8 Best Cheap Tube Amps – Big Tone Under £500

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Although they’re often the most expensive type of amp, not all valve amplifiers cost a fortune. With this in mind, we present the 8 best cheap tube amps that give you that huge tube sound, in a smaller, more affordable package

best cheap tube amps

Tube amps, valve amps, boxes of luscious tone – whatever you want to call them, are almost always more expensive than solid state amplifiers. There’s a myriad of reasons for this, mainly down to the transformers used, tubes and work that goes into producing them. So, for tone snobs, this can sometimes pose a problem if we don’t want to spend a lot to get that great valve tone when we’re on a strict budget.

Fortunately, there are a myriad of different options out there that offer up great valve tone and playability at a lower price.

So, in this blog, we’re going to look at the 8 best cheap tube amps that we’ve found under £500. This includes a selection of the best 5-watt tube amps around and a range of the best low-watt tube amps that still offer a huge amount of sound. They’re also pretty portable too!

1. Marshall DSL1CR 1W Valve Combo Amp with Reverb

Marshall DSL1CR 1W Valve Combo Amp with Reverb

The team at Marshall Amplifiers have been making world class valve amplifiers for over 50 years, so it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about nailing that tube amp sound. Yes, they’re widely known as the go-to amp-people for those who want huge rigs strewn across the stage and massive 4x12 cabs melting faces, but did you know they also make small, portable tube amps? In fact, the Marshall DSL1CR 1W Valve Combo is not only one of the best low watt tube amps available, but also one of the best cheap tube amps around.

Why is this one of the best cheap tube amps?

The best thing about the Marshall DSL1CR 1W Valve Combo is the fact you have that classic Marshall valve sound wrapped up in a small, highly portable and extremely affordable package. At under £300 this fits firmly in the budget friendly price bracket and makes a great option for beginners and professionals in need of a great sounding valve amp that won’t blow out their windows at home.

Its packed with Marshall Dual Super Lead (DSL) technology and has an all valve signal path with two channels that allow you to choose from Classic or Ultra Gain, so you have a good spread of tonal options. The 1 watt power means it’s not going to destroy your ears or get you evicted, however it can be connected to a 16 Ohm speaker cab should you want to rehearse with it – it’ll keep up with a drum kit, no problem! If you want to go lower, there’s a power switch that drops the wattage down to half a watt, allowing you to enjoy Marshall valve sounds at bedroom friendly levels.

2. Orange Micro Terror Guitar Amplifier Head

Orange Micro Terror Guitar Amplifier Head

The Orange Micro Terror is a mini valve amplifier, but we’re kind of cheating a bit here as it also utilises a solid-state power amp. However, don’t let that discourage you as this is capable of producing that classic Orange amplifier sound with a 20W output power. This hybrid technology makes it more reliable (ideal if you’re travelling with it all the time) and ensures you can enjoy the playability and tonality of a cranked valve amp at lower volumes.

Why is this one of the best cheap tube amps?

Well, for a start the Orange Micro Terror Guitar Amplifier Head is just over £100, so beginners and professionals alike can easily afford it. For that reason it easily makes our best cheap tube amp list, but its not just about the cost – this thing sounds amazing!

Straight out of the box you have 20 watts of power to play with thanks to the hybrid valve pre amp and solid state power amp combination. You can adjust the tone and gain as well as the master volume so there’s no way you can get lost with a bunch of dials – it’s instant Orange sound at all levels. The headphone input allows you to practice in silence whilst the speaker outputs ensure you can hook up to a cab and really wail on this thing at a small gig or rehearsal. Perfectly paired with the Orange PPC108 1x8 Closed Back Speaker Cabinet or any 8 or 16 Ohm cab.

3. VOX AC10C1 Electric Guitar Valve Amp

Vox AC10

The VOX AC10C1 Electric Guitar Valve Amp is easily one of the best low watt tube amps ever crafted, effectively giving you the classic VOX amp sound in a smaller chassis than that of an AC30. This thing is louder than you think! At just over £400 we still think it sits firmly in the best cheap tube amps category, as its bigger brothers are likely to set you back twice that – if you don’t want to fork out the big bucks for the bigger VOX amps, have limited space or don’t fancy blowing out the windows when you crank that tube sound, this is a great option.

