Best Tube Amp Heads

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Choosing the best tube amp heads can make the difference between getting lackluster performance, or easily light up tiny or large venues with amazing sonic quality. So to prevent yourself from being dissatisfied, even if you’re the pickiest music producer, in this article, we’ll show you the best options available on the market.

Quick answer: Mesa/Boogie Mark Five is certainly the most popular option for medium to the large venues. Although Orange OR15H is a very popular option for practice and small venues, it still is one of the best tube heads for all intents and purposes.


Table of Contents


About Our Top Choices


Mesa/Boogie Mark Five 90-watt Tube Head

Mesa/Boogie Mark Five 90-watt Tube Head
See price @ Sweetwater

More details…

Mesa/Boogie Mark Five is certainly the most popular option for medium to the large venues if you enjoy modern metal and other derivatives of heavy rock.

Pros
  • Excellent for metal and rock
  • Popular
  • Top-sound quality
Cons
  • Not for every budget
  • A bit bulky

Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head

Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

More details…

Although Orange OR15H is a very popular option for practice and small venues, it still is one of the best tube heads for all intents and purposes.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Bright tone
  • Compact
Cons
  • You might be disappointed in the clean tone

Top 7 Best Tube Amp Heads

  1. Mesa/Boogie Mark Five 90-watt Tube Head
  2. Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head
  3. PRS Mark Tremonti MT15 – 15/7-watt Tube Head
  4. Marshall DSL100HR 100-watt Tube Head
  5. EVH 5150III 50-watt Tube Head
  6. Orange Rocker 15 Terror 15-watt 2-channel Tube Head
  7. Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister Deluxe 20

Best Tube Amp Heads Reviews


Mesa/Boogie Mark Five 90-watt Tube Head

Mesa/Boogie Mark Five 90-watt Tube Head

Pros
  • Excellent for metal and rock
  • Popular
  • Top-sound quality
Cons
  • Not for every budget
  • A bit bulky
See price @ Sweetwater

Mesa/Boogie Mark Five is certainly the most popular option for medium to the large venues if you enjoy modern metal and other derivatives of heavy rock.

Best features and specs

The Mark Five is a 90-watt tube head that is powered by 7 12AX7 tubes, 4 6L6 power tubes, and 1 5U4 rectifier. This head has 3 channels with 3 voicings on each of them that gives you lots of sonic possibilities and tone versatility. Having Multi-Watt power lets you choose between 90, 45, and 10 watts and the type of power on each of the 3 channels separately.

User impressions

Users say that the Mark Five is of unbelievable quality, gives you any sound you want, and is versatile.

What we think

The Mesa/Boogie Mark Five is most definitely not for every budget. Nevertheless, the price seems to be just about right, considering its quality and reputation.

Bottomline

Mesa/Boogie Mark Five is a great choice for someone who is looking for a tube amp head that is powerful enough to manage venues from 100 to 1000 people. This amp head is favored by music producers that compose and play hard rock and heavy metal. If you do not mind moving extra weight with you between gigs, you should definitely check this one.


Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head

Orange OR15H 15-watt Tube Head

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Bright tone
  • Compact
Cons
  • You might be disappointed in the clean tone
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

Although Orange OR15H is a very popular option for practice and small venues, it still is one of the best tube heads for all intents and purposes.

Best features and specs

OR15H is a good-looking 15-watt tube head that is powered by EL84 tubes, has 1 channel, and has 4 stages of gain. Also, it lets you switch between 15-watt and 7-watt operation.

User impressions

Users like the Orange OR15H because it sounds really great and is incredibly loud. Also, this head produces very pleasant-to-ear tube distortion and is incredibly responsive to picking dynamics.

What we think

Orange OR15H has that unmistakable Orange sound that you simply can’t resist once you plug in your favorite instrument of choice.

Bottomline

Orange OR15H is a great choice for someone who is looking for a compact, lightweight, and affordable tube amp head that lights small venues with ease. Despite some saying that its clean tone might be a bit of a disappointment, you should try it nevertheless.


PRS Mark Tremonti MT15 – 15/7-watt Tube Head

PRS Mark Tremonti MT15 - 15/7-watt Tube Head

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Excellent for metal and rock
Cons
  • A bit noisy effects loop
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

PRS Mark Tremonti MT15 is a tube head with variable wattage, great looks, and a sound that will leave the pickiest customer satisfied.

