Best Budget Tube AMPs 2020 : Buying Guide & Reviews
When it comes to listening to music, everyone wants the finest audio experience they can get, which is just one of the many reasons you may be tempted to purchase a tube amp. Do you want to hook your brand new record player up to the best amplifier you can get? Are you a member of a band wanting to play live venues but still haven’t decided on what amplifier you wish to use?
Save yourself the hassle of browsing endlessly and read on to see what we believe are the best affordable tube amps currently on the market today.
Considerations Choosing good but Cheap Stereo Tube Amplifiers
When deciding on the right tube amp for you, it is always a great idea to consider every facet of your purchase. Things such as the output connection or the signal to noise ratio (SNR) an amp uses can have a massive influence on your chosen amplifier. Nobody want’s a product that dissatisfies in some way. Here are a few things that you should always consider when it comes to finding the perfect tube amp for you.
Typically speaking, the higher the output power (measured in watts, W), the louder your chosen amplifier will be. Although it might be tempting to get the potential loudest amp you can get, you should always consider your living conditions such as whether you are in a block of flats or if your neighbours will be irritated by the loud volume. Most people will be happy with a 10W amp however you may require a much higher wattage, such as 100W if you are planning on using it for live music etc.
Consider the size of your room and proximity from your neighbours before deciding on how powerful an amp you need. A better low wattage amp will be much better than a cheaper high wattage amp for personal listening.
Connections and Inputs
When it comes to considering which connections and inputs are featured on an amp, you should consider every potential connection you may require. Do you plan on using a guitar or keyboard with your amp? If so which connection types do they use?
There are a wide range of connection types that you may require such as a 3.5mm headphone jack or a USB input for external devices. But you should also consider any potential wireless inputs if you plan on using things such as Bluetooth headphones. Making a list of every potential connection type you require and ensuring that your chosen amplifier includes these is a great way of preventing any potential issues further down the line.
One of the more technical terms you may come across, this is a measurement used to compare the volume levels of what you actually want to hear to any potential background noise produced by your amp. Basically, an amp constantly has electrons whirring around inside and if you listen extremely carefully you can sometimes hear them. SN ratio is a useful measurement when it comes to ensuring that the back ground noise of the electronics within your amp does not interfere with what sounds you wish to actually hear.
The big target for any amp manufacturer is to have the highest measurement on the market. The higher the value, the more of your music you will hear and the less electronic interference there will be. It is almost a rule of thumb that the higher the SNR the more you should expect to pay, this however is not always the case as some of the tube amps featured in this article will show you.
Total Harmonic Distortion
Another technical term you will come across when doing your tube amp research is total harmonic distortion (THD). This is a measurement of how of an impact the amplifier itself has on the final sound output. Unlike SNR, the lower the THD figure the better.
A higher THD figure tends to mean the sound output itself will feature more distortion, meaning that it isn’t quite what the original recording sounded like. The lower the THD however, the closer to the original recording the sound output will be. Therefore, it can be ascertained that most people will want the lowest possible THD they can find, unless you want to listen to a distorted version of the original track.
The levels of THD of a tube amp shouldn’t impact the overall price of the amplifier itself but it can be expected that their will be a slight increase in price based upon how low the measurement is.
Top 10 Best Budget Tube Amps
1. T20 Bluetooth
Best Features: Easily switch between physical and wireless connectivity. Replaceable tubes offers a simple way to upgrade this amp.
First up on our list of budget stereo amps we have the impeccable T20 Blue tooth, built with wireless connectivity in mind. With an incredible wireless range of up to 39ft, set this stereo amp anywhere and expect high class audio wherever you are in the house. If a physical connection is more your jam then fear not as this amp provides a solid 3.5mm headphone output port so you can plug in and press play. Toggle between physical and wireless connectivity with the flick of a switch!
Setup is fairly simple too as this tube amp doesn’t require any drivers or software to be installed, connect this up to your audio system with ease. You can also switch vacuum tubes whenever you like, giving you the option to upgrade without the need to purchase an entirely new amplifier.
