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Small Tube Amplifiers - Possibilities and Overview Part I

Coming to recording or live performance, one wants to get that 'proper' guitar sound on the output. Of course, many things on the way between you and a final sound are coming into play. It’s your head, hands (playing techniques, feeling etc.), your guitar, cables, effects, microphones and so on… But, if we assume that with the mentioned you are already satisfied, there is still one important key player remaining. Yes, it is your guitar amp, combo and speaker(s). What is the best choice here?

Well, there doesn’t exist any clear and unified answer to this question, as the demand for a guitar sound differs as much as many guitarists do exist (moreover, we should honestly concede that we (guitarists) will never be satisfied with our sound even we would spent all  our means on a guitar gear). However, there are some requirements concerning guitar sound/tone which are common for almost all guitarists. I am talking about that proper warm, rocky sound with nice space and distinctiveness. You guess correctly, I am talking about a tube sound; guitar sound produced by the tube guitar gear. If not considering guitar tube preamps or tube effect pedals, only way (and basically the best one) how to reach guitar sound of your dreams is to provide yourself with all tube guitar amp or combo. Then one can ask: “OK, why so many guitarists are happy with guitar amp simulations, non tube amplifiers or other solutions which doesn’t involve any tube circuits?" There are basically three major explanations for this:

First is price. As all tube guitar amps are products from upper price level (however, sound quality levels as well). Many guitarists, especially semi-pro and amateur, do not want to invest so much into amplification. Digital hardware simulating tube amp sounds is nowadays much cheaper offering tons of tube amp and speaker simulations as well as diverse set of effects in one pack. Naturally, not all of those sounds are the best ones, but you can find few really good and often very similarly sounding and responding as their real all tube counterparts.

Second reason is the easier operation and service of digital amp simulating music gear (including software). With the tube amplifier one has to be careful and has to devote more time and money into its service. One needs versatile gear which can be used in different environments such as in a garage, studio and during live performance getting all the time that one unique sound (using one compact solution). And one more thing, if a band goes to gig with an amp simulation music gear there is usually the need for one small car instead of a truck :-).

Third reason is that many people are just happy enough with their sound. They found the 'right cup of coffee' without tube gear. Of course, if a guitarist is considering the purchase of a guitar amp all these aspects are playing its role to some extent.

OK. But let’s assume we demand (and I am sure that majority of us really wants) real all tube guitar amplifier. So, what is coming into play now? It is still many aspects. But two of those are, I think, the most often popping up. First one is money again and second, even more often, how could one really fully use his tube amp, as we know that an amp has to be cranked up in order to get that proper sound out of it. It is understandable that you cannot kill your neighbors with a sound tsunami and the same way you do not want to convince your parents (or wife, girlfriend, lover - substitute what you want) to kick you out of your home, right? Moreover, how to be flexible and the same way do not resign your dream about magic tubes and a warm of nicely sounding amp?

And the answer is…..small, or even micro, tube amp/combo! And this is the main topic of this article. The main priory complains about small amps are that small is good for practicing at home, but what’s about gigs, practicing in the garage and what's about recording? Or something like ”I have heard many small and micro amps and the majority of them sounds like old radio of my grandfather, which he got as a present for his 10th birthdays and those which I am able to accept to some extent sounds still a bit unnaturally.” Yes, this often stands for truth, but for non-tube amps. I am considering only tube amplifiers here! This article deals with small all tube amps produced by the companies which are experts in the field of amplification. Furthermore, small tube amps sound basically excellent like their bigger brothers. However, smaller amps have different sound/tone character (thanking to smaller cabinet, smaller diameter of speakers, used tubes and their number and order etc.). That’s why the small tube amp is a long time secret weapon of toneful guitarists and wily producers to getting big, cranked-to-the-max tube tones down on tape. One can prefer this more than sound of big amps.

