You Can Get A Vintage Tone. Look at Our Best 5 Watt Tube Amp Update

This is our review of the Best 5 Watt Tube Amp

As you’ve reached this page, you’re probably already a fan of the tube amp, or you’ve heard somebody talk about how good they are. 

Many guitarists regard the tube amp as the bee’s knees. But are they all that? Yes, in my opinion. I love the vintage sound and can’t see myself ever not having one. 

Authority Guitar has dug deep to extensively review the best 7 small tube amps up to 5 Watts. At 5 watts you can get a low priced but beautifully sounding amp. 

There are many awful inexpensive amps you can get tricked into buying. So I’ve stayed away from those, as they’re a total waste of money. The trick is to know what to look out for. 

I’ve done all the work for you. Let’s take a look at 7 which I loved:

Quick Glance, The 5 ‘Best Small Tube Amps’

  1. Monoprice 5-Watt Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier
  2. Bugera T5 5-Watt Cage-Style Amplifier Head
  3. Bugera V5 INFINIUM Class A Tube Amplifier Combo
  4. Blackstar Ht5r Mkii 5 Watt 1×12 Tube Guitar Amp Combo 
  5. Marshall Dsl5cr 5-Watt 1×10″ Tube Guitar Combo Amplifier
  6. Fender ’68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb 5-Watt 1×10″ Guitar Tube Amplifier
  7. Engl Metalmaster 20 Combo 1×10 E304 Guitar Amplifier

How To Choose The Best Small Tube Amp

How do you choose the best tube amp? This all depends on personal taste. It’s like asking an art dealer, ‘what is the best painting?’ 

I’ve considered a budget scale, wattage, brand, and durability in this review. As we all have different requirements for a tube amp.

Here are some valuable facts to make your decision easier.

Let’s Start With Wattage:

Wattage is in relation to power. Don’t get this confused with the volume. It’s not the same thing. 

A guitar amp’s wattage will determine a point when the volume starts to distort. So, the higher the number of watts, is how loud the amp has to go before it starts breaking up. 

Breaking up’ is a guitar term used by musicians when you’ve found the fuzzy, growling, or gritty tone on the amp. Basically, it’s the Crème de la crème of a guitar amp tone. This is a sound you need in your life. 

If you’re considering spending that bit extra on a tube amp, we need to look at how to get the most out of it. 

Firstly, you’d need to turn it up loud (or to the breaking point, as mentioned above). This saturates the power amp and uses the speakers to their full potential. 

This is the point where you’ll get a warmer sound than if you hadn’t pushed the power amp enough. So it’s clear to see, if you have a 5 watt amp and you only push it to 3 watts, you won’t be getting the full potential. 

We need to find out how much wattage you require.

What Watt Do I Need?

1-5 Watts

If you’re a ‘home player’, you possibly need to consider the size of the amp. Amplifiers that give you 1-5 watts are perfect for home use as you can turn them up and get your crunchy aggressive tone, without getting a crunchy aggressive neighbor. 

They are light and small and can be tucked away after use.

5-15 Watts

5-15 watts, again, can be ok at home. You can gig with this size amp unless you have a ‘John Bonham’ on drums!

This size may suit the small venue guitarist or guitar tutor. The amps are a little heavier than the 1-5 watts, but still ok to carry around 

20 Watts Upwards

Live gigs, studio use, or busker, 20+ watts is probably best for you.

I have a 40 watt Fender Blues Deluxe at home, as I’ve spent the last 3 years gigging. I’ve just looked at my volume knob and it’s at 1.25! And it’s still, really loud. 

This volume in my house is a little too loud. When I play live, I haven’t ever been over 2.5. So, this gives you an idea of factoring in how much wattage you need.

The 7 Best 5 Watt Tube Amps

I understand we all have different requirements for a tube amp. I’ve split the best amps with different budgets, from low budget right up to the best on the market. There’s something here for everybody. 

This way you can see the best amp for your requirements.

Lets go:

1- Monoprice 5-Watt Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier

Best Entry/Beginner/Child Option

Monoprice Low Watt Tube Amp
  • Sounds Great At Low Volume, Cuts Up Very Early, Looks Great With Your Furniture, Ridiculously Affordable, Perfect For Children
  • Not Suitable At Louder Volumes

The Monoprice (Stage Right) Tube Amp is a very popular budget line product for those not needing a decent amp without the huge costs. 

Simplicity is the key here. Just plugin and play. The basic controls consist of a volume and tone knob. You Are also given a 1w or 5w button which determines at what volume your guitar will start to break up with that vintage crunch tone. With the button pushed in, the amp will break up at low volumes. 

