5 Best Small Tube Amps for Blues in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Best Small Tube Amp for Blues

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Best Overall

Marshall Origin 20W Combo

My Rating:

4.5/5

Runner-Up

Peavey Classic 30 112

My Rating:

4.4/5

Best Budget

BUGERA V5 INFINIUM

My Rating:

3.6/5

Getting great blues tones doesn’t require an amp strong enough to blow the roof off your house.  

There are plenty of awesome blues amps with amazing voices that are small enough to play at home. 

These best small tube amps for blues have just enough power for apartment-friendly practice or small stage performances.

In this post, I’m going to recommend/review the following small tube amplifiers:

Marshall Amps Marshall Origin 20W combo w FX loop and Boost…
  • 20 Watt all valve combo
  • Switchable high, Medium, & low power output section
  • Tilt control – blends bright & normal sounds
  • 10 inch Celestion V type speaker
  • 3 x ECC83 preamp, 2 x EL34 output section

Peavey Classic 30 112 Guitar Combo Amp
  • Genuine Spring Reverb with level control
  • Pre- and post-gain controls on lead channel
  • External speaker capability
  • Chrome-plated chassis
  • Classic tweed covering

Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb 15-Watt 1×10-Inch Guitar Combo Amp
  • 15-watt all tube amp (including tube rectification)…
  • 1-10″ Jensen C-10R, 8 Ohm, 40 Watt Speaker with Ceramic…
  • Legendary long-spring Fender reverb and tube vibrato.
  • Includes Amp Cover and 2-Button Footswitch for Reverb…

Fender Blues Junior IV 15 Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier
  • 15 Watts
  • Celestion 12″ A-Type speaker
  • Preamp circuit modified for increased fullness
  • Spring reverb modified for improved smoothness
  • Includes 1-button footswitch for fat Mid boost

BUGERA V5 5-Watt Class Amplifier Combo with Infinium Tube Life…
  • Hand-built 5-Watt Class-A amplifier driven by 1 x EL84…
  • Revolutionary INFINIUM Tube Life Multiplier technology:
  • Way cool vintage look and feel
  • World-famous, British engineered 8” TURBOSOUND speaker
  • Authentic preamp design from the ’60s featuring 1 x…

Every one of these amps is here based on my 10-year experience and extensive research.

Let’s first look at these fine tube amps for blues, and at the end of the post, you can find the FAQ section that helps you to make the best choice possible.

Use the table of content to jump to the section you want:

Best Small Tube Amps for Blues

Best Overall – Marshall Origin 20W combo

Sound

This Marshall Origin 20 is a really versatile amp that lets you play in a wide range of genres. 

Its overdrive can be varied to be cranked for full rock vibes or dialed down for bayou blues.

The cleans are chimey and, honestly, beautifully smooth. It’s just as good for sultry jazz as it is for dirty blues rock. 

It doesn’t have a tone of headroom, but what it does have gives you a truly sweet sound with clear note articulation and smooth response in every range.

Hear how this amp sounds:

Features

In my opinion, the best features of this amp are its selectable output and Tilt control.

With output power ranging from a loud 20 watts to a bedroom-friendly 0.5 watts, you can play with full tonality just as well on-stage as in your bedroom.

The Tilt control is an awesome feature that lets you blend the clarity of clean tones with the fuzz of the overdrive, giving you increased note definition when you want to make your tone dirty.

Usability

The Marshall Origin 20 supports effects loops as well as external speaker cabs, so if you want to add extra spice to your tone you’re totally able to do so.

It’s a no-nonsense blues amp that focuses on delivering a great dry tone rather than adding on subpar effects. There’s no reverb, but you can easily hook up your own stompboxes to play with virtually any sound you want.

Value for Money

I’ve got to say that this is, in my view, the best value amp on this list. It’s maybe just above what I’d recommend for a beginner’s budget. But, if you’re just starting out and know you’ve got a passion to shred, the Marshall Origin 20 is a great investment that will keep you rocking for years. 

