For most situations where you want a tube amplifier, you are doing yourself a major favor by going smaller. When you first start gigging and recording, you will see that there are those that lug around the massive 50 and 100 watt amplifiers and then there are those with smaller set-ups. If you ask one of the people that use these smaller set-ups to tour in clubs and small theaters around the world, they may tell you something like “You don’t need to lug around one of these 50 or 100 watt amplifiers for the bulk of the situations you will be in. Choose Best 5 watt tube amp
Best 5 watt tube amp on the market
Save yourself a lot of torture from having to lug one of those things around. You generally don’t need more than a 5 to 15 watt amplifier. If you need to be louder, the speaker is going to be mic’ed anyway and the sound-person can just adjust it from the board.” In most situations, you may not even need to go up to 15 watts. Often, the job can get done with nothing more than a best 5 watt tube amp.
1. Marshall M-DSL5CR-U – Best Guitar Amplifier For Home Use
If you feel the need to get a 5-watt amplifier from a brand that is well-known and trusted, the M-DSL5CR-U could be a good choice for you. The M-DSL5CR-U figures that if you are picking a Marshall, then you are going to want Gain. This small combo skips the clean channel altogether and instead gives you two channels with different amounts of Gain–a Classic Gain channel and an Ultra Gain channel (the amplifier comes with a foot-switch for switching between the channels). You also get Treble, Middle and Bass equalization controls. There is also a Reverb knob for Marshall’s studio-grade digital reverb. Like some of the other 5-watt options here, you are given the ability to choose between wattages. This way you can get the kind of tone you want without waking up your loved ones. If you are in the recording studio or onstage, you can plug directly into board since Marshall has set the line output to accurately emulate the sound of their iconic 1960 speaker cabinet. If you are a Marshall loyalist and nothing else will do, the M-DSL5CR-U provides you the option of being able to sport that classic Marshall logo and that classic Marshall tone in a 5 watt package.
Pros: possibly great choice for someone that wants that Marshall sound, great design, cabinet emulation output
Cons: Maybe not versatile enough for someone that wants something other than the Marshall sound, pricey for a 5 watt amplifier
2. BUGERA V5 5-Watt Class Amplifier – Best 5 Watt Tube Amp For Blues
At not too much more than the Monoprice, the Bugera V5 gets the vote for being the best value combo. For the price and features of this combo, it would be pretty hard to beat even at double the price. The Bugera V5, like the Monoprice, also has pretty simple and straightforward chicken-head knobs. You do get a bit more to work with in the Bugera. With the Bugera, you get four knobs–Gain, Tone, Volume and Reverb. Also, you do get the option of switching between voltages. Having an independent Gain control is extremely helpful in determining how much of an overdriven sound you want. The reverb is surprisingly full and usable sounding for a unit at this price point. Not only that, you actually have quite the dynamic range to work with in just these four knobs. These features allow you to use it as a Pedal platform amp. If you are interested in other pedal platform amplifiers, go to Reviews Best Platform Amp. You can really dial in a basic tone that you can be happy with–especially for genres like jazz or blues. It can also get louder than you think it would be able to if you have never tried out a 5 watt amp. It could be a great choice for the studio, stage or for practice. The tone is good enough through this amplifier that it would take an extremely discerning listener to determine that this is just a 5 watt and not a classic Fender combo. With a few effects pedals, you could really play any genre with the Bugera V5.
Pros: Very affordable, sounds as good as tube amplifiers in higher price ranges, reverb sounds surprisingly solid at this price-point, an impressive amount of tonal variety from the controls, can change wattage
Cons: No standby switch
3. Monoprice 611705 5-Watt – Best small Tube Amp Under 150
The Monoprice 611705 gets the nod for being the most budget-friendly choice of the bunch. Being able to get a 5-watt tube amplifier for just a bit over a hundred bucks is absolutely remarkable. The set-up is very bare-bones with just two chicken-head knobs (tone and volume), a button for switching between 1 and 5 watts, an input that can go between high and low, a 12AX7 preamp tube driving a 6V6GT and that is about it. This amplifier is probably not for the player that wants a lot of bells and whistles. It could definitely be a good match for someone that wants simplicity in their amplification. With such purity of tone, it is an ideal amplifier to have a nice basic tone as a starting point and then add effects to.
