The Best Small Tube Amps For The Recording Studio

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Which gives you the feeling of physically and viscerally connecting with your tones? Which option offers more hidden surprises both fun and frustrating; which offers more idiosyncratic variation, a more lasting experience, a greater chance to live in the moment and to make your personal mark in the world?

Until the answer to that changes, I’ll be down on one knee, headphones on, moving the right mic in front of the right amp until it slides right into the sweet spot.

Justin Colletti is a Brooklyn-based audio engineer, college professor, and journalist. He records and mixes all over NYC, masters at JLM, teaches at CUNY, is a regular contributor to SonicScoop, and edits the music blog Trust Me, I’m A Scientist.

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  • Jim Santo

    two thumbs up for the Pro Jr., a/k/a “rock in a box”! one of the nicest features is that the little speaker is easily disconnected; run that puppy through a 15″ Clarion speaker for a mind-blowing sound

  • Though not a small amp, I love my Egnater Tweaker 40. Loads of bang for the buck.

  • 7notasestudio

    I love the Vox and I also have a DIY Marshall 18 watter. The Tiny Terror also features 2 EL84 if I’m not wrong so I’m definitely an EL84 kind of guy. I also like the JCM 800 a lot.

    I would like to add that I dont think that the digital emulation is able to replicate the tube amp sound, however if you’re doing demos or something quick software emulation might be right for you.

    Great article by the way.

  • HumbleGuitars

    Very interesting stuff, i prefer analog recording. I love warmth and feel of a real valve-amp. Digital recording just sounds too digital, I find it dumb to be a guitarist and not having an real amp, instead having some pc software that simulates an real amp.

  • JB

    I’ve got a Bassman 20 that’s rated pretty high. Very simple electronics, 18 watts & a 15″ speaker. Mine was featured in a Premiere Guitar article that said under 500 were made. Thanks–JB

  • Bordô

    Vox has way to many good options: The Nighttrain, the new AC10 , the AC4 and even the Pathfinder 15r and the Cambridge, both not tube amps, are good options for recording!

  • Ray Tubes

    There are lots of “Boutique” low watters out there today offering an amazing palatte of tones.
    Using a Variac with an amp should not cause any damage, so long as you do not go higher than 125v, or so low that the tube heaters aren’t getting their 6.3v or a bit cooler.
    Running tubes too cold can cause cathode poisining which will only shorten the life of the tubes, and running them on very low voltages, or sending B+ to the grid with no heating may destroy the tube immediately.
    That said, a Variac would not create a state such as this.
    Vintage amplification and equipment all ran at 115vac, and our line voltage has been creeping up over the years to appx 125vac.
    Much of this gear sounds better and will have a longer service life by using a Variac or Variable Regulated Supply to roll the voltage down to 115vac.