Another concerns often connected with the purchase of small amps are related to performance and volume. Well, you cannot compare non-tube amplifier with the all tube one. Even 5W tube amp can successfully be used for practicing in your garage, for recording and the same time for small gigs (just watch videos throughout this article). For larger concerts you have to take such a small amp with a microphone. Moreover many small tube amps possess the switch for changing the power output. Thus you are able to choose for instance between 15W and 5W depending on your current demands on output power. And then, finally depends only on you what sound, features or brand do you prefer. Hopefully, this overview of small tube amps will help you a bit. Let’s look at hot candidates for your personal small “big” amp.


Crate V5

Alt popis V5 Class A combo features a single EL84 output tube producing 5 watts through a single 10" speaker. Low wattage through minimal EQ and a small speaker can equal awesome tone when dimed. It possess realy simple circuit. As it contains tube this combo is producing the sweet, pure cleans and warm, crunchy overdrive. Operation is very simple. On the panel you will find only volume knob, gain and tone/shape controls which give you quite wide range for a small practice/recording amplifier.


Alt popis • Single-ended, Class A
• 1 x 10" speaker
• 1 x EL84 output tube
• Volume and tone controls


Laney CUB8

Alt popisThe CUB 8 is again all tube guitar amp with its roots fairly and squarely back in the very beginning of tube amp production. There are plenty of situations when small is king and having an amplifier like the CUB 8 allows you to get 'THAT' vintage sound. The CUB 8 features a classic single-ended Class A design, and is loaded with a single ECC83 in the pre amp section and a single 6V6GT in the output section generating 5 watts RMS of vintage tube tone. The CUB 8's control panel is simple like in other small amps - a tone control, a volume control, Hi and LO input and that's all. The CUB 8 houses an 8" Celestion driver. Using a CUB 8 is straightforward, plug in, dial in your tone and wind the volume up a little and the 6V6GT's respond in a bright, bouncy and brilliant fashion. Drive the output section harder and the increased 2nd and 3rd order harmonics give the tone a pronounced bottom end and a lovely lower mid.


Alt popis• Power RMS 5 Watts
• Inputs 2 : Hi & Lo
• Equalisation Tone Control
• Preamp Valves 1x ECC83
• Output Valves 1x 6v6GT
• Class A
• Speaker connections 8 - 16 Ohm external speaker socket
• Drivers 1x Celestion Super 8
• Weight 6 Kg
• Dimensions width 305mm x height 301mm x depth 205mm

Laney CUB10

The CUB 10 looks like just a bigger CUB 8, but it is a different amplifier and comes from further along the evolutionary path of tube amp design. The CUB 10 is a Class A/B design and produces 10 watts RMS of power from an output section loaded with a pair of 6v6GT's, driven from a pre amp loaded with 2 ECC83's. The pre amp compliment consists of a Tone control, a Volume control and a Gain control, along with a set of Hi & Lo input jacks. The CUB 10 houses a 10" Celestion driver.

Alt popisFeatures:

• The CUB 10's Class A/B
• Power RMS 10 Watts
• Inputs 2 : Hi & Lo
• Equalisation Tone Control
• Preamp Valves 2x ECC83
• Output Valves 2x 6v6GT
• Class A/B
• Speaker connections 8 - 16 Ohm external speaker socket
• Drivers 1x Celestion Tube 10
• Weight 8.25 Kg
• Dimensions width 365mm x height 355mm x depth 220mm

Laney LionHeart L5T-112

Alt popisLionheart represents Laney tube heritage, distilled into a single amplifier range. Designed to deliver the ultimate tone of a tube being pushed hard - warm and expressive, at an output level which can be used in everyday environments. This amp provides the evocative, classic tones of hot tubes pushed hard, but at a volume level your neighbours can live with! Featuring the purest of designs - 'single-ended' Class A output achieved with a single EL84, driven from 3x 12AX7


