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Best Small Tube Amp

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  1. Anny Mouse

    Hi guys,

    A week or so ago I started a post on pedals and got some great responses. Very helpful. Now I'm in the market for a great tube amp with a few qualifications.

    This is for small combo gigs and home practice. Does not need to be more than 30 watts probably (if that). It should be light and on the smaller side, ie. less than 40 pounds. Lots of stairs to travel each day with no elevator. Made really well (not prone to bad tube rattle, etc...).

    While money is obviously an object I'm curious to hear what amp you'd chose if money was NO object, AND the amp you'd chose to stay practical and get the job done.

    For example a Tone King Metropolitan if money was no object and a Fender Blues Junior to get the job done.


  2. fakejake

    Simply the best amp, by far, that I ever played was a 1964 Fender Deluxe Amp. It's like the Deluxe Reverb, but without reverb. Up to that point I had only fallen in love with guitars (..and girls) and would have never thought I could ever have similar feelings for an amp. I dreamed about it for days afterwards. Sadly, it was out of my range price wise, around 2000 euros. These are really rare and due to the missing reverb circuit sound quite different than (even vintage) deluxe reverbs. Heavenly!!

    To get the job done I'd probably hunt for a used Princeton Reissue and put in a 12'' speaker and 6L6 tubes. Should deliver more than enough headroom for small gigs + it's light and easy to carry around.

    If it should be really inexpensive, try a Peavey Classic 30. A friend of mine gigs with one and seems happy with it

  3. jorgemg1984

    Well that's a tough question - if there was no money objection there are tons of great amps that I never tried but imagine being great - Fuchs Clean Machine, Dr Z EZG-50, Port City Pearl all came to mind as fender / dumble inspired amps but with something personal. Some blackface recreations like Vintage Sound Amps, Gries or Tube Tone also seem great but are clones of old amps, nothing original. The Gries seems great for the price actually...

    I don't have any of those amps because it's simply too expensive to import to Europe and I don't have enough work that justifies having one of those. Right now I have a jazzmaster ultralight and several cabs to use with it; I am going to get a backup that is a very personal project that I will share if it's as good and cheap as I think it will be. I also have an AC-60 for acoustics and small gigs / reharsals / jams with an archtop that's alway in my car. Between the three I will be done for some time I hope.

    If I was shopping for a tube amp with money restrictions I would probably go for a used fender silverface Vibrolux Reverb - they are usually quite cheap in the US. I will then mod it to have a three knob reverb instead of reverb and vibrato, put reverb on both channels and have a baxandall eq on the normal channel like ampeg / polytone. Probably mess a little with the tone stack on the vibrato channel too in order to make it more suited to jazz. I would also probably put a new 1x12 baffle and Cannabis Rex in there instead of the stock 2x10.

    Hope this helps :)

  4. aramaya

    it's not a tube amp, but the fender jazzmaster ultralight amp is incredible (if you can find one). The head and cabinet are separate; head weighs about 10lbs. and comes with a shoulder bag; the cabinet is about 7lbs. extremely portable. why specifically do you want a tube amp? I spent years messing with tube amps until I bought a beat up old polytone for $150 and got the sound my ear had been hearing!

  5. Anny Mouse

    Great suggestions so far guys. I like the idea of a princeton but switching to a 12 inch speaker with 6L6's...(Kreisberg style).

    Aramaya as far as solid state vs tube it's just a tone preference. I also like the way tube amps take overdrive pedals better. More warmth, depth, breath, dynamics, etc.. I feel like an amp is an instrument in itself and tube seems to be more organic to play and hear imo.

    I have an AER compact 60 that I use for a lot of things but when you run an OD pedal into watch out and cover your ears :) I had a Polytone in the past and liked it but I wasn't playing pedals through it so I can't remember if it takes pedals well or not...

  6. jorgemg1984

    Ever heard The Remedy? The rat does sound well with Kurt's Polytone! :) I have had good experiences with gain and solid state amps; I think the ones that don't sound go are the low-gain verge of breakup ones.- I am waiting for a tube screamer to arrive but my rat sounds very good with SS amps.

    BTW I second the jazzmaster ultralight. It's just incredible!

    http://tube-tone.com/princeton-plus.php This one with a Cannabis Rex should be excellent for jazz!

  7. aramaya

    I have a pedal board with about 8 pedals running into either my polytone, the jazzmaster, or a hughes&kettner (all solid state) and each sounds great. It took me awhile to figure out that there are some great solid state amps. i really enjoy the immediate response of these amps and the punchiness of a closed back cabinet. that said, I understand your preference. There is a Mesa Boogie 25watt head (mini-rectifier?) that I played recently that I thought sounded great. I have been dabbling with some other mesa's as well. they are just so damn steep!

  8. jbroad

    you guys should look into redplate amps. i have a little blackloop 1x12 combo and it just smokes! it's 35 lbs and is 40 watts.

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  9. Anny Mouse

    Yeah Kurt's tone on the remedy is great but I think I prefer it more since he switched to tube amps. And I've owned boogie's in the past when I played more rock and roll gigs. Those were always great. Problem is they're just so heavy and have a fair amount of hiss even at low volume. One of the best amps I've played so far was the Dr. Z Maz 18. I just wish it weren't 55 pounds. Maybe I should hit the gym more :)

  10. Thanks aramaya for saying it first (... I've gone off 3 or 4 different about how great the jazz master ultralight is and I wasn't going to do it again ; in fear of being perceived as some brand loyalty weirdo but instead- ill support your mention of this amazing amp).

  11. jorgemg1984

    Jbroad you like good amps, Redplate and Port City! :) Redplate seem awesome, how do they sound for jazz? Always seen them as blues oriented.

