TTK’s updated Tube Amp Buyer’s Guide – Fall / Winter 2009

I receive soooo many emails, from those looking for assistance w/ the purchase of a new amp. I am happy to say, I am not a store, and therefore am not biased in regards to 1 amp over another. Everything noted below, I own, have played, and have analyzed to death. Hopefully it will help guide you to your new amp. ALSO NOTE : This is a ‘Tube Amp’ Buyer’s Guide. I will be putting together a separate Buyer’s Guide on Modeling Amps.

As always – ROCK hard and ROCK ON! – Signed, The Tone King!

TTK’s Pick Amp Head Street Price TTK Notes :
Epiphone Valve Jr. $ 129.00 Good CHEAP tube amp – little control & ugly (not my style anyway). Somewhat of a novelty amp. Doesn’t sound so bad when cranked. Sounds dry when not cranked. If you mod amps, this may be a modders delight. Priced right for a rainy day purchase. I would however say with confidence that it’s NOT gig worthy.

Blackheart BH5H $ 199.00 Simple ‘plexi’ style amp (no master volume), gain achieved only if turned fully up. I personally prefer this over it’s bigger brother, the BH15H. Great for bedroom playing – not sure or convinced that it’s gig worthy.

TTK Pick Jet City JCA20H $ 299.00 New to market, Soldano backed micro series tube head. This one happens to be an affordable version of the USA made Soldano Atomic 16. Cool little amp. Sounds good, priced right. TTK Pick because for under $300 – it’s a pretty cool amp backed by a good name, industry renown for quality and tone.


TTK Pick Bugera V55H $ 349.00

Full size (gig worthy) 50w Vintage style head at a very affordable price. Looks great, sound great & won’t break the bank! Includes reverb & 2 channels. A must see amp, especially if you want a great sounding, vintage style and sounding amp at an affordable price. Can’t go wrong here. TTK Pick here because for the price, you get a full size, fully loaded head that looks great and sounds better. Nothing comes close at this price point.  


Blackheart BH15H $ 349.00

Master volume version (compared to the BH5H). Of the 2, I think most prefer the BH5H.

Peavey Windsor $ 399.00

Full size 100w head, priced cheaper than most ‘micro series’ heads. I’ve seen these sell for as little as $250 new. For a 100w tube head – Shiz amazing. I am also not one for ‘marketing knobs’, but their Class A/AB dial does dial in some pretty sweet tones. The combo version is pretty cool also, though I’d probably opt for a speaker swap. Single channel amp. FX Loop on the front, which I like.


Blackstar HT5 $ 399.00

Cool amp. Price went up from it’s intro price, making it less competitive. 2 channels, looks cool. Based on the preamp in their pedal products. UK, US mix knob.

Bugera 1960 $ 449.00

Full size 100+ w head. The most affordable plexi style head around. If you know what a Plexi style amp is – this can be the amp for you. Not as versatile as the 1990, but a must for Classic Rock (Pre-Master Volume) lovers.  Great if you want to get into modding, and awesome if you want to fiddle w/ attenuators.

TTK Pick Bugera 1990 $ 449.00

Full size 100+ w head. The most affordable of the classic / modern rock heads around. (2 channel, w/ reverb & footswich). Includes FX loop (which is handy). TTK Pick because for under $500 – this is a full size head, w/ full size (no micro series) features. You won’t find another head in this price point, offering you what this amp does, both in feature, size, volume & functionality.

Vox Night Train $ 499.00

Lunch box sized amp. This (in my opinion) is a ‘fashion / function’ amp. IMO – it’s okay and sounds decent. Seems to be popular. Certainly not my favorite, but is in my line-up of amps.

Orange Tiny Terror $ 549.00

A classic. Doesn’t do much, but looks cool and sounds great. This excites me more then the dual terror, which is almost 1K. 1K (the Dual Terror) is a bit pricy (IMO).

Egnater Rebel 20 $ 599.00

In general, it looks cool, and it’s features brought me to purchase, but to be honest, I was not too impressed w/ the features that makes the price what it is. Tube blend knob sounded much better and obvious on the 1K Renegade than it does on the Rebel 20.  On the Rebel 20 – the Tube Blend and Wattage knobs seemed far less significant than what I was expecting.

Marshall Haze $ 599.00

Non UK made Marshall amp. Digital FX which is color coded. I personally would have preferred spring reverb in my Marshall, but that’s me. Looks like a Marshall, but doesn’t sound like my JCM800 / 900.  I also wish the ‘head’ version was more like the combo.  Would have been a winner (IMO) w/ EL34s (or EL84s), versus it’s loaded 6V6s, and true spring reverb (staying true to the Marshall design).

TTK Pick Peavey Classic 30 $ 599.00

A great, USA made amp, at a killer price. Only gripe is a single 16ohm speaker tap. Other than that – it sounds great, and is priced right. TTK Pick because it’s a great sounding amp, and if you’re into supporting your local domestic (US) economy- this may be a good choice for you. Looks great, sounds great, priced right. Compare this to other USA made amps, and you’ll also be amazed.


Krank Rev. Jr. $ 699.00

Good sounding amp . Made in the USA. A bit costly though (IMO). If you want a micro series head, and want it to be high gain – this could be a decent choice. Krank name has  what appears to be a cult-following – so just be sure it’s for you before you get caught into brand bigotry.  At this price, you better love it.

TTK Pick Randall RM20 $ 699.00

Versatile amp (more so than the Krank), making the RM20 much more expandable for a variety of tones over the long haul.  TTK Pick because if $$ is not an object, this will give you lots of joy over the long haul. With ‘preamp’ modules (much like buying / trading / collecting pedals), it will be cheaper than fork-lifting your amp, each time you decide to explore new styles of music. For even greater expandability – the RM100 is a full size version of this amp. With that said, there are a few considerations to note : Up front cost is high, the RM20 is single channel amp and is EL84 based (micro series spec). 


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About the Author: The Tone King | | TTKRocks | REAL reviews for REAL players! ROCK hard, ROCK loud, ROCK ON!

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