This combo gives you tube-driven tone at an unparalleled price. You can even crank the volume all the way and just switch to 1 watts to get tube-driven overdrive at a volume that won’t get the neighbors at your apartment coming for you with pitchforks. It could also be a great choice for the studio as a standby amplifier when you want to have multiple amps to achieve different vibes. At this price-point, it could even be worth having two of them in the studio available to be able to do some panning and other stereo-based effects that you have been meaning to try out.. At just over a hundred bucks each, the Monoprice could be an ideal studio secret weapon.
Pros: The most affordable of the bunch, difficult to find a tube amplifier at this price-point, simple controls
Cons: Not a well-known established brand for this sort of equipment, parts may be of questionable quality, not much flexibility tone-wise, no standby switch
4. BUGERA T5 INFINIUM – Best Low Watt Tube Amp Head. Small Wieght
The Bugera T5 is a 5-watt amplifier head. It has straightforward controls like many of the other amplifiers in the Bugera line. The T5 has Gain, Treble, Bass, Reverb and Volume. It also has a Phat button which boosts the bass level and the gain. It is not a combo so you do not already have a speaker already connected to it. That is important to keep in mind when you are deciding on the right amplifier for you. As far as what speaker arrangement to use, 12″ speakers are used for guitar, but 10″ is often also used. Depending on your needs, you may get a 1×12 cabinet (as in a cabinet that houses a single 12 inch speaker), 2×12, 4×12, 4×10 or one of several other options available to you.
That part will be up to you. One of the benefits of not being tied to a combo is that you have this flexibility in speaker cabinet makes and sizes to help achieve just the sound you are hoping to. Even for it being an independent head, it is still surprisingly lightweight and gets the nod for being the least heavy option of the bunch. At a straightforward 9 pounds, you could easily carry the T5 by its handle in one hand and your guitar in the other. You would, of course, have to make another trip to pick up your speaker cabinet. The Bugera T5 sounds great driving some Celestions and really does some amazing things when you try out other tube brands than what come standard in the amplifier. You also have the benefit of selecting the wattage of the amplifier, like some of the others in this round-up
Pros: Very affordable, lightweight, can change wattage, Phat button
Cons: Not having a speaker cabinet, no standby switch
5. BUGERA G5 5-Watt Class Amplifier – Best 5 Watt Tube Amp Head
The Bugera T5 is a 5-watt amplifier head. It has straightforward controls like many of the other amplifiers in the Bugera line. The T5 has Gain, Treble, Bass, Reverb and Volume. It also has a Phat button which boosts the bass level and the gain. It is not a combo so you do not already have a speaker already connected to it. That is important to keep in mind when you are deciding on the right amplifier for you. As far as what speaker arrangement to use, 12″ speakers are used for guitar, but 10″ is often also used. Depending on your needs, you may get a 1×12 cabinet (as in a cabinet that houses a single 12 inch speaker), 2×12, 4×12, 4×10 or one of several other options available to you. That part will be up to you.
One of the benefits of not being tied to a combo is that you have this flexibility in speaker cabinet makes and sizes to help achieve just the sound you are hoping to. Even for it being an independent head, it is still surprisingly lightweight and gets the nod for being the least heavy option of the bunch. At a straightforward 9 pounds, you could easily carry the T5 by its handle in one hand and your guitar in the other. You would, of course, have to make another trip to pick up your speaker cabinet. The Bugera T5 sounds great driving some Celestions and really does some amazing things when you try out other tube brands than what come standard in the amplifier. You also have the benefit of selecting the wattage of the amplifier, like some of the others in this round-up.
Pros: Very affordable, lightweight, can change wattage, Phat button
Cons: Not having a speaker cabinet, no standby switch
What is the best small tube amp? – Buyer’s Guide
These five 5-watt amplifiers represent a range of products that go from a very low price point (the Monoprice) to the mid-level (the Marshall). None of these get into the boutique-level of pricing that some 5-watt tube amplifiers can reach. If you search online, you will find that some can get into well over $1000. The most expensive of the 5-watt tube amplifiers we are reviewing here goes into a price range that is less than half that mark while all the others are significantly less. One thing that needs to be considered when looking at the cost of these 5-watt amplifiers is that if you are getting one of the heads, you will have to pony up for some speakers as well (unless, of course, you already have some). If you don’t have any, that drives up the cost of being good to go.
