Today we’re going to talk about tube amplifiers. Tube amplifiers are electronic amplifiers that use vacuum tubes to boost sound. They are used to power speakers, amps, guitars and headphones. We took a look at top tube amplifiers in the market. We studied their sound quality, features and design, and made a list of the best products. Here they are in no particular order.
Best Tube Amplifier Review & Guide [ 2020 Updated List ]
Let us now take a look at best tube amplifiers in the market in following table.
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Rockville BluTube 70W Tube Amplifier
The best tube amplifier you can find is the Rockville BluTube. It is a powerful 2-channel Bluetooth tube amplifier cum receiver with an RMS power output of 70 watts (35 watts x 2 @ 4 ohms) and 50 watts (25 watts x 2 @ 8 ohms). It is best suited for home audio installations like bookshelf speakers and desktop speakers. The Rockville BluTube has a built-in preamp which does the preliminary amplification of the incoming signal before sending it to the main amplifier. The preamp makes the sound more robust and nuanced. It is more efficient and does not hard-clip even at very high volumes. As a result, the final output sounds as if the amp has double the rated power. The gadget has 3 modes of accepting audio input: Bluetooth, RCA and USB. It is compatible with all Bluetooth devices like smart phones, tablets, laptops and TVs. The Bluetooth version is 2.1+EDR. It has a wireless transmission range of 33 feet. The two sets of RCA inputs can be used to connect MP3 players, TVs, phones and laptops. The inputs support WAV, MP3, WMA, APE and FLAC audio formats. The USB port can be used to play songs through USB flash drives. It can also double as a charging port for your phone, tablet or any other device that has USB. The amplifier also has a headphone output and a pair of speaker outputs (banana plug/ binding post outputs) at the back. It has a VU (volume unit) meter. It has adjustable bass and treble for customizing the music. Frequency response of the Rockville BluTube tube amplifier is 25 Hz to 20 kHz, input impedance is 47k ohm, input sensitivity is 300 mV, signal-to-noise ratio (S/R) is 86 dB and total harmonic distortion (THD) is 0.02%. It has a power supply of 110 V. The gadget has a sturdy frame. The control panel is in front. It features a power switch, VU meter, knobs for bass, treble, volume, play/pause and song selection, Bluetooth/USB input switch, Bluetooth indicator and headphone jack. Dimensions of the amp are: 10.6 inches x 10.2 inches x 5.1 inches. It weighs 6.6 lbs. Warranty period of the product is one year. The package contains the tube amplifier cum receiver, a 5-foot RCA to 3.5mm AUX cable, a 5 ½-foot power cord, a warranty card and a user manual.
Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier / Hi-Fi Valve Headphone Amp / Stereo Audio Preamplifier
The Nobsound NS-08E is a 2-in-1 vacuum tube headphone amplifier and stereo preamplifier. It provides more than 1100 mW @ 32 ohms and powers 18 to 600-ohm headphone sets. It is ultra-compact and fits in the palm of one’s hand. It is great for listening to songs on headsets, headphones and active speakers at home and in office. The Nobsound NS-08E uses latest 6J3 vacuum valve tubes which have better tube sound and more replaceable tubes. The tube and the electric core ensure the final output is great. It makes the bass and treble more pronounced, and minimizes distortion. The amp functions as a stereo preamplifier for amplifiers and active speakers. It has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 30 Hz, signal-to-noise ratio of ≥110 dB, total harmonic distortion of <0.005% and headphone adapter impedance of 18 to 600 ohms. The NS-08E has a high-grade microprocessor that controls the relay while it’s being switched on and off. This makes sure you have a low-ground noise power circuit and fewer pops. The device has a 3.5mm auxiliary input port that accepts sound input from phones, tablets, laptops, TVs and CD players. It has a 3.5mm auxiliary output jack for sending signals to active speakers, amplifiers and headphones. The Nobsound tube amplifier has a CNC aluminum enclosure. With the tubes installed it has a height of 73 mm. Its width is 69 mm and depth is 111 mm. It weighs 0.41 lbs. The front panel has the 3.5mm auxiliary input and output ports, and the volume knob. Power supply of the amp is as follows:- input voltage: AC 100-240V 50/60 Hz; output voltage: DC 6V 2000Ma. The package contains the headphone amplifier, a power supply cable and a pair of 6J3 vacuum tubes. To avoid jarring noises, place the amplifier away from phones and routers. If the noise persists, disconnect all inputs and check if you still hear the noise. Handle the amp with caution if you’ve been using it for a while as it might be very hot. After turning it on, wait for about 15 seconds before connecting the source device and headphone. The manufacturer recommends using 24 to 600-ohm headphones. Armature headphones and earphones with low resistance and high sensitivity are not suitable.
