Best Low Watt Boutique Tube Amp

Best Low Watt Boutique Tube Amp

Every guitar player in the world dreams of the thundering power of a tube amplifier, but as tempting as it seems, there is one downside to this dream.

The biggest problem with powerful tube amplifiers is that there are only so many places where you can actually use them. And, unfortunately, the very short list of these places doesn’t include your home, unless you live in a castle on the outskirts of the city all by yourself. 

So unless you are Romanian royalty, we think that our list of the best low-watt boutique tube amp could make you and your neighbors happy.

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Top 5 Best Low Watt Boutique Tube Amp

  1. Bogner Atma 18/5/1-watt 3-channel Tube Head
  2. Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head
  3. Hughes & Kettner GrandMeister Deluxe 40
  4. Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 40 Deluxe
  5. Morgan Amps JS12 Josh Smith Signature

Best Low Watt Boutique Tube Amp Reviews

Bogner Atma 18/5/1-watt 3-channel Tube Head

Bogner Atma 18/5/1-watt 3-channel Tube Head

Pros
  • 3 separate channels
  • Power attenuator
  • Effects loop
Cons
  • A bit pricey
See price @ Sweetwater / @ Amazon
Best features and specs

Bogner Atma 18/5/1-watt 3-channel Tube Head is a premium amplifier powered by EL84 tubes with an EC81 rectifier tube. This little beast offers you separate clean, crunch and lead channels and 18 watts of pure power. The best part about it is that it also offers you a power attenuator that lets you choose between 18, 5 and 1 watts, which is perfect for evening bedroom rehearsals. It also has an effects loop and the ability to choose between 3 separate sound flavors typical for the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, respectfully.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with Bogner Atma 18/5/1-watt 3-channel Tube Head because of the amazing tones that you can create while using this head. Also, this head is versatile and can get very loud if it’s what you need. Users add that this amp gives you three beautiful distorted voicings equal to the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. The possibility of getting great cleans, nice crunch, and the great solo tone is approved by a lot of users.

What we think

When Reinhold Bogner moved to the USA, he very quickly became in demand amongst the most accomplished guitar players of the time. He used to modify and custom-build amplifiers for such legends as Allan Holdsworth and Steve Vai. Bogner Atma most definitely gives you a feeling of something very unique and custom, which is exactly how an expensive boutique amplifier should feel like. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise since all of the Atma amps are built by hand from the most exquisite components. And it looks the part also, which is especially nice since not every manufacturer understands that boutique amplifiers not only should sound exceptionally but also must be very pretty to look at.

Bottomline

Bogner Atma 18/5/1-watt 3-channel Tube Head is a great choice for someone who is looking for a very exquisite and boutique amplifier with premium sound quality and the ability to choose between 3 different sound flavors. If the aesthetics are very important to you, this amplifier would be by far the best choice since it has a very beautiful design with a very contained vintage flavor. One may consider Bogner Atma to be on a pricey side of things, but considering that you technically get 3 amplifiers in one, it truly is a bargain. And, moreover, 18 watts is more than plenty to play gigs in small to medium venues.

Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head

Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head

Pros
  • Power attenuator
  • 3 band EQ 
Cons
  • A bit pricey
  • Only one channel
See price @ Sweetwater / @ Amazon
Best features and specs

Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head offers you 15 watts of classic British tone powered by EL84 tubes. It has a power attenuator that lets you switch down to 7 watts and 3 band EQ for greater tone flexibility. Although it has only one channel, it is still relatively easy to achieve a clean tone with a Gain knob. And, of course, it has the signature Orange look that metalheads around the world are so fond of.

User impressions

Users like Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head for being a mighty, versatile and loud beast suitable for every type of gig starting from blues up to heavy metal. Also, users note that this head has a peculiar voice of its own best described as open, thick and a bit chewy. The only minor inconvenience that is noted by users is that this head doesn’t really do super clean.

What we think

Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head is a classic British amplifier in the sense that it operates like one. You have only one channel and a very simple EQ, which couldn’t be any more straightforward. It also sounds exactly like you’d expect the Orange amplifier would sound. It also should be mentioned that if you’re looking for flexibility, Orange amps were never about that, they all are about tone.

