Vacuum tubes are one of the earliest technologies used to amplify audio, and all these decades later, they’re still one of the best. Sure, you could argue that the world has moved on to solid state and digital technologies. Slick computer interfaces or mutli-purpose devices that offer a ton of features are of course great, and a nice way to add tone and texture to your home audio.
However, even feature-packed solid state amps usually offer a “vaucum tube” style setting to mimic the audio of a tube amp. That tells me one thing – there is no substitute for a tube amp!
A great sounding tube amp can add so much warmth to your tone. And luckily, we are living in a world of audio riches these days – stereo tube amps and tube-powered guitar amplifiers such as the Monoprice tube amp are not relegated to expensive vintage gear. There are many affordable, stylish, and high-quality vacuum tube amps on the market, many for under $400, and we’re here to help!
In this article we’ll be taking a look at the best tube amps under $400, because I want your stereo setup to be the best it can be.
But before we begin, keep in mind these key differentiators in order to make the best decision.
Important Factors to Consider in Selecting Your Tube Amplifier
Selecting the best tube amplifier is not as complicated as everybody thinks. In fact, this can be accomplished by knowing the most important factors that must be considered during the selection process. Particularly the following:
Size and weight
One of the most important attributes to keep in mind when choosing the best tube amplifier is the product’s size and weight. Although it is a common notion that a heavier and larger amplifier includes more features since its size and weight suggest that it is equipped with many useful components, this belief has gradually changed.
This is because a lot of companies that make tube amplifiers are now using smaller yet more efficient components to make their products more lightweight and compact but still powerful.
Aside from the size and weight, the compatibility an amplifier must also be taken into consideration since failure to do so may cause buyers to obtain products which are not compatible to some audio sources and headphones particularly those that are widely used today. When this happens, buyers will regret their decision since the amplifier will only work with limited audio sources and other accessories.
Finally, buyers must look at the set of functions that a tube amplifier has prior to the purchase. Tube amplifiers can offer some on-board mix and EQ features as well as bluetooth capability.
In addition, examining the available features and functions can help you have a better understanding of the price compared to quality. To truly find the best tube amp for home use, you want a wide variety of features at a decent price.
4 Top Tube Amplifiers
GemTune X-1 Class-A Tube Amplifier with 5Z4P*1, 6N9P*1, EL34-B*2
The GemTune X-1 Class-A Tube Amplifier with 5Z4P*1, 6N9P*1, EL34-B*2 is a bestselling tube amplifier because many have discovered its multitude of features. The product is designed to produce refined and exquisite music. Finally, it is durable enabling it to handle the challenges of continuous use.
The GemTune X-1 Class-A Tube Amplifier with 5Z4P*1, 6N9P*1, EL34-B*2 is sold with dimensions of 10.6×7.1×7.9 inches and an estimated weight of 18.9 pounds. It is marketed as a single-ended amplifier and 100% handmade. The amplifier is designed to effectively reduce distortion and works best when used on chords and vocal music.
The product is equipped with a 5Z4P, 6N9P and two EL34-B tubes and requires an input voltage of 110V. It offers an output impedance of 4ohm and 8ohm, input impedance of 100Kohm and an output power of 8W. Finally, it has an input sensitivity of 500mv-2000mv.
The GemTune X-1 Class-A Tube Amplifier with 5Z4P*1, 6N9P*1, EL34-B*2 is regarded as the best option for sound enthusiasts since it can create refined and exquisite music. It is designed to work well with vocal music and chords as well as capable of reducing the amount of distortion of every sound file played with it.
Aside from that, the product is known for its functional and durable design. It is made of high-grade materials that allow it to withstand the wear and tear caused by continuous use.
The GemTune X-1 Class-A Tube Amplifier with 5Z4P*1, 6N9P*1, EL34-B*2 comes with a number of flaws. First it is sold at a relatively expensive price and is heavier compared to some of its rivals.
Second, the product’s availability is quite limited and this usually leaves buyers with no options but to wait until it is available again. Finally, it is not always available for shipping in some countries.
Despite its expensive price and relatively heavy construction, the GemTune X-1 Class-A Tube Amplifier with 5Z4P*1, 6N9P*1, EL34-B*2 still remains a bestselling tube amplifier because it effectively reduces distortion from sound files and can generate refined and exquisite music. On top of that, it is durable and does not get easily damaged.
Little Dot MK2 MKII 6J1 X2 6N6 X2 Headphone Amplifier Pre-Amp Tube
The Little Dot MK2 MKII 6J1 X2 6N6 X2 Headphone Amp Amplifier Pre-Amp Tube is one of the bestsellers on the market at present. Many buyers prefer this over the other options since it is portable, lightweight and durable.
It is designed to efficiently produce more natural and warmer sound, it is user-friendly and can be used even by those with no experience in complex sound-engineering.
The Little Dot MK2 MKII 6J1 X2 6N6 X2 Headphone Amp Amplifier Pre-Amp Tube comes with dimensions of 8.5×4.2×4.3 inches and weighs about 5.5 pounds. It is marketed as a Class A SEPP OTL circuit and fitted with gold-plated unbalanced phono RCA input jacks along with a ¼-inch gold-plated stereo headphone output jack.
The product is equipped with 6JI driver tubes and 6N6 power tubes. It comes with a frequency response rate of 20HX-50HZ and features a pre-amplifier output impedance of 10K ohms.
