Best Low Watt Tube Amp Review for Beautiful Sound 2017

For maximum power and tone, many guitarists choose to go with a low-watt tube amp, rather than their high-powered counterparts. Although large amps are ideal for large venues, you’re wasting a ton of unused power if you aren’t performing in a huge venue.

The appeal of low-watt tube amps comes from the ability to maximize power without
sacrificing tone. A low-watt tube amp can be used at its highest power settings while maintaining perfect tone quality. In contrast, the tone coming from a high-watt amp will decrease in quality if the full wattage isn’t used.

Thus, lower volumes are known to provide the best tonal quality and why low-watt tube amps are in such high demand. In fact, an amp with 15 watts or less is often  picture of an old school tube amplifier for your living roomrecommended for the highest quality recording sessions. There are plenty of low-watt amps that are perfectly suited to handle the demands of performances in smaller spaces, which increases their versatility and value.

Not only are they much more compact and portable, but the best models come with all the same features of high-end tube amps. In many cases, these amps are more affordable, making high-quality tone accessible to a wide range of musicians.

There’s no doubt about it—when it comes to practice, studio recording, or small gigs, it’s hard to beat the quality of a low-watt tube amp.

If you’re looking for other amps, check out:

Editor’s Picks

Product DescriptionUsers ScoreOverall Score
Editor choice
Marshall DSL5C 5-Watt Tube Combo Guitar Amp

Marshall DSL5C 5-Watt Tube Combo Guitar Amp

Key Features:  Switchable between 1-watt and 5-watt power Classic Gain & Ultra Gain channels Shift & ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
2 Fender Blues Junior III 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp

Fender Blues Junior III 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp

Key Features:  Fender Special Design “lightning bolt” speaker Touch-sensitive tube tone EL-84 output tubes ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
3 VOX AC15C1 Guitar Combo Amplifier

VOX AC15C1 Guitar Combo Amplifier

Key Features:   Normal & Top-Boost channels Classic Tremolo & Spring Reverb Uses three 12xAX7 preamp ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
4 Blackstar HT-1R Series Guitar Combo Amplifier with Reverb

Blackstar HT-1R Series Guitar Combo Amplifier with Reverb

Key Features:  1-watt power 8-inch speaker Volume, Gain & ISF Control MP3 Line Input For those who ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)
5 Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp

Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp

Key Features:  Two 6V6 tubes & one 12Ax7 preamp tube 10-inch Fender Special Design speaker 16 different ...

User Rating: 4 (1 votes)

Buying Guide for Low-Watt Tube Amps

The manufacturing of amps has changed greatly over the past few decades, particularly as the popularity of blues and rock genres increases.

When it comes to buying a low-watt amp, there are plenty of factors to consider, ranging from the technology used inside the amp itself to the size of the speaker cabinet.

Before honing in on that perfect low-watt tube amp, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:

Budget

As with any type of amp, your budget will always be an important consideration. The good news is that, by nature, low-watt tube amps tend to be much more affordable than their larger, high-powered counterparts.

Even so, you’ll want to decide on a feasible budget, as there is a lot of price fluctuation when it comes to low-watt tube amps. A good suggestion on accurate pricing is never to purchase an amp that is less than half of your guitar price.

This ensures that the amp and the guitar are evenly matched. There are few things less frustrating than splurging on a guitar, pairing it with a cheap amp, and struggling to get that perfect tone quality.

Style & Brand

Just as guitars have specific characteristics to benefit a specific music style, so do amps. There are a few brand names that are commonly associated with different styles—Fenders are commonly attributed to blues, Marshall and Gibson get associated with rock, and so on.

The big amp names are usually a safe bet, no matter what music style you will be playing. Still, it might be helpful to look at what your favorite musicians in that genre are using to get some guidance on the best low-watt tube amp brand for your chosen style.

Digital Effects

While these might be scorned by some musicians, the truth is that digital effects can be an incredibly fun addition to any amp. If using digital effects is something that you want to try out, this should certainly be taken into consideration when looking for low-watt tube amps.

It’s usually much more convenient to have digital effects built into the amp, rather than purchasing effect pedals separately and transporting them back and forth.

