Low volume tube amp?

itsme

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I'm looking to purchase my first tube amp. I want something small like 15-20 watt range. The thing is I am just a "bedroom" player and cant really crank the volume where I live. I play a lot of metal. Pantera, Metallica, Slayer type stuff. Right now I just use a little Marshall MG mini stack through an MXR Fullbore Metal pedal. I get a pretty decent tone out of it but I really wanna step up to a tube amp. My question is, do low volume and tubes really go together? If so, any suggestions? I view some information from this site, and read about tube converter. And i need information how to choose good tube converter. Where i can buy tube converter and i really need this or it isn't help me ?
 

Rik_Everglade

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I think that you need an attenuator. That would give you the high volume growl, but at low volume listening pleasure.
 

EyeByTwoMuchGeer

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I'd agree with Rik - a 15W tube amp will be SO INCREDIBLY LOUD when it starts to distort that an attenuator will probably be required. You can use pedals to get distortion, but the best part/appeal of tube amps is turning them up to get the power tubes to distort. Even a 5W tube amp like a Fender Champ is REALLY LOUD. 1W tube amps are still too loud for an apartment, as neighbors will certainly hear you, even at "low" volumes. You'd really probably need 1/4 W for you to crank the amp and get the tubes to distort without creating a large amount of volume. The problem with going to that low of a wattage is that you're getting ZERO headroom (everything distorts) and the sound that does come out isn't super pleasing. You start to lose bass and punch that only comes with some volume.

The modeling amps like the Katana and that new Fender Tone Master amp are getting surprisingly close to tube sounds but with the control of a solid state amp.

edit - if you're looking for a simple and low-risk option, assuming you have an Amazon Prime account, I'd check out the BIYANG/WANGS 1w amp head. I have one and they're pretty good quality for $150. They aren't the highest of gain amps, but they do break up with humbuckers, and you can push them with pedals. If it doesn't work out for you, you can always return it. You will need an 8ohm or 16ohm cab though. It will still be pretty damn loud with decent speakers. A single 1W amp pushed through an efficient 4x12 cabinet will be shockingly loud. Obviously less loud through a single 12" speaker, and even less loud through an inefficient 12" speaker.
 
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EyeByTwoMuchGeer

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Here's an example of a cool little 1/2W amp made by Zvex. You can get a decent idea of how loud just 1/2 tube watt is going though a big cabinet. Its at least as loud as somebody talking, if not much louder. Watts typically work by 10X-ing the wattage = twice the perceived volume. Assuming that this little 1/2 watter is cranked, its 1/2 as loud as a 5 watt amp, and roughly 1/4 as loud as a 50W amp. A 15W amp, for all purposes, is slightly less loud than a 50W amp. SO, this video shows you what you could expect from a 15W amp with decent volume, but times about 3. In other words, this amp in the video will be 1/3 as loud as a 15W amp with the same setup. At the 6 minute mark, the guy doing the video even says is borderline volume for getting noise complaints.


One thing that might help is getting an amp with a master volume, but in those cases, you're often just overdriving the preamp tubes and not the power tubes (which is where the magic happens).


Another thing to distinguish is if you're looking for clean tones at all. The main reason people would buy a 15-20W amp is for live gigging purposes when you're not being mic'd up by a good soundman. The wattage is mainly there to give you headroom so that you can still get some clean sounds before your amp distorts. At a certain point, usually right around the spot where the amp starts to really distort nicely, you stop getting much louder, and instead just get more distorted. However, by that point, the amp is already super loud. The best mix is a wattage that gives up the distortion at a volume appropriate to your specific space. Most bars or small clubs would probably kick you out for tuning a tube amp much past 3, and with a 15-20W amp, you'd still be basically crystal clean. Most of the guys I gigged with used amps in that range (15-30W) and I can't ever recall anyone ever getting all their distortion from their amps. It was mostly pedal-based, or, they dialed in their setup with an attenuator or a master volume.
 
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EyeByTwoMuchGeer

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Its also sort of amusing that someone's first post on the drum forum was about tube amps. But such is the DrumForum. We have all the knowledge of anything loud that could annoy a wife, a neighbor, or lead singer.
 

pgm554

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Solid state and tube amps are rated differently in terms of wattage.
A general rule of thumb is tube amps per watt is like 3 to one in terms of loudness.
Transistor amps cycle on and off(Class AB or D) and are more efficent than tube amps that are on constantly (class A),but tube amps clip differently and give you those nice distortions that tube freaks love.
 

Ox Han

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all of the low watt tube amps I'm familiar with are not known for metal. Using pedals, you could probably get there, but you may not like the tone once you get in the ball park with a low watt tube amp.

I actually think one of the orange micro terrors might be up your alley. The micro dark has a modern, scooped metal tone and actually has a really nice clean tone. It takes pedals well, but it's sound is always a little scooped. Great for bedroom playing/recording
 

Ox Han

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There are a lot of amazing sounding 5 watt amps that range in price, but none of them are known for metal and are still really loud for a bedroom. I’d recommend a swart or vintage 47, but what’s the point if the OP has to run 8 pedals into it to get the desired sound?

I think the micro terrors are the best bang for buck for metal, for bedroom practicing, and any other style that djents. Is that an upgrade to what the OP has currently? I have no idea
 

TeleMac

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I have a Vox AC4 that puts out 4 watts max but can be switched to 1 watt or 1/4 watt. I run it at 1/4 watt through an external open back cabinet with a 12" speaker. It sounds great and is loud enough to play with bass, drums and a second guitar in a small studio but the external cabinet helps to get the sound out better than the internal 8" speaker in a sealed cabinet.

You don't need 15 watts of tube amp to play in your bedroom and you could mic a small amp if you played a gig with a PA. As mentioned above there isn't a lot of headroom when you have the amp cranked but you do get that sweet over driven output tube sound that would melt your ears if it was 15 watt tube amp. Metal amps have high gain pre-amps to get that gritty sound which can also be achieved with distortion and fuzz pedals or by stacking 2 distortion pedals in series.
 

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