As much as we guitar players dream of harnessing the power of a cranked tube amp, in reality, it's just not practical when practicing at home. Many of us lead hectic lives, and as a result, we often resort to practicing whenever we get the chance, in some cases late at night when everyone else hits the hay. Surely, there's a way to get the bone-crushing tone we long for without worrying about disturbing our neighbors, young children, or even irritating our significant other – enter the best headphone amps for guitar.
These nifty little gadgets enable you to rock out without the noise complaints, delivering great tones, effects, and even recording capabilities. Whether you need to practice quietly at home or do some quick recording on the road, there's a headphone amp that will fit into your workflow.
This guide to the best headphone amps for guitar showcases stellar options from the likes of Fender, Boss, Vox and many more. So, without further ado, let's dive into these volume-friendly practice solutions.
Best headphone amps for guitar: Guitar World’s Choice
Fender’s mighty Mustang Micro takes the top spot in this category, combining value for money, ease of use, and outstanding functionality. Whether you want to noodle at home or use it as a fully-fledged audio interface, it gives you a wide variety of amps and effects to suit any player or playing style.
In second place we have the Vox amPlug 2 AC30, a fantastic update to a mainstay of the headphone amp world. Delivering that classic Vox chime-like tone without the back-breaking weight, it even dirties up like the real thing as you dial up the gain for an all-around authentic tone.
Best headphone amps for guitar: Product guide
The Fender Mustang Micro has really set the bar for what guitar headphone amps can do. Featuring 12 amp models that go from pristine Fender clean to heavy metal high gain, it gives guitarists an astonishing array of usable tones for practice and recording.
The effects are fantastic as well: you’ve got classic Fender spring reverb, spacious stereo delays, and the warm wash of Fender’s own Vibratone. Some of these effects are combined to prevent them from sounding too dry, but all of them are usable in various scenarios.
Four colored LEDs on the side of the unit let you know your amp, effect, EQ and effects setting, whilst the 4th LED titled 'modify' allows you to adjust effect parameters. This means you can set the amount of reverb you’d like, or the time setting for your delay effects.
Read our full Fender Mustang Micro review
Vox’s amPlug was one of the first popular headphone amps for guitar. Thanks to its simple design and great tones it’s found many a fan, from beginners all the way to touring professionals.
This particular model delivers that valve amp tone Vox is famous for, the AC30 Top Boost. Whilst it’s not going to touch the real thing, it does give a more than usable practice tone that’s easily tweakable thanks to the Volume, Tone, and Gain controls.
It won’t do metal distortion, but crank the gain and you get a very crunchy overdriven sound that responds well to rhythm playing. It also features 3 effects, each with 3 variations giving you a total of 9 to add some delay, reverb, or chorus once you’ve found your base-level tone.
The Boss Waza-Air differs from the others on this list in one rather substantial way – the amplifier is built into the headphones! This game-changing practice tool combines state-of-the-art wireless headphones and the amp models and effects that Boss is renowned for. Throw in Bluetooth audio streaming, and you have a pretty hard