Experience

Before purchasing a guitar, you probably tried it out first, and you probably did so more than once. The same theory is true for amps. If you’re purchasing online, this may not always be possible, but you should always try your best to experience using the amp in person before committing to a purchase.

Find a local guitar store and start trying out a few amps. This will help you feel the difference from one amp to the next, pinpoint the types of effects and features that you want, and even help you identify the type of aesthetics you want in a low-watt tube amp.

The Best Low-Watt Tube Amps

There are tons of low-watt tube amps on the market today, all with variations in pricing, tone quality, and capability. Rather than focus on the best low-watt tube amps within a certain category, our review highlights the best overall amps to consider investing in.

Each of these low-watt tube amps come as top-rated models, with enhanced features and overwhelmingly positive customer reviews. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a beginner, using the top-rated amps as a reference point is a great way to begin looking for the best low-watt tube amp for you.


1. EDITOR’S CHOICE – Marshall DSL5C 5-Watt Tube Combo Guitar Amp

Key Features: picture of Marshall DSL5C

  • Switchable between 1-watt and 5-watt power
  • Classic Gain & Ultra Gain channels
  • Shift & Deep switches for greater tonal capabilities
  • Footswitch included

The Marshall DSL5C may only come with 5 watts of power, but that certainly doesn’t make this amp any less powerful. It combines the sound of both modern and vintage Marshall amps in one compact, versatile package.

Using the Classic Gain channel provides crunch and drive on high volume, while the Ultra Gain channel produces the classically saturated Marshall tone.

This 5-watt tube combo amp uses a total of four tubes to produce a warm, amplified sound. With three ECC83 tubes and one ECC99 tube, this tiny amp comes with powerful tone capability.

For those who are planning on using a low-watt tube amp for at-home practice, this is the perfect amp to consider. Tone quality remains consistent even when on low settings. This low-watt tube amp will meet the demands of small gigs and rehearsals, too, making it one of the most versatile amps to consider.

Marshall DSL5C 5-Watt Tube Combo Guitar Amp

Using the Classic Gain channel provides crunch and drive on high volume, while the Ultra Gain channel produces the classically saturated Marshall tone.


2. Fender Blues Junior III 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp

Key Features: picture of Fender Blues Junior III 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp

  • Fender Special Design “lightning bolt” speaker
  • Touch-sensitive tube tone
  • EL-84 output tubes & 12Ax7 preamp tube overdrive
  • Perfect for the studio or smaller venues

The Blues Junior series has been a long-time favorite of blues musicians, and Fender continues to improve their design and functionality.

The Blues Junior III features a wide range of upgrades, including an easy-to-read control panel, vintage “dog bone” handle, high-sensitivity speaker design, and shock absorbers for the EL-84 output tubes.

Part of why this series is so popular is that these amps provide high value in terms of affordability and performance. They are known for their reliability, their volume, and warm tones, making them ideal additions for any guitarist looking for a low-watt tube amp.

At 31 pounds, this amp has maximum portability, making it easy to transfer to the studio or to a venue. Customer reviews consistently rave over the clean tone and the impressive overdrive, making the Fender Blues Junior III one of the best low-watt tube amps to consider purchasing.

Fender Blues Junior III 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp

The Blues Junior III features a wide range of upgrades, including an easy-to-read control panel, vintage “dog bone” handle, high-sensitivity speaker design, and shock absorbers for the EL-84 output tubes.


VOX AC15C1 Guitar Combo Amplifier

Key Features:  

  • Normal & Top-Boost channels
  • Classic Tremolo & Spring Reverb
  • Uses three 12xAX7 preamp tubes and two EL84 tubes
  • 12-inch Celestion Greenback speaker

VOX has been a huge name in guitar amplifiers over the past 50 years, and it’s easy to see why their popularity continues to increase. The VOX AC15C1 low-watt tube amp uses 15 watts and 5 tubes to provide warm, rich sound for practice, rehearsal, and performances.

The Normal and Top Boost channels come with individual volume controls, and the Top Boost channel includes separate treble and bass controls. These features allow guitarists to create their own custom sound, crafting gain-staging and changing tones from one channel to the next.

One of the best features of this 12-inch amp is that it comes with an 8/16-ohm output jack. This allows for an additional speaker cabinet to be added in case you need a little extra force. Using the jack will mute the internal speakers, so you’ll have to make sure that you’re adding a powerful cabinet in this scenario.

