The Timeless Appeal of Tube Amplifiers: Are They Still Worth Buying Today?

Michael Putland/GettyImages

While tubes largely disappeared from electronics more than 50 years ago, they are still a vital component in the tube amplifier that many guitarists swear by, and they have helped produce countless recordings since tubes went out of style that we all listen to every day, but is it still a good idea to purchase one today? Keep reeling to find out.

The Benefit of Tube Amplifiers

Sound Quality

Tube amplifiers, also called valve amplifiers, use vacuum tubes to amplify audio signals. They provide a warm, rich sound that’s more natural sounding to many guitarists than their solid-state or digital counterparts. Tubes introduce a pleasing harmonic distortion to a signal they are amplifying that the transistor and digital model cannot quite replicate and many listeners prefer. Tubes also have a wider dynamic response, allowing guitars more freedom to play louder and softer without touching the controls than they could with the other types of amplifiers.

Aesthetic Appeal

For many people, especially guitar players, the tube amp and its glowing tubes provide a more authentic and vintage appearance than the LED displays of later models.

Hands-On Experience

For many guitarists, as regular readers of Geeksided will understand, half the fun is getting under the hood to tweak and bias the tubes, which will help them last longer and provide a unique tone that you helped create.

Cons of Buying a Tube Amp

Maintenance and Durability

One of the biggest cons to tube amps compared to transistor amps, and even more so than new digital modeling amps, is that they need frequent maintenance as the tubes wear out. Your tone will continuously change slightly as the tubes break in and then die out. It can also be hard to tell precisely when the tube will fail as there are any components inside.

Heat and Safety

Tubes generate a lot of heat, which is part of the reason they burn out, and the high temperature means you’ll have to position them carefully in your home to prevent creating a fire hazard. Tube amps also have a lot of power running through them, so you need to be careful when working on the amp that you don’t get shocked.


Tubes are fairly expensive, and an amp can have several of them. While some can last a long time, and it depends on how well you bias the tubes and how often you play, most experts recommend planning to replace the tubes every two to three years, so the cost can add up considerably if you are a longtime guitar player. The amp may also need other types of maintenance more frequently due to the high temperatures the tubes create, which might put a strain on the other components.

Availability of Tubes

Since we don’t really use tubes in anything but guitar amplifiers in many parts of the world, it’s getting harder and harder to find them, and the recent conflict in Russia has made it even harder as they were one of only two providers of the most popular tubes. However, the American company Western Electric has vowed to bring back US-based tube manufacturing, and several Chinese companies are making them as well.

Should I Buy a Tube Amp?

Deciding whether to buy a tube amp depends on your priorities and preferences. If you were a guitarist who prefers the sound of the guitar on classic recordings to the more recent recordings of the last few years, you would probably be happier with a tube amp. If we want something inexpensive and smaller in size, the tube amp might not be the best choice.

The best thing to do is visit your local music store and try out a few different brands and models to see what you like best.

Follow Geeksided for the latest updates and to leave comments and questions.