YAQIN MC-13S Push-Pull Integrated Stereo Tube Amplifier
The MC-13S by Yaqin is another high-performance Class A push-pull integrated stereo tube amplifier. It is an upgraded version of the MC-10L. It is an ultra-linear power amplifier with an output of 40 watts x 2 @ 8 ohms. The MC-13S tube amplifier is powered by Yaqin 6CA7T tubes which have better sound quality than Shu Guang EL34B tubes. It has an analog VU meter for monitoring the average output of the two channels. It has a Class A circuitry which lowers distortion and the push-pull design ensures greater output power. The output transformers of the amp are manufactured with Japanese silicon steel sheet and enameled wire. This combination allows for a wider dynamic range when operating at full rated power. Apart from this, the amp also uses audiophile capacitors and metal precision resistors dedicated for sound frequency. The YAQIN MC-13S has a max power output of 80 watts (40 watts x 2) @ 8 ohms. It has 2 groups of gold-plated output jacks and 4 groups of gold-plated isolated RCA jacks. It can power bookshelf, desktop and floor-standing stereo speakers. It accepts input from CD players, DVD players, tapes and tuners. Output impedance of the device is 4 ohms to 8 ohms, input impedance is 20 kilo ohms and input sensitivity is 0.25 volts. Power consumption is 220 watts and supply voltage is AC 110V / AC 220V, 60/50Hz. Frequency response of the amplifier is 10 Hz to 76 kHz (-2 dB), signal-t-noise ratio of >85 dB and total harmonic distortion of ≤0.9% @ 28 watts. The MC-13 tube amplifier has a stainless steel chassis with a stainless steel top and a steel bottom. It has aluminum panel and bezels. It has a VU meter on the front panel. The amp measures 24 inches x 17 inches x 12 inches and weighs 40 lbs. The package contains the tube amplifier, a power cable, a hex screwdriver and a user manual. Tubes that come in the package include: 6CA7T x 4, 12AX7B x 2, 12AU7 x 2.
Nobsound 6P1 6.8W 2 Vacuum Tube Power Amplifier
The Nobsound 6P1 is a single-ended Class A vacuum tube power amplifier. It is a hand-welded device which makes the final sound more realistic and closer to the original version. It does not have a headphone amp function. The Nobsound 6P1 tube amp has a power rating of 6.8 watts x 2 channels. It has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, input impedance of 100k ohms and output impedance of 4 to 8 ohms. Signal-to-noise ratio of the device is 90 dB, input sensitivity is 500mV to 2000mV and total harmonic distortion is 1% (1kHz). The amp is best suited for powering 4-ohm to 8-ohm stereo speakers. It comes with one 5Z4P, two 6H8C and four 6P1 vacuum tubes. It has an operating voltage of 110 V. The Nobsound 6P1 tube amplifier has a transformer parallel design to cut down on internal resistance by half and double the power handling ability. It uses anti-magnetic transformer covers to protect the circuitry from current interferences and minimize static noise. The hand-crafted build of the amp enables speakers to deliver sweet highs, crisp midrange and rumbling bass. Vocals are intelligible and instruments stand out. The device has a black cabinet with a power switch, two VU meters and a volume knob in front. The inputs, outputs and power supply socket are at the back. The housing measures 260mm by 260mm by 150mm, and weighs 7 kg. The package contains the tube amplifier and a power cable.
