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Looking For The Best 15 Watt Tube Combo Amp?
Here’s a look at our favorites, including our top pick – the VOX AC15.
Tube amps, unlike solid state amps, use a system of vacuum tubes to amplify the signal coming from the speaker. Interestingly enough, tube technology has been around since the early 1900s, but following the invention of the transistor after World War 2, most electronic amplifiers were switched to a solid state setup. However, for many manufacturers and guitar aficionados, tube amps remain extremely popular.
Why Choose a Tube Amp Over a Solid State?
In comparison to solid state or hybrid amps (combining solid state and tube technology) tube amps are better because of:
- Warmer, more natural sounds
- Tendency to be louder than their solid state/hybrid counterparts
- Responsiveness to playing style and the control players can have over the sound
- Smoother handling of distortion/overdrive
With that in mind, here is a rundown of the best 15 watt tube combo amps on the market.
The VOX AC15C1 uses three 12AX7 preamp tubes and two EL84 output tubes. The classic VOX tone is present in this custom amp, and it allows for a high degree of flexibility with regards to tone. The Vox Ac15 is pretty much the staple of the entry tube amp world, you can’t go wrong when playing one of these babies. Present features are:
- a 12-inch Celestion G12M Greenback speaker
- master section featuring master volume and tone cut controls
- two input channels: Normal and Top-Boost
- adjustable VOX Classic Tremolo and Spring Reverb controls, switchable with optional VFS2A pedal (footswitch not included)
- 8/16 ohm output for external speakers
The Fender Super Champ 15 Watt holds two 6V6 tubes and one 12AX7 preamp tube. The 12AX7 is one of the more common preamp tubes, and boasts the highest gain of its peers. Some other features of this amp include:
- a 10-inch Fender Special Design Speaker
- a voicing knob allowing for 16 different amp types – such as Tweed, Blackface, British and Metal
- 15 effects with effects adjust control and a TAP tempo control for delay time and modulation rate adjustments
- two channels and an optional footswitch for channel switching
- USB output for direct digital recording with speaker emulation
- ¼ inch line output for external speaker capability
- free Fender FUSE software for further customization options such as amp voicing, effects defaults, effects parameters editing and online access to community content
The Marshall DSL15C possesses two 6V6 tubes and three ECC83 (European designation of the 12AX7) preamp tubes. It’s a compact amp, but sound and tone are comparable to larger versions of this series. Notable features are:
- a 12-inch Celestine G12E speaker
- classic and ultra gain channels
- two button footswitch for channel change and digital reverb toggle
- deep switch to boost the lower-end
- a pentode/triode switch on the back to change between 15 Watt and 7.5 Watt modes
The Laney CUB 12R boasts three ECC83 preamp tubes and two EL84 output tubes, one of the most widely-used types of output tube. Selling points include:
- a 12-inch Celestion driver
- FX loop and footswitch socket (footswitch not included)
- single channel amplification
- external speaker out
- dual inputs: 15 Watt and <1 Watt (allowing for increased drive on the power amp section using the <1 Watt input)
The Ibanez TSA15 contains two 6V6 tubes and two 12AX7 preamp tubes. This series has the “Tube Screamer” overdrive pedal effects built into the front-end circuitry of the amp, eliminating the need for the external pedal. Other features include:
- a 12-inch Celestion Seventy80 speaker
- separate controls for the Tube Screamer circuit
- Tube Screamer bypass allows for Overdrive, Tone and Volume control
- switchable 6dB boost for the preamp section
- optional IFS2G footswitch to toggle the Tube Screamer and 6dB Boost effects (footswitch not included)
- option to switch between 15 Watt and 5 Watt mode via control on the back of the amp
These are only five of the choices available. When choosing an amp, price and branding are only two of the factors that need to be taken into consideration. In conclusion, when it comes to the selecting the best 15-watt tube combo amps for your needs, perusing the options listed above would be a good place to start.