There are two myths when it comes to shopping for cheap tube amp heads
I'd like to dispel right off the bat...
The wattage on cheaper tube heads is too low for live performance and
only good for practice.
The stock tubes on budget models are of poor quality and need replacing.
alone is not an indicator of overall power/volume. If you're used to
basing your output on solid state wattage (which tends to be in the
50-150 watt range for typical small-med venues), you'll be
surprised at how far as little as 15
all-tube watts will take you in comparison.
In short, the below selection of tube heads (with 4 averaging at a
whopping 9/10 in user ratings) have enough power for
small-mid size gigs.
for the second point, these top 5 picks stand above all others in their
price range (under $500) as far as stock quality. If you're on a
budget, you won't want any additional costs, and rest assured you won't
need to change anything with these highly praised heads to get that
unmistakably rich and dynamic tube sound.
A basic, single channel head with a surprisingly versatile palette
of tones. Some users claim it lacks the headroom for truly clean
playing but, as demonstrated in the videos, you can roll back the dials
on both the amp and guitar for some very usable cleans.
However, the JCA20H
truly comes into its own when you dig in your pick for those overdriven
lead solos. The natural compression of the tubes, nicely sensitive
to pick attack, gives you the responsive crunch you need for
expressive lead phrases.
The "break up" distortion is natural
and dynamic - everything guitarists desire in a tube amp. Users have
found themselves drawn to using their guitar's volume pot more with
this head. It responds beautifully to the subtle changes in your
signal, without losing its strong low and high end presence.
Soldano classic on a budget. The only thing some users are calling
for is a dedicated effects loop, but the head's simplicity
lends itself more to the tonal purists out there.
For those who want to retain that authentic vintage tube vibe but
with the convenience of two independent channels. The V55HD, like its
watt combo version,
delivers cleans and crunch in one footswitchable unit. Add to that
built-in reverb and a useful mid boost switch, giving you more control
than most amp heads in this price range.
Users generally agree
that the greatness of this head is embodied in its cleans, with the
gain channel being a useful option but with less character than many of
the single channel contenders.
Output can be scaled back using
the rear pentode/triode switch (55w to 22w) for those quieter
bedroom practices. This is not merely like turning down the volume,
rather a way to keep the tubes working hard for your tone at a more
manageable level (for example, if you prefer to crank the master to get
your desired tone).
There's a sense that Bugera have tried to make the
V55HD cover all bases, and it's certainly far from a "one trick pony".
It gives you all the room you need for experimentation and finding that
Rugged Ibanez construction with built-in Tube Screamer overdrive
circuitry. This is a powerful combination for anyone who wants the
thick, meaty, mid-heavy overdrive of the now legendary TS pedal directly through the
punchy warmth of tube amplification.
look at the rear panel reveals a generous array of cabinet outputs.
Another useful addition to the spec includes a pentode/triode switch to
keep your tone nicely saturated at lower volumes (from 15w down to
It's closer to handling metal than the previous two
vintage picks, but still tameable enough to deliver deep, rich and
organic clean tones (thanks in part to the 6V6 power tubes) with the
slightest of optional break up distortion. Those who like to play tight
between clean and distorted will love the TSA15H's ability to put you
right on the edge.
Experienced users got more than they expected, with some feeling
the TSA15H puts far more expensive amps to shame.
Tweaker by name and highly tweakable by nature (sorry, that was
terrible). With 5 onboard switches (Vintage/Modern, USA/Brit/AC,
Hot/Clean, Bright/Normal and Tight/Deep) in addition to the standard 3
band EQ, there's plenty to shape your tone just how you like it.
also plenty of headroom for your cleans at higher volumes while a twist
of gain will satisfy most rock appetites thanks to the
capabilities. The Hot/Clean switch helps open up or tighten the
overdrive, with the Vintage/Modern and USA/Brit/AC switch providing
more options for boosting and/or changing the texture between crunchy
However, under all this tweakability lies solid tube
tone that begs to be pushed beyond bedroom volumes and has surprised
even the most seasoned working musicians. Loud enough to over power
even the most heavy handed drummer, with all the low and high
presence you'll ever need, the Tweaker proves 15 all tube watts is
indeed enough for most live situations.
The Super Champ X2 is, simply put, a tube amp head with built-in
digital effects - what is often referred to as "vintage modified". The
idea is players who want an all-in-one effects solution, but still
crave that authentic tube tone have the best of both worlds.
X2 connects to your computer via USB where you can load up the FUSE
software and create/edit your own effects. You can even download
effects created by members of the FUSE online community, tweak them to
your tastes and store them on the amp. Welcome to the 21st century!
also 16 editable amp models to choose from. So this is a versatile and
heavily customisable amp. Of course, if you like you can forget about
the software and just use the tubes in all their naked beauty, which is
what some have done, purely for that classic Fender tone - bright,
clear and ballsy. At such a ridiculous price, the digital extras really
are just an added bonus.
So versatility is what clearly
separates the X2 from the other heads on this page, having the guts to
accomodate modern metal styles. Many users were undoubtedly expecting
to hear some hint of compromise, but it appears as if Fender
really have pulled off the all-rounder, master of all trades amp head.
this page helpful? Please let others know, cheers...