Best features and specs

The MT15 is a 15-watt tube head that is powered by 6L6 tubes and lets you choose between 15 watts and 7 watts operation. This head is pretty much versatile and lets you tweak so that you get to play not only rock and metal but blues, rock’n’roll, and many more.

User impressions

Users say that the PRS Mark Tremonti MT15 is extremely loud despite it being very compact, has superb build quality, and takes pedals really well.

What we think

PRS Mark Tremonti MT15 is a must-have if you prefer versatility above everything else. That being said, it is rather hard to make it sound jazzy.

Bottomline

PRS Mark Tremonti MT15 is a great choice for someone who is looking for a perfect little beast designed specifically to be extremely useful while playing heavy metal and hard rock. Still, those who prefer blues and rock’n’roll will find it to their liking as well.


Marshall DSL100HR 100-watt Tube Head

Marshall DSL100HR 100-watt Tube Head

Pros
  • Top-quality
  • Industry-standard
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Effects loop sounds muddy
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

Marshall DSL100HR is a mighty tube head that delivers excellent built quality and that classic British sound that has been an industry standard for a very long time.

Best features and specs

The Marshall DSL100HR is a 100-watt tube head that is powered by 4 EL34 tubes and has 2 channels, classic and ultra gain. Moreover, each of the said channels has 2 modes, such as clean/crunch and OD1/OD2. This tube head has Resonance control, which lets you tweak the needed amount of low-end girth.

User impressions

Users like the DSL100HR because this head is more than capable of delivering the sound that you need. When engaged, the clean channel is very precise, and the dirty channel is incredibly loud and punchy.

What we think

DSL100HR is a rather modern take on that classic British sound which means that you can choose between a vintage tone and a more extreme and contemporary one.

Bottomline

The Marshall DSL100HR is a great choice for someone who is looking for an industry-standard tube amp head that gives you a British sound that is favored by many. Despite being a 100-watt head, this one is very reasonably priced and worth looking at if that is what you seek.


EVH 5150III 50-watt Tube Head

EVH 5150III 50-watt Tube Head

Pros
  • Punchy
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Muddy low-end
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

EVH 5150III offers you an industry-standard tone for modern metal and contemporary heavy rock on top of sublime built quality and interesting design.

Best features and specs

EVH 5150III is a 50-watt tube head that has 3 channels and is powered by 6L6 power tubes. With Resonance control, it is effortless to connect this amp head to various cabinets. Global Presence control lets you tweak the perfect amount of bite. For channels 1 and 2, you have a shared 3-band EQ and an independent EQ for channel 3.

User impressions

Users agree that the 5150III is a truly powerful amp head that is incredibly loud and suits the best genres, such as rock, metal, and punk.

What we think

5150III is all about aggression which means it wouldn’t sound gentle and subtle no matter how hard you try.

Bottomline

EVH 5150III is a great choice for someone who is looking for a compact and lightweight tube amp head that is versatile enough and is characterized by being the punchiest of them all. That being said, if you’re looking for a head that is capable of doing blues or something even lighter, you should look elsewhere.


Orange Rocker 15 Terror 15-watt 2-channel Tube Head

Orange Rocker 15 Terror 15-watt 2-channel Tube Head

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Versatile
Cons
  • None
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

Orange Rocker 15 Terror is a tube head with variable power output and two channels of very recognizable and desirable by many classic Orange tone.

Best features and specs

Orange Rocker 15 Terror is a compact and lightweight 15-watt tube head that has 2 channels, Dirty and Natural. Thanks to the headroom/bedroom switch, you can change the tube amp’s wattage between 0.5, 1, 7, and 15 watts. This amp head has a built-in effects loop that provides lots of clean and crunchy effects.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with the Rocker 15 Terror because it sounds great and is extremely affordable. Users praise the opportunity of switching between watts and emphasize that 15 watts are quite enough for gigs in small venues, and if the venue is very compact, users state that 7 watts are quite enough.

What we think

Unlike many of its competitors, the Rocker 15 Terror is very affordable, with the only downside being that it is not powerful enough for larger venues.

