7 Best 5-Watt Tube Amps (2023) Small Amps, Big Sound

When it comes to guitar amps, there are seemingly endless options available. One type of amp that has become increasingly popular in recent years is the 5-watt guitar amp. These smaller units are perfect for practicing at home or even partaking in some small gigs.

These types of amps have come a long way and now offer different choices and features. Some 5-watt amps even allow you to ditch your pedalboard and offer you a complete solution for practicing with different effects and sounds. 

Everything from speaker size to effects can change among these smaller amps. With so many options, it can be a tall order to know where to look. We are here to help you make an informed decision. Keep reading.

Editor's Choice
Fender '57 Custom Champ

Fender '57 Custom Champ

Features: Hand wired circuitry, Special Design Weber alnico speaker, Authentic coupling capacitors 

Benefits: Incredible touch sensitivity, Authentic vintage tones, Simple operation

Best Value
Marshall DSL5CR

Marshall DSL5CR

Features: Built in attenuator, Speaker emulated output, 2 Channels

Benefits: Classic Marshall tone, Saturated sound at any volume, Excellent tonal versatility

Best Budget
Bugera V5 Infinium

Bugera V5 Infinium

Features: Infinium Tube Life Multiplier, HD reverb, Power attenuation

Benefits: Superb harmonics, Fantastic overdriven tone, Extended tube life

Our Top 3

The Marshall DSL5CR is our Top Pick. This amp features a twin-channel design and comes with a pair of ECC83s tubes in the preamp section and an ECC99 in the power amplifier for a great tube tone in a convenient size.

The Bugera V5 Infinium is our Budget Choice. With a combo design that is very convenient, it features a 12AX7 preamp tube as well as an EL84 power tube and an 8” speaker. Great for students, this amp also features a power attenuator for remarkably quiet practice. 

Finally, the Fender ’57 Custom Champ is our Editor’s Choice. It features a great-sounding 8″ Weber Special Design speaker and was built with hand-wired circuitry. This is a fantastic choice for dedicated players that seek the best in portability and tone.


Individual Reviews

Top Pick
Marshall DSL5CR

Marshall DSL5CR

Authentic British tone in a small package.

If you're looking for quality and convenience in an all-tube amp, the DSL5CR is the way to go. With classic Marshall tone, look and overall features, you get a fantastic practice tool packed with useful features.

The Marshall DSL5CR brings a twin-channel design and features two ECC83s tubes in the preamp section and an ECC99 in the power amplifier. We were excited to try this small amp and plug our Les Paul Studio in order to conduct our tests. 

We started with the Classic Gain channel on clean and got a punchy tone, great for practicing everything from chicken picking patterns all the way to extended chord voicings on the neck pickup. The reverb on the DSL5CR also came in handy and gave us a spatial quality that sounded great for a variety of clean-tone contexts. 

Next, we went to the neck pickup and pressed the button that activates the Ultra Channel on this Marshall. With the Gain knob dialed at around 7 o’clock, we got a scorching hot tone. We tried several riffs and some fast lines and got great note definition on a punchy and forward sound. 

One of our favorite features on this amp was the high/low power modes that allowed us to choose the right volume for the situation. In other words, we were able to choose between a 5 Watt setting or a 1-watt setting. Although we felt that the louder setting favored this amp the best, the low setting is great for nearly quiet practice without losing the real feel of playing through an amp. 

For even greater flexibility, the DSL5CR comes with a line output with an emulation of a Marshall 1960 cab by Softube. This allows you to plug into a PA and bypass the speaker on this combo, and get a credible cab simulation.

Verdict: The Marshall DSL5CR features a twin-channel design and is built with two ECC83s tubes in the preamp and an ECC99 in the power amplifier. This amp is a fantastic choice for musicians looking to practice with convenience, but without sacrificing tone or quality. We thought this was a fantastic amp that delivered in terms of both quality, and useful features.


Best Budget
Bugera V5 Infinium

Bugera V5 Infinium

Convenience on a straightforward and affordable amp.

The V5 combines a tube design on a small enclosure for ultimate convenience and functionality. In order to play in different rooms and situations, it comes with three levels of attenuation. In other words, it's a little great-sounding amp.

The Bugera V5 Infinium (full review here) gives you five watts of power on a combo amplifier design that is truly convenient and a great solution for students (if you’re looking for more power, we like the V22). It features a 12AX7 preamp tube as well as an EL84 power tube. While it is on the smaller size with only an 8″ speaker, Bugera still added several extremely useful features, such as the power attenuator that allows for very quiet practice, as well as the built in reverb.

