So, you enjoy playing your electric guitar, but you feel constricted by having to always bring your large amp with you?
Maybe you just need a compact solution that you can easily carry around when you travel?
Going with a guitar amp for headphones is your best bet.
However, with so many various models out there, it’s not that easy to choose the right one.
Lucky for you, I’ve come up with an article that’s going to discuss what to look for, highlight the most important features, as well as reveal the best selling models on the market.
What To Look For So You Don’t Buy The Wrong Amp
Much like a regular guitar amp, an amplifier for headphones needs to be able to process the sound that’s coming from your guitar in a way that the signal is strong and loud enough for it to be pushed through, you guessed it, headphones, or maybe even smaller speakers.
While different guitar amps offer different sound, effects, and generally, cater to the needs of various playing styles and musical genres, headphone guitar amps need to check a couple of important boxes that are specific to this category.
- Form Factor – Bug Amps And Mini Amplifiers
So, you’re basically looking at a device that is somewhat of a bridge between your guitar and headphones.
In terms of the actual size and form factor, you can choose from 2 types of headphone guitar amps:
Bug amplifiers – These devices plug straight into your guitar, and all of the circuitry is in one place. You simply plug your headphones into it, and you’re good to go!
Mini amplifiers – Think of standard guitar amps, just way, way, smaller. You still need a cable to connect your guitar to it, unlike the previously mentioned bug amps.
Think about the main reason why you’re thinking of getting a headphone guitar amp.
Bug amps come in as handy if you travel a lot, as they are extremely small, and you can use them practically anywhere you can fit a guitar.
Mini amps, on the other hand, need a bit more space, but often than not provide you with a small speaker as well, and don’t limit you on just using headphones all the time.
- Audio Quality
Like with any piece of audio equipment, you’re looking for a device that’s going to sound good.
While you definitely can’t expect a bug or mini amp to sound like a full Marshall stack, that doesn’t mean you should be satisfied with just simply being able to hear your guitar.
With new and improved models coming out all the time, even this type of amps has gained massive improvements in terms of sound quality.
So, think about the full-sized amps you find to be the best sounding, and try to gauge the headphone ones in comparison to them.
- Power Options – Batteries Are Great, Backup DC Power Is Even Better!
While having a mobile device of any kind is very convenient, the question of the type of batteries that are used, and how long they last is always present.
With guitar amps for headphones, it’s once again the question of the main motive for buying and using one.
If the main reason is being able to play wherever and whenever, you probably don’t care too much about the amp having a backup DC power option.
However, for home use, having that feature is pretty convenient. Not having to worry about how much time you have left with the batteries, and not having to get new ones when the old ones are depleted can definitely come in as handy.
- Tone Settings And Additional Effects And Features
Though this kind of falls into the category of the amp actually sounding good by your personal standards, it’s definitely worth mentioning separately.
In order to actually have a fun and constructive time playing via a headphone guitar amp, you need to be able to set the tone exactly how you want it.
Sure, the form factor limits the possibilities, but certain amps offer much more room for tuning in the sound than others. Some even offer common effects such as delay or reverb.
If you only need a simple device for casual practice sessions, this may not play an important role for you, but for other guitarists, it can make a big difference!
Reviews Of The Best Guitar Amps For Headphones
Now that you have an idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to check out our pick of the best models!
- Monoprice 611502 “Tube Overdrive”
Starting out with the 511502 Tube Overdrive by Monoprice, you can already tell that you can find very cheap headphone guitar amps!
For just over $10 you can play your guitar all day and night without annoying your family and neighbors.
Sporting a compact design well-known for bug amps, this model is pretty small and can easily fit into your pocket. Just note that the actual TS plug sticks out and can’t be folded up.
In terms of the features, the 611502 comes in as pretty handy. Controls, while basic, offer enough room for you to adjust your tone. They include gain, tone, and volume wheels, and a simple on/off switch.
While the actual gain controls only give you somewhat of a crunchy tone, you can’t expect much more from a device this small and inexpensive.
You can even plug in an external sound source such as your phone or an mp3 player and jam away to your favorite tunes!
- The cheapest bug amp worth getting
- Offers clean and crunchy sound
- Goes on 2xAAA batteries
- Batteries not included
- Signal noise is present
- Build quality could be better
With all the mentioned characteristics, the 611502 Tube Overdrive bug amp by Monoprice is a cheap yet effective headphone guitar amp that’s definitely worth buying. However, don’t expect too much from a $10 device.
- Danelectro Honeytone N-10
Sporting a different form factor, and looking more like a vintage radio device, the Honeytone N-10 by Danelectro offers solid sound as well as controls, all wrapped up in a sleek looking box.
The N-10 sports a leather handle on the top, as well as a belt buckle on the back, making carrying it around while playing very easy.
Control-wise, there are 3 knobs. Volume, tone, and overdrive are generally more than enough for this type of amps, and the N-10 is no exception. The sound you get from this bad boy is surprisingly balanced and clear.