Power RMS 5 Watts
Inputs 2x Jack, Hi & Lo
Channels Clean & Drive
Equalisation Passive Bass, Middle and Treble
• Bright Switch
• Preamp Valves 3x 12ax7
• Output Valves 1x EL84
• Class Class A
• Reverb
• Footswitch FS2 (Included)
• Speaker connections 2x Jacks
• FX Loop(s)
• Impedance 4 and 8 ohm
• Drivers 1x 12" Celestion Heritage G12H
• Baffle Marine Grade Plywood

• Cabinet Design Marine Grade Plywood cabinet with retro banding strip, leather strap handle and folding tilt back mechanism
• Weight 21.5 Kg
• Dimensions Width 562 x Height 423 x Depth 253
• Channel Controls Gain (Clean), Gain & Volume (Drive)
• Master Section Global EQ, Reverb and Tone controls


Orange AD5

Alt popis 5 Watt Single Ended, 1x10" Combo. This classic was originally available in the early 2000s and only produced in very limited numbers. Since then it has become a real collectors piece, even being listed in Aspen Pittman's 'Groove Tubes' book. It has a classic vintage amp character, and at at such a low power is ideal to record with, or simply get those great live cranked sounds in your bedroom without annoying your neighbours (too much). It has only two controls - Volume and Tone.


Alt popis • All Plywood Construction
• Output 5 Watts RMS,
• Celestions G10N-40 speaker
• Valves 1 x EL84, 1 x ECC83/12AX7
• Speaker 16ohm

Orange Tiny Terror Combo

Alt popisThe legendary Tiny Terror in combo form. All the features of the original head, all valve, 15 watt, switchable down to 7, our unique two stage pre-amp which uses just three controls. All in a high quality 18mm plywood cabinet and fitted with a fantastic Celestion G12H-30 70th Anniversary speaker. It possess Gain, Tone and Volume controls.


• 3 Stage Gain,
• Celestion G12H-30 speaker
Alt popis• Output 15 Watt RMS (switchable down to 7 Watt)
• Valves 2 x EL84, 2 X ECC83/12AX7
• Speaker 1 x 16 ohm, 2 x 8ohm
• Weight 17kgs (TBC)


Blackheart BH1H

Alt popisAttainable, boutique quality fractional tube amp. Featuring Class A, Single Ended circuitry, it delivers the complete, classic, touch responsive tube tone you need but at more manageable volumes for apartment dwellers and recording sessions.

Designed on a beer stained cocktail napkin, prototyped, built and tested in a one car garage in Austin, TX, and engineered to the same strict standards as the Little Giant 5, this "little head" delivers the tones, the smells and the attitude you want when sonic bliss is everything and volume needs to be kept at bay. The Killer Ant embraces 100% classic all tube circuitry but, instead of a high power tube output section, it boasts a clever, all tube power block pumping out a mere fraction of 1W. What you get is arena rock tone at bedroom levels.

Like its big bro, it features completely overbuilt component specs, from 1W resistors in the signal path to double sided PCB with 2 oz traces. Even its diminutive cabinet, just over palm sized, is built to take a beating with 15 ply (18mm) void-free wood covered expertly in durable black tolex. Final touches include distinctive white piping accents and a salt & pepper cloth covered front baffle. 4, 8 and 16-ohm extension speaker jacks allow you to hook the Ant into virtually any cab you like, including a 4 X 12.


• 1 Watt RMS, Single-Ended, Class A
• Outputs: 1 x 16 ohm jack, 1 x 8 ohm jack, 1 x 4 ohm jack
• Preamp Tubes: 2 x 12AX7
• Solid State Rectifier
• Volume (the rest of the tone is in your hands)
• DC Power to filaments for super quiet operation
• 15 ply, 18mm thick-void free plywood construction