Bottomline

Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head is a great choice for someone who is looking for a classic British tone in a classic Orange body. Guitar players around the world usually are divided into 2 categories, those who love Orange amplifiers unconditionally and those who haven’t encountered them yet. There are plenty of reasons to have this particular amplifier, there’s only one not to. Although 18 watts is plenty of power, it might be wiser to choose a more conventional amp considering the price of this one.

Hughes & Kettner GrandMeister Deluxe 40

Hughes & Kettner GrandMeister Deluxe 40

Pros
  • 4-way power attenuator
  • Onboard modulation and reverb effects
  • Cabinet simulation 
Cons
  • A bit pricey
See price @ Sweetwater / @ Amazon
Best features and specs

Hughes & Kettner GrandMeister Deluxe 40 gives you the best of both worlds the sound of a classic tube amplifier and the convenience and versatility of digital equipment. It has a 4-way power attenuator that lets you choose between 40, 20, 5, 1 watt. You have the ability to store 128 separate sound patches and recall them at any time, which is extremely convenient since this amplifier has almost unimaginable versatility. You can easily dial in anything from warm and vintage jazz tone to full-blown and shattering metal. Not only it has a built-in speaker simulation, but it also has mics emulations which let you connect it straight to PA without losing any authenticity.

User impressions

Users say that Hughes & Kettner GrandMeister Deluxe 40 is a quite amazing amp that gives anything from nice beefy cleans up to some hard-hitting metal rhythm and lead tones. Users note that the combination of tube tone with high-quality digital effects makes this head one of the most versatile amps ever. This head is packed with useful features that will come in handy more than once and make you addicted to using it again and again.

What we think

Hughes & Kettner GrandMeister Deluxe 40 has the ability of ending an everlasting rivalry between tube purists and adepts of digital emulations. With this one, you no longer have to choose between convenience and versatility or authenticity of an analog all-tube sound. And the advantages of GrandMeister Deluxe don’t end there since 40 watts are more than plenty, even for digging at larger venues. Moreover, this particular amplifier is a gem if your style is particularly eclectic and involves a lot of sonic versatility.

Bottomline

Hughes & Kettner GrandMeister Deluxe 40 is a great choice for someone who is looking for an extremely versatile and convenient amplifier that suits even the most eccentric demands. It’s very easy to be discouraged by its price, but in all actuality, if you consider how versatile it is, it may easily be the last amplifier that you might need. It may even be used on larger venues since it doesn’t have to be miced up or connected to a cabinet in order to realize its full potential.

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 40 Deluxe

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 40 Deluxe

Pros
  • 3 selected channels
  • 4-way power attenuator
  • Onboard modulation and reverb effects
  • Speaker simulation
Cons
  • None that we know of
See price @ Sweetwater / @ Amazon
Best features and specs

The only things that could be better than tubes are, of course, more tubes, so Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 40 Deluxe has 3 12AX7 and 4 EA84 power tubes, which means that there isn’t any tone that this amp couldn’t provide you with. Moreover, it shares the technology with its sibling, meaning that you have the ability to simulate a miced speaker and connect the amp straight to the PA. And, of course, it has 3 separate channels and power attenuation that lets you choose between 40, 18, 5, 1 watt.

User impressions

Users like Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 40 Deluxe for its versatility, being loud, lightweight, portable, and totally gig-worthy. Users note that this amp has the best low-end response compared to other heads. The two features that are liked by the majority of users are the crisp, clean tones that stay the same no matter which channel you are on and the fact that you can switch wattage and DI output wherever you play.

What we think

In such worrying times that we live in, we have to count our expenses with great consideration, which means that choosing gear with the best price-to-value numbers should be our priority. It seems that Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 40 Deluxe was built exactly with this mindset since the value it gives you is simply enormous.