Summary

Pros

  • Selectable power output great for gigging or in-home jams
  • Tilt control blends clean clarity with overdriven punch
  • Presence knob and 3-band EQ let you shape your tone to specifics

Cons

  • 10-inch speaker isn’t very powerful; needs help from external cabs to really sing

This is my favorite amp on this list. I’m definitely one to use external pedals rather than onboard effects, so the lack of any special features doesn’t bother me a bit.

You get a pure, strong, highly variable tone that can play in pretty much every genre at a price that is truly great.

I recommend this to any beginner or intermediate player who one day hopes to take their show to the stage.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Best for Blues Rock/Runner-Up – Peavey Classic 30 112 Guitar Combo Amp

Sound

Peavey’s Classic 30 is a nice fuzzy blues amp that delivers an all-around warm, meaty tone whether clean or overdriven.

Its tone is full and resonant and super-rich in harmonics. There’s little feedback no matter how loud you pump it, making it great for gigging.

Speaking of gigging, at 30 watts of power you have plenty of loudness for performing at medium venues. It might be just a tad loud for practicing full output at home, but if you’re willing to sacrifice a little overdrive you can get away with it.

Now, it is a little muddy and the EQ controls don’t do a whole lot to clean up the tone, but if you want a real dirty fuzz amp this is a good choice.

Hear how this amp sounds:

Features

With a midrange boost control, you can kick up the punchiness of the middle range for some real in-your-face riffage.

It’s equipped with genuine spring reverb if you want to jam out some surf rock or add some flavor to your solos. 

Plus, it supports an effects loop and external cabs, so you can customize your rig with a variety of effects and speakers.

Usability

The classic tweed design of this amp is outfitted with clear, easy-to-use controls to tweak your EQ, reverb, and overdrive.

It comes with a footswitch for easy switching between its two channels and for flipping the spring reverb on and off.

Value for Money

This amp comes at a great price for 30 watts of power. It’s not packed with effects or special features but keeps things on the simple side while giving you the option to mod your tone via external factors like additional speakers or effects chains. For intermediate players ready to take their show on the road, this amp will deliver all the juice you need.

Summary

Pros

  • Thick, meaty tones for blues, rock, or country
  • Good headroom for playing clean
  • 2 channels to easily switch sounds from grit to glisten

Cons

  • EQ controls change clean tone very little

When I pick up an electric, I tend to play stuff that’s dirty and grimy, so I appreciate the Peavey Classic 30’s muddy warmth a lot.

If you want something more crystalline and accentuated, this might not be the amp for you. But, if you’re about raw authenticity in a tone, it’s a powerful amplifier at an awesome cost.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Best for Classic Tones – Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb 15-Watt 1×10-Inch Guitar Combo Amp


Sound

Fender’s ‘65 Princeton Reverb puts the pure classic tones of their original Princeton model in an updated cabinet with modern-day circuitry.

At 15 watts, you get enough power to rock a small venue—think pubs, street corners, coffee shops—without needing to blast out your windows to kick the tubes into overdrive.

It’s got old-fashioned blues grit but can be clean when it needs to be, with a nicely sparkling high end and a creamy low- and mid-range. 

Hear how this amp sounds:

Features

The new Princeton release comes in a rugged cabinet that can take a beating on the road but still looks attractive in your home.

It’s a one-channel amp with dual inputs in case you want to hook up a drum machine or mic while you jam.

It also supports external speakers through connections on the back.

Best of all are its vintage effects. You get a genuine long-spring reverb, the same pioneered by Fender back in the day, as well as an authentic tube vibrato for when you want to literally shake up your sound.

Usability

Not having to fiddle with multiple channels or output levels makes this a simple amp to use. Just plug in, flip the power, and play. 

It comes with a footswitch to control the reverb and vibrato, so you can mod your effects without ever taking your fingers from the frets.