Why is this one of the best cheap tube amps?

Ok, so it might not be classed as “really cheap” but at just over £400 it’s certainly a lot cheaper than the bigger sized tube amps out there. We definitely think its one of the best cheap tube amps as it packs a huge amount of classic Vox AC tone into a lightweight, portable package and provides those with limited space, and those with neighbours they actually like, a way to get that top boost sound at lower volumes. The amp benefits from a master volume as well as a gain knob, so you can crank those lush tube saturated tones and keep the amp at a volume that won’t become annoying for your housemates and neighbours. It might only be a low wattage tube amp, but the 10 watts is more than enough to rehearse with and play smaller gigs.

 

4. Peavey 6505 Piranha Micro Head

Peavey 6505 Piranha Micro Head

For the lovers of high gain metal sounds and the huge screaming lead tones of the 80s rock era, the Peavey 6505 Piranha Micro Head is a perfect fit for you. In fact, this era was dominated by one amp in particular – the Peavey 6505, however getting hold of an original is likely to set you back quite a hefty sum on the 2nd hand market. To recreate these classic sounds and deliver us the tone we want without breaking the bank, the team at Peavey have recreated the iconic amplifier in a smaller, highly portable head which definitely qualifies as one of best low watt tube amps, not to mention one of the best cheap tube amps considering its price tag at just over £100.

Why is this one of the best cheap tube amps?

Well, the Peavey 6505 Piranha Micro Head will only set you back a small fee at just over £100, so you won’t break the bank. But don’t be fooled by its smaller price tag, this is a powerhouse of tone capable of delivering 20 watts of pure high gain power thanks to the inclusion of a 12AX7/ECC83 Preamp Tube. You can use it as a practice amp by plugging directly into the headphones output or utilise the speaker out and connect directly into your audio interface for use as a preamp. There’s a Crunch/Lead switch for tonal versatility, a buffered effects loop and the almost indestructible build quality makes it a great option for travelling musicians and those in need of something they can take to rehearsal. If you want pure metal aggression without dragging massive cabs around with you, this is a great choice.

5. Marshall ORI5C Origin Single Ended 5W Valve Amp

Marshall ORI5C Origin Single Ended 5W Valve Amp

If you need a low watt tube amplifier, the Marshall ORI5C Origin Single Ended 5W Valve Amp is a great choice and remains within the affordable bracket at just over £400. Hailing from the new 2018 Origin series of amplifiers, this 5 watt all valve combo amplifier perfectly captures that classic Marshall tone but allows you to add extra boost via the Gain Boost circuit.

Why is this one of the best cheap tube amps?

We think this is one of the best cheap tube amps due to its tonal versatility and power staging – the price is great too! The Tilt Tone knob allows you to gradually dial in voicings from the likes of classic British valve sounds to a more American hard rock voicing or mix the two together. The power staging technology allows you to drop the wattage output from 5 to 2.5 making it an easier amp to use at home or where you have to be a little quieter. This means you can crank the tube saturation and get that lush valve amp sound at lower volumes. When you want to get louder, just flick the switch back up to 5 watts and you’re ready to rehearse or go up against drum kit. This is a no nonsense single channel amp with a world of tone at your fingertips.

6. Fender Bassbreaker 15 Guitar Amp Head

Fender Bassbreaker 15 Guitar Amp Head

We’ve covered the smallest Bassbreaker in the series as part of our best tube amps for home use blog, but today we’re going to look at one of the more overlooked options in the series - the Fender Bassbreaker 15 Guitar Amp Head. If you’re thinking 15 watts isn’t enough – you haven’t heard this! Not only is the Bassbreaker one of our best cheap tube amps, its probably a contender for one of the best low watt tube amps ever made thanks to its amazing sound and tonal versatility.

Why is this one of the best cheap tube amps?