Bottomline

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister 40 Deluxe is a great choice for someone who is looking for an extremely versatile amplifier that provides you with almost every tube tone possible and the convenience of fully digital equipment. At first glance, you can be slightly discouraged by its price, but if you take into consideration that it is a boutique and fully analog amplifier that can sound like almost any other amplifier you can think of, all of a sudden, the price doesn’t seem to be high anymore.

Morgan Amps JS12 Josh Smith Signature

Morgan Amps JS12 Josh Smith Signature

Pros
Cons
  • Single-channel
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

This boutique combo amplifier delivers 12 watts of classic American tube sound spiced up with a magnificent 3 spring reverb. Its GZ34 rectifier tubes and custom-designed transformers give you extremely detailed high-end, very clear mids and a powerful low-end. And on top, it also provides you with a very sleek and vintage design built exclusively by hand.

User impressions

Users like Morgan Amps JS12 Josh Smith Signature for cool looks and the awesomeness of the sound. Users say that starting point is a classic black face tone with juicy low ends and then after adding even more juice the amp still sounds superb. Also, users note that there’s a lot to tweak in this amp so you will always get great results.

What we think

At first, you may think that the price is rather excessive, but to think about it you actually get exactly what you’ve paid for. This is a very exquisite and boutique amplifier with almost every component being hand-made, which results in almost unprecedented sound quality and a very distinguishable vintage feel. In other words, if this amp would be a car, it would be very powerful and it is Italian-made too.

Bottomline

Morgan Amps JS12 Josh Smith Signature is a great choice for someone who is looking for a very exclusive high-fidelity combo amplifier with a very distinguishable vintage feel and intuitive controls. To be completely honest, at this price point it feels more like an investment, so if you plan to use it only for your personal bedroom rehearsals this amp could be a bit too much. It was built to be heard and it would be a shame to contain it like that.

Low Watt Boutique Tube Amp Buying Guide

There’s no shred of doubt that tube amplifiers are held dear amongst people who dedicated their life to guitar music, whether they’re extremely seasoned or just at the beginning of their journey.  And although guitar equipment nowadays offers great versatility and is more accessible than ever, it still is very hard to find the right one, especially if most of the time you are very limited in how loud you can be. To be fair, low-watt tube amplifiers aren’t a rarity, but still, it’s a rather tricky task to find one that has all the benefits of the powerful amp and doesn’t have any drawbacks. But before we will dive into our top 5 best low-watt amplifiers, it’s better to learn more about tube amplifiers, so you could learn whether this is something that you actually need or a thing you could easily leave without.

A bit of history

First valves with 2 electrodes were invented in 1904, but in 1906 a 3rd electrode was added which inadvertently led to the creation of the first electronic amplifier. At the beginning of the 20th century, valve amplifiers were exclusively used in military communications and telephones, but in the 30’s, consumer media devices started to implement this technology. Later, valve amplifiers became an industry-standard in professional audio recording. Although in the 70’s this technology was largely replaced by solid-state transistors to this day, tubes are considered a standard of high-fidelity audio amongst audio enthusiasts.

Why do we love tubes?

Although these days tubes are more expensive and less convenient than other alternatives, most if not all guitar players in the world still prefer their amplifiers to be built around this rather outdated technology. As the advancement reached certain points, it became clear that solid-state and digital sound, how absurdly it may seem, sounds too perfect and our ears love imperfections. And this is exactly why tubes are regarded so much given that 2 of the most prominent traits of tube amplifiers are non-linear behavior and harmonic distortion. And those traits are so valued that almost every digital emulation implements algorithms that recreate such behavior.

Important features

Although modern technology is pretty advanced, it is still very hard to replace tube amplifiers given that even the best digital emulations still can’t recreate the feel that a real amplifier can give you. The only problem with tube amplifiers is that they are usually way too loud to use them casually, so obviously, in this article, we decided to include amplifiers that can give you the ability to push the tubes as hard as possible without a deafening addition of volume. We also believe that in this day and age, the best low-watt boutique tube amp should be as versatile as possible and should give you as many options as possible when it comes to dial in the sound. Or it could be extremely reliable and simple if this is how you prefer things to be. And since we understand that budget is always of the essence, we’ve decided to throw in something extra in the end.

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