If you are looking for a budget tube amp that offers exceptional wireless connectivity then you would be hard pressed to find a better option than this! Given all the money you’ll save with this one, you might want to check out our options for the best cheap bass guitars, too!
Power Output: 24V/4.5A | Connectivity and Inputs: 16-64Ohm
2. Nobsound NS-10P Mini Vacuum
Best Features: Small size therefore this amp doesn’t take up too much space. Functional bass and treble dials add an extra layer to your soundtrack.
Although the Nobsound NS10P may be one of the smallest tube preamps in the world, this does not correlate with power you can expect.Hook this up to a separate amplifier, press play and prepare to bask in exceptional sound quality. Unlike other items on this list, this a pre-amplifier, meaning you must connect this up to a separate power amp or stereo system before use.
The 110dB signal noise ratio means that this amp offer almost no distortion meaning your soundtrack is given the calibre it deserves. The supplied vacuum tube is also replaceable, upgrade and change tubes whenever you like thanks to a quick installation method. Control both the bass and treble intensity, as well as the volume using the 3 easy-to-use dials on the front of this amp. This stylish Pre-Amplifier is small enough to comfortably accompany any sound system set up without taking up too much space. If you are looking to enhance your current set up, this one of the best budget preamps on Amazon today!
Power Output: 1 * 6V / 2000mA | Connectivity and Inputs: 100 ~ 240 V | SN Ratio: 110Db
3. SUCA Tube-T2 6K4
Best Features: Included power tubes offer impressive sound enhancement. Internal circuit offers higher frequency response.
If you are looking for an affordable but impressive addition to your sound set up then this Suca T2 6K4 preamp could be exactly what you are looking for! Quickly switch between RCA and 3.5mm inputs as this preamp tube features an impressive selection switch on the back of the main unit. Expect better sound and improved mid-range when you connect this tube to any one of your audio output devices.
A sturdy aluminium build and a one year warranty add to durability of this model, making this one of the most durable preamps you can get at this p. That’s not all however as this preamp features a powerful independent preamp circuit due to it’s use of an imported superconductor. This helps alleviate some of the stress placed on the power supply, protecting your amp from potential electronic surge damage. It also improves the preamps frequency response providing a higher range of audio frequencies.
At such a low price tag, it’s hard to compete with the SUCA T2 6K4!
Power Output: 10 Watts | SN Ratio: 97 dB
4. Dayton Audio HTA20BT Hybrid
Best Features: Wide roster of connection methods for both audio input and output. Integrated amplifier provides Hi Fi calibre sound.
Potentially the best headphone amp on this list, the Dayton HTA20BT Hybrid tube amp provides unsurpassed headphone amp audio quality. One of the few budget amplifiers to offer such a wide array of line output options, the Dayton hybrid is suited for every sound aficionado. Whether its through Blue tooth, Aux or USB this tube amp has you covered. Sub-woofer owners will also be pleased to hear that you can connect this up using the inbuilt sub-woofer output.
Extraordinarily low THD gives you confidence that the audio you hear will match the original recording so you know you are hearing exactly what the artist wanted you to hear. The class D power tubes provide warmth to the sound output that is typically only seen in high end tube amps. This is complimented by a unique steampunk looking design which looks great featured next to a desktop set up.
Power Output: 50 Watts
5. SMSL T2
Best Features: Microprocessor protects both your ears and your hardware. Stock tubes offer great audio standards.
If you’re looking for a smooth sophisticated looking tube amp, then look no further than the powerful SMSL T2. This is one of the most affordable tube based amps included in this post, however don’t expect it to sacrifice quality as it also features some of the finest features you can find on a tube amp. An inbuilt high grade microprocessor prevents ground noise from interfering with your listening experience, ensuring you get the calibre you deserve.
A scratch resistant aluminium build offers a modern but sturdy amplifier design, offering both functional and aesthetic pleasure. The included single chip microcomputer prevents the popping noise commonly associated with amplifiers, as it allows the tube amp itself to warm up before use. Not only does this provide a comfortable experience, but it also protects both the amplifier and any connected speakers.