In addition to that, the amplifier is designed to work well with headphones with the impedance rate of 32 to 600 ohms. It consumes about 28 watts of power and sold along with blue jumpers, a power cord and an English user’s manual.
The Little Dot MK2 MKII 6J1 X2 6N6 X2 is considered a must-have for tube stereo amplifier enthusiasts due to its functional and decent design, light weight, high-grade components and durability. It can also conveniently be taken on the go, allowing users to listen to quality music while travelling.
Aside from that, it comes with a number of user-friendly controls and knobs along with the RCA input jacks for connectivity to compatible audio sources. It has also proven efficient and can be used for long hours without over-heating. Finally, it can conveniently produce natural and warn sounds when tweaked properly.
The Little Dot MK2 MKII 6J1 X2 6N6 X2 has a few flaws. First, it is sold at an expensive price. Second, it usually gets out of stock. Finally, it is not eligible for shipping in some countries and not sold along with applicable warranty.
Despite its higher price and a few downsides , the Little Dot MK2 MKII 6J1 X2 6N6 X2 still remains a good buy for audiophiles because it is user-friendly, durable, lightweight and made of high-grade components. It is capable of generating warm and natural sounds. The product can also be conveniently taken on the go, allowing users to listen to good music while travelling.
Nobsound® MS-10D Hybrid Tube Amplifier Power Amplifier
The Nobsound® MS-10D Hybrid Tube Amplifier Power Amplifier is regarded as the company’s flagship product but its attractive appearance, durable construction and capability to create great sound quality has enabled it to attract more buyers. Furthermore, it is sold at a budget-friendly price, does not get easily damaged and is proven to be cost-effective.
The Nobsound® MS-10D Hybrid Tube Amplifier Power Amplifier features an upscale exterior appearance and projects a functional design. It is fitted with two 6N1 and two 6P1 Beijing tubes.
The amplifier is designed to make use of an input power of 100W and provides an output power of 25W+25W. It is equipped with independent knobs for adjusting the bass and treble, RCA audio input jacks high and low regulation knobs and a gold-plated type terminal.
The Nobsound® MS-10D Hybrid Tube Amplifier Power Amplifier is a bestseller to those who are fond of listening to Hi-Fi sounds since it has a simple, decent and functional exterior design. The product is lauded for its portability, user-friendliness and for the availability of the high and low regulation knobs.
In addition to that, it is made of high-grade components that make it durable and resilient to harmful elements that might damage it. Thus, the device is cheaper to maintain since it does not damage easily. Finally, it is sold at a relatively cheaper price.
The Nobsound® MS-10D Hybird Tube Amplifier Power Amplifier suffers from a few downsides. Compared to some of its similarly-priced rivals, it is relatively heavy.
A lot of experts also criticize the product because it lacks some of the advanced features that its closest competitors have. Finally, it is not backed by an applicable warranty.
The Nobsound® MS-10D Hybird Tube Amplifier Power Amplifier despite of its flaws is still a good buy for audiophiles due to its user friendly design. In addition to that it is made of high-grade and durable materials that prevent it from getting damaged. To top it all off, these features can be conveniently obtained at a cheaper price.
Nobsound® 6J9 Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Mini Audio HiFi Stereo Headphone Amp
The Nobsound® 6J9 Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Mini Audio HiFi Stereo Headphone Amp is a popular tube stereo amplifier on the market today since it comes in a small package but is able to produce high fidelity sounds and provide the performance that many audiophiles want. It is also designed to conveniently power almost all high performance headphones and at the same time equipped with 3.5 mm input and output jacks.
Surprisingly, it is also sold at a lower price despite its long list of useful features.
The Nobsound® 6J9 Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Mini Audio HiFi Stereo Headphone Amp Features a simple yet functional design. It is made of high-quality materials, provides an output power of 32 ohm and has a headphone adapter impedance of 18-600 ohm.
The amplifier also includes the technology to lower the level of harmonic distortion. It is equipped with a large gold-plated control knob for the volume along with a single set of gold-plated 3.5mm input and output jacks.
It also comes with a big red power button at the back that allows users to conveniently turn it on or off. To deliver the desired performance, it is fitted with two 6J9 vacuum tubes that can be replaced by the E180F, 6688, 6ж9П or EF86.
The Nobsound® 6J9 Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Mini Audio HiFi Stereo Headphone Amp is regarded by audiophiles as a good buy becuase it is compact and lightweight yet capable of generating high-fidelity sounds. It can also easily power some of the high-performance headphones on the market.
The amplifier comes with a gold-plated front where the 3.5mm output and input jack and the large volume control knob can be found. Finally, this device can be easily turned on and off for it comes with a large power switch button at the back.
Aside from its useful features, the Nobsound® 6J9 Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Mini Audio HiFi Stereo Headphone Amp also comes with a few issues. First, it lacks the independent control knob for the bass and treble that most of its rivals have.
A lot of buyers are also complaining that it goes out of stock quickly. Finally, it is not available for shipping in some countries and not sold with an applicable warranty.
Despite its issues, the Nobsound® 6J9 Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Mini Audio HiFi Stereo Headphone Amp is still preferred by audiophiles particularly by those looking for a budget stereo amplifier because it is cheaper yet still capable of generating high-fidelity sounds. It is also made of durable materials and does not damage easily.
On top of that, it is designed to work well with various high-performance headphones like the HD 580, HD 600, HD 650, Q 701, K 701, and K 702.