This tiny little beast somehow has an 8inch speaker inside which produces a dazzling clean sound at 4. This is a bonus for any bedroom players or those wanting to practice but not upset anyone nearby.

Considering the size of the unit you’re actually given a spectrum of great tones. Good selection of mids to high end and a surprisingly beefy low end.

With so many positive reviews from buyers, you cannot argue with a ‘tube’ amp at such a low price. 

It almost seems scandalous selling the Monoprice for this amount

Spec

12 x 12.2 x 8.3 inches, Item Weight 16.76 pounds. 1×8 Guitar Combo Tube Amplifier. ECC83/12AX7 preamplification tube and a 6V6GT power tube. Celestion Super 8 GBA-15 speaker


2- Bugera T5 5-Watt Cage-Style Amplifier Head With Infinium Tube Life Multiplier And Reverb Multi Colored

Best Portable Option

Bugera low watt amp head tube amp
  • Stylish Authentic Design, Lots of Tones Possible, Lightweight, Affordable, Loud
  • Could Do With A Deeper Lower End

No, it’s not a toaster!

Bugera is another suitable option at the lower end of the budget scale. if you’re wanting to rehearse with a bit more volume and power, then this would be your starting point.

Extremely affordable and lightweight and a massive step up. Due to its tiny size, it can be carried to guitar lessons or tucked away easily after use.

Bugera is a fantastic company for tiny starter amps. The T5 Infinium 5 watt amp is driven by two tubes (12AX7 & EL84). As we have two tubes you’re guaranteed more of a traditional clean and crunch early on. 

With a superb array of tones to carve out, the band eq section has the standard options plus a gain and high def reverb. 

The Phat button is basically a boost for those moments you feel like banging it a bit harder. Everyone who plays guitar wants a BOOST button.  

The volume is extremely responsive. This is great as it gives you the option to play at home when the kids are in bed. 

Absolutely a top pick for me. A great seller and a product that fills a requirement. 

Spec

8.74 x 6.5 x 6.1 inches Item Weight Vintage Equalizer section 1 x 12AX7 and 1 x EL84 tubes 9.04 pounds


3- Bugera V5 INFINIUM Class A Tube Amplifier Combo

Best Budget Option

bugera v5 infinium low watt tube amps
  • Pros: Fantastic Value For Money. 2 Way Attenuator Built-In. Looks Great In The House. Simple Controls. Class A Tubes
  • Cons: Headphone Sound Not Great

The Bugera V5 Infinium is the perfect amp for the bedroom or home player. It’s small and compact and really good value for money.

Due to the 2020 world situation with the pandemic, there has been a huge boom in sales of small amps. 

This little tank is my favorite practice amp. An incredible vintage tone for such a small amp. 

The Bugera is loaded with 3 x 12AX7 preamp and 2 x EL84 power tubes. 

An old-school-looking equalizer with dedicated tone control and a built-in 2-way power attenuator. This allows you to get ultimate sound at any volume from 5 watts to 1. 

The best way to describe the Bugera’s tone would be sweetly purring blues to thick scratchy crunch. The clean channel is surprisingly full and very rich in tone. A real steal for the lower-budget buyer.

Spec

Item Weight 22 pounds.Product Dimensions 13.94 x 8.62 x 14.02 inches. 1 x EL84 tube. 8” TURBOSOUND speaker


4- Blackstar Ht5r Mkii 5 Watt 1×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amplifier

Best Value For Money

  • Effects Loop, Foot Switch, It’s Loud!, Trustworthy Brand, Value For Money, 
  • A Bit Dull In Appearance
Blackstar Tube Combo amp

Well built and a reputable seller, Blackstar produces great amp combos for guitar and bass all the way up the scale. 

Experienced players can also appreciate the satisfying tones and portability of this 5-watt practice amp at a fair price.

A huge amount of tones to be found with the modern-looking control board. 

From left to right we have: x2 Clean options (Volume & Tone) a voice button. In essence, we have a 6 channel amp here as both clean and overdrive both have a voice control button. There is also an overdrive select button that can blast you into next week for its heavy boost.

blackstar ht tube tone low watt amp

The Voice buttons generally add warmth and a little more pulse at the lower end. In all, rounding off your tone to a much more satisfying guitar sound.  

This is a two-channel amp, and it does come with a footswitch. So jumping between overdrive and clean is a piece of cake. I’m not completely sure a footswitch is necessary for a 5-watt amp, but hey. 