The SMSL T2 provides both an uncompromising listening experience with some of the finest design decisions on the market. could this be the best tube amplifier for the money?
Power Output: 5.6W | Connectivity and Inputs: 3.5 mm
6. BoyuuRange MT-34 MKII EL34
Best Features: Extremely high input impedance and output impedance. High frequency response for improved frequency range.
One of the highest contenders for the best cheap tube amp currently available, the BoyuuRange MT-34 provides everything you need in a tube amp and more! Behind it’s unique heavy-duty Victorian design, this tube amp packs an extensive roster of modern features. The 8 glass tubes supplied with this tube amp enhance a multitude of sound systems that music lovers will be extremely grateful for.
The BoyuuRange MT-34 has an output impedance of 4 to 8 ohms and an input impedance of 100 K-ohms, no one can argue that this is an exceptionally powerful piece of hardware. An 88dB SN ratio protects you from ground noise, sound lacks interference offering a crisp and clear character. You will also find that you can easily switch between triode and ultra-linear modes while the amp is in operation, giving you extreme control over your power amplifier.
The BoyuuRange MT-34 in an exceptional vacuum tube amp, especially at this price point.
Power Output: 230W | Connectivity and Inputs: 100KΩ
7. Neoteck Bluetooth 4.2
Best Features: Amazing Bluetooth distance of up to 40 ft. Low latency codec compatibility helps remove potential lag.
Designed exclusively around Hi Fi sound, the Neoteck Bluetooth 4.2 is an audiophile dream tube amp. Set up is easy when it comes to this tube amp, requiring no drivers or software saving you time and effort. Support for the aptX Low Latency codec ensures that this is an excellent choice to accompany a home theatre set up as audio visual lag is practically eliminated. Incredible Blue tooth range of up to 40ft also make this a perfect fit for those seeking wireless connectivity.
This tube amp has a THD rating of less than 0.5% which is exceptionally low, giving you the feeling that the sound is coming directly from the studio. An input sensitivity of 280mV also works alongside this high THD rating to ensure that no distortion impacts your listening experience.
Power Output: 100 watts | Connectivity and Inputs: 280mV
8. Gemtune APPJ PA1501A
Best Features: Extremely customizable stereo tube amplifier, tube rolling has never been easier. Wonderful tonal tube power.
An exceptionally customizable tube integrated amp, the Gem tune APPJ improves your set up with better sound without massively increasing power consumption. Compatible with most tubes on the market, the Gem tune APPJ gives users the option of choosing the best tube for them. Tube devices with such customizability at this price are extremely rare.
Sound is excellent with no humming or buzzing in the background providing audiophile comparable standards. Tone is balanced as this amp delivers high highs and low lows, pair it up with a decent set of speakers and you will discover new profundity to your favourite songs you never knew existed. The volume knob itself is sleek and straightforward to use, emphasizing this models sophisticated style.
Incredible sound doesn’t need to be expensive as this amplifier shows, a budget price without compromise, the Gem tune APPJ is an incredible piece of hardware.
Power Output: 38W | Connectivity and Inputs: 100-250V AC
9. Reisong A10 EL34
Best Features: High output power and frequency response enhance your soundtrack choice. Steel build is exceptionally durable.
Perhaps one of the more premium choices included in this review, the Reisong A10 EL34 is a robust Hi Fi kit comparable to some of the finest tube amps you can get. A durable stainless steel build and tube cage provide this tube amp with incomparable robustness. Expect this to last you a long time!
Some customers have described the tube sound this amp provides as warm, rich and spacious and we can only agree. From rock to jazz, this tube amp has depth and can improve any song from your music collection. Bass is rich and fulfilling while treble is light and airy, just as you would expect from such a high-end tube amp.
