In this review, Marshall DSL5 got at the top of our list for one of the best 5-watt tube amps on the market. When most people are thinking of the tone, they are thinking of an early 1960s Marshall amp.
The two Marshall amps on our list bring this tone with ease and through powerful 8-inch speakers. The effects and simplicity of the Marshall DSL5 place it as a modern favorite for a practice tube amp this year.
Need something with more power? We also did a review of 15-watt tube amps.
Table of Contents
5-Watt Tube Amplifiers We Recommend
|Image||5-Watt Tube Amp||Specs|
$549.99 at Amazon
|Output wattage:5W (with power reduction option, 1W) |
Outputs: 1 x 1/4" jack speaker output, 16Ω load only, 1 x 3.5mm jack emulated out
Inputs: 1 x 1/4" jack instrument input, 3.5mm jack Aux in, footswitch
Controls: Classic gain channel (gain, volume), channel select, ultra gain channel (gain, volume), tone shift button, treble, middle, bass, deep EQ shift, reverb, low power option (on rear)
Effects: Digital reverb, Effects loop
|Price not available at Amazon||ELECA speakers – 8 ohms |
Single End Tripod design
One channel, one input; volume, treble and bass controls.
Two 1/4 in. outputs for 8 & 16 ohms speakers
|$148.19 at Amazon||Driver: 8" Celestion® Custom |
Rated Power: 5 watts
Frequency Response: 80Hz ~ 10kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.5% (clean mode)
Hum and Noise: -75dB below rated power
Input Impedance:1 megohm
Power Consumption: 50 watts maximum
Amplifier Load Range: 8 ~ 16 ohms
Preamplifier Section: 1x ECC83/12AX7 preamp tubes
Power Amplifier Section: 1x 6V6GT power tube
Dimensions: 12.0" x 12.2" x 8.3" (305 x 310 x 210 mm)
Weight:13.2 lbs. (6.0kg)
Marshall DSL5CR 5-Watt Combo
What’s good:Celestion speaker, FX loops, Reverb
Not so good: Some emulated line out effects can feel more digital which can detract from the tube tone, EQ adjustments can be tough to dial in
The latest Marshall DSL model comes with some of the best features from any 5 W tube amp.
Technology and the emulated effects onboard offer finite power adjustments to the valves, which can turn off stages within the amp to create a more dynamic and articulate tone.
The emulated output on board also gives players access to more features when it comes to reverb, FX and more.
The Celestion speaker in the clean channel delivers mighty sound from a 5-watt amp design.
California Tone Research SET5
What’s good: Has amazing tone for a wide range of music including rock, blues and even surf tones, Perfect portability, Simple design for easy setup
Not so good: Could be considered too simple for some that want features, Only one input
The Set 5 from California tone is a well priced 5 W amplifier. It delivers excellent quality of sound from an EL 84 power tube and a 12AX7 preamplifier tube.
The simplicity is what draws many to the design here, but it can also turn away some of the more experienced players. The robust construction of this amplifier is bolstered with its fiberglass and ceramic sockets.
The circuitry onboard is also quite substantial and designed for a clean tone that you can take with you. The higher volume sounds are equally as impressive with a bit of a tube breakup. Cranking this small amp up can deliver the kind of raw tones you might be seeking from a tube amp.
Monoprice 611705 5-Watt: Budget Option
What’s good: Celestion Speaker, Works at any budget, Excellent distortion
Not so good: The aesthetics may not be for everyone, Requires extra time to warm up the tubes
The Mono Price 611705 is a versatile amp after it is properly broken in. Out-of-the-box, the amp should be played lightly for at least the first 20 hours of use.
Breaking in the tubes before turning up the volume and checking out the distortion is essential. After properly breaking in this amp and it’s tubes, you can notice a substantial difference in tone.
The warmer tones throughout the clean channel are positively seductive after this is worn in. The Celestion speaker bolsters the dynamic range on this amplifier.
With the 8-inch speaker powered up by the 6v6GT power, this becomes a powerful 5 W amplifier. The only drawback for some is the 1940s aesthetic which can be quite dull. Mono Price re-created the look of a vintage speaker but utilized modern synthetic materials to improve the lifespan of the amp.