At way under £500 you get a powerhouse of tone packed with 3 x 12AX7 preamp tubes and 2 x EL84 power tubes for classic Fender valve saturation. However, it’s the three boutique voices you can switch between that really makes this a fantastic tube amp for players of all levels and all genres. The structure switch allows you to adjust the gain stage for a variety of classic sounds, you can go from mild to wild at the turn of a dial! This also allows you to go from smooth, creamy distortion to fat and heavy sounds instantly via footswitch, or dial it right back to that glass like clean that Fender tube amps are renowned for. Although this is compatible with any 4, 8 or 16 Ohm cab (selectable on the back of the head) it’s perfectly matched with the Fender BB-112 extension speaker cabinet.

7. Blackstar HT-Metal 1H Guitar Amplifier Head

Blackstar HT-Metal 1H Guitar Amplifier Head

If you’re a metal head, you’re going to want something pretty high gain to bust out those big riffs. But if you’re on a budget, you might think your options are limited if you want sheer power without breaking the bank. Thankfully the team at Blackstar Amplification have got you covered with the Blackstar HT-Metal 1H Guitar Amplifier Head. This tiny 1 watt amplifier effectively reproduces the characteristics of a 100 watt amplifier thanks to the use of a ECC82 dual triode valve, so you get all the lush dynamics, compression and power of a valve amplifier in a smaller, easier to carry package.

Why is this one of the best cheap tube amps?

This makes our best cheap tube amps list thanks to its control parameters, huge sound and the fact it costs just over £120. You have two channels to choose from, the Clean channel and Overdrive channel. Both channels have their own voicings; the Clean channel offers glass like cleans but can be driven via the gain knob into creamy distortion, whereas the Overdrive channel starts off you off with a great Blackstar overdrive tone and can be driven to all-out screaming heavy metal worthy lead and riff tonality – just crank the Gain! A speaker emulated output has been included allowing you to hook the amp up to your audio interface and enjoy the signature tones of the amp directly into your DAW. One of the best low watt amplifiers for the metal heads with limited room at home or in their portable studio.

8. VOX MV50 AC Nutube Amplifier Head

VOX MV50 AC Nutube Amplifier Head

Last but by no means least, we have the VOX MV50 AC Nutube Amplifier Head. If you love the sound of a VOX AC30, but don’t fancy carrying around the 2 x 12 cab, want the classic AC30 tones at lower volumes and you’re on a budget – then this needs to be on your must-try list. Take a listen to how loud this is before you read on:

Why is this one of the best cheap tube amps?

Ok, so we’re cheating just a bit here as this is not strictly a tube amplifier in the literal sense but does contain VOX’s Nutube circuit which is a new style of technology offering the same playability, dynamics and sound qualities of a valve, but adds reliability. The all analog circuitry within coupled with this Nutube technology means that your VOX MV50 performs the same way a valve amp would, but crams it all into a tiny, highly portable package. You have 50Watts RMS at 4 Ohms, 25W RMS at 8 Ohms, 12.5W RMS at 16 Ohms providing options depending on the size of the cab you use and the “Deep” and “Flat” modes allow you to sculpt your tone by allowing the unique sound of the cab you’re using to shine whilst retaining the rich low-end frequencies of your guitars sound. Whether you’re a valve purist or not, you need to try this amplifier out! Perfectly matched with the Vox BC112 Black Extension Guitar Cabinet.

Shop a full range of valve amplifiers over at PMT Online today or call in to your local PMT store to try out any of these amplifiers for yourself.

cheap tube amps uk

Black Rat SSP1.5PP15 Speaker Cable Jack to Jack 1.5m

£9.00 Add To Cart

Orange 1m Jack to Jack Speaker Cable

£29.95 Add To Cart

Fender Bassbreaker 112 Guitar Cab

£229.00 Add To Cart

Blackstar HT Venue HTV-112 MkII Guitar Speaker Cabinet

£179.00 Add To Cart

Orange PPC112 Speaker Cabinet

£229.00 Add To Cart

VOX BC108 Black Extension Guitar Cabinet

£73.00 Add To Cart

Vox BC112 Black Extension Guitar Cabinet

£220.00 Add To Cart

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