Another thing that stuck out during this shootout was what features were present on the amplifiers. The Monoprice here was the absolute most bare-bones with just a Tone knob and a Volume knob whereas the Marshall had quite a few. This was an area where the Bugera amplifiers as a whole seemed to really stand apart. It felt like a lot of thought was put in to make these amplifiers available to the public at a ridiculously affordable price, but while also giving the buyer enough options to really be able to dial tones in. The controls on the G5 were deceptively simple in that there are just four knobs, but there is actually a wide tonal range available with just that. The most expensive Bugera that we looked at runs a bit under $300 and goes as far as to give you the option of switching between the tonal characteristics of two classic amplifer-head styles. Along with that, every Bugera tested gave the capability of being able to switch wattages. Between the attention-to-detail in tone-shaping capability and other features that feel like they almost should not exist at these price points, if there were an MVP Award in this roundup for amp brand–it would have to be Bugera.
One concern that came up when going through these amplifiers was the lack of a Standby switch on most of them. Almost anyone that plays tube amplifiers knows that a Standby switch is generally to be expected. For those that do not know, a Standby switch helps protect the tubes in your tube amplifier from getting damaged. The reason for this is that when you turn on a tube amplifier, the tubes should get glowing hot before you turn your amp up and get rocking. You will need to give the tubes a bit of time to get going before you start playing. Also, once you have been playing and want to take a break, having a standby switch is helpful since you aren’t then forced to turn the amplifier on and off from scratch.
As far as we could tell, out of all the amplifiers in this roundup, only one of the makers went as far as to put a Standby switch on the amp to protect the tubes. That is the Bugera G5. Why Bugera did not bother to add a Standby switch on their other 5-watt tube amplifiers is a mystery to us. The same goes for Marshall’s decision to not have a Standby switch when its wealth of features and price-point would lead one to expect that a Standby switch would be a given.
One thing to consider when picking out one of these 5-watt amplifiers is that there is room for modification. You could easily pick one of the lower-priced 5-watt amplifiers on this list (such as the Bugera V5) and if you are concerned that some concessions may have been made when choosing components in order to have these amplifiers offered at such a low-price, you can totally upgrade hardware. There is no reason why you could not trade out the tubes that come with the amplifier and put in ones that run a bit more. The same is true for the speaker. You could absolutely go and easily mod it with a Celestion, if you so desire.
Which amplifier is the all-around best choice?
Thinking in terms of which of these 5-watt tube amplifiers would work out best for most players–the decision has to be the Bugera V5. There are several reasons for how this decision was arrived upon. First off, it sounds really good out of the box and was a wide versatility for dialing in your main rhythm tone. Secondly, it responds really well to player dynamics. Also, the knobs it has leave enough fine-tuning capability for seasoned players, but also isn’t so intricate that it will put off novices. The reverb included also is extremely usable.
Being able to switch between wattage amounts was a feature among many of the amplifiers, but having that capability in the Bugera V5 just took a package we already liked and made it sweeter.
All of this being available in a combo amp that is ready to go without any fuss leads us to think that the Bugera V5 is suited for most players. You could even get by with it just guitar to amp without any pedals or other processing for many varieties of music. Not having to worry about external speakers is also going to be a relief to many players as having to purchase speakers for an amplifier head drives the cost up. You can find a Bugera V5 for less than a couple hundred bucks (as of this writing), bringing good tube tone and ease-of-use at a budget that is doable for most people.
It is for all these reasons that we say that if you want a 5 watt tube amplifier for yourself or a gift, the Bugera V5 is the most all-around best value.
We think this should be enough to get you going on what 5-watt tube amplifier might be right for you. If you have a more specialized tone and don’t think the Bugera V5 is going to have the crunch you are looking for, definitely go back through this article (if you just skipped to the end) and read more about our take on the Bugera G5 and the Marshall M-DSL5CR-U. If you just want to get the least expensive 5-watt tube amplifier you are likely to find on the market just to try something out, definitely give the Monoprice a spin. Whichever one you choose, you may want to rejoice in the fact that getting a tube 5-watt amplifier for such a low cost is a reality of the time we get to live in today