With a rich history of providing high-quality guitar amps and the versatility of the AC15C01 model, this is an overall great choice for a low-watt tube amp.

VOX AC15C1 Guitar Combo Amplifier

These features allow guitarists to create their own custom sound, crafting gain-staging and changing tones from one channel to the next.


3. Blackstar HT-1R Series Guitar Combo Amplifier with Reverb

Key Features: picture of Blackstar HT-1R Series Guitar

  • 1-watt power
  • 8-inch speaker
  • Volume, Gain & ISF Control
  • MP3 Line Input

For those who are looking for a compact amp without sacrificing power, the Blackstar HT-1R series is a great choice. As a 1 watt, all-tube model, this amp can provide all the benefits and features of a 100-watt amp set to low volume.

One of the best qualities of this low-watt tube amp is the Infinite Shape Feature. This allows users to quickly variate between effects, including USA and UK tones. You can switch between normal and overdrive with the push of a button, and reverb is easily controlled through a control panel knob.  

For those who want the option of emitting more power for gigs, the Blackstar HT-1R series comes with a speaker output to connect to a 4×12 cabinet if need be.

With the same amazing tube quality at a much more affordable price, this low-watt tube amp is often a preferred option compared to more expensive amps with higher power.

Blackstar HT-1R Series Guitar Combo Amplifier with Reverb

As a 1 watt, all-tube model, this amp can provide all the benefits and features of a 100-watt amp set to low volume.


4. Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp

Key Features: picture of Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt Guitar

  • Two 6V6 tubes & one 12Ax7 preamp tube
  • 10-inch Fender Special Design speaker
  • 16 different amp types and 15 effects
  • Two channels with optional footswitch

If you’re looking for a low-watt tube amp with a wide range of tonal capabilities, the Fender Super Champ X2 is a perfect choice. With three tubes powering sound from a 10-inch custom speaker, this amp packs the right amount of power for rich, flexible sound.

16 different amp types—including Blackface, British, tweed, Hot Rod, and metal—allow guitarists to choose from a range of styles to suit personal taste. A total of 15 different effects come with level control and dual-channel switching, controlled by an optional footswitch.

This low-watt tube amp also comes with a USB output for digital recording, making it the perfect addition to a studio space. Fender FUSE™ software is available as a free download, which allows effects to be customized and provides access to Fender community content.

While this is certainly a true tube amp, the Fender Super Champ X2 does come with an additional modeling component. This allows for increased versatility with amp types and effects. For those who want to experiment with effects and amp types, this low-watt tube amp is an all-around solid choice.

Fender Super Champ X2 15-Watt Guitar Combo Amp

A total of 15 different effects come with level control and dual-channel switching, controlled by an optional footswitch.


Editor’s Choice: Marshall DSL5C 5-Watt Tube Combo Guitar Amp

Each of these low-watt tube amps has their own inherent value, but the Marshall DSL5C 5-watt combo guitar amp stands out as our pick for the Editor’s Choice.

The ability to switch between 1-watt and 5-watt power increases the value and versatility of the amp, making it suitable for use in practice, rehearsal, and even small gigs.

It’s hard to beat the classically saturated warm Marshall tone, and this small amp provides the same rich sound of larger, higher-wattage Marshall amps.

While some of the best low-watt tube amps have optional footswitches, this amp comes with an included footswitch, making it easier to switch between Classic and Ultra Gain channels while playing.

For those looking for an affordable, high-quality amp, it’s hard to beat the dependability and rich tones that come from a Marshall tube amp.


Best Low Watt Tube Amp for the Money

When it comes to finding the best low-watt tube amp, there are tons of different factors to consider. Price, style and effects should all be taken into consideration—though the range and versatility of the tone should come first and foremost.

Luckily, when looking for low-watt tube amps, the high-quality tone is already a part of the deal. Tube amps are a classic amp style and for good reason. Tubes are known for producing exceptionally amplified sound and warm tones, making it possible to use lower wattages to produce high-quality sound.

If you’re looking for an affordable, portable, and dependable amp to magnify sound and enrich the tone of your guitar, looking at the top-rated low-watt tube amps is the best way to start.