Blackheart BH5-112

Alt popis5W, Single-Ended, Class A combo amp powered by an EL84 and voiced through a 12AX7 preamp tube. The Blackheart Little Giant BH5-112 combo is classic boutique amplifier design delivered in a robust, stylish package. With a switchable pentode/triode selector and 3-band EQ controls you get the amp to deliver true tonal range, from instantaneous punch to deliciously greasy overdrive, and with precise control over output volume. The open back tuned design and (blue frame) Blackheart model 1216A Speaker by Eminence is the fruit of extensive research involving Blackheart and Eminence. The result is a very musical and responsive combo. Under its exterior you'll find a 16 gauge, folded and welded steel chassis, 1/2" corner radiuses, 15 ply, void-free birch cabinetry and meticulous tolex work insuring years of reliable performance.


Alt popis5W Single-Ended, Class A amplifier
• 4, 8 and 16 ohm Speaker Outs
• Preamp Tubes: 1 x 12AX7
• Power Tubes: 1 x EL84
• Solid State Rectifier
• Volume with 3-Band EQ
• Pentode (5W)/Triode (3W) Switch
• 12" Blackheart Model 1216A Speaker by Eminence with American Voicing and optimized for open back cabinet
• DC Power to filaments for super quiet operation
• 15 ply (18mm) thick-void free Plywood Construction
• 1W resistors in signal path, 2W & 5W resistors in power supply


Fender Champion 600

Alt popisChampion 600 is a fun and affordable tribute to a rare and historic Fender amp. Champion 600 is a 5-watt tube amp with a 6” speaker and 1950 “two-tone” looks. Fender added a higher-gain preamp circuit to let the overdriven tone exceed that of the original, and a choice of high- or low-gain inputs had been added as well. Internal speaker jack enables use of a larger speaker cabinet.

Alt popis • Output: 5 watts
• Ohms: 4 ohms
• Speakers: One 6", 4-ohm Special Design Driver with Ceramic Magnet (0073904000)
• Channels: Two (Instrument and Microphone)
• Tube Preamp and Tube Power Amp (One 12AX7 tube; One 6V6 tube).
• 5 watts Into a 6" Special Design Speaker.
• High-Gain and Low-Gain Inputs;
• Hotter Preamp Circuit than the 1950 Original for Warm Natural Overdrive when Turned Up.
• Single Volume Control.
• External Speaker Output.
• Brown and Blonde Vinyl Covering;
• Vintage-Correct 1950 "Two-Tone" Cosmetics.
• Leather Strap Handle.
• Red Jeweled Pilot Light.
• Controls: Volume
• Covering: Brown and blonde vinyl covering; vintage-correct 1950 "two-tone" cosmetics.
•  Weight: 15 lbs. (7 kg) Dimensions: Height: 11" (28 cm)
•W idth: 12" (31 cm)
•Depth: 7.5" (19 cm)
•Power Handling: N/A Tube Complement: 1-12AX7A 1-6V6 (Diode Rectifier)

Fender Vibro-Champ XD

Alt popisFender Vibro Champ XD takes the vintage Vibro Champ into a new era with classic styling, simple controls, a good variety of clean and distorted tones and tube feel. Features include a real tube amp combined with up-to-date extras including versatile amp voicing and superb DSP effects. Its solid-state overdrive and distortion eliminate many of the preamp tube problems that plague tube lovers while providing exemplary tones for rock, blues, country, jazz, metal and more.


•Tube Amplifier with DSP
•Output: 5 watts (Class "A")
•Ohms: 4 ohms
•Speakers: One 8", 4-ohm Special Design Speaker, p/n 0073857000
•Channels: One

•5 Watt Tube Class A Power Amp.

•"Voice" Control with 16 Different Amp Voicings Delivering Various Clean and Overdriven Tones for any Style of Music: Blues, Rock, Country, Jazz, Metal, and More.

•16 DSP Effects (Vibratone Slow; Vibratone Fast; Delay 130ms; Delay 300ms; Delay 450ms; Large Room Reverb; Concert Hall Reverb; Classic Fender Spring Reverb; Reverb+Delay; Fast Chorus; Deep Chorus; Chorus+Delay; Chorus+Reverb; Tremolo Low Speed; Tremolo Medium Speed; Tremolo High Speed).

