Looking to get an amp with that classic British tone, but don’t need a full Marshall stack? Looking for that vintage EL84 tube tone at a price that won’t put you in the poor house? Look no further. Here are some of the best low watt EL84 tube amps on the market today.
You can’t talk about EL84 tubes without talking about Marshall Amplifiers, so what better place to start this list of the best than with Marshall amps?
Best British Tone Amps
Marshall DSL15C DSL Series
The DSL15C is Marshall’s 15w, all tube combo amp. It’s compact, but packs a punch with classic EL84 tube tone. The DSL15C has two 6L6 tubes in the power section, but the preamp is all EL84s.. three of them to be exact.
15 watts may not sound like a lot, but for a tube amp it’s plenty loud for practice or small gigs. In fact, one of the things that makes the DSL15C so cool is that it has a pentode/triode switch for selecting the full 15w or a half 7.5w of output. That’s a great bit of versatility, and long time readers of this blog know that versatility is a big deal here.
The DSL15C also features a foot switchable gain channel that lets you switch between classic gain and ultra gain. Also present is a “deep switch” that gives your tone a bit of a low end boost.
With all these features and a 12″ Celestial G12E speaker and built in reverb, the DSL15C captures the classic EL84 British sound in a tight little tone package.
Marshall Limited Edition DSL5CCW
Next up on the list is one of Marshall’s smallest tube amps: the DSL5CCW, 5w 1×10″ all tube guitar combo amplifier. The DSL5CCW is powered by 3 ECC83 tubes and 1 12BH7/ECC99 tube. It’s got 2 channels – classic gain and ultra, and like it’s big brother (the DSL15C) the channels are foot switchable.
Yes, it’s 5 watts of pure British tone but it’s decked out in a cool, limited edition brown Country Western vinyl covering and tan basketweave cloth. What?
This portable little honey is capable of everything from Plexi-style cleans to JCM800-esque snarl to all out high gain crunch.
Orange Tiny Terror 10
Orange amplifiers carry on the British tone heritage that began with Marshall and they do it well.
The Tiny Terror 10 is a 15w, all tube 1×10 combo amplifier with wonderful harmonic clean tones and sweet distortion. This amp features gain, tone and volume controls and 3-stage gain with a single 10″ Celestian speaker. With its 2 12AX7 tubes in the preamp and 2 EL84 tubes in the power section, the Orange Tiny Terror 10 cranks out some serious British tone.
The Tiny Terror is a LOUD amp in a compact size and really pairs well with single coil guitars.
Blackstar HT1 Series
Lastly, is the Blackstar HT1 1w, 1×8″ combo amp. Yes, you read that right – 1 watt. Don’t laugh because this little guy is perfect if you’re looking for an all tube practice amp you can actually get some good British crunch tone out of. Good overdrive is all about headroom. Lots of headroom means lots of great clean tone. Less headroom means your tone is going to break up sooner (ie.: at a lower volume). That’s what the Blackstar HT1 does so well.
The HT1 uses a dual-triode 12AU7, wired in a push-pull circuit, to produce the same kind of crunch and break-up characteristics you would find in a traditional 100w amp , but at a much lower volume. Paired with the ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) circuit, you get the ability to sculpt your overdrive tone from sparkly US tone to dark UK crunch and everything in between.
Features include volume, gain, and ISF tone control and overdrive switch. There is also a speaker/headphone output and MP3 line in.
Powered by a single ECC82 (12AU7) tube and a single ECC83 (12AX7) tube in the preamp, the Blackstar HT1 1×8 is the perfect all tube amplifier for recording or practicing.