Bottomline

Orange Rocker 15 Terror is a great choice for someone who is looking for an excellent versatile tube amp head that is extremely affordable and features favored by many Orange sound. It’s compact and lightweight and powerful enough to light tiny and small venues with ease.


Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister Deluxe 20

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Great tone
  • Compact and lightweight
Cons
  • None that we know of
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister Deluxe 20 is a rather affordable tube amp with variable wattage and a very versatile and modern tone.

Best features and specs

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister Deluxe 20 is, as the name suggests, a 20-watt tube head that lets you choose between wattage due to built-in power soak. This tube amp operates by 2 12AX7 and 2 EL84 tubes. Also, this head has 2 channels with separate master volume and gain and global 3-band EQ.

User impressions

Users like the TubeMeister Deluxe 20 because it’s incredibly loud, covers lots of tonal range, and has a modern sound, which is incredibly clear and crispy. Users state that this amp head is exactly what they need for rehearsals at home or in a compact home-based studio.

What we think

The TubeMeister Deluxe 20 stands to have some kind of class to it which can’t be mistaken with anything else once you hear it for the first time.

Bottomline

Hughes & Kettner TubeMeister Deluxe 20 is a great choice for someone who is looking for a tube amp head for practicing at home, rehearsals, or gigging at small venues. It’s affordable, lightweight, compact, and gives you much control over the tone and sound.


Tube Amp Heads Buying Guide

What is a tube amp head?

A tube amp head is an amplifier that is much more compact than a standard amp since it’s missing the speaker and cabinet. This configuration allows it to work in standalone mode. Also, being a tube amp, it’s powered by vacuum tubes rather than a transistor circuit.

Why would you need a tube amp head?

Tube amp heads, as well as tube amps, are always an excellent choice when you need to get more power and smooth and harmonically pleasant sound. When the tube amp head or amp, for that matter, is boosted to the point when distortion is engaged, as an additional loudness, you will hear resulting harmonics. And in contrast with solid-state amp heads and amps, tube-driven amps can have even more power if needed.

Important features

When choosing a tube amp head, you should consider the wattage and type of tubes.

Wattage

If you are mostly engaged in rehearsals, solo-playing, and performing in front of an audience of no more than 100 people, a 15-20 watt amp head is your best choice. If you play in a band, or maybe it’s just a drummer, who accompanies you, then you should opt for a 50-watt tube amp head. 100-watt tube amp heads are specifically designed to be enough when used in venues with a 100-1000 audience.

Tubes

Tubes are no less important because different types of tubes give you specific sound, which depends on their features. You can get clarity, roundness, and punch when using 6L6 power tubes. If you seek tight low-end, great midrange, and bright high-end, you should look for EL34. Smoothness and pleasant harmonic distortion can be achieved by using EL84 tubes. 12AX7 tubes, which are also known as 6V6, give you full low-end with very balanced mid-range and smooth high-end.

How to choose the right one for you?

When you are choosing the best tube amp heads, you should have a vivid image of your needs and choose the head accordingly. If you already have a favorite manufacturer, you should check what it offers straight away. If you are more open-minded and seek some changes, you should check other manufacturers as well. If small gigs are your typical thing, then you shouldn’t spend extra and purchase a 100-watt amp. Instead, focus on 15-20 watt entries on this list. If you have a certain preference for tube sound, check whether the amp that you favored has them, but remember that you can always spend a smudge more and change the tubes.


FAQ

Does a tube amp sound better than solid-state?

Tube amps sound smoother and more harmonically pleasant than solid-state ones. But there are a lot of fans of both types of amps.

What is the difference between a combo amp and a head?

The combo amp has a built-in speaker, while the amp head doesn’t have one attached, and you can connect it to whatever speaker you want.

Do heads sound better than combos?

Depending on the music genre that you play, you can connect the tube head to the specific cabinet, which produces a better sound that fits the genre perfectly. While with a combo amp, you are stuck with the built-in cabinet that may not always be the best fit for the genre.

How do you match head and cabinets?

You need to check that the impedance of the amp head and the speaker matches and lets you achieve the desired result.

How do you pick an amp head for cabinets?

It all depends on which sound you want to achieve so that it matches the genre you typically play in. If you are a versatile player, your choice is much wider. The only criteria that really matter is that impedance should match. Everything else depends on your preferences and possibilities.