The Best Tube Amplifier Under $1000

In the last 20 years or so, tube amplifiers (or valve amplifiers) have come back into fashion. They were originally used a lot in the 1950s and 1960s, then faded from popularity. Now, there is current high demand for new tube amplifiers to be manufactured. Original valves can reach quite a hefty price on the market. 

Tube amplifiers offer great sound, meaning they offer fantastic treble and exquisite midrange performance. Sound clarity, details, and transparency are also out of this world. You do need to keep in mind that most don’t offer deep, roaring bass, but you can get amps that are still large enough to deliver on that bass sound. 

Tube amplifiers can be quite expensive, and replacing a single tube is pricey as well. In some cases, you might be lucky enough to get a tube that outlasts the product itself. You may get tubes that run hot, covering the sonic tones with sepia-like warmth, and even cool running tubes that don't color the sound at all. 

Best Tube Amplifier

When it comes to purchasing tube valves, bigger isn’t always better. You really need to do your homework, so before you purchase a tube amp, test it out if possible. Listen to whether it delivers the quality of sound that you are after. Sometimes, a smaller tube amplifier can give you the sound that you really want. 

Let’s have a look at some tube amplifiers that won’t break the bank and deliver on quality. 

The DarkVoice 336SE Headphone Tube Amplifier

Headphone tube amplifiers come in a variety of designs, each with their own unique advantages and drawbacks. The main thing that determines the quality of the tube amps are their distortion levels. The lower the distortion, the better. This is due to the output transformer-less (OTL) design, a key part in eliminating unpleasant distortion levels. 

The DarkVoice tube amp definitely is something else. You will be amazed at the quality of sound it gives you as soon as you put your headphones on, a crystal clear and clean warm sound. You will be able to hear every single note that you might have missed before due to distortion levels. 

The DarkVoice tube amplifier has a rock solid body that is made from anodized black metal. It is also equipped with gold-plated RCS connectors, a high quality potentiometer, and a power supply enclosure. A beautiful metal name plate finishes it off beautifully. The amp weighs in at 11 lbs, so it is really a heavy duty piece of equipment.

This tube amp has enough power to power headphones with a magnetic resistance of up to 600 Ohms and even a tube-based preamp for your speaker system. As a result, not only will your purchase get you a headphone tube amplifier, but also a speaker preamp, saving you money in the long run.

Specifications

  • Weight – 11.02 pounds
  • Dimensions – 14.9 x 10 x 8.2 inches
  • Tube Used – 6N8P & 6N5P
  • Distortion – <=2% Output impedance, 32 to 600 ohm
  • Power Handling Capacity – 1W
  • Input Terminal – RCA Jack
  • Output Terminal – 6.3mm Stereo Jack
  • Power Supply – 110V, 220~240V version

This tube amplifier from Rockville really makes for great sound whichever way you decide to use it. You can connect speakers directly into it or you can use it for your home theater system. Another function that sets this apart from the rest is its available Bluetooth function. This allows you to connect your phone, laptop, TV, or MP3 player directly into this amp.

At the rear is a No. 1 and No. 2 input for your TV, so you can connect with two devices and use the switch in the front to decide between the two. With the same switch you can set it to Bluetooth for easy usage and enjoy a range of up to 33 feet. All of the controls are easily accessible on the front, so adjusting the amplifier until it is perfect for you is super easy. 

There is also a VU meter or volume indicator meter on the front that you can easily read, plus a headphone output as well. The USB port is also up front, so playing music from a USB thumb drive can also be done. 

Not only does this tube amplifier deliver the most fantastic sound, it also looks great, with a modern two-tone wood and silver design that definitely sets it apart from the rest. 

Specifications

  • Weight – 6.6 lbs
  • Dimensions – 10.6 x 10.2 x 5.1 inches
  • Frequency Response (+-3dB) – 22Hz – 20Khz
  • Input Impedance – 47kO
  • Output Impedance – 4-8ohm
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio – ≥86dB
  • Bluetooth – Built-in with 33 foot range

This is a great buy if you like to DIY. With this purchase, you will be getting the complete assembly board for your tube amplifier. The product has been tested in the factory before it leaves for its final destination. Basically, when you receive it, you only need to attach the cables and you’re done!

The chassis is not included with the purchase that you can build yourself, which is great in one way: you can design exactly what you require and how you would like it to be. What you need to keep in mind when you are building the chassis is that there are enough cooling holes. 

As the amp tends to get quite hot, you will need to leave at least 30-50% of the chassis that you design open. This will ensure that the amp stays cool and doesn’t overheat. The larger the cooling hole areas, the longer your tube amp can live, up to 10 years – but with no cooling holes, you will be lucky if you reach 1 year. 

The power amp uses two 6J1‘s as the driver tubes and FU32’s as the power tubes. They can also be replaced by 832A’s. 

