Help me finding my ideal first tube amp

Hello everyone!

First of all thank you for spending your free time helping guys like me with their gear questions. I will give you a short introduction to my situation.

I am a beginner guitar player who just started to play this January at the age of 23. Yet I have been wanting to play since i experienced my passion for Rock and Metal when I was 16. Looking back, I wish I started back then. Unfortunately the guys at school who played music in their free time were those spoiled kids with pianos, violins, trumpets and all the other boring (sorry nerds :p) classical stuff. Also everyone I asked told me, that I had to start with classical acoustic lessons first and I just couldn't be bothered to do so, when my real passion was rock music. Seven years later I walked past a music store here in Berlin and thought to myself "screw this, better late then never" and a few days later I walked out of that store with my little Ibanez and a Roland Micro Cube. I have been playing literally every day since then and boy do I enjoy it!

One problem with being a "late starter" is the experience you already have when it comes to music. I listen to stuff on a decent HIFI-system, have been to many concerts of a bunch of great bands and, being an engineer, know how to be "picky" when it comes to technology. I love my little Cube, since I can play at night through headphones, take It to my friend who started playing acoustic guitar soon after I started on electric whenever I want to and even play outside on batteries. Yet.. soundwise, I would like to upgrade the experience, at least for the living room situation. I could go solid state, but I feel like that would just be a temporary thing and I would still be waiting for the "real deal" somehow. I know it must seem crazy to do this a few month after one started playing, but It doesn't have to be next week or even next month. I just want to be ready when I go shopping ;).

I am looking for a tube amp - home use only for now - that, thanks to its effects-loop, functions as a great platform to experiment with pedals and delivers a great sound from warm cleans to evil modern distortion. I will definitely check out the suggested amps in person, as far as I am able find them somewhere, but I need to narrow it down first because it gets quite overwhelming.

Favorites so far (by spec sheet and youtube knowledge and availability in local stores):

1. H&K Tubemeister Deluxe 20
+ Exactly the features I want!
+ Powersoak 20/5/1 W
+ Great technology for silent play/recording at night (Redbox)
+ Don't have to care about tube bias
+ Looks, because you have to convince a girl when it comes to the whole living room stuff.. :facepalm:
- pricey, for a lunchbox amp

2. ENGL E15 Gigmaster
+ Powersoak 15/5/1 W
+ warm sound is advertised everywhere
0 Speaker off mode, but only balanced line out

3. Blackstar HT-5RH/C
+ Versatile sound (ISF)
+ "cheap"
- limited to 5 W

4. Marshall DSL40C
+ 40/20 W Switch
o Maybe a little too loud?
- pricey!

ENGL E112VB (Celestion Vintage 30)
+ Pretty much no upgrade needed in the future, as far as I can tell
+ recommendation by friends
+ Made in Germany, which, being German, is neat
+ Again, looks..
- pricey

If you really made it through all of this.. wow. Thank you already! Now its your turn to make suggestions, criticize, or call me crazy. I am looking forward to get to know this community. If there are any further questions, let me know. Cheers from Berlin, Germany!

Yours, Chris

  1. Where are you located?
    In the lovely capital of Germany
  2. What is your budget?
    This is quite a tough one. I think I will limit myself to ~ 1000€ (For Amp and Cab or a Combo!), but I would go a little beyond that, if that is what it needs to get myself into amp heaven. I set this limit for sanity reasons, since this is still a new hobby for me, even if though I fell completely in love with it.
  3. What guitars do you play, and what pickups are in them?
    Ibanez GRG140 BKN with stock Infinity Pickups (HSS)
  4. What effects do you use?
    For now its just a Boss NS-2 and a Mesa Engineering Throttle Box. There will be some sort of TS, something like a Boss TR-2 and an EQD Dispatch Master in the future.
  5. Does it have to be a combo?
    No, I would be happier with a Head actually, since I think this makes things easier to change/ upgrade. This doesn't mean that I wouldn't buy a great combo.
  6. Does it have to be new?
    Usually I would not hesitate a second to say no, but since this is going to be my only Tube Amp for a _really_ long time it will sit in my living room only, I would rather have something new and reliable with factory guarantee. I will look into used gear for my second guitar, amp, etc. or even gigging equipment, if I ever manage to become good enough to have people listening to my music haha. TLDR: Yes, new please.
  7. What are your size and weight limitations?
    None, except the Cab shouldn't be bigger than maybe an oversized 112 cab
  8. Do you need to be especially quiet at home?
    Well, thats a question of definition I guess. I live in a new apartment (well insulated walls), but I have close neighbors of course. I turn up my HIFI quite a bit, so it doesn't have to be super quiet, but its still a flat, not a rehearsal room.
  9. Do you need to be especially loud at gigs?
  10. What is your taste for low end, mids, et cetera?
    I prefer warm sounds to "twangy" or very high pitched sounds. The rest exceeds my experience with tube amps.
  11. What do you want to sound like (YouTube and/or Soundcloud links are most welcome)?
    I want to sound like myself. I listen to everything from rather sad/dark rock ballads to slipknot, yet I wouldn't turn down ACDC, Metallica or even some REM. It is high gain music for sure, but lots of progressive stuff including sad clean parts aswell. To make things a little easier, I will put a few songs here which I really like and who will influence me for sure (Warning: Contains German):


Lone Star

Well-Known Member
Whoops, I didn't realize that there was an introduction thread. :(
We'll sort that out in a second.. haha

For the love of god man! The mods are fire breathing DEVILS on this forum! If you dont introduce yourself properly we'll never know exactly who you are!!!!