  12. add4

    you might want to try a tremolux too, i have one of these, and it's basically a deluxe with 6L6 instead of 6V6 tubes. so you get 35 watts instead of 22.
    That changes the sound a bit, but it still sounds awesome.
    I think mine would really benefit from a loudspeaker change/upgrade (originals from '62 at the moment, i guess paper gets old). But you could find a deluxe for a much more affordable price, i payed my tremolux 800 euros 8 years ago.

  13. jorgemg1984

    Good suggestion add4, forgot about that one!

    "It took me awhile to figure out that there are some great solid state amps. i really enjoy the immediate response of these amps and the punchiness of a closed back cabinet"

    I agree with the closed back suggestion, right now I have a convertible cab and for jazz it's always closed! I disagree with the immediate response part, that's one of the thing I like tube amps more and that's actually one of the many brilliant things about the jazzmaster ultralight - it's attack is quite slower than most solid state amps and much closer to tube amps.

    One good idea is a separate head and cab - two liftable pieces instead of one heavy. This way you can also go for a convertible cab and change between open and closed back which is impossible with a tube combo, they need to be open to dissipate heat.

  14. jbroad

    jorge- the redplate that i have sounds amazing for jazz. the cool thing is that there is a 6 way "mids" selector so you can have the scooped sound of a blackface fender or you can have an amp that's more like a tweed with tons of mids. the great thing is that it's only 35 lbs and is a very loud 40 watts so it's the perfect little NYC jazz amp

  15. Sandemose

    jorgemg1984 I think Kurt used Fender Twin on the Remedy, and not his Polytone.

    Best, Sandemose

  16. jorgemg1984


    Here he says it's the last record with the Polytone.I think Reflections was the first time he used the Twin...

    Jbroad that's nice to know, I always heard great things about Redplate but TGP can be a little over hyped sometimes. How do you compare the Port City and the Redplate?

  17. jbroad

    both the redplate and the port city pearl are amazing sounding amps. the redplate has more features (it has 2 channels and you are able to use the clean and the od channel together) so it's more versatile. i had a port city head and cab and my redplate is a little 1x12 combo so it's a little easier to carry around for gigs and sessions. you really can't go wrong with either one though

  18. gleepglop

    Shit, you guys like some expensive amps. I prefer a Fender Deluxe (or Princeton if I really want a smaller amp).

    Old Deluxes are expensive, but they didn't really mess them up during the CBS era as much as people would have you believe, at least in the earlier years. So if you can find an early to mid 70s silverface they mostly sound good, and can be easily modded to BF specs if you want, for much less than a 60s one. The SF princetons can still be found pretty cheap, especially non-reverb models. The Princeton was almost entirely unchanged until about 1978, if I recall. The amps that were really messed up by CBS were the bigger ones, especially the twin.

    The reissues deluxes sound good, and you can find them around $600 used if you are a little patient. Construction is not as robust as vintage ones, and they are a little heavier it seems.

    If money were no object, I'd get a 64 DR, and a 1970 vibrolux modded to BF specs and one of the 10s switched out for a 12 (I couldn't butcher a BF like that).

  19. InWalked

    Headstrong Lil' King

  20. i thought we were allowed to consider amps in any price range? my amp was like $1100ish... knowing i won't buy an amp again and having a lil' beast that can blow shit out of the water when playing with 2 drummers and 10 other people while others are mic'd and i opted to not bother because of time constraints and my thing was not even up to its full capacity and it has a 7.5 lbs head- makes this cheap to me. i do not need or foresee needing another amp again. other amps : the AER, yes its clean but it also is a mid heavy poodle that cannot do anything other clean, its novel...like playing through your home stereo system.

  21. jbroad

    there's a newer amp company called tyler amps based in new jersey. wayne krantz has been using a tyler head and 2 extension cabinets lately. i got to play one of their "princetone" amps which (obviously) was based on a fender princeton. it actually sounded better to me then my real '66 princeton that i used to have. it was also loaded with a jensen jet tornado neo speaker which only weighs 4 lbs. the amp sounded excellent and weighed next to nothing.

    here are some links to some of my favorite amps being made today:




  22. Barry Mando

    Some great suggestions, fellers! Im surprised no one mentioned Carr Amps. Steve Carr makes a great small tube amp called, Rambler. Very clean with decent head room and fantastic tone. Perfect for small gigs and practice.

    Carr Rambler

  23. aramaya

    the mesa mark V is awesome. I have been checking it out since I posted last and if I were to convert to
    tube amps this would be the one for me. The reverb alone is worth it! However, I am not about to drop the $2000.

  24. gleepglop

    Anyone looking, there's a SF Deluxe Reverb on NY CL right now for $900, good price if it's a decent one.

  25. gleepglop

  26. portcityamps

    You may want to try the Port City Twelve combo. It is lightweight and super loud for only being 12 watts. Simple yet very versatile.

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  27. Anny Mouse


    How would you compare the clean headroom and overall volume of this amp compared to a Princeton Reverb? Another way to phrase the question is, will I have enough clean headroom to play a jazz trio gig (bass, guitar, drums) before it starts to break up to much? Does it start breaking up about halfway?

  28. sweetdeat

    I am a proud owner of a Port City Pearl Combo...

    Daniel makes such incredible amps...everyone needs to get hip to what he's got going on. The Pearl that I have has head room for days and takes pedals EXTREMELY well...maybe the best amp for taking pedals I've ever had a chance to play on. His cabinets are incredible also...

    Dig it folks!


  29. portcityamps

    The Twelve amp will get pretty loud and still stay clean. As for as being able to to play with a drummer with it clean that depends on the drummer. It is louder than a PR for sure though.



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