View Full Version : Tube amplifier recommendations?

05-07-2010, 12:17 PM
I have a tenor uke w/ Mi-Si under-saddle pickup on the way. I'd love to get a low-power practice / recording amp that offers crystal clear clean tones and jazzy overdrive upon request. This would be used indoors for practice only, so good tone at low volume is very important to me.
I prefer the warmth of all-tube amps, but would consider solid state.
Any recommendations?

Ken Middleton
05-07-2010, 01:20 PM
I'd go with the Roland AC-33. If fact I probably will get one soon. It is pricey, but probably the best around.

Check out the full spec on Roland's website: runs on AA batteries as well as mains power, digital loop function, 30 watts, light and portable, etc.

Gerald Ross has recently bought one and it sounds amazing. Hear it on a couple of my recent vids.

Hope this helps.

05-07-2010, 08:51 PM
I second Ken's opinion on the Roland Acoustic Chorus AC-33. I own one. It's a 30 watt version of the AC-60 and AC-90. It gets an amazing 5 hours (Roland claims 12 hours) off a set of 8 AA NiMH rechargeable batteries and 4 hours (Roland claims 10) off a set of AA alkaline batteries. I did these tests playing an an American Standard Fender Stratocaster through a Boss distortion pedal and singing through a Sennheizer E-838 microphone, playing Hendrix, Zepp and other hard rock classics at max volume. On my breaks I plugged in my cell phone on my Jimi Hendrix Pandora channel to keep the stress on the batteries constant. My goal was to see if it would run full tilt boogie for 3 hours at max volume. The AC-33 passed with flying colors!

If you're on a budget and want a warm tone, consider the Vox DA5. It has a seperate input for a ukulele and a microphone. There is a seperate volume control on the back for a microphone.

Check out my amplifier reviews here:


I own well over 5 dozen instrument amplifiers for multiple purposes. Ric

05-08-2010, 01:29 AM
You said tube amp, so as nice as the Roland amps are (I Know they are), they are solid state.

Be warned that most of the tube amps you encounter will make electric guitars sound good,
but maybe not so with a ukulele. You CAN get good sound, but may be not happy overall.

Overdrive on demand as you say may not be in an acceptable volume range with
most smaller (5 watt) tube amps (such as the Fender Champion 600 or Gretsch G5222)
plus with the pickup type you will probably invite feedback. They give good clean but the volume has to be cranked for OD.

You might want one of the hybrid type amps that have tube preamp into
solid state with effects - Fender (VibroChamp, SuperChamp) and Vox (Valvetronix VT15 VT30 etc) have some

05-08-2010, 02:05 AM
In today's amp world, there are a lot of solid-state amps with really good tube sims on them. I had the Roland Cube 30X and spent some time recently with a borrowed Fender G-Dec. Both had excellent sims and a lot of choices for tone.

I've switched to the Roland eband JS8, which has loops and a huge effects bank, but also has about 30 amp sims. They're not perfect matches, but for the price and the variety, I find them more appealling than tube amps that require more maintenance, care and are limited to a single sound.

05-08-2010, 02:24 AM
As others have said, tubes and "crystal clear tones" do not generally go hand-in-hand. Solid state circuits are much cleaner (noise and distortion wise) than tube circuits, thus the "need" distort the signal with sims if you want the old tube amp sound. I cut my electronics teeth in high school with tube amps, radios, TVs etc. It's hard to believe now that you could buy replacement tubes in the local convenience stores, since they failed so often. They always seemed to fail when you were watching your favorite TV program. My dad would smack the side of the TV and that sometimes helped jostle the broken filaments back in line, but eventually we would take the tube down to the local 7-Eleven, test it on their machine, and take a new one home. Ahh- those were the days lol. By that time transistors and integrated circuits were pushing tubes out and when we wanted to build a really high gain multi-stage amp (not for musical instruments) we were very happy to have clean solid state.

My son's Zoom H4 mic has a whole bunch of input filters you can choose if you want it to sound like various models of old tube amps. I didn't find any of them pleasing on my uke, except a few of the very mild reverb settings. Which sounds better is a matter of constant debate amongst audiophiles, but for me the uke sounds better clean.

Geeze - I am really getting old!!

05-08-2010, 07:37 AM
Tube amps are best suited to instruments with magnetic pickups.
That means ukes with steel strings and single coil or humbucking pickups.

