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Best small valve amp (Sub £350)


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Or Marshall DSL5 - I`ve been very impressed by it, even with the power-shift down to 0.5watts it`s plenty loud enough for home use, to the point where I`m not able to have it on full volume. Not bad for half a watt!

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Was about to start a thread about my latest acquisition, but then I came across this - and thought I'd add my 2 cents, 2 years after the last post xD


I love small valve amps, and have owned a few:

  • a 5 watt EVA (English Valve Amps) head that looked a lot like a kit amp and sounded similar to an Orange;
  • two Koch Studiotone 20 watt amps (both the head and combo version): two-channel amp with a shared EQ and a footswitchable gain boost on the lead channel. Great piece of kit, very versatile but fairly bright sounding - and the reverb is never fully off, which can be annoying. Has a built-in power soak and a usable recording output with cab and mic sim. I have since sold the head + 2x12, but still have the combo in my band's rehearsal space for when I require a guitar amp;
  • a Koch Classic SE6 (my favourite): single channel, single-ended class A with some clever switching options, and the same built-in power soak and recording output with cab and mic sim the Studiotone has. It takes either a 6V6 or an EL84 as an output tube and sounds great with both. I have a 6V6 in it now, which beefs up the low end a bit and adds some clean headroom to the power section. Like the Orange Tiny Terror, the power tube can be switched between pentode and triode mode to cut the power from 6 to 3 watts;
  • an Ibanez TSA5. Fun little amp with a built-in, footswitchable Tubescreamer. It's a fun amp for home use, but without the TS engaged it's fairly quiet. It's cheaply made and could really do with a more solid housing and a better speaker (it has a cheap Celestion Ten-Thirty). It's overly bright, quiet, but most of all the signal-to-noise ratio is VERY disappointing. This is one noisy amp! I bought it new in a clearance sale at Thomann for a great price, so I'm not complaining, but after a few years of barely using it I will soon be selling it after buying the next amp on the list;
  • last friday I picked up a used Peavey JSX Mini Colossal at a steal, and I love it! 5 watts, single-ended class A with a variable power sponge that functions as a master volume, FX loop, built-in optical tremolo, XLR recording output with speaker and mic sim, and a custom 8" Weber speaker that sounds much bigger than it looks. Great little amp, that was only in production for a short while in the Joe Satriani signature series. It was never a huge hit, because it came out at an unfortunate moment: right when many manufacturers introduced Asian-made low wattage amps, often with bigger speakers, at much lower prices (the Peavey is USA-made and was therefore relatively expensive in comparison). The Weber speaker is also notorious for taking a lot of time to break in, and will sound overly tight and bright when new. It's great though, and since mine is nearly 15 years old, it's been nicely broken in. basically a Vibro Champ on steroids with a LOT more gain under a dial. I mostly enjoy the cleaner tones I get out of it though, plus it takes pedals really well :)


When I want to play more quietly, I take out my Yamaha THR-10 II though. It's great, and none of the amps mentioned above really does a good metal tone, where you want preamp gain and tightness and not a clipping power section. The THR delivers, and is plenty loud too. 

Edited by LeftyJ
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