Specifications

  • Weight – 1.5kg
  • Dimensions – 12 x 21 x 17 cm
  • Driver Tube – 6J1 x 2PCS
  • Power Tube – FU32 x 2 PCS
  • Frequency Response (+-1dB) – 30-40KHz
  • Input Sensitivity – 550mV
  • Input Impedance – 10K ohm
  • Output Impedance – 16ohm, 8ohm, 6ohm, 4ohm
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio – 80dB/3W
  • Power Consumption – 40W
  • Power Output – 3W + 3W @ 8 ohms

Small and compact, the T20 Bluetooth Tube Amp is certainly one of the easier tube amplifiers to install and get set up. It is practical and powerful if you want to improve your HiFi sound quality. It is also perfect to use at your office desk, due to it being so small. It won’t take up a lot of space and you don’t need any software to play it directly from your PC. 

The two powerful 50W outputs are perfect for outdoor, bookshelf, computer, ceiling, and standing speakers, and are protected by the built-in speaker circuit. There is also an input for your TV, MP3 players, iPhone, CD players, and even some streaming media players. Connect your headphones at the designated output and you will experience top quality and clarity in sound. 

Connecting your audio system via Bluetooth to your phone or laptop doesn’t come easier, and once you are connected, there is no popping sound, which most devices do. So, if you are looking for the perfect tube amplifier system for your home theatre system or surround sound, this is the one to have a look at. You will experience sound on a whole new level!

Specifications

  • Weight – 1.95 pounds
  • Dimensions – 5.06 x 3.86 x 1.3 inches
  • Tube Used – 6K4 x 2 (can also use 6J1, GE5654, 6AK5, 6BC5, 403A/B, ext.)
  • Frequency Range – 20Hz – 20Khz
  • Input Sensitivity – <280mV
  • Output Impedance – 2 Ohm – 8 Ohm
  • Headphone Output – 16-64 Ohm
  • Power Output – 50W x 2
  • Bluetooth – Build-in system

This is a very light compact tube headphone amplifier. Fitted with a 6N3 tube that can also be easily replaced and upgraded, different tubes will make it able to enjoy different sound effects. The amplifier is fitted with a 6.35mm headphone jack and also available is a 3.5mm headphone adapter. It can support a headphone up to 300Ω-21mW x 2 power and drive 32~600 ohm headphones and headsets.

Due to the amplifier being a low ground noise amplifier, there won’t be any buzzing or ringing when you are using your amplifier. Using the MCU controls, you are also able to avoid damage to your headphones. 

The front cover from the amplifier is made from acrylic and the housing is made from aluminum CNC. This also contributes to the amplifier being lightweight. It is also very user friendly, with the volume button easy to access and adjust thanks to a visible LED digital screen. The amplifier is great for using with your DAC, laptop, PC, and phone. 

Always keep in mind when you are using this amplifier, keep it away from routers and other mobile devices, or anything else that might interfere with the audio signal. 

Specifications

  • Weight – 9.9 pounds
  • Dimensions – 4.33 x 2.17 x 3.62 inches
  • Tube Used – 6N3
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio – 85dB/3W
  • Headphone Output – 32~600 Ohm
  • Power Output – 5.5W 
  • Warranty – 1 Year

Buyer’s Guide

These tube amplifiers are truly amazing and the quality of sound that they produce is on a different level. You are able to choose amplifiers for headphones and for your HiFi systems, making your options quite endless. You just need to do your homework and if possible test them out before you make your purchase, so you can know what it is you are looking for.

Here’s one final look at these amplifiers.

The headphone tube amplifier

In this article, we took a look at two possible headphone amplifiers that you might consider purchasing: the DarkVoice and the SMSL SP100 headphone tube amplifiers. 

The DarkVoice tube amp is a very sturdy amplifier that will produce amazing sound quality with little to no distortion. The music will have a clear and warm tone and the amp is so easy to use. 

The SMSL SP100 is much smaller than the DarkVoice and very lightweight. But even though it is smaller in size, it still produces top-notch quality sound that is crystal clear. It is also very user friendly and works great with your laptop and even your phone. 

These really are two great options to consider if you are looking for headphone tube amplifiers. 

The best tube amplifier to boost HiFi and surround sound

Here, you also have two options to choose from:  the Rockville BluTube and the T20 Bluetooth Tube Amplifier.

If you are looking for something that is easy on the eyes and a beautiful addition to your theater system, the Rockville BluTube would be the perfect choice. You can connect it to any audio device like your TV or laptop, even your MP3 player. You can also easily switch between your No. 1 and No. 2 inputs and the Bluetooth system with a simple switch. This amp will boost your sound quality and is a great conversation starter as well. 

The T20 Bluetooth tube amp works great for your office and home too. It can easily be connected to your iPod, smartphone, MP3 player, or CD and streaming media players. It is small and practical, and you will notice a great improvement in your HiFi sound quality.

The tube amplifier for DIY chassis

Want to design your own chassis that fits with your style and taste? This would be a great option to purchase. The product has been tested at the factory, so you can simply fit the cables to it and start using it right away. Keep in mind that the shell area around the amp must have enough cooling holes so that it doesn’t overheat. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, this buyer's guide has helped you to decide which type of amplifier will work best for you and what you would like to do next. Your options are endless, as we only had a look at a few of these tube amplifiers. 

So, if you are ready for a total improvement in your sound system quality, get yourself a tube amplifier!

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