The 0.5w to 5w switch is great for breaking up your sound with lower volumes. Just in case the kids are in bed but you still want Keef’s gritty tone at quiet time. 

In my opinion, you cannot go wrong with a Blackstar. Superb amps that are durable and trustworthy. 

Value for money right here. 

Spec

Height 14.2″, Width 21.6″, Depth 13.8″. 1×12″ Speaker; Refined Boutique Styling Tubes 1 x 12AX7 preamp tube, 1 x 12BH7 power tube Speaker Size 12″ Effects Reverb Only 2-Button Footswitch Included


5- Marshall Dsl5cr 5-Watt 1×10″ Tube Guitar Combo Amplifier

Best For The Rocker

Marshall DSL tube combo amp 5 watts of power
  • Huge Reliable Manufacturer, Superb Array Of Gain Options, Low Price, Loud
  • Clean Tones Average

If you love the classic rock sound, you probably know that Marshall amps boss that genre. 

The Marshall DSL5CR is no different. Plug and ramp the gain to 12 noon. Instantly you’re given that classic Marshall power, but crisp high-end clarity just like the boutique amps with another zero on the end of the price tag. 

If you’re into pushing the gain even further, you’re in luck. There’s a whole section just for people like you. It’s called Ultra Gain, and can be switched off and on via the footswitch.

If you’re looking to play sweet clean melodies, this isn’t the amp for you. Marshall are ‘gain’ amplifiers. And very good at creating overdrive. Possibly the best in the business. 

So the cleaner, less aggressive tones are around average. In fact, you need both clean knobs on 10 to get any sort of special clean tone. 

The Classic Gain settings are fantastic if you push them to break up with some nasty Humbuckers. The rest of the 3-band Equalization is standard, apart from the tone shift and deep buttons. 

The tone shift adds another voicing to your sound and the deep does exactly what you’d expect it to. I had a Marshall years ago and I left the deep button switched on for the whole time I had it. Kinda adds a whole lot of thickness and body. 

Around the back is a choice to plug in headphones but keep the same banging aggressive tone with the ‘Emulated Out’ output. This is your housemate’s favorite benefit. 

Marshall DSL 8 band eq and effects loop

If this is your first Marshall, beware! They are very addictive and have a huge range to choose from. 

Every guitarist should own a Marshall some time in their career.

Spec

Tubes 3 x ECC83 preamp tubes, 2 x EL84 power tubes. Speaker Size 12″ Effects Footswitch 10″ Celestion Ten-30 speaker. Effects= Reverb Only. Height 16.5″, Width 19.6″, Depth 9.8″


6- Fender ’68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb 5-Watt 1×10″ Guitar Tube Amplifier

Fender 68 low wattage tube amps

The Blues King

  • Outstanding Reverb and Tremolo Effects, Vintage Fender Looks, Value For Money, Gorgeous Crunch
  • No Good For Players Wanting High Gain 

Fender provides some of the best low watt tube amps in the business. 

With the exquisite classic silver meth grille cloth and turquoise Fender lettering, there is no better looking amp in this review. 

If you’re looking for classic characteristics and history in your amp, then look no further. 

I’m a 20-year fan of Fender products, and in my opinion, their guitar amps sit at the very top of the tone and longevity list. They never seem to go out of fashion. 

Not only does the Vibro Champ supply the famously superb carved out clean tones of its big brothers the fender 65 Princeton reverb, but also sounds better than the very popular fender 57 custom champ. 

If you love your clean tones and spring reverb you’re in for a treat. The Fender 68 gives the player a luxurious ‘Hall Reverb’ that you won’t find on any other amp in this review. Fenders are famous for this feature. 

The Jewel in the crown comes in the form of the Vibro speed and intensity knobs. With these gorgeous ingredients, you can produce a dreamy sound of shimmering echoes which would delight any listener. 

Fender ten inch speaker small tube amp

The Tremolo effects are just beautiful, the stand-out benefit of this amp in my opinion. Check out the video below, I’m sure you’ll agree. 

With the master volume at 3, you’re able to hear the amps break up, that’s a feature bedroom players will love.  No need to blast the amp out at high volumes to reach a vintage tone.

The Fender ‘68 5 Watt Tube amp sells around the mid-range price, considering all amps on the market. But with that in mind, you’re going to get a durable top-quality mini power tube amp. 

An outstanding product in the mid-range price area. You won’t be disappointed.

