Way back in the old days, right at the very beginning of rock ‘n’ roll, tube-driven amplifiers started shaping the future of music. Interestingly enough, even after decades of innovation and technological advancements, this seemingly outdated technology is still in use. In this article, we’ll focus on top tube amps under 500 dollars.
And not just that – tube amplifiers are the most respected and the most sought-after types of amps in the world of the electric guitar. In the old days, sound engineers considered their unique tone to be too “distorted” or “impure.” However, they bring warmth, smoothness, power, and even dynamic response to guitar players. And even to this day, it seems as if nothing can replace them. Therefore, you’ll still see the best and the most devoted guitar players looking for their perfect tube-driven amp.
But, as you might have assumed, there’s always a catch. Tube amps are pretty expensive. In fact, an average beginner or intermediate guitarist can’t really set aside enough to get a tube-driven amp that they like.
Even advanced and more experienced guitarists sometimes have difficulties filling their gear budget enough to get a tube amp and then just go with a solid-state one or a cheaper digital modeler. However, what if we told you that there are some tube amps that aren’t that expensive? We did some digging, checked some products out, and came up with the list of great tube amps under 500 dollars. These will give you a surprisingly great pro-level tone for a very reasonable price.
Great Tube Amps Under 500 Dollars – Comparison Table
Last update on 2021-10-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Fender Super Champ X2
Of course, Fender is one of the unavoidable brands when we’re talking about pretty much any piece of gear. The same thing goes for their amazing amplifiers, especially tube-driven ones. And we find this fella appropriate to kick off our list of top tube amps under 500 dollars.
With an abundance of their products, we’ve dug up their Champ X2 that falls into this particular category. If you’re a lover of that classic vintage-oriented Fender tone, this is the one that you’ll want to be looking into.
The amp comes with 15 watts of output power and is equipped with one 12AX7 tube in the preamp, as well as two 6V6 tubes in the power section. It comes with two individual channels, covering anything from those “twangy” sparkling cleans and up to heavy soaring high-gain leads.
The Super Champ X2 has some interesting features that make it really exciting for guitarists of many different genres. Aside from additional effects that come with it, we also have a voicing switch for the distorted channel, bringing in 16 different presets. It’s a small, simple, yet very effective little amp that can come in handy even for some live gigs.
Plenty of the biggest names in the world of rock music have chosen to go with Laney amps. And that comes as no surprise since their stuff really can impress, especially tube amps. While we’re at it, their CUB-10 is a great example of a tube amp under $500 that can still deliver quite a punch.
This one is conceived as a very simple amp with only the essential controls. Bearing 10 watts of output power, it comes with three essential controls for volume, tone (treble roll-off), and gain, as well as one 10-inch speaker.
It features just one channel, but there’s a lot of stuff that you can do with it, especially if you put a simple overdrive pedal in front of it.
Additionally, the amp comes with a high gain and a low gain input, which is a trait of those vintage-oriented tube amplifiers. It’s a very potent little amp that’s especially useful if you like old school bluesy tones. Good stuff overall, let’s move on with more top-notch tube amps under 500 bucks.
While everyone remembers Ibanez for their amazing guitars, they actually have other stuff worth checking out in their arsenal. For instance, we have an amazing tube amp model called TSA15.
Now, this isn’t like your average tube amplifier. Although small and relatively cheap, it comes with a great addition – a Tube Screamer circuitry that can help you create some of those very saturated distorted tones.
Other than that, it’s a fully tube-driven amplifier that comes with two standard 12AX7 valves in the preamp section, as well as two 6V6 tubes in the power amp.
The combo version of the amp comes with one Celestion 12-inch speaker that has a slight focus on the low and mid part of the spectrum. It’s a pretty interesting piece, especially due to its Tube Screamer circuit.
If you love this overdrive, then you’ll also love this amp. Combine it with its additional controls for clean boost and you’ve got yourself a very versatile little pro-level amp.