•External Speaker Output Allows use with External Speaker Cabinet Line Output.

•Strap Handle.
•Red Jeweled Pilot Light.
•Controls: Gain, Volume, Voice, Treble, Bass, FX Level, FX Select
•Covering: Black Textured Vinyl with Silver Grille Cloth; Chrome Hardware; Blackface Control Panel Weight: 23 lbs (10.4 kg) Dimensions: Height: 14" (35.5 cm),
•Width: 17" (43.2 cm),
•Depth: 8.7" (22 cm) Power Handling: N/A Tube Complement: 1-12AX7A 1-6V6 (Diode Rectifier)

Fender '57 Champ

Alt popisThe Fender Champ amp of the late 1950s is well known as the small-but-mighty tone machine that belongs in every serious guitarist’s collection. The release of the '57 Champ adds this iconic, one-of-a-kind product to Fender's '57 Tweed Series. The tweed Champ is a practice amp, and has been a prized possession of countless pro players for its great sounding, low-output, easy-to-record capabilities. This faithful hand-wired recreation of the 1957 Champ amp is not just for collectors or retro-minded guitarists. Any player seeking the ultimate in low-powered, top-quality tube performance need check this out!

Alt popis•Output: 5 watts into 4 ohms
•Ohms: 4 ohms
•Speakers: 1-8" Weber® Special Design 4 ohm, 10 watt, AlNiCo Magnet Speaker, P/N 0077212000
•Channels: Single Channel with Two Inputs: INPUT 1 Full Sensitivity Input for Most Guitars.
• INPUT 2 Lower Sensitivity Input (-6dB) to Provide High Output Guitars with Cleaner Response.
• Leather Strap Handle,
• Chrome Control Panel,
• Black Vintage Pointer Knob,
• Toggle On/Off Switch,
• Red Jeweled Pilot Light,
• Finger-Jointed Solid Pine Cabinet,
• Hand-Wired 5F1 Circuit Controls: Volume (Goes to 12!)
• Covering: Lacquered Tweed with Oxblood Grille Cloth
• Weight: 16.5 lbs. (7.5 kg)
• Dimensions: Height: 13.5" (34.3 cm),
• Width: 12.5" (31.8 cm),
• Depth: 7.8" (19.8 cm) Power
• Tube Complement: 1 X 6V6GT, 1 X 12AX7, 1 X 5Y3GT (Rectifier)


Mesa Boogie TransAtlantic TA-15

Alt popisThe TA-15 packs all the footswitchable performance – including patented MULTI-WATT™ Channel Assignable Power – found in high-end full-size models of Mesa and offers the most classic British and American sounds in a beautiful 12 3/8”W x 6 3/4”D x 5 7/8”H package that weighs only 12 pounds. Two channels feature 5 Modes that cross the Atlantic with ultimate finesse and flexibility, creating the most portable all-tube gig companion ever. Choose a preamp style in each channel and then select the perfect power for it from 3 expressive output choices; 5 Watts Single-Ended CLASS A, 15 Watts CLASS A or 25 Watts. The Channel Modes start off with lower gain NORMAL and higher gain classic versions of the iconic TOP BOOST sound in Channel 1, which includes an ingenious Pull MASTER on the CUT control that can be Hard Bypassed for purists. Channel 2 houses three Modes; a gorgeous TWEED™ clean, a British high gain in HI 1 and a classic Boogie® Lead in HI 2. All this comes in its sturdy padded gig bag that holds both Power Cable and Footswitch and allows easy access of the Retractable Handle.


• Ultra Compact
• All-metal chassis - black crinkle & Platinum pearl powder
• Massive Tone & New Styling - 12 3/8”W x 6 3/4”D x 5 7/8” H – Weighs Only 12 Pounds!