But there are some nice, versatile amps out there that can simulate a variety of sounds, even with the piezo pickups.
Roland amps have a great track record here for that purpose. It is hard to find a more versatile amp than the Roland series of cubes.

I have the Microcube, and it is SUPER versatile.
It does give you the crystal clear tones as well as jazzy overdrive on demand. All without sounding too loud, and with 6 different amp simulations AND built-in Chorus, Phaser, Flanger, Tremolo, Reverb and Delay effects ^^

05-08-2010, 09:10 AM
I was just playing my Koaloha Tenor through my 3 amps last night and I can tell you that it sounds so much better through a Roland AC-33. The acoustic amps are just voiced more for an acoustic instrument. It gives the sound a bit more warmth that you're probably looks for. Add a little reverb and chorus and it sounds great! I'm using a Fishman Pro Prefix pickup in the Koaloha.

The other two amps that I was playing around with was with my SWR Super Redhead and VOX Night Train. My ukulele "barks" through both of them and the sound is just so harsh, even with the gain down, and the EQ messed with. When I tried to run overdrive through them, it just sounded awful! I was also trying out a Electro Harmonix Black Finger compressor on the uke last night, still havent dialed in the sound i want.

05-08-2010, 11:04 AM
Solid state circuits are much cleaner (noise and distortion wise) than tube circuits, thus the "need" distort the signal with sims... Which sounds better is a matter of constant debate amongst audiophiles, but for me the uke sounds better clean.
For me, I like a variety, depending on the piece I play. If I'm playing old songs, noodling and practicing solo, clean is best. But when I play along with the eBand's loops, I sometimes like the fuzz, the delay, the reverb, chorus... really depends on the beat and the backing. It's as versatile an instrument as a guitar - so I like having the options on an amp.

05-08-2010, 12:36 PM
It will probably be a lot better if you get an acoustic amp. When I was touring etc, doing the distorted uke stuff, I would use a line 6 pedal board using distortion and noise gates, now I just plug directly into the P.A. A tube amp is really meant for guitars. I have a lot of amps and the tube amps sounded terrible w/ ukulele. You can hear the tone I get if you visit www.myspace.com/killerukulele
I will also give some free mp3's to anybody who contacts me.

05-10-2010, 06:54 AM
Having played guitars, both acoustic and electric through a variety of amps, I recommend a specialized acoustic amp for the uke. I play only tube amps with electrics, (no contest with solid states, IMHO), but acoustic instruments need an acoustic amp. Lots of companies make them.

05-10-2010, 07:32 AM
but that's only if you wanna sound acoustic, right?

Hmm.. unless you use an effects pedal with the acoustic amp?

East Mountain
05-10-2010, 08:17 AM
I agree that a dedicated acoustic amp is the way to go if what you want is an acoustic sound. Personally, none of my ukes have pickups, piezo or otherwise, so I mic them. I have an old Peavey Classic that sounds warm (tube power amp/transistor pre-amp) but it weighs a ton and not much fun to haul to a gig. Mostly I run the mic through an ART Tube MP Studio preamp. Those things are pretty amazing for warming up tones when recording or playing live. And they are ridiculously cheap. $30 at Musicians Friend right now. For effects, on my guitars (even my Epiphone acoustic with a piezo) I use a Danelectro Tuna Melt Tremolo and a DOD Supra Distortion Pedal. I think the best bet is to borrow pedals if you can and experiment. Don't limit yourself to what is only traditional, "acceptible" signal chains. Sometimes the coolest sounds come from unlikely combinations of equipment.

05-10-2010, 01:50 PM
Hmmm. I love the effects on my eBand JS-8. Or on any amp. I love to drive it, make it dirty and hear it scream. I like the echo, the tremolo and the spacey flange sounds. I can't play like Carlos Santana, or Hendrix or even Blue Cheer but my uke can sound like it...

And I equally like to play it clean, albeit not amplified. I guess I like it any way I can get it...;-)

05-10-2010, 02:13 PM
Even when I was playing distorted I still used a Centaur acoustic amp, I got a very warm tone in combination w/ the pedalboard. Always experiment, if you have the $$$ go out and buy some different amps, but for the most part I would stick w/ acoustic amps. Also to cut down on feedback I would stuf a T-shirt in the sound hole. Hope this helps.

05-11-2010, 07:37 AM
Great discussion, guys! Thanks for the feedback!