Gemtune APPJ PA1501A Mini Tube Amplifier With 6AD10 Tube
Another product we highly recommend is the Gemtune APPJ PA1501A mini tube amplifier. It is a step up to the PA0901A tube amplifier by APPJ. It is a powerful amplifier for stereo speakers and DIY sound systems. The PA1501A uses an imported 6AD10 inventory tube. It has two 6AD10 tubes arranged in a Class A circuitry. It has an indirectly heated cathode pole double five-five poles composite tube. It has better sound and power capabilities than 6BM8, ECL805, ECL82, 6F3, EL84 and 6V6 tubes. The amp has a power output of 3.5 watts x 2 channels @ 8 ohms. It has a frequency response of 30 Hz to 40 kHz, signal-to-noise ratio of 80dB / 3.5W, input sensitivity of 500mV and residual noise of <0.5mV AC. Input impedance of the device is 10K ohm and output impedance is 4 ohms to 8 ohms. It consumes 38 watts and has an input AC voltage of 100 to 250 V AC. You can play songs on the Gemtune APPJ PA1501A tube amplifier from all kinds of source gadgets like phones, MP3 players, laptops, TVs and virtually any device that can send a signal via RCA input jacks. For outputs there are banana jacks. The amp has a compact black metal chassis for fitting in tight spaces. The volume knob is in front while the inputs, outputs, standard IEC jack and the power button are at the back. The device weighs 5.5 lbs. It is 160mm wide, 134mm deep and 125mm high. Please note that power cord is not included in the package.
Stereo Hybrid Tube Amplifier By ACIN
The Stereo Hybrid TA-10D tube amplifier by ACIN is a reliable device. It is a Class AB integrated power amplifier cum receiver. It has Bluetooth, wired RCA and USB connectivity. It is perfect as a receiver cum amplifier for home, office and store use. The Stereo Hybrid stereo amp has a hybrid design. It features two 6P1 and two 6N1 vacuum tubes. It delivers clean power thanks to pure valve amplification. It puts out a continuous power of 25 watts x 2 channels @ 4 ohms and 18 watts x 2 channels @ 8ohms. This is enough to drive bookshelf speakers and desktop speakers inside a space of 30 square meters. Frequency response of the amplifier is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, signal-to-noise ratio is >80 dB and total harmonic distortion is <0.5% (1kHz/1W). Output impedance is 4 ohms to 8 ohms and headphone impedance is 32 ~ 320 ohm. For sound input, the Stereo Hybrid tube amp has Bluetooth, USB and RCA stereo (CD and DVD separate) inputs. It works with all kinds of media sources like smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, and MP3, CD and DVD players. It supports the following audio formats: MP3, WMA, WAV, APE, FLAC and AAC. The TA-10D hybrid tube amplifier has a black cabinet with a polished piano finish. It has a brushed aluminum face and exposed tubes. The VU meter has built-in illumination. There is a headphone output for enjoying music privately. The control panel consists of the power button, knobs for volume, bass, treble, play/pause and song skip, Bluetooth indicator, input selector (CD, Bluetooth/USB, DVD), a headphone output and a USB port. Power consumption of the device is 100 watts. The package contains the amplifier, one 3.5mm/RCA cable and a user guide. Warranty period is one year.
Fosi Audio T20 Bluetooth Tube Amplifier
The T20 tube amplifier by Fosi Audio is a dual-channel Class D digital tube amplifier. It acts as both a preamp, and an amplifier for headphones and passive speakers. It is a receiver cum amplifier. You can use it to power bookshelf, floor-standing and desktop speakers. The Fosi Audio T20 has Bluetooth 4.2 technology for convenient wireless connectivity with source devices. It supports aptX low latency and a range of 39 feet. For non-Bluetooth gadgets, there is a 3.5mm AUX input jack. It accepts input gadgets like iPhones, iPods, Android phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, DVD players, MP3 players and streaming media players. It is also compatible with Amazon Echo smart devices. Such a wide range of connectivity options really makes the system very flexible. The amp has two 6J4 tubes for ultra-clear audio. They can be replaced with 6K4, 6J1, GE5654, 6AK5, 6ж1П, 6BC5, 403A/B, EF40, and EF95 tubes. The device has a headphone output for listening to songs on headphones and earphones typically with impedances between 16 to 64 ohms. As mentioned above, the T20 serves 3 purposes: it can be used as a preamp to another amp, it can be used as a power amp to drive stereo speakers, or it can be used as a headphone amplifier. The amp uses a TPA3116 chip for producing distortion-free sound. It has a compact size and shape. It fits easily in small spaces like computer tables, media consoles and office cabinets. The device has a black housing. The front panel has the bass, treble and volume controls, power button and the headphone output. The top panel has the two 6J4 tubes. The rear panel has RCA inputs, banana speaker outputs, DC power supply input, a Bluetooth antenna and a Bluetooth/AUX indicator. Frequency response of the amplifier is 20 Hz to 20 kHz and signal-to-noise ratio is >99 dB. It has a rated output power of 50 watts x 2 @ 4 ohms. The package contains the power tube amplifier, a pair of 6J4 tubes, one power supply (DC 24V 4.5A) cord, Bluetooth antenna and a user manual. The amp is 3.86 inches wide, 5.06 inches deep and 1.3 inches high.