Value for Money

For 15 watts, you might expect to pay a bit less than what the Fender ‘65 Reverb retails for, but all in all, it’s not a bad buy.

It delivers truly vintage blues tones that call back to the classic days of electric guitar music. If you can overlook its mild buzz and hiss, you won’t regret your purchase. 

Summary

Pros

  • Modern reissue of a legendary vintage Fender amp
  • Built-in reverb and vibrato effects
  • Rugged yet lightweight for easy travel

Cons

  • Has issues with hiss, buzz, and internal rattling

This is a rocking little blues amp from the company known for vintage blues tone. It’s great for the studio, your home, or small stages, and can put you in touch with the true spirit of the blues-rock genre.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Best for Rhythm Guitar – Fender Blues Junior IV 15 Watt Electric Guitar Amplifier

Sound

For bottom-end driven power, the Fender Blues Junior IV is an amp of choice.

It’s got a thick and rich-sounding Celestion A-type 12-inch speaker that sings with strength and stoutness, so rhythm work is punchy and powerful.

With 15 watts of all-tube output, you can rock your bedroom as well as a pub with no problems.

However, its emphasis on the low-end makes for a mid-range that is a bit too creamy for the clarity you might want for clear solo work.

Hear how this amp sounds:

Features

This is a great amp for those who want to sound “fat.” As a matter of fact, it comes equipped with a “fat switch” that gives even more boost to the bottom end as well as increases the overall gain.

There’s a real oomph to the sound of the Fender Blues Junior IV that pairs great with hard-hitting progressions.

Effects-wise, you get an updated spring reverb that has been redesigned to hold clarity for smooth-sounding riffs and licks.

Usability

This is a compact little blues box with a relatively lightweight build that’s superb for taking on the road. 

Its control layout is sleek and simple, featuring a simple 3-band EQ, a single input, one reverb control, the fat switch, and one master volume knob. There’s nothing to puzzle about as you’re setting up your ideal tonal specs.

One drawback is it has no outputs for external speakers, so you’re stuck with the cab the combo amp comes with.

Value for Money

As far as tube amps go, this is a great value product. There’s virtually no issue with the electronics and the tubes won’t need replaced for quite a while. 

The only real quality subtractor is the exterior vinyl can start to detach, but this is really only a minor cosmetic flaw that I wouldn’t worry much about.

Summary

Pros

  • Big bass response from the Celestion A-type 12-inch speaker
  • Redesigned preamp circuitry improves tonal depth
  • “Fat switch” pumps up your low end and gain

Cons

  • Too full midrange muddies your tone

This is a nice little blues amp that I highly recommend for any beginner with a passion for the classic sounds of the 50s and 60s. It’s responsive in the EQ, has a great crunch, and has enough headroom to let you play clean with no issue. 

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Best Budget – BUGERA V5 5-Watt Class Amplifier Combo

Sound

This is a great beginners’ amp that gives you just enough grit to get in touch with the spirit of classic rock and blues. 

It’s not a show-stopper or exactly stage-worthy—especially considering it’s just 5 watts— but it works more than fine as a stay-at-home practice amplifier.

The tone overall is a bit, plain, I would say, but it’s got enough accentuation to let you hear where your riffs are going wrong and really work on the dynamics of your solo and chord work.

Hear how this amp sounds:

Features

The best features of this amp are its headphones adaptability, its power-selection capabilities, and its authentic-sounding digital reverb.

With the headphones option, you can plug in some stereo phones for private practice sessions.

This isn’t even necessary in most instances considering you can attenuate the power all the way down to .5 watts. This lets you play at home with no worry of rousing angry neighbors.

Its reverb is digital, but it sounds like the real thing, adding a wavy texture to your tone that is a joy to play with.

Usability

There are only 5 controls total on this Bugera V5. You have the basic master volume, a reverb knob, a gain control, the power-selector switch on the back, and a tone knob. As such, it’s super easy to use.

