Would like a low volume tube amp...any suggestions?

APed

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Hi all, I'm a beginner player and usually practice in the evening when the kids are going to sleep. Sometimes I play unplugged which is okay for practice but doesn't sound great. I have a cheap little solid state amp that doesn't sound amazing at any volume.

At my instructor's studio I plug into a vintage Fender tube amp and my PRS sounds amazing! I get to my lesson before the instructor shows up just to get in some practice on his beautiful sounding amp.

So my question is....can you help me pick out a tube amp that will have beautiful clean tones but with sufficiently low volume that I don't wake the kids? Do any of the PRS amps have the ability to use a low power mode?

I've researched a few, like the Vox AC4C1 and VHT Special 6, which have the ability to dial down the amp power and play at a lower volume. Anybody have experience with those or others?

I can't be the only person who doesn't want to wake up the kiddies at night. Thanks in advance!
 

BrianC

more toys than talent
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I have had a Tiny Terror and Dark Terror that I really love. Used super cheap.

If you ever need to crank they can do that too.
 

andy474x

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I played a Fender Bassbreaker 15 the other day, and it was pretty cool, sounded decent at lower volume (lower volume for a tube amp, that is). But if you need whisper volumes, I would also suggest a higher end solid state amp like the Katana, or the Yamaha THR. Even with an attenuator, a tube amp will be pretty loud.

Tried a Blackstar 1 watt, and the Vox AC4, didn't care for those as much.
 

LSchefman

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A bigger tube amp sounds great because the output tubes and transformers affect the sound. Big iron - in this case the transformers used in bigger amps - give you “that sound.”

Even five or ten watts can be loud; a doubling or halving of power only changes the volume by 3 dB.

Speakers by companies like Celestion typically will put out 100 dB at 1 Watt. 100 dB is loud. What’s different between a 1 Watt amp and a 50 Watt amp pushing the speaker to that 100 dB is more the character of the sound.

What I’d recommend is a tube amp with moderate power, and a load box with a headphone jack. You can disconnect the speaker at night, plug in the load box that makes the amp think it’s seeing a speaker (tube amps need to see a load like a speaker), and get real tube amp sound using the amp you like.

Another option is an attenuator to reduce the amp volume. A few models combine both load box and attenuation functions. There are good attenuators like the Palmer that will get very, very quiet, certainly as quiet as the little solid state modelers that others have recommended. But you have the option of opening the amp up to play with friends or just fun when circumstances permit. You can’t really jam with a band with a little toy amp.

If you’re not as picky, there are any number of good amp modelers on the market in hardware and software. To me, they don’t sound quite as good as the real thing, but I sometimes have used software models in my studio to come up with ideas. They’re cheap, they sound ok, hook up headphones to your computer and you’re in business.

But mostly I use real amps and a load box.
 
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APed

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Thanks for all the replies! I'll keep researching and spend some time in the music store trying out hardware.
 

DreamTheaterRules

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If you are talking "kids going to bed volume" then there is only one answer. Get the best modeler you can. Atomic AmpliFire 3 sounds great at any volume. New AmpliFireBox would also. Decent monitors, turned down so low your sneeze will drown it out, will still sound great.

Everyone wants to suggest a tube amp turned down really low. But unless you just want a tube amp for when you can turn it up, that is not the best answer. A modeler can sound great at very very low volumes. Tube amps can sound good at low volumes, but not great. Tubes need to open up before they really sound good. At low volumes, (g00d) modelers sound better.
 

goat-n-gitter

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I haven't tried the Boss Katana, but I have a Yamaha THR-5, and it makes a great tone at sleeping kids volume levels, has a good headphone out, USB connectivity for recording, and makes a pretty good boombox playing my phone through the aux in.
I have several big tube amps including a Mesa MK-V, and I don't use them for quiet playing, they just don't make great tone unless they're somewhat loud. I also have a couple of little '60s tube amps by Airline and Harmony that use a single 6V6 and a single EL-84 respectively for 4 or 5 watts, and they are too loud for sleeping kids.
Once your playing gets good enough to play with others/drums, you'll have a better idea which tube tones you like best (Fender/Marshall/PRS/etc.). Start with a nice sounding small modeler. They often emulate the classics well enough that you can figure out which big boy amp to shoot for.
 

Lee B.

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I had a Vox AC4HW1 for about a year. I remember thinking four watts seemed on paper to be pretty safe for the living room. It had fantastic tone to my ears but sounded its best with the volume past 5, which is not bedroom volume but rather nearly rattling the knickknacks off the shelves volume. If it’s got to be tube, you will need a load box or attenuator capable of 1/10 watt output to achieve anything close to bedroom volume while still having your output tubes opened up enough to sing, and at that degree of attenuation you’ll probably need to add some pedal EQ or tweak your presence if your amp has that. My Egnater Rebel head is way too much amp for my living room, but features a loaded XLR out that I can run into my Focusrite and monitor with cans in GarageBand. Quite a few amps offer similar direct recording outs now. Good luck!

PS: Another thing to consider if you have young kids is how tempted they're going to be to hook up a guitar to your amp and try it themselves when Mom and Dad aren't looking, which could include cranking it up. The level on tap on any giggable tube amp is more than enough to permanently damage a kid's hearing, and the standard boast about a 50 or 100 watt head having "enough level to kill a small child" is only mildly exaggerating. I suggest unplugging and hiding the mains cable someplace safe when you're not there to supervise.
 
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Lee B.

I stitch my wings and pull the strings.
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Hey, I would not be unhappy with a low-wattage PRS amp, to go along with my other higher wattage beasties like the 100 W Archon or the 30 W HXDA. And a third amp I just seem to have stumbled into... (more on that later...)
I would love to see Doug Sewell’s take on a grab and go, single channel but at least moderate gain, single ended EL34/KT66, 1x10” or even 1x12” combo. HXDA Jr!
 

sergiodeblanc

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It's going to be a Sergio De lanc signature model. It will be covered in white tolex with a be-dazzled grill cloth. It comes with its own disco ball.

I thought we weren't supposed to say anything for a little while longer?

And just to be clear, it only comes with the disco ball for a limited time through Wild West Guitars.
 
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