Thursday, January 26, 2017

5 Tube Combo Amps for Practicing and Studio Recording

For guitar players, nothing can quite match the warm vintage tone of a tube amp. Though solid state amps do have their place, many professionals prefer the sound of tube amps, and their use is widespread in both recording and live situations. Recording guitar with a tube can provide a superior tone that just can’t be beat. Unfortunately, many of these amplifiers are very expensive, especially when working with large amplifiers for live performances. Luckily, there are a few lower power tube amps that still provide fantastic tone, without the heavy price tag.

When recording guitar, large half stack amplifiers aren’t required, and can even be problematic in the studio. We’ll be taking a look at some of the best combo tube amplifiers that work great for recording electric guitar in the studio environment. These smaller amps are also very portable, making them well suited as a practice amp with a band, or for live performances in a small venue.

Marshall DSL40C

The Marshall DSL40C is the perfect option for someone looking to get the classic Marshall tone without completely breaking the bank. This amp provides 40 watts of power, and has many different controls, allowing it to produce a variety of different tones.

The clean sounds from this amp are crystal clear and smooth, while the gain channel provides amazing lead tones. This amp sounds fantastic for rock genres, especially when paired with a humbucker pickup. There’s also a tone button that causes a mid-scoop, making it just as great for metal.

Overall, this amp is extremely versatile, and can provide great tones for just about any genre of music or with any guitar.


The VOX AC15C1 is fantastic for genres such as classic rock, or for blues. It provides a warmer tone than the Marshall, and turning up the gain provides more overdrive than crunch. However, this amp can get quite distorted if the gain is turned all the way up. Though it does provide quite a bit or distorted, it’s not an amp that is good for metal, so if that’s what you’re after, it’s best to choose a different amp.

The Vox AC15C1 works well with just about any guitar, whether it’s the single coil pickups in a Stratocaster, or the humbuckers in a Les Paul. This amp also has built in reverb and tremolo, allowing easily replication of classic tracks without the need for other expensive pedals.

Blackstar Venue Series HT Club 40

The Blackstar Venue Series HT Club 40is a 40 watt tube combo amp that is capable of produce massive sounds with A LOT of distortion. Compared to some other amps, such as the Marshall, this amp’s distortion is very saturated and quite a bit of fuzz. It also really squeals when pinch harmonics are used, a feature that some of the lower powered amps might struggle on. The HT Club 40 also has a fantastic clean channel that is very versatile due to a tone switch that scoops the mids. This changes the tone from warm to bright with a lot of high end clarity.

This amp has a few extra features that make it a great choice. First, there is an effects loop provided on the back, allowing pedals to be used to modify tone after the guitar preamp. There is also built in digital reverb, as well as an included footswitch to switch between clean and distorted channels as well as control the reverb.

The Blackstar HT Club 40 would be well suited to genres such as hard rock and metal, where power and heavy distortion are required.

Fender Blues Junior III

The Fender Blues Junior III is a 15-watt tube combo amp that provides bright clean tones, but warms up quite a bit as the gain is increased. The amp provides very clear clean tones when the volume is low. We’ve found that the clean found lacks a little low end, and can be pretty percussive, especially with single coil pickups. There’s also a fat switch to beef up the tone and make it a little thicker. This amp provides a great overdrive tone as it’s turned up, but not a heavy distortion like the Marshall or Blackstar amp. There’s also a spring reverb control, but this should be used lightly since it can sound out of place with the percussive sound of the amp.

Ibanez TSA15 Tube Screamer Combo Amp

The Ibanez TSA15 Tube Screamer Combo Amp provides 15 watts of power in a compact tube amp. This amp provides nice clean tones, but provides a great overdrive sound when turned up. There’s no doubt this amp deserves the name tube screamer.

This amp works well for genres such as jazz, blues, and country, but it’s not so great in situations requiring heavier distortion such as hard rock. There are two separate channels, boost and clean, which can be switched easily using a footswitch. There is also a boost control, which adds a little extra volume for solos or times when the guitar just needs to cut through some of the other instruments. One great feature of this amp it that is has a separate volume control from the tube screamer section. This allows the amp to be pushed hard to get some solid overdrive while simultaneously backing off on the volume for quieter playing.

With so many different guitar amps available, choosing the right one can be a difficult decision. Hopefully we’ve been able to make this decision easier by covering some of the best tube combo amp options for the home studio. If you’re interested in these amplifiers, we always recommend testing one for yourself with your own instrument, or at least watching a few videos on what it sounds like before dropping your hard earned money on some new equipment.

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