Welcome to the forum bud :D

Ps... buy the Marshall and lets pretend the Blackstar isnt on your list ;)


On the other side of your screen

I had a nice time with a Lane Ironheart Studio. Clean, Crunch, Lead, Loop, Boost and "all" the I/O you want, including Phones! The Crunch could go from AC/DC to a nice mean Metal sound (just turn the EQs on 10) and the Lead, with the gain dialled down was really sweet. Also there is a clever protection from not connecting a cab ;)


Brandon Adams

You've got red on you.
I was having a hard time thinking of something that would work, as with what you had listed I only have experience with the DSL40C (which is wicked but not quite what you've described you're after)
I had a nice time with a Lane Ironheart Studio
Mr. Cat has the winner in my eyes. Laney Ironheart Studio is my recommendation. Wicked little unit all around. I want one badly.

The Terror amps are great as well. For what you're after specifically the Dark Terror and the Jim root. However they still seem to be a different vibe to what you're looking for.

Welcome to the forum my man :D

Lone Star

Well-Known Member
Haha thanks man! :D

Could you explain your recommendations?
No worries bud. I have owned a number of HT1 and HT5 amps both in head and combo form. While they do come in at a price that seems appealing the end product is somewhat substandard, in my opinion. The clean isn't that good and the overdriveis pretty much off or full on. I recall there being little change above 2 o clock on the gain dial. The Marshall will offer ten times what the Blackstar will as an all round amp. You won't go too far wrong with it.

If you look for a DSL401C you'll find a few gems under £350 used. They sound amazing at bedroom and gig volume.

Brandon Adams

You've got red on you.
So I kind of missed the part where you mentioned you were into Slipknot. Just get a Rivera KR7 :p

The Jim Root Terror and a Orange PPC212 sounds like it would be PERFECT if you are alright with using the volume knob to get a clean/crunch tone or dialing one in with more volume, less gain. Would be a incredible home rig, but if you ever want to gig. You can use the exact same rig. Comes in at £1044 at Andertons
Have you considered tiny Terror/dual Terror?
I have indeed looked them up and watched a few videos. If I recall correctly, both of these amps don't have an effects-loop, which would be something I would be missing in the long run i think.

I had a nice time with a Lane Ironheart Studio.
I never really looked into the rack mounted stuff, because I always thought that was spaceship gear for sound engineers. If I look at the features though, this seems just right indeed. And I found that I can check one out in a local store. One question though, is there anything to know about when it comes to gear that was made for a rack mount? E.g. can I place it on the Cab just as I would place my full size or lunchbox head?

specifically the Dark Terror and the Jim root.
if you are alright with using the volume knob to get a clean/crunch tone or dialing one in with more volume, less gain.
I think I would prefer a ≥ 2-Channel Amp with a footswitch, because songs I like tend to have clean intros followed by heavy riffs. And thats what I will spend most of my guitar time with, for the next few years - trying to play what others did better before me haha. Also I would question how versatile an amp with less controls than your usual gain pedal can be, and given that I cant really say I found something like "my sound" yet... The Jim root version has a more adjustable EQ if I remember correctly, but I dont really know what to think about signature gear tbh. It always seems a bit "teeny" to buy stuff with your idol's name on it :D
But I think i will be able to check them out at the store as well though. If the sound really convinces me, I can deal with the missing control!

If you look for a DSL401C you'll find a few gems under £350 used. They sound amazing at bedroom and gig volume.
Is the DSL401C just an older equivalent to the DSL40C, or are there any major differences?

Thank you guys so much for all the quick replies so far! Its really exciting how active and friendly this community seems to be. :dance:


The Good and Wise Call Me “Rufus”

The Blackstar HT and HT Metal amps are not tube amps; they are hybrid amps. Their “Overdrive channels” are actually built-in distortion pedals, and cranking them does not produce cranked valve amp tones because they use solid-state phase inverters. Somewhat similarly, the ENGL *Master amps use diode clipping to shape their distortion; in other words, they are tube amps with solid-state components shaping the distortion.

I concur with the recommendation of the Laney IRT Studio. Specifically, I recommend combining this bundle with this cab for 758€ (install the IRT Studio in the bottom two spaces, with the vented panel in the top space). Whereas I love my BluGuitar Nanocab, its size requires additional consideration when selecting an amp head. I use mine with an Orange Jim Root Terror, and I call the rig “A Movable Beast.”


Still haven't got the hang of Thursdays
I know it's a budget-breaker, but you might want to take a look at the Hughes & Kettner Grandmeister series as opposed to the Tubemeister. I think the gain is far richer and the built-in effects are great. Heck, Jeff Waters from Annihilator uses the amp alone as his road rig: