SubZero Tube-H5 5W Mini Stack
One hundred and eighty nine pounds and ninety nine pence? No, that's not a typo. That's how little this valve cutie values itself. Self-esteem aside, though, the once fresh and hip five-watt table is beginning to get pretty crowded, so we're keen to see what SubZero can bring to it.
A quick glance at the spec sees it do okay: two channels with a shared two-band EQ, pumped through a single EL84 valve on its way to a pair of 10-inch speaker cabs each housing a name-brand Celestion Tube 10 speaker.
But hang on, where's the emulated output? The on-board power soak? The footswitchable channels that we've come to expect? Well, with great reductions in price should come greatly diminished expectations, and at £189.99 you're already saving a couple of hundred pounds on the ticket price of five-watters from big-name brands like Vox, Marshall and Blackstar.
Visually, the Tube-H5 punches above its weight. Blue Tolex, weave baffle and grille cloth, and retro chickenhead controls are accompanied by the vintage-style leather handle and tidy chrome corners.
The only letdown is that the channel switch on our review model poked through the hole on the panel slightly off-centre. It didn't stop it from functioning at all, but it is a giveaway sign of the amp's price.
Plugging in, then, you'll be surprised at the grunt of the Tube-H5. Five watts might not be enough to gig with, but it's still loud enough to upset your neighbours if you crank it.
However, unlike its more powerful brother, the Tube-10W, the Tube-H5 is quite manageable for a 'bedroom' amp, and while the inclusion of two larger speakers will offer greater dispersion and low end, in this case it's not overpowering.
The clean channel benefits from the added bass response, adding character to the toppy tone and making it great for playing jangly strummed rhythms, as well as cleaner blues licks. Push that wonky channel switch and you'll find a smooth overdrive.
The top end of the Tube-H5 can be a bit shrill and fatiguing, particularly with single coils, so rolling back the treble will help. If the pure driven tones of melodic rock bands like Foo Fighters and The Gaslight Anthem float your boat, you'll be in your element here.
Likewise, flipping to a neck humbucker and venturing towards the business end of the neck will yield some cool, weeping blues and classic rock leads. Metal fans will want to add a pedal or keep walking, as that single 12AX7 tube in the preamp just isn't going to cut it. That said, tuning down can get some of that doomy Black Sabbath feel.
Having played and reviewed most of the micro valve amps on the market, we were surprised by the Tube-H5. It came out swinging and delivered some tones that have no right to be found on a mini stack priced at just shy of £200 (£89.99 if you just buy the head). Yes, it's devoid of some features, but something has to give, and at this price it's well worth a look.
Cool vintage styling, excellent price, plenty of oomph for a bedroom setup.
Small slips in attention to detail, if we're nitpicking, lacking in features, shrill top end, not great for metallers.
The SubZero Tube-H5 may be light on features but at this price you'd be mad not to check it out.