Dayton Audio HTA20BT Hybrid Stereo Tube Amplifier
The last product we will be analyzing is the HTA20BT hybrid tube amplifier by Dayton Audio. It is a stereo tube amplifier with Bluetooth, AUX and USB connectivity. It powers speakers and headphones. It has a space-efficient design and is perfect for home and office use. The HTA20BT has a Class D topology with a vacuum tube preamp section. It produces warm and nuanced audio with diverse applications. It uses a pair of 6F1 vacuum tubes and a TDA7491HV chip to give you unparalleled music. It has a power output of 12 watts x 2 channels @ 4 ohms and a total harmonic distortion of <0.1% at rated power. The gadget has Bluetooth 4.2 technology for wireless music streaming. It is compatible with all Bluetooth devices including smart phones, laptops, etc. It has dual RCA inputs for wired input. It also has a USB card reader for playing songs through a pen drive. It supports most audio formats like FLAC, WMA, MP4, WAV and APE. The HTA20BT tube amplifier has a built-in headphone amp. You can plug in your headphone using the 3.5mm headphone output which has a power capacity of 15 mW @ 600 ohms; 11 mW @ 300 ohms; 7.8 mW @ 32 ohms; 5.6 mW @ 16 ohms (maximum @ 1 kHz, <1% THD+N). The amp also has a subwoofer output for powering subwoofers. For satellite stereo speakers there are binding posts on the rear panel which can be used via banana plugs or up to 14 AWG speaker wire. Frequency response of the tube amp is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, minimum speaker impedance is 4 ohms, signal-to-noise ratio is >80 dB, input impedance is 47k ohms and input sensitivity is 300 mV. The cabinet is black. It is 9.3 inches wide, 6.18 inches deep and 4.2 inches high. The top panel has the tubes, a power button, play/pause button, a volume knob, an input selection knob, and a USB port. The product has a parts and labor warranty of 5 years.
Tube Amplifier vs Digital Amplifier
A tube amplifier is an electronic amplifier that uses vacuum tubes to augment the amplitude or power of a signal. In the early days of amplification technology, vacuum tubes were the norm. They are used widely in sound and military systems. But ever since the rise of solid-state (digital amp) technology, tube amps have become limited to niche applications like guitar amplifiers, preamps, headphone amplifiers and power amplifiers, military radar applications and satellite transponders such as GPS. Audio enthusiasts advocate the use of tube amplifiers for their full-bodied sound. They argue that the even harmonic distortion produced by valve tubes gives the sound a very distinctive flavor. Tube amps are mostly used in recording studios as they have a warmer and more natural sound. Guitarists around the world use tube amps for their superior tone and timber. Tube amps are preferred over digital amps for the roundness of the sound they produce. But they are less forgiving than their solid-state counterparts, which is why you need to match them with the right speakers. With solid-state amps there is no such hard and fast rule and you get fairly good sound even if the amp and the speakers are not properly matched.
A digital amplifier is an electronic amplifier that uses solid-state devices like diodes and transistors to increase the amplitude or power of a signal. It takes in a weak audio signal and makes it more powerful so that it can drive the cones of the loudspeaker. Digital amplifiers are the most common type of amplifiers currently sold in the market. They are lightweight, portable and conveniently shaped. They do not have delicate glass tubes and hence are less vulnerable. They are also cheaper than tube amps. They have a cooler operating temperature and are more reliable. But, despite all the plus points, digital amps tend to have a slightly brittle and grating sound. The difference might not be discernible to the layperson’s ears, but a trained sound professional easily picks it up.
Read our article on how does an amplifier work ?
Read our article on how does an amplifier work ?