• Multi-Watt™, Channel Assignable Power Amp (Patent 7,602,927) featuring Duo-Class™ (Patent 7,173,488) and Dyna-Watt™ (Patent 4,713,624) technologies providing three power and operating class options that are channel assignable via independent 5/15/25 Watt Power Switches: Choose 1 power tube operating in pure Class A Single-Ended, producing 5 Watts - 2 tubes operating in pure Class A Push-Pull, producing 15 Watts or 2 tubes operating in Mesa’s Patented Dyna-Watt™ Power that maximizes the power and punch of time-honored Class A/B power / 2xEL-84 & 4x12AX7

Fixed Bias for consistent, maintenance free performance

• 2 Fully Independent Channels with 5 Stylest Modes with Multi-Watt Power Switch (5/15/25 Watt), Volume (gain) Modes -Channel 1 features Normal (Brit Clean) or Top Boo, Treble, Bass, Cut w/Pull Master - Channel 2 features Tweed, Hi 1 (Brit Gain) & Hi 2 (Fat Gain) Modes with Multi-Watt Power Switch (5/15/25 Watt), Gain, Treble, Bass & Master

• 1 Button Footswitch (Channel 1/2)

• Padded Gig Bag w/Strap

Mesa Boogie Express Amplifiers - 5:25 and 5:50

Alt popisTake the 5:25, running EL-84’s straight to the studio for the ultimate big sounding, little amp. Or, catch the 5:50 running 6L6’s out of Fullerton, heading uptown to the gig. Both 25 and 50- watt models feature four modes from two oppositie personalities spread across two fully independent channels.
You can select Clean and Blues for your two footswitchable sounds. Or, if you’re addicted to Gain, choose Crunch and Burn, or change it into a hardcore beast.

Up front, that number “5” indicates the low power, single-ended magic of pure Class A. The “25” and “50” refer to the rated push-pull output. Together, these make up Duo-Class™ power circuit patented by Mesa to offer both single-ended and push-pull configurations in the same amplifier.
Each channel is further equipped with its own Contour depth control for added shaping that’s both assignable and footswitchable. Used subtly, Contour adds a halo of depth and chime to gleaming clean sounds. Higher Contour settings, especially in Crunch and Burn, take you into Recto™ turf, tight, huge and menacing.


Alt popis• Mode Switches:
Two Channels, Four Fully Evolved Modes. The pristine, blooming CLEAN and tight, grinding CRUNCH cover the rhythm territories in Channel 1 while Channel 2 roams the wide open spaces of soloing with howling BLUES and soaring BURN modes.

• Contour Controls
Both Channels feature Assignable / Footswitchable CONTOUR controls that pack the sonic power of a multi-band EQ into one simple control. Blend this dynamic, bouncy circuit with the musically rich TONE controls for a sound that you will not hear so often from a combo.
External Switch Jacks

• CHANNELS, REVERB and the CONTOUR controls can be patched to an external master switching system for remote access. The transparent series EFFECTS LOOP handles the interface to all outboard processing.

• Patented Duo-Class™ Power Switching let’s you switch the Class (operating class) and Configuration (wiring style) in tandem, giving you two dialed power-voice ranges with the flick of a switch.

• EXPRESS 5:25
Duo-Class™ Power Amp (Patent 7,173,488) allows you to select either:
1 power tube in pure Class A (single-ended) producing 5 Watts or switching to
2 power tubes in Class A/B to produce 25 Watts via a 5/25 Power Switch / 2xEL-84 & 5x12AX7

• EXPRESS 5:50
Duo-Class™ Power Amp (Patent 7,173,488) allows you to select either:
1 power tube in pure Class A (single-ended) producing 5 Watts or switching to
2 power tubes in Class A/B to produce 50 Watts via a 5/50 Power Switch / 2x6L6 & 5x12AX7

To be continued…

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