We plugged our PRS Silver Sky in order to test out this amp. We got a good and very responsive tone, ideal for quality practice. With the gain at around 7 o’clock, the tone of the 12AX7 tube comes through with bite and nice harmonics. Additionally, the EL84 tube gave us that extra push to really drive this amp and practice with tons of saturation but with nice note clarity.

Bugera’s Tube Life Multiplier Technology is also included with this amp. This technology monitors the performance of the amp’s output tubes and helps keep an evenly distributed load. With an indicator LED next to each tube, the user can monitor when the tube is about to die, in order to prevent any potential issues. 

One of our favorite features on this amp was its power attenuator. We tried it on all three possible settings: 0.1 watts, 1 watts, and 5 watts. Our favorite was five watts, as we found it to be the most responsive to our dynamics. Whether on clean or with the gain up and even when pushed further, we felt that this setting was the best for this amp. 

Naturally, sometimes, its challenging to practice at that volume, particularly if you have roommates or play at night. Here is where the other two options come in handy. If need be, the 0.1-watt setting can be quite useful, and we liked how it sounded, particularly with clean tones.

Verdict: The Bugera V5 Infinium comes in a convenient size and features a 12AX7 preamp tube and an EL84 power tube. With five Watts on a 1×8″ configuration, this amplifier is a fantastic choice for practicing and features a power attenuator for greater flexibility. Thanks to its affordable price tag and all tube power, this Bugera is a good option for beginners and students.


Editor's Choice
Fender '57 Custom Champ

Fender '57 Custom Champ

Outstanding Fender tone on a small form factor.

This amp delivers the feat of providing a fantastic Fender tone and feel at a reduced size. It comes with not only the tone, but the feel, functionality, and vintage look of some of the most beloved Fender amps in history. Simply said, a fantastic choice for dedicated professionals.

The Fender ’57 Custom Champ features an 8″ Weber Special Design speaker that delivers vintage touch via an incorporated alnico magnet for vintage sound. With special details like hand-wired circuitry and a lacquered tweed covering, we were excited to try this amp out and plugged our Standard Fender Strat for our tests.

We started by trying out the clean tones on the Custom Champ. We got that classic Fender tone with a warm low end and a nice amount of top-end clarity that paired just perfectly with our Strat. From funky rhythms on position four, all the way to country twang on position one, this amp delivered the goods with great response. 

Next, we took the volume knob past noon and got a nice overdrive with beautiful sustain. We felt that here is where the Custom Champ is at its best. Tons of personality with a balanced voice that delivers classic Fender tone.

We then tried our Ibanez Tube Screamer and Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi. Both pedals sounded great on this amp, and the same was true for other delay, chorus and reverb pedals from our board. In essence, this amp takes pedals really well, which translates into being perfect to practice with your entire setup without having to sacrifice quality. 

Verdict: The Fender ’57 Custom Champ comes with an 8″ Weber Special Design speaker, and features like hand-wired circuitry and a lacquered tweed covering. This amp delivers great tone at 5 watts and takes pedals really well, making it a good choice for pros looking for a quality practice amp. In short, this amp is a Superb choice for players looking for a 5-watt amp that they can use for practice, recording, and even gigging.


Also Consider
Supro Delta King 10

Supro Delta King 10

Vintage looks and classic tube tone.

The Delta King delivers a good tone and a beautiful vintage design to your practice room. With good versatility for the practice room and a retro look, this amp is a good choice for anyone looking for a quality tone on five watts of power.

The Supro Delta King 10 packs a punch, as it comes in a smaller size but still has a larger tone (if you want a little more, check out the Delta King 12). With a unique tweed retro look, this amp comes loaded with one 12AX7 preamp tube as well as a 6V6 tube power tube.  

For our tests, we plugged our PRS Silversky into the first test of the amp’s clean tones. Even at just 5 watts of power, we liked the clarity and balance that this amp provided and loved the custom DK10 speaker as it gave us a forward punch for rhythmic parts. 

We then tried out the FET-driven boost function by flipping the small switch on the control panel. The tone we got had a lovely midrange boost to it, and we felt it was quite responsive for such a little amp. We tried everything from single lines to overdriven chords and loved the results. This boost switch is one of the best features on the Delta King.

Next, we went for the other fantastic feature on this amp: a Pigtronix FAT high-gain mode. By merely flipping a switch, our tone was loaded with tons of power and punch, particularly when considering how small the Dental King is. This mode was perfect for practicing everything from rock to metal, all the way to blues and fusion with a bit less of saturation. 

