High End Tubes, A Powerful Speaker, And Vintage Style Make This The Best Tube Amp Under $300
Vintage is definitely “in” these days, especially when it comes to guitar amps. Plugins and emulators allow a musician to really recreate any kind of tone they want. However, one of the things that is most appealing about vintage-style gear is that it is easy to recreate these older tones without using a computer or some software – dialing in your own tone can allow you to really appreciate the different aural elements because you’re creating them out of the physical elements rather than editing a file or digital signal.
For the tone-minded, the Monoprice Stage Right 611815 15-watt combo tube amp is a powerful firecracker of a guitar amp. One look at it and you can see it’s designed to evoke jangly bright guitar sounds as if they’re coming from a Rickenbacker in your mind. This combo amp houses a 1×12 Celestion speaker and is powered by 5 vacuum tubes including 2 EL84 tubes.
In this Monoprice 15 watt tube amp review,let’s take a closer look at what you can get, all for under 300 dollars.
EL84 Tubes: Straight From The 60s
It’s easy to try to overthink that British Invasion tone – to use emulators, mods, and other technologies to get close to that sound that you enjoy listening to so much. One of the real secrets to achieving that tone is much simpler – ensure you have some EL84 tubes on hand to boost your guitar’s sound.
The Monoprice Stage Right uses a 5 tube setup – 2 EL84 tubes punching home the tone with 3 12ax7/ECC83 tubes powering the reverb and preamp sections.
The reason the EL84 is so special is that it offers a full output from a small signal relatively speaking, and is therefore easily overdriven. When this happens, it produces that distinctive trebly chiming sound that you can hear in your memories.
Many British Invasion bands preferred amplifiers using EL84 tubes manufactured by the Mullard brand, which were well regarded as the best EL84 tubes on the market. Amongst many reasons, the British sound resonated with American audiences because of how distinctive these tubes were compared to the 6L6 tubes used in American guitar amplifiers, and which were popular on the airwaves at the time.
Control, Control, Control
Once you’re confident that the tubes will carry your tone, you want to be able to dial in that tone. In simple terms, spring reverb is the process of adding reverb to your signal by passing the tone through a spring via transducers on either end – the sound vibrations create waves as they travel along the spring. They’re then added to the source signal at the other end of the spring, but some of the energy remains resonating in the spring. When amplified, this creates the echo-y reverb sound that’s so pleasing on the ears. The 611815 offers this reverb feature and it can be turned on and off with a foot pedal.
This Monoprice guitar amp has a significantly improved and cosmetically updated spring reverb (the piece under the metal plate you see when you look at the backside) from its previous models. If you’re one of those who thought the reverb was weak last time you tried a Monoprice tube amp, it’s worth taking another look.
- 15 watts
- Dimensions: 16.8 x 9.2 x 17.1 inches
- frequencies between 80Hz and 10kHz
- -75dB noise and hum below the rated power
- 0.5% total harmonic distortion
- Item weight: 31.6 pounds shipping weight: 33.4 pounds
- 1×12 Celestion Red Truvox 1215 speaker
There are a great many things to appreciate about this amp other than the tube tone. You’re also able to insert effects between the preamp and power amp sections with an FX send and receive. These ports are also able to be used as line in or line out rather than for effects, if needed.
If you have a late night practice or otherwise can’t pump up the volume as much as you’d like, this tube amplifier allows you to switch between full power and 1-watt limited amplification.
Putting aside all the power and tone, the Monoprice 611815 is just great to look at. The textured synthetic leather exterior is just the right classic shade of cream. It has a leather handle for portability and chrome corner guards for durability.
The spring reverb has an on/off switch on the unit itself, but it would be great if it came with a foot switch instead of needing you to provide your own.
If you receive a faulty unit, it doesn’t sound like the seller offers returns. Many reviewers mention either receiving a refund without having to return the unit, or otherwise being basically told to throw it in the trash if it didn’t work, rather than return it.
Some reviewers indicate that reseating the sockets is a relatively easy way to fix it, if you’re so inclined and have that level of technical skill. This would also explain why some reviewers report the amplifier cutting it out all of a sudden without any kind of buildup.
What Customer Reviews Say
The Monoprice 15-watt 1×12 combo amp currently has around 250 reviews and is one of “Amazon’s Choices”. Of the reviews, over 75% are 5-star and around 6% are 1-star, which is a great ratio.
Many reviewers indicate this amp is great value for the money and that the similar amps are way more expensive. There’s a gamut of enjoyment reported as well – some reviewers are able to dial in great tone right out of the box and are amazed at how easy it is, while others have a great time dialing in tone with swapping out the tubes and tube rolling – a matched pair of JJ EL84s and a JJ 12at7 in the v1 position and 2 JJ ECC83s in v2 and v3 seems to be a great lineup for that classic rock and blues sound. Check out our guide to the best 12ax7 tube for clean tone.
One feature that gets a lot of raves is the limited amplification setting – dropping the output down to 1-watt. While some reviewers were initially skeptical, having the output at that level can really allow you to dial in the gain without worrying about blasting the neighborhood.
Allegedly, the Monoprice 611815 is a clone of the Laney CUB-12R, which contains a similar tube lineup and speaker combo. Several reviewers compare it to a Fender Blues Jr or a Vox AC15. What do these 3 amps have in common compared to the Monoprice 611815? The price! They’re all on a higher price level than the Monoprice, which makes it quite affordable for the amount of power under its hood.
If you’re looking for a small combo amp that has that classic tube sound, allows you lots of flexibility on tone, is portable, and has that attractive vintage sheen, the Monoprice Stage Right 15 watt tube amp is probably the one that will give you the best bang for your buck.