Distinctive, warm and loud, it’s not hard to see why tube amps have been the preferred choice of almost every serious guitarist from the day there were invented right up to the present day. In case you were wondering what a tube amp sounds like, then just put on any of your favourite tracks and it’s almost certain that the guitar tone you’ll be hearing will be the unmistakable sound of a tube amp. Hendrix, Clapton, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Jack White – the list of guitar legends who swear by tube amps is pretty much endless. Tube amps come in all shapes and sizes, but the most popular models tend to have one twelve inch speaker, offering the perfect compromise between portability and volume. We’ve put together a handy guide to a few of our favourite 1x12 tube combo amps to help you decide what the best amp is for you:
Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
In a guide about great tube amps it’s hard to start anywhere else apart from with the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Undoubtedly one of the most popular tube combo amps of all time, the Hot Rod deluxe has stood the test of time well and can still be seen on stages all around the world. The reason for its popularity is that incorporates everything that makes Fender tube amps the best in the world – classic clean tone, Fender’s iconic spring reverb and a great drive channel that's perfect for everything from blues through to hard rock. However, the Hot Rod Deluxe certainly isn’t overloaded with effects and its stripped-back simplicity makes it the ideal amp to use with stomp boxes if you want you want to incorporate new dimensions to your tone. 40 watts of power and a 12” Celestion speaker mean that the Hot Rod Deluxe pumps out more than enough volume for gigging in most venues whilst also having enough tonal quality for recording. Versatile, great-looking and packed with some of the most famous guitar tones in history - it’s not hard to see why the Hot Rod Deluxe is one of the most popular tube combos around.
Blues Deluxe Reissue
The sister model of the Hot Rod deluxe, the Blues Deluxe Reissue is a more stripped down, classic style amp, better suited to warm, clean tones than the hard drive sounds of the Hot Rod. That’s not to say that the Blues Deluxe lacks quality when it comes to overdriven tones though – the drive channel excels at producing the sort of mid-range drive sounds that classic blues players will adore. Other features include Fender spring reverb, a bright switch on the clean channel and a 12” Fender Special Design Eminence speaker. The Blues Deluxe doesn’t only excel when it comes to tone either, on the outside it’s one of the best looking amps out there, with an eye-catching tweed covering and matching dark brown speaker grille cloth. For the cleaner sounds of blues, country and soft rock the Blues Deluxe is the only amp you’ll need.
Fender Blues Junior III
Another iconic Fender 1x12 tube combo is the Blues Junior amp, smaller than the Hot Rod or Blues Deluxe, but still remarkably loud for a 15 watt amp and featuring the sort of incredible tones that you would expect from a Fender tube amp. As well as being smaller, the Blues Junior is also a fair deal lighter than the Hot Rod Deluxe so if you’re looking for an amp to take to and from gigs and rehearsals, the Blues Junior’s size really is an asset. Don’t let size fool you though – the Blues Junior can handle some serious volume! With a Fender Special Design 12” “lightning bolt” speaker, EL-84 output tubes and a ‘FAT’ tone switch is certainly not found wanting in either volume or tone departments. The Blues Junior breaks into an overdriven tone at a lower volume that the Hot Rod Deluxe, so it’s not ideal if you’re looking for great clean tones at a high volume, but for players seeking that classic Fender warm blues tone in a fairly portable amp then the Blues Junior is for you!
Fender Blues Junior Lacquered Tweed - LTD Edition!
Building on the foundations that made the Blues Junior such a popular choice among musicians, the ‘Lacquered Tweed’ special edition model offers some vintage tweaks that made it stand out as brilliant 1x12 tube amp in its own right. The stand-out feature has to be the inclusion of a 12” Jensen speaker, adding some serious clarity and definition to the classic Blues Junior tone. Obviously the amp also comes packed with the sort of features that you’d expect from a Fender tube amp, including Fender reverb, EL84 output tubes and a ‘FAT’ switch the boost mid-range tones - all of which adds up to an amp that boasts classic Fender tones as standard, but with the added bonus of a seriously high quality speaker. As impressive as the Blues Junior Lacquered Tweed is in terms of tone and clarity, it would just feel wrong not to mention how great it looks as well! Fender has really struck gold with the vintage 50s-throwback style tweed aesthetic especially with the lacquered finish and it is perfectly complimented perfectly by the dark-brown and gold grille cloth. It’s rare to get a tube combo amp that looks as good as it sounds, but the Blues Junior Lacquered Tweed really does have it all!
Fender Super Champ X2
Okay, so the Super Champ X2 Combo might have a 10” Special Design speaker, not a 12” but it is a seriously impressive tube combo amp, perfect for practicing at home, gigging or rehearsals. The Super Champ X2 brings together the best of old and new with the traditional Fender tube tones of a 12AX7 pre amp tube and two 6V6 power tubes with some seriously impressive digital modelling features, allowing you to bring sixteen classic amp voices to life and combine them with an array of great effects including reverb, delay and even a classic vibrotone effect. The Super Champ X2 might not be a 12” combo, and it might not even be what most people think of when looking for a tube amp, but try it out and it’s hard not to fall in love with a hybrid amp that offers the classic sounds of a Fender tube amp along with the huge versatility of amp voicing and effects!
Super Champ X2 Head and SC112 Enclosure
Again, we’re cheating a bit here – this amp does have a 12” speaker (and with a Celestion G12P-80 you couldn’t ask for much better), but as you may have noticed it’s not actually a combo amp. The combination of the Super Champ X2 head and SC112 speaker enclosure is a really appealing alternative to a 12” combo amp, giving you every great feature that we talked about with the Super Champ X2 combo but in the form of a mini stack, meaning you have greater scope to mix and match with different speakers and heads in the future. With the same sixteen amp voices and range of effects as the X2 combo, the Super Champ X2 Head and SC112 Enclosure make a great choice for the guitarist who wants great tube tone with all the variety offered by digital modelling, as well as the option to customise your set-up in the future.