The supplied class A tubes are some of the greatest you can get, it is no wonder this amp constantly features on a myriad of greatest stereo amplifiers. If the tubes aren’t your style however you can switch them whenever you choose. Switchable tubes and a high quality volume control knob gives you the control you desire. The high quality this tube amp maintains is what makes it one of finest tube based amps you can get on Amazon today!
Power Output: 78 watts | Connectivity and Inputs: 750MV
10. Nobsound 6P1
Best Features: Incredibly sleek tube amp design. High frequency response improves the overall clarity of sound depth.
When you think of budget tube amps, you would rarely think of Class A builds, but this isn’t the case when it comes to the Nobsound 6 P1. Class A designs are hard to find at low prices, which makes this tube amp an incredible discovery. Because of it’s expensive look and high grade build, guests will be shocked when you tell them how much you paid for this power amplifier!
If you are an audiophile, this could be the tube amp for you as every inch of this budget package is tailored with luxurious character in mind. Gold plated copper terminals adorn the rear of this unit giving it an expensive look whilst offering functional grounding technology. Complimenting this expensive look, the front of the amp is adorned with both a left and right hand VU meter giving this a Tesla-Esque vibe. High input voltage capacitors also provide the power capacity you need to get the most of your system set up.
Style is not the only thing this tube amp excels as it is no slouch in the functionality department either. Anti-magnetic transformer covers shield the unit from current interference stopping any sound from being distorted by static noise due to outside influences. The power amp itself is also hand welded ensuring the finest build standard you can get.
Power Output: 6.8W | Connectivity and Inputs: 500mv-2000mv
Best Low Cost Vacuum Tube Amplifier
Every low cost tube amplifier we have featured in this write-up is truly a work of art especially at the price that they are. However, 3 of the chosen amps stand out particuarly to us, whether that’s the best tube amp for the money or our overall top pick. Below are our 3 greatest picks from an incredible array of best budget tube amp available today.
Best Budget Tube Amplifier Available
Overall Winner: SMLS T2
There are a lot of exceptional tube amps available on the market today so trying to decide the top one is an exceptionally difficult task. But our final pick is the SMLS T2 tube amp. Not only is this one of the top inexpensive tube amps you can find on Amazon, but thanks to its exceptionally high build quality is is comparable with it’s more expensive counterparts.
Incredibly high frequency response and stock tube quality is why we chose this as our overall finest pick.
What is the best tube amp for the money?
Best Budget Tubes Amplifier: SUCA Tube 6K4
Although all of this amps on this last can be classed as budget amps, the amp we believe is the top budget amp is the SUCA tube 6k4. Not only is this the cheapest tube amp featured in this write-up, but also provides some of the greatest performance you can find. The internal circuit helps prevent distortion which is common in cheaper tube amps making this amp sound far more expensive than it actually is. The SUCA Tube 6K4 is by far the best value tube amp you can get.
What is the best tube amp for under 500?
Top tube amp: Dayton Audio HTA20BT
Few tube amps under $500 offer the same impressive quality as the Dayton Audio HTA20BT. An extensive array of connection methods mean this tube amp is suited for every type of user no matter how you plan on using it. From guitar amplifiers to to more the unique push pull amplifier, the Dayton’s hybrid build means this can compete with them all.
The per channel quality and lack of distortion combine together to make this one of the most highly recommended tube amps you can get.
Do tube amps really sound better?
When it comes to deducing whether or not a particular amp sounds better, most of it comes down to personal taste. However, most people will agree that tube amps sound far better than solid state devices, although arguments could be made against this.
Overall though we would say that tubes offer a unique warmth to their sound output which improves the overall quality of the audio. If it came down to deciding between a solid state amp or a tube amp, we would choose the latter.
Factors to Look for in Tube Amp
Before spending money on tube amps, you must understand what you are buying and its specifications. It is important to remember that solid state amps and tube amps are totally different devices.
While buying electronic items, a general rule of thumb is to first identify usage – whether the product is a long-term or short-term purchase. Once that is decided upon, setting a budget becomes easy, since you know how much you will invest in it. The next thing one should decide is what wattage would best suit your needs. A 100-watt tube amp at its maximum might sound cool, but the noise will be too much for small spaces. A 5-watt tube amp is perfect for use in smaller areas. At its maximum, it will sound amazing, fitting your needs perfectly. Understanding the product specification is also important.