The analog spring reverb was also a very welcomed feature on this amp. It makes clean practice much more lively and even works well with a bit of overdrive. 

Verdict: The Supro Delta King 10 is a great amp for your practice room and features a 1 x 10-inch configuration. With five watts of tube power, you get a 2-band EQ, and two switches, one for a FET-driven Boost and the other with Pigtronix FAT Mode for full versatility. This little amp delivered fantastic tone and unique features so you don’t have to depend on a pedalboard. However, despite its quality and versatility, the price of this practice amplifier may be a bit high for some, especially beginners. 


Also Consider
Blackstar HT-5R MkII

Blackstar HT-5R MkII

Elegant, convenient and inspiring.

The HT-5R has been a top seller for Blackstar and for good reason. With a small footprint, power attenuation, and two channels, this amp delivers a nice tone and convenience while giving the user a durable and sturdy construction.

The Blackstar HT-5R MkII is a convenient guitar combo amplifier made for practicing. With a 1 x 12″ configuration, two channels that you can activate via footswitch, and a power reduction circuit that allows you to take it down to 0.5 watts, this amp delivers convenience and flexibility.

We plugged our Les Paul to test it out, and began on channel 1 on clean. We got nice clarity and great note definition on both the neck and bridge pickup. We particularly liked our tone with a bit of reverb to add a bit of ambiance to everything from scales to jazz standards practice. 

This amp is also equipped with Infinite Shape Feature (ISF). This is a Blackstar design feature for shifting the EQ curves of the amp’s 3-band EQ. When we turned the knob all the way counterclockwise, we got a Fender-type flavor on our sound, with a nice bottom end and forward middle. 

We also liked how this amp sounded when we switched from 5 Watt operation to 0.5 Watts, via the button located right next to the power switch. Although we preferred the tone we got at 5 Watts, having the option to play at 0.5 watts makes this amp even more versatile. This is great whenever you want to practice late at night, or just need it to be very quiet. 

Verdict: The Blackstar HT-5R MkII delivers convenience and good tone on a well-designed 1 x 12″ configuration. With two channels that add a voice switch for greater tonal variety and a power reduction circuit that gives you either 5 or 0.5 watts, this amp provides good tone and response, with useful features for your practice sessions. Despite any shortcomings, this is still a good practice amp that gives the user nice flexibility. 


Also Consider
Supro '64 Super

Supro '64 Super

Fantastic tone from a legendary brand.

This amp is a reissue of Supro's legendary tube combo amplifier from the sixties. With a 1 x 8" configuration, this amp delivers a fantastic tone for such a small size. Add to that simplicity and great response, and you've got one of the best 5 Watt amps on the market.

The Supro ’64 Super comes with a single 12AX7 preamp tube and a 6V6 power tube for a pristine tone. With a fantastic design and construction that also features an 8″ Jensen C8R speaker, we got great tone from the moment we plugged in our Fender Strat. 

We started on clean, and really liked how responsive this amp was. It did our Strat justice and gave us great chime and a nice bite. Everything from funk rhythms on position four to country twang on position sounded good, and this amp delivers on clean tones.  

One of our favorite features on this amp was how simple it is. With a single volume knob, we got added girth by turning the knob clockwise. Although we got nice overdriven tones, we wanted to test this Supro amp with our pedals.

We added several distortions, time-based, and space pedals to try out. The Supro ’64 Super took all of our pedals very well. We really liked it with our Ibanez Tube Screamer and our Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi. On both instances, this amp delivered a great response and gave us a musical experience. 

Besides the good tone and feel, we also liked the look on this amp. With Blue Rhino Hide Tolex, it has an aura of vintage but feels durable and sturdy. Interestingly, this amp does not feature any EQ knobs, which may seem like an odd choice for some. 

Verdict: The Supro ’64 Super features a great-sounding 12AX7 preamp tube and a 6V6 power tube. With a vintage-looking but durable construction, you also get an 8″ Jensen C8R speaker that helps deliver great tone. In summary, we thought this was a good-sounding and responsive amp, although some will be turned off by its elevated price tag. 


Also Consider
Fender '68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb

Fender '68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb

Authentic tube tone with a vintage voice.

This amplifier is a tribute to the renowned Fender Silverface amplifiers, popular during the end of the sixties. However, the Vibro Champ Reverb delivers the convenience of portability and tiny size, making it an excellent practice amp with a nice tone.

The Fender ’68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb features a straightforward six-knob layout, digital reverb, and vibrato. This amp is straightforward and efficient, producing five Watts of power with a pair of 12AX7 preamp tubes and a single 6V6 power tube.