Bugera V22 Infinium
Over the years, Bugera built its reputation for making some great but cheap tube amps. Interestingly enough, the price has remained within the budget-friendly territories while the build quality has improved. And now, they have a contender for the tube amps under 500 dollars list.
You don’t find such things very often these days, and their Infinium series amps are a testament to the company’s greatness. The model that we’re looking into here is V22 Infinium that comes with 22 watts of power and one amazing 12-inch speaker.
It takes no more than a glance to realize that Infinium amps are vintage-oriented. We have two different inputs on V22, one for normal and the other one for bright tone, adding some sparkling high ends in the mix.
Other than that, the amp comes with a clean and distorted channel, a clean boost, and a selectable reverb. It’s a mean blues machine, but you can also get it into some heavier hard rock or heavy metal territories with the right setup.
Fender Pro Junior IV
Knowing how amazing their products are, it comes as no surprise to see another one of their amps on this list. The Pro Junior IV model is another interesting example, especially because it’s vintage-oriented.
It’s a fairly simple one that comes with only one channel and volume and tone pots. It’s intended mostly as a blues, jazz, or country amp that cracks up organically at higher volume levels.
Of course, the controls are pretty basic, but this comes with amazing tone qualities and a significantly lower price. It’s a good choice if you prefer to plug in directly into an amp and not bother with tweaking the tone too much.
At the same time, Fender’s Pro Junior IV comes as a great platform if you like to use a lot of pedals. Just bear in mind that it’s vintage-oriented and that you won’t exactly be able to dial in some really heavy tones with it. Other than that, it’s pretty much a perfect amp for its price.
Well, you’re probably not surprised to see a Marshall amp on any list of great tube amps under 500 dollars. These days, they have so many different tube-driven and solid-state amps to offer. However, the combination of price and quality that you get with their DSL5CR is truly amazing. Although a small amp, bearing only 5 watts of output power, you can get a really powerful punch through its Celestion Ten-30 10-inch speaker.
Comparable to other amps from the DSL series, you have some detailed controls on it. First off, it comes with two basic channels for clean and distorted tones. The clean channel can also add some of those sparkling crunchy overdriven tones to it if you push the gain control up high.
It also comes with a “tone shift” switch for some tone-shaping options, as well as a “deep” switch that lets you add a slight boost to the bottom ends. It has a slightly unusual combination of tubes in it. Although two ECC83 preamp valves are common, the power section comes with one ECC99, which is interchangeable with 12BH7. Definitely a worthy contender when it comes fo best tube amps under 500 bucks.
These days, many guitarists tend to focus on well-established brands that are considered to be a “safe choice” due to their long-lasting reputation. But while some might get a little discouraged with a cheaper amp from a relatively unknown brand, we can assure you that VTH AV-SP1-6 is a great choice. This little 6-watt piece is a somewhat “stripped-down” combo amp that focuses on simplicity and a great tone.
AV-SP1-6 comes with only two basic controls, one for the volume level and the other one for tone. However, you can also pull the volume knob in order to get a distorted tone.
We also have separate low gain and high gain inputs that give some more diversity to this amp. It comes with a very simple tube configuration that includes one 12AX7 in the preamp section and one 6V6 in the power amp section. It also comes with a footswitch that lets you turn the boost mode on or off.
For our final entry of the tube amps under 500 dollars list, we would like to mention Vox and their AC10C1 amp. Now, Vox is a company that built its reputation for those simple and bright-sounding amps, especially when it comes to crunchy distorted tones. This model comes as a simpler and cheaper variant of their classic AC15 and AC30 amps.
There’s only one channel with this amp, although you can turn its boost mode on for some distorted tones. It’s surprisingly versatile, although we’d rather recommend this one to those who love vintage “British” tones but don’t feel like spending a fortune on their amp. We have the classic combination of 12AX7 tubes in the preamp and EL84 tubes in the power section.
It’s also equipped with a 10-inch Celestion VX10 speaker that brings the best out of its circuitry. Just plug in your guitar, set the tone with its simple controls, crank it up, and you’re ready to go.