When you’re going to college, you need an amp that will let you rock out without raising the ire of your roommate or neighbors. Luckily, there are plenty of impressive amps that both sound good at lower volumes and can hang with a band if necessary. We’ve compiled a list of five, but there are certainly more out there if you look.
We already covered some good beginner amps elsewhere. Any of those would suffice as dorm room amps if you’re on a really tight budget. However, there are some little amps out there that sound every bit as good as the big expensive amps. Every amp on this list is driven by tubes, as opposed to the solid-state amps on the beginner list. Without going into too much detail here, tube amps are generally considered the superior type of amplification. The difference in sound his hard to explain, but you’ll likely be able to hear it if you ever sit down and compare tube amps to solid-state amps side-by-The Best Amplifiers for Headphones.
Marshall Class 5
Only five watts, you say? You’ll be surprised by the wallop packed by this little combo amp from Marshall. The tone is sweet, the overdrive is crunchy, and this amp can certainly compete with a drummer in a small venue or practice setting. It even has a headphone jack for silent practice sessions.
VHT Special 6
At six watts, this boutique VHT amp isn’t much more powerful than the Marshall, but again, looks can be deceiving. These amps are hand-wired and made in small quantities, yet the price doesn’t reflect that level high level of craftsmanship. The point-to-point wiring system used to build these amps also means they’re easy to modify, which manufacturer VHT seems to encourage.
Orange Tiny Terror
The Orange Tiny Terror is renowned for its signature Orange distortion and is the most popular tube amp in Orange’s line. Its fans love its no-frills design (only 3 knobs, no extraneous effects) and the amount of sound it can put out despite its size. Overdrive the tubes in this amp and you’ll be rewarded with classic British crunch for far less money than the price of a stack. It also offers the option of switching from 15 to 7 watts, to make achieving the crunchy sound that much easier at low volumes.
Fender Blues Junior
These little 15-watt amps are, according to Fender, the best-selling tube amps in the world. They boast the styling and sound of the bigger Fender Hot Rod amp series, but they come with the added benefits of being cheaper and smaller. It doesn’t get much better than the signature American tube sound of a Fender Blues Junior.
Weighing in at 22 watts, the Bugera is the biggest amp on this list. It comes with classy vintage-inspired styling features, including a cool blue jewel light, and also has a smooth-sounding digital reverb. These amps are built in China by Behringer, a well-known sound equipment manufacturer.