| October 10, 2023 |

Why You Need a Small Tube Amp in Your Life, and How to Use Them

Small tube amps can be the perfect fit for home practice, small gigs, and even big outdoor stages

Back in the late 1960s, when rock music was first forged in the cauldron of pop, blues, and psychedelia, the only backline any self-respecting guitarist would be seen with was a towering 100-watt stack. Maybe even a 200-watt stack. Maybe even two of ’em.

These days, with sophisticated modern PA systems, in-ear monitoring, and incredible-sounding digital modeling systems, if gigging guitarists are using tube amps at all, the likelihood is they’ll be using an amplifier of around 25 watts or less.

Of course, some guitarists are still flying the flag for big bottles and big iron, and we salute them. To quote Joe Bonamassa, “What’s the point of playing guitar if you can’t be loud as hell?” And if you want an amplifier that’s loud as hell, then brands such as MESA/Boogie still make plenty of them.

A small tube amp for home use?

However, for those of us dragging a tube amp up three flights of stairs at a bar on a rainy Tuesday evening, some level of compromise is prudent. If you turn up with a full stack and expect to crank that thing up, the sound engineer (and most likely your bandmates) will hate you.

A compact, low-wattage amp with onboard power scaling is the ideal choice not just for that bar gig and your ears but for rehearsing and recording at sensible volumes at home, too. A small tube amp for home use is the de facto way to go these days. And if you mic it up through a good PA with decent monitoring, it’s also great for that big outdoor show in the summer.

In a new video on Gibson Gear Guide, Gibson’s resident guitar-gear aficionado Dinesh Lekhraj walks us through a range of the best low-wattage tube amps from MESA/Boogie, including the Fillmore 25California Tweed 6V6 2:20Badlander 25, and Mark Five: 25.

Showing off each amp’s versatility, Dinesh shows you how to set up each MESA/Boogie amp for different applications and musical styles, running us through how to use the master volume section and, where appropriate, the attenuator to drop the wattage for high-gain and classic tube crunch at considerably lower volumes. Sometimes, less really is more.

Subscribe to Gibson Gear Guide for more killer videos, and visit MESA/Boogie to check out their full range of USA-built tube amps.