use a Hotone Blues OD (similar to the Boss Blues Driver) with low gain but high volume to push the amp's dirt- channel (which I sit on biting point) into full distortion while adding a lot of character.
    Other than that, it's a great amp. Reverb is great and it takes pedals well - as well as my blues OD, I'll hit it with fuzz, tremelo, wah and delay (though not always at once).. The emulated line-out is good - I've run it into my brother's power-amp a few times to play with a drummer and if I were gigging, I'd carry it as a backup to run into another players power-stage should my main amp die.

    • Lee Glynn
      17th August 2017

      Thanks for the insight Richard! I hope the amp serves you well! - Lee

  • Michael Good
    28th July 2017

    I would recommend the Blackstar HT-5R over the 1R. I think the 5R meets your requirements for portability, etc., yet obviously provides much more bang than the 1R. Thanks for a great article/review.

  • marcelo sacco
    30th June 2017

    One tube amp that could be also reviewed is the Marshall dsl5c. Could anyone any a short comment on this one?

    • Lee Glynn
      3rd July 2017

      Hi Marcelo, that's a great shout! We'll look into it. -Lee

  • Iain
    23rd February 2017

    Nice amps and good recommendations, but IMHO it seems any valve amp with separate (pre-amp) gain and master (power amp) volume controls is ok for home use - they don't need to be especially low powered? I manage fine with a Vox AC30 CC2 for example, which is useable in my house on very low volumes (but with preamp gain cranked up one one channel for overdriven sounds). The same amp is easily loud enough for decent sized gigs. The power amp volume setting has very ittle effect on the sound/overdrive etc whether low or high. The sound seems to.be all about the two pre-amp channels. Am I missing something?

    • Lee Glynn
      24th February 2017

      Hi Iain, great comment. You're totally right about the Vox AC30 CC2 (I Have two myself) and they're great amps for home use too. The separate power and pre amp solution will definitely allow you to get great tones at lower volumes and there are a myriad of different amplifiers out there that can provide you with that versatility - we couldn't fit them all in. However, I was thinking more along the lines of portability, and recording/practicing at home as dragging an AC30 around for recording in and out of rooms can sometimes be a bit of a strain on the back! Plus, they take up a bit of room, I'm sure you'd agree! The pre amp section does most of the work when it comes to distortion, as you said, but it's good to be able to drive that at lower volumes and use the power amp section when you want more volume for live gigs or a studio setting. You can get power amp distortion, but you need to crank that REALLY hard! Not recommended at home - if you like your neighbours! Thanks for the great comment!

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