Even the overdrive sounds decent, maybe even above-average considering it’s a mini amp after all.
Just make sure you balance the volume and overdrive nicely in order to avoid that annoying crackling sound.
The N-10 runs on 9V batteries, which is convenient considering the fact that guitar pedals use the same type. Because it can go through them pretty fast, Danelectro included the option of using DC power as well.
- Beautiful design
- Can be clipped on your belt
- Solid sound, can get pretty loud
- Battery and DC power options
- Goes through batteries pretty fast
- DC Adapter is not included
Whether it’s practice sessions or jamming along with your friends at a small party, the Honeytone N-10 by Danelectro is a cute, great sounding, yet inexpensive option you should definitely consider.
- Mugig Mini Guitar Amp
At number 3, we have the Mugig bug amp. At double the price of the first model we’ve mentioned, you might be wondering, why should you get this one?
First of all, it’s important to note that this model is more oriented towards fans of metal and similar, heavier genres. With that being said, you can expect a much better sounding distortion tone from this headphone amp.
The Mugig mini amp features your standard gain, tone, and volume controls. It’s the gain and tone that sound way better than most other, competitor models, and make this amp unique.
With an aux port, you can easily plug in any audio source for listening to a metronome, a backing track, or pretty much anything else you’d want.
Mugig definitely focused on the actual sound quality, as this amp, besides the aux port (which can be found on other models), doesn’t have any other extra features.
However, this amp is unique because it doesn’t use disposable batteries. A USB port is used for charging the mini amp, which I find to be quite convenient. We all have a bunch of micro USB cables laying around anyway.
- Above average build quality
- Great tone, especially with a lot of gain
- Charges via micro-USB
- Has an aux input
- The battery doesn’t last long
- No additional features
So, if you’re looking for a straightforward headphone guitar amp that can offer a good tone, the Mugig mini guitar amp may just be perfect for you.
- Vox AP2AC amPlug AC30 G2
The amPlug AC30 G2 by Vox shows that, in order to have more flexibility, and a higher level of versatility when it comes to headphone guitar amps, you need to spend slightly more money.
Far from being expensive, this bug amp comes in at a bit less than $50, but the features it has to offer are definitely worth it.
First of all, you can choose from 6 different variations of this model, depending on the genre of music or style of amp you prefer.
Having a foldable plug not only makes carrying around the amPlug much easier, but it also means that you can fit it into any guitar, and still have all the controls accessible.
Gain, tone, and volume controls are precise and easy to use. It’s amazing how spot-on the sound is when compared to the actual AC30. However, what really makes this bug amp special are the effects.
You can cycle through chorus, reverb, and delay, with each effect in 3 different presets.
The amPlug doesn’t fall behind in terms of battery life, as it can be used up to 17 hours with no effects, or around 11 hours with the effects turned on. At the end of the day, just pop in a fresh pair of AAA batteries, and you’re good to go.
- Excellent sound quality, very close to the actual AC30 in terms of tone
- Rotating plug for extra convenience
- Built-in effects that sound good
- Different variations of the model to choose from
- Could be a bit more durable
When it comes to bug amps, there’s hardly a better option than the amPlug AC30 by Vox. The sound is unmatched, and the effects sound great. The go-to choice for anyone looking for a bit more from a pocket amp.
- Line 6 Pocket POD
And finally, at number 5, the king of versatility. If you’re looking for a wide variety of different presets and effects you can carry around in your pocket, look no further than the Pocket POD by Line 6.
This bad boy offers so much, yet has a ridiculously small footprint. While some musicians don’t like the overall sound of Line 6 products, you can’t argue that the Pocket POD is a very unique and convenient piece of equipment.
Offering 300+ presets with 32 amp and 16 cab model simulations, you can really let your creativity run wild with the Pocket POD.
If that’s not enough, you have 16 effects at your disposal as well.
By connecting it to a PC, you can easily download other effects and presets made by the Line 6 community.
All of the amp and cab simulations sound very natural and on point. Considering the form factor, you can almost look at this amp as a simplified version of a Kemper or Axe-FX, that you can use with a pair of headphones.
- Easy to use interface
- Multiple amp and cab simulations, and effects
- Uses batteries or DC power
- Noticeably more expensive than the other models we’ve reviewed
The Pocket POD by Line 6 is probably the best guitar headphone amp in terms of catering to pretty much any guitarist’s needs.
Wrapping It Up! Which One Is Worth Buying?
So, it’s obvious that there are a lot of unique and interesting features and models to consider.
However, certain models just have that special something that makes them a bit better than the others.
Considering performance, versatility, audio quality, practicality, and, of course, price, I would have to say that the Vox AP2AC amPlug AC30 G2 is probably your best bet.
The fact that you can choose a variation of the model which suits you most and the included effects alongside the excellent audio quality make this headphone guitar amp the best option.
I hope that you had fun and found this article informative.
As always, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one!