I take a little issue with the tone control in place of a 3-band EQ, but that’s just me. If you’re looking for a straightforward practice amp to learn the basics of blues on, the lack of EQ controls should be no problem.

Value for Money

This amp is as simple as it is inexpensive, which is a real win-win for guitar amateurs. You’ll pay less for this amp than you will for most guitars, allowing you to get your gear up and running at very little cost.

Summary

Pros

  • Low-cost, low-watt amp great for home practice
  • Simple controls great for beginners
  • Breaks up at low volumes for easy-on-the-ears blues grit

Cons

  • No 3-band EQ

At only 5-watts, the Bugera V isn’t going to fill out any decent-sized venues. You’ll need their 22-watt model for that.

However, this amp really shines as a stay-at-home setup. It’s got grit and girth of voice that will give you all you need to hone your chops.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

The Final Verdict

The Bugera V is a great amp for those on a tight budget, but if you’ve got the money to spend I think you’ll be unimpressed with its somewhat flabby tone.

On the other hand, the Marshall Origin 20 is just twice the price but provides magnitudes more tonal pleasantness and sonic strength. It’s good to go from your home to the studio to the stage and can really rock a crowd.

FAQ

What Makes a Great Small Tube Amp for Blues?

When you buy a tube amp, you really want to look at how the overdriven sound is. This is the main marker of a great small tube amp.

Some have rather unimpressive overdrive that sounds pretty weak. This is usually due to not using enough high-quality valves.

The best small tube amps for blues use popular tube types that are made to break up into distorted sounds at moderately low volumes. They crank into dirty territory before the loudness starts rattling your windows.

Other features of great small tube amps for blues are things like effects and the ability to link them to external speakers. If they don’t have any built-in effects, make sure to choose an amp that lets you connect an effects loop so you can experiment with different sounds.

The external cab outputs are important if you want to kick more juice into your tone. You might be unsatisfied with the speaker your combo amp comes with, but if the head is how you like it, being able to hook up to an external cab can make all the difference.

Small tube amps for blues are great for practice, and some are strong enough for rehearsals with aggressive drummers. You just need to define your needs and pick an amp that isn’t too loud but is loud enough to perform in the environments you wish to play.

How Many Watts Do You Need?

So, how many watts do you really need? This depends, of course, on where you’ll be playing.

If you’re an absolute beginner with no plans to play out, you barely need over 1 watt to learn your licks. This doesn’t sound like much, but it can be a real bonus if you live in tight quarters with close neighbors or roommates. 

Much more than this—really, anywhere over 10—and you’ll have to start reducing your gain to make the amp home-safe. This, in turn, limits your dirty overdrive and can make a tube amp impractical.

For gigging guitarists, you want to look in the +15-watt range. 15 watts is enough to perform at small venues like clubs and bars and open mics. When you get up to 20 watts, you’re in the realm of medium-sized venues, and 30-watts can really rock a house.

20 to 30 watts is what you’ll want for band rehearsals to be heard over the drums, but over 30 watts is when you start to get too loud for most intermediate players’ needs. 

Louder isn’t always better, and most times you can mic your amp through a PA at larger venues, so focus more on finding an amp with a great tone than a huge amount of loudness.

If you want to learn more about how many watts you need and how loud amp you need, check this guide I made out: What Wattage Guitar Amp Do I Need? – Complete Amplifier Wattage Guide

Conclusion

These best small tube amps for blues range from perfect practice amps to serious rigs that will have you totally stage-ready.

Their tones carry the classic blues vibe of the mid-20th century in a way that lets you connect to the genre from which most modern music sprang.

Whether you’re a beginner, an up-and-coming intermediate, or a pro just looking for a bedroom amp, these great tube amps for blues will let you scream with soul in a wide array of locations and genres.

I hope that this guide helped you to choose the small tube amp for you. If you have any questions, leave a comment down below and feel free to share this post too.

I wish you all the best and keep rocking!

Teemu Suomala

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