Before selecting a tube amp, you must look into its requirements that’ll help the tube amp produce quality sound. What items you already have, should match the requirements of the tube amp, or you should be able to purchase them separately if need be. One thing to note is that a 100-watt tube amp is not supposed to be twice as loud as a 50-watt tube amp. The only difference between them is 3 decibels and more headroom. The more the watt, the more room it occupies and increases in weight. So, unless you are able to carry the heavy tue amp or have people who’ll do it for you,you’re in for some heavy weight lifting.
The type of tube used in a tube amplifier affects the performance. This should be considered when buying a tube amp. Performance is affected as different types of power tubes have a particular sound based on their characteristics.
EL34: is more gnarly and a nasty sounding tube. It is not distorted but just a little aggressive. It is good for metal rock and is really powerful.
6L6: is completely different than the EL34. It has a cleaner sound and its mids are less powerful and honky. The overall tone is fluid.
6550: is similar to the 6L6. It has some grittiness in its mid-range. It is not very clean but has just the perfect sizzle for hard, dirty tones.
KT88: is based on the 6550. It is more refined and boosted and has less distortion than either the EL34 and the 6L6. It has a super clean sound and clears up the tone very well.
KT66: is the predecessor of the 6L6. KT66 is smoother in higher tones and even in the mids. It is more open sounding and has a better dynamic response.
KT77: sounds somewhere between the 6L6 and the EL34. The sound is a little more compressed than the 6L6 but not as much as the EL34.
6V6: is a smaller tube as compared to others. It gives the tone a sparkle at the top end and a chewiness to the bottom. The 6v6 roars spectacularly if you crank it up.
EL84: is a smaller tube, but gives a grittier, grainier feel to the tone. It lends a slightly dirtier tone to cleaner guitar tones than other amps.
The basics of the power amp are based around the wattage and the tube-type. The power amp is important as it affects the overall output, but the preamp is just as important as it’s the factor that shapes the tone. What should be considered in a preamp is the circuit type and the features it possesses, such as effects loop, reverb or multiple channels. Someone who uses one amp and plays a lot of different tones should consider buying a tube amp with multiple channels. This way, the distortions provided will be under control.
On a guitar amp, there may be anywhere between one to four channels. Tube amps with multiple channels provide users more flexibility to rely less on pedals for overdrive. The user can utilize the independent gain controls for each channel of the tube amps. Most high gain amps have two channels – the clean and gain channels. The user can turn up the preamp gain and leave the master volume set at a lower level, offering greater distortions at lower volume levels.
The preamp tube breaks up sound differently than the power tube.
While multiple channels offer more flexibility, to get more purity in tone, a single channel preamp is better. The tone of your music will be colored through springs in a reverb pan and multiple channels and other components and their settings. So, the more components in the single chain, the more the purity of the tone will alter.
It all comes down to the money There are many budget tube amps in the market that are a run for your money. The main aim is to get a better sound and that is relative. You can get a $4000 tube amp or get a $400 tube amp and they would probably have the same effect. It also depends on the quality of the instrument in use. As with most purchases, the budget decides on what we can buy.
One should see what are their basic use is and how much they can afford to invest. A budget is probably the biggest purchase constraint one can have, another way to ensure that you purchase a tube amp that fits right in your budget is to look at verified online websites that sell them. Many of these sites, like Amazon, have sales that are either based on brands or occasions.
So if you’re looking to buy a tube amp, you can save a ton of money if you purchase it on specific days – like on Black Friday or Prime Day. Many brands offer discounts online as well since they eliminate the store maintenance costs, you’ll get yourself a good deal at a better price. One way to go about it would be to create your own list stating all your requirements and then finding a budget tube amp that suits those needs. Here are our picks of the Top Ten Budget Tube Amps available in the market right now.