Lunchbox Tube Amps Part III

Ask the DudeIn the first part of this series, I presented some budget tube combos. In the second part, I started a small overview of several heads. And finally, I would like to end up this series with some last recommendations.

Palmer Eins

The Palmer Eins is definitively the most robust amp of my listing.
For it has no handle, it actually has to be robust when it slides out of your your hands.
The pots and the switch on the front control volume, tone and the boost.
The 1 Watt amp works with an ECC83 preamp tube and an ECC82 power amp tube.
Besides outputs for 8 and 16 ohms, it also offers a HI Z output and a Palmer speaker simulation.
Perfect as a recording amp.
Although the Palmer Eins is equipped quite frugal, it produces a sonic variety that reaches from clean to snotty overdriven. The pots maxed, it almost creates fuzz sounds.

For the price of 200,00Euros, the Palmer head will be yours.

Mooer Little Monster AC

200,00Euro is also the price of the Mooer Little Monster AC.
Not only the name, but the design as well show a – more than just merely – orientation to the Vox Lil` Night Train.
Besides the pots for gain and volume, the amp has a switches to choose between the setting options thin/mellow and normal/ top boost.
Thereby, the 5 Watts amp, which is built up with a 12ax7 /EL84 tube combination, offers various sonic possibilities from clean to crunchy.
And, you will get an output for an 8 or a 16 ohms speaker.

Vox Lil‘ Night Train

Unfortunately, the production of the Vox Lil‘ Night Train has been stopped and therefore, this little train is not available in new condition anymore.
Initially, the price was about 200,00Euro, now, the prices are mostly much higher.
Connected to a 16 ohms speaker the Lil‘ Night Train provides 2 Watts. With an 8 ohms speaker, it runs on 1.5 Watts.
Besides pots for treble and bass, it has also a control for gain and volume.
Via the bright/thick switch you can deactivate the tone stack. Thereby, the amp gets a bit louder, overdriven and rougher.
At the inside, you will find three 12ax7 tubes.
The Vox Lil’ Night Train actually sounds like a small AC30 on bedroom level.
Of course, it lacks a bit of low end, but especially for recording, this one is an absolute insider tip.

Blackheart Killer Ant

The Blackheart Killer Ant is also not available in new condition anymore.
This 1 Watt amplifier has only a pot for volume. On the back, you will find inputs for 4, 8 or 16 ohms speakers.
The Killer ant works with two 12ax7 tubes.
A special thing about this amp is, that it has a Marshall JCM 800 tone stack built up with non-adjustable resistors instead of pots. Because of this, you can not vary the tone stack but it sounds marvelous.
From a considerable clean sound, the Killer Ant comes to a Marshall-like vintage overdrive.
And here, it sounds even better than the 1 Watt amps of the original manufacturer.
Initially, the price for this killing head was about 100,00Euros. The used ones, you can get today cost quite a lot more.


Many small tube amps, heads as well as combos can benefit from modifications.
Doubtless, only musicians who know how to work with the voltage should try to modify the amplifiers. Even switched off, you will find more than 400 volts current inside of these small heroes.
But it is also worth it, to experiment with different speakers and tubes. On the internet, you can frequently find the recommendation to use expensive NOS tubes. But I guess, one can dispute whether this causes sonic miracles in a 100-Euro-Amp.

Personally, I prefer classical Chinese no-name tubes in a Vox clone. For they create a certain transparency and Vox chime while other tubes, to me, provide to many mids and kill the Vox-like character.
I think, it is always a matter of taste.

All in all, the amplifiers mentioned in this series provide classical tube sounds from clean to vintage crunch.
Because of the lower output, they all lack a bit of low end. But to me, this is no deficiency for a recording- or bedroom amp.
For the prices for these amps and effect pedals are about the same, the purchase of a small lunchbox amp is definitively recommendable.
And if you will find a sonic weakness, it is easy to start a modification.

Just ask the Dude – together, we will find the perfect mod for your lunchbox amp.