Spec

Tubes 2 x 12AX7 Preamp Tubes, 1 x 6V6 Power Tube. Height 14″, Width 16.88″, Depth 8.125″. Speaker Celestion TEN 30. Reverb & Tremolo Effects. Silver Turquoise Grille Cloth. 2-Button Vintage Style Footswitch Sold Separately

Wow, feast your ears on this:


7- Engl Metalmaster 20 Combo 1×10 E304 Guitar Amplifier

Engl Small Tube Amps

Best For The Metal/Hard Rock Guitarist 

  • Most Versatile, Power Beyond Its Size, Unlimited Tones, Impressive Clean Channel Tones, Professional Sounding. 
  • Price May Put People Off

The Engl Metalmaster is the only combo amp that can handle the beef. Hard riffs, face-melting solos, and roof wrecking power chords. The Engle Metalmaster can handle all of that with ease. 

An extremely versatile option for those looking to take their practice time seriously. 

The Engl has a superior all-around sound quality. With many options to discover from the impressive switchable mid-range scoop, which adds body and warmth. The 8 band EQ consists of a variation of top-notch tone sculpting choices. 

engl best small tube amp sound quality with effects loop

From Left to right: Clean Gain: For verses and melodic tracks you have a clean full-bodied combo tube amp tone. 

Lead Gain: gives you the option to beef up the gain harder for your special moment. Bass, Mid, Treble as standard.

Reverb, Lead Volume, and an impressive Clean Lead option cannot be found anywhere else in this low wattage amp review.

Master Volume is far-right, be careful with this knob, you might put somebody in a hospital!

Equipped with x2 ECC83 preamp tubes and 2 x EL84 Power tubes you’re backed up with power tubes that can administer sweet fresh tones or a gut-wrenching power wall of sound. 

This is perfect for heavy metal music. The Engl Metalmaster has a full powerful body, yet crisp and warm. 

A professional organic sound that reflects naturally, and doesn’t seem to struggle at high volume levels like the other amps may do. 

A perfect choice for the recording artist also as you have several options on the rear of the amp. FX loop, a speaker-out option for all your studio or live scenarios. 

A 5 Star rating from myself, I just couldn’t ever imagine buying a low-wattage tube amp for Metal, until now. The Engl Metalmaster almost feels more comfortable the louder and harder you go.

Spec

Speaker Size 8″ . Tubes Effects Reverb Only . 1 x 12AX7 preamp tube, 1 x EL84 power tube. Height 14.02″, Width 13.94″, Depth 8.62.

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A Tube/Valve Amplifier Overview (Tube US/ Valve UK)

12ax7 preamp tubes

Above is a picture of a typical tube that sits in the back of the amp and heats up. 

They glow a lovely orange color and after a short while they can break up your guitar signal, resulting in a lush overdrive. 

There is a science behind what a vacuum tube actually does, but in simple terms: It’s a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum.

Before the transistor was invented, the tube amp is what guitarists played. 

Even with all the modern technology, a large percentage of players still prefer the vintage warm, crunchy tones. Myself being one of those fans. 

Even though tubes are technology of the past, all the music I like is from that era. 

I want my guitar to sound exactly like that. Just listen to Keith Richards tone, he doesn’t use any pedals, that’s 100% tube amp break up.

The good news is, nowadays you can get this tone for such a low price. 

Did You Know?

Jimmy Page pushed little tube amps to the max on the early Led Zeppelin albums. Keith Richards also used many small amps and grinds them hard, live and in the studio. In the last 15 years, Keef loves using a 15 Watt Oahu Amp live! Richards really has a unique tone and with only 15 watts. Incredible. 

Low Watt Tube Amp Facts and Tips

Unlike the solid-state amp, you don’t just plug in and play. 

Tube amplifiers need time to warm up and require cooling down afterward. 

By warm up, I mean, play something quietly before turning up to a gig type level. Most tube amps have a standby switch as well as an on/off. Switch the amp on and into standby mode for around 30 secs. 

After this period switch the standby off and play. When finished, switch the amp off, not back into standby mode. This practice alone will prolong the tube life and give you a longer-lasting amp.

Tubes are a superior technology for audio. They generally have fewer elements and smaller components than a solid-state amp. 

Many players love the warm clean sounds of a tube amp.  The overdrive is far superior to a solid-state amp, more responsive, and a very popular choice with professional musicians. 

Here’s a really helpful video if you’re interested in the difference between Tube Amps and Solid State Amps:

About Lee

Lee has been playing guitar for over 25 years. In the 1990s he made a few TV appearances in London and supported and few big bands at festivals. He's recently sung on radio and worked as a full-time guitarist/singer on a holiday resort. Lee is the founder of Authority Guitar, a site where he wants readers to enjoy every aspect of learning the guitar.