The synthetic leather and chrome that is built into the Monoprice give it the look of a vintage amp from afar but the feel of a modern display recreation. Although it may look vintage, the distortion is well worth the price for this bedroom shaker.
Archer TubularkBK Tubular 5 Watt
What’s good: Excellent build quality, Proper eq adjustments for tone command, Good value
Not so good: Aimed at beginners, The leather-bound cabinet is not travel-friendly
Archer has produced a relatively simple 5-watt amp in the form of its TubularkBK model. This tube amp is priced affordably and mostly designed for use in a bedroom or basement setting.
The amp is well constructed, but the outside leather and tweed design may not be conducive for touring or portability. The 8-inch speaker has been custom designed by Archer to deliver a robust sound. The options available on this amplifier are relatively simple.
It is possible to capture several different tones, but it doesn’t often take finite tuning with the bass and treble knobs to dial in the amp. The amp is particularly good at producing retro style to gap tones, and the Class A circuit onboard shares many of the same qualities that you would find in a Marshall or more expensive amp option.
Bugera V5 Infinium
What’s good: Headphone jack output, Can check tube life from a digital display, Gain and master volume knobs, Output for external cab
Not so good: Digital reverb can ruin 1960’s tone, Doesn’t offer the same oomph you would get from other manufacturers
Bugera V5 Infinium model 5 watt amps are designed as a portable cabinet with its advanced tone controls. Bugera built this amp using an EL84 tube for a drive and a 12aX7 tube for a secondary channel.
The compact cabinet works as a much larger amp with its master volume and gains knobs. Bugera also maximizes the lifespan of its tubes by introducing a digital monitoring system for tube life span on this model. This can be particularly effective for breaking tubes in and working at managing tube life if you pick one of these amplifiers up secondhand.
The design for the preamp in this model is built in a classic 1960s low watt tube amp for reliability and consistency in the tone. The single watt mode also makes this the perfect amplifier for small bedroom recording or practicing. Having access to a cab output or headphone jack also improves the versatility of this amplifier as a practice amp.
The sound here is authentic, but if you are hoping for something louder for recording, you may want to consider using the output jack for a larger speaker. The 8-inch Turbo sound speaker has some noticeable differences to the amps that have Celestions.
Marshall Origin 5W (M-ORI5C-U)
What’s good: Captures the vintage Marshall tube sound, Fx loop features offer versatility
Not so good: Tone improves dramatically with a raised stand, Can lack clarity more than other Marshall models with boost on high volume
Marshall Introduced a specialty all-valve design with many contemporary effects features in their 5 W tube combo amp. The sound that can be captured from this device is vintage 1960s Marshall tube to a tee.
Harmonic tones are perfect for creating vibrant sound in recording or a small space. Gain boost can allow you to boost effects to their fullest quickly. There’s also a diverse range of clean and subtle tones that go beyond the bite of this amp and it’s impressive 8-inch Celestion speaker.
Using this amplifier with a bigger cab from the output could help you to access the power to play a larger venue. The output tube section can deliver excellent results alongside the standalone tone from this amp. The deeper tones can often be lost when this amp is placed near a wall on the floor.
Giving it some space and raising it off a floor can improve the delicate notes within your music and give you a higher chance to play with dynamic sounds in any track.
Blackstar HT1R Series
What’s good: Quick overdrive switch, Headphone output, Secondary Line in input with mp3 support
Not so good: Can be tough for beginners with the option for tube changes, ISF tone control offers less precision over other control options
The Blackstar HT1R series is a compact amplifier featuring an 8-inch speaker. What is perhaps the most exciting about this amplifier is that it works with a wide range of tubes.
It can be easy for many experts to use the ISS control with the equalizer and a combination of tube switches to produce many tones with this amp. It can also get easy to get caught up with the experimenting process. The sound design in this amplifier is excellent, but it doesn’t carry the same clean tones that you would find on other tube amplifiers.
The breakup, distortion, and crunch on this amplifier are what you might find in a 100 W cab running through a distortion pedal on lower volume, but the clean tones require some fine-tuning. The standard of build quality on the HT1R makes it suitable for travel almost anywhere. The circuitry is also designed for a long lifespan as well.