The Best Tubes for Fender Amps

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Vintage Tweed Fender Amp w/ RCA 12AX7 | Fuzz Audio
Vintage Tweed and RCA 12AX7 at Sundown.

There is just something special about Fender amps. 

They have been behind countless classic tracks and dominated the market with their versatile range of electric guitar tones. From smooth jazz to hard rock, Fender amplifiers are always a sure bet for awesome guitar tone.

Yet wait, you know all this. You are reading this because you are already in love your Fender amp, you take it everywhere and you want it to perform to its absolute best.

Here is Fuzz Audio’s list (by era) of vintage valves that will help you get that extra 10% of warm tube goodness of out your Fender tone machine:
 
RCA is King, GE is Queen:
RCA & GE EL84 Vintage NOS Vacuum Tubes | Fuzz Audio
RCA & GE 6BQ5/EL84’s

When it comes to vintage Fender amps and really any classic USA guitar circuit, RCA is always the first brand that should come to mind. This is because for any given Fender amp made prior to 1965 there is an 80+% chance your amp originally came stock with RCA tubes.

Because Fender relied heavily on the use of RCA tubes up until about 1965, they should always be considered when upgrading tubes in a Fender amp or restoring an amp back to original condition.

However, that being said, other USA manufactures should not be overlooked.

Remember how we said, “80+% chance your amp originally came stock with RCA tubes?” Well, the other 15-20% would be found with GE tubes. GE 12AX7’s in particular are a great budget valve to get your amp running optimally without burning a hole in your wallet.

The Best Tubes for Fender Amps by Era:

 

Tweed Era (1948-1960):

Vintage Tweed Fender Amp & Raytheon Black Plate 12AX7
Raytheon Black Plate 12AX7 | Fuzz Audio

Single speaker tweed amps deserve long plate preamp tubes. If you play with lots of distortion, fuzz or like lots of warmth; black plates are by far the best tubes for tweed Fender amps.

Stock tubes for early tweed Fender amps:

Our optimal Tweed Champ set:

 

Black and Brownface Era (1960-1967):

Blackface Fender Amp & Raytheon 12AX7 Black Plate
Raytheon 12AU7 Black Plate | Fuzz Audio

As amps started to get bigger, tube plates became smaller to compensate for “noise floor” with the larger Fender amps of the 60’s.

If you have a blackface amp with one speaker, long plate preamp tubes are still the way to go.

On the other hand, if your amp has more than one speaker, and you want your amplifier to be quiet, you may want to look at tubes like the 12AX7A or 7025. Both RCA and GE have great versions of these tubes. For power tubes, hands down best performers are RCA black plates.

Stock tubes for Blackface Fender amps:

Our optimal Blackface Twin Reverb set:

 

Silverface to Modern Era (1967-now):

Fender Amp Reissue
Fender Vibroverb Reissue | Fuzz Audio

Early Silverface amps would have been found with the last batches of the classic RCA tubes of the Blackface Era. Yet by 1970 the glory days of RCA were over, and we see Fender start to plug in Sylvania/Philips Preamp tubes, along with GE pre and power tubes. These tubes are typically branded “Fender” and sound less warm than earlier versions.

Thus, in our opinion the best vacuum tubes for Fender amps were made pre 1970, and because of this, we are left with the options already mentioned if you are chasing legendary tone.

If you are trying to return your Silverface amp back to 100% stock components you would have several options, as Fender was inconsistent with the tubes they used in this era.

Stock tubes for early Silverface (1967-70):

  • RCA/GE 12AX7A or 7025
  • RCA/GE 6L6GC
  • RCA/GE 6V6GTA

Stock tubes for post 1970 Silverface:

  • Sylvania/Philips (USA) Preamp Tubes (Sometimes Fender Branded)
  • GE 12AX7A (Fender Branded)
  • Power tubes: USA or even JAPANESE

 

What Did We Learn?

RCA is king, Ge is Queen. If your amp has one speaker or you are okay with a little tube noise, go long plate preamp tubes as these are the warmest, best sounding tubes ever made.

Otherwise, if you like to play clean and you want your amp to be as quiet as possible, use grey plate power tubes (like the RCA or GE 6V6GTA) and short plate preamp tubes like the 7025 or 12AX7A.

Remember all tubes sold by Fuzz Audio have a 30-day refund policy and are guaranteed for one year.