We tested out this amp with our PRS Silversky. We began our tests with a little overdrive dialed in via our Ibanez Tube Screamer and were surprised by the warmth we got on this small amp. We got a nice response while playing single lines and open chords, with a well-balanced tone. 

The Vibro Champ Reverb produced a powerful tube tone with excellent responsiveness when driven a little harder. This amplifier felt very musical and responsive, and we really liked it for blues-inspired contexts. 

There are two inputs on one channel of this amplifier. While input one is a standard amp input, input two operates at -6 dB, making it ideal for high-output pickups

In other words, a good amp with a nice Fender tube tone and vintage vibe to use at home for practicing or even doing a bit of pre-production work.

Verdict: The Fender ’68 Custom Vibro Champ Reverb offers the famous Silverface feel and tone, in a compact and easy to use package. Featuring a Celestion Ten 30 speaker and 5 watts of total power, this is an excellent choice for playing in a variety of styles.


How To Choose The Right Amp For You

When choosing a 5-watt amp we start with the clear understanding that this will not be a loud amplifier. In other words, these units are great for practicing at any time and also for easily carrying them around. Naturally, you also want the best tone you can get when practicing. Below are a few considerations to keep in mind when shopping for your ideal 5-watt amp. 

Tone 

Your amp’s tone is key to your overall satisfaction. Simply said, there is no substitute for trying some amps out and hearing for yourself what they sound like. 

In general terms, you want an amp that has a clear, full-bodied sound and allows you to easily adjust the tone to suit your playing style. A good amp should also be able to keep unwanted hum or hiss to a minimum.

Portability

One of the biggest advantages of a 5-watt guitar amp is its portability. These amps are often small and lightweight, making them easy to transport to practice or small jam sessions. Look for an amp that is compact and easy to carry, and that also fits the standard of tone mentioned above. 

Features and Functionality

Features and functionality are other crucial points when looking for amps, perhaps even more so for 5-watt amps. Some amps come with built-in effects like reverb or distortion, while others may have additional inputs for connecting external devices like pedals. Think about what features you need or want in an amp and look for one that fits your needs.

For instance, if you play metal, then having a dedicated distortion channel is important. This will ensure that you get a better-distorted tone and that you don’t depend on connecting a pedal in order to get your tone. You may still want an amp that takes pedal wells, but having to always connect effect units will take away from the convenience factor that is perhaps the biggest selling point of a 5-watt amp. 

Price

Finally, consider the price of the amp. This is always an important consideration, and you usually get what you pay for, even with 5-watt guitar amps.  

All of the above considerations will have an impact on the price of the amp. Naturally, some of you will have a tighter budget, so make sure you really understand what features are a must for you on your 5-watt amp.

Solid State Vs Tube

Solid-state and tube are one of the most debated topics when it comes to amps, and it is important to understand what these mean. 

Solid-state amps rely on transistors to amplify the guitar signal. They are generally lighter, more durable, and less expensive than tube amps. However, solid-state amps usually lack the warmth, richness, and complexity of tube amps.

Tube amps, on the other hand, rely on vacuum tubes to amplify the guitar signal. They tend to be heavier, more fragile, and more expensive than solid-state amps. Tube amps tend to have a more natural, organic, and dynamic sound with more harmonic overtones and distortion. 

The best way to understand how these two types of amps sound, is to try as many as possible.


Final Thoughts

There are plenty of 5-watt amps out there, and we’ve given you the best for different needs and budgets. As always, it is best for you to try out some of these and see what you like better. 

To recap our choices, the Marshall DSL5CR is our Top Pick. With a twin-channel design and a pair of ECC83s tubes in the preamp section and an ECC99 in the power amplifier, you get tube tone in a small size. Next up, the Bugera V5 Infinium is our Budget Choice.  It features a 12AX7 preamp tube and an EL84 power tube on an 8” speaker. A terrific choice for students, this amp also comes with the added convenience of a power attenuator for quiet practice.  Last but not least, the Fender ’57 Custom Champ is our Editor’s Choice. With a great-sounding 8″ Weber Special Design speaker and hand-wired circuitry, you get a fantastic tone for such a small amp.  

Author

  • Rodrigo Sanchez

    Rodrigo is an award-winning songwriter (Best Popular Song Of 2018 for Ibermúsicas), and has worked with the prestigious EMI Music Publishing Latin America. He has production credits on artists such as Descemer Bueno, and has also composed alongside Grammy and ASCAP award-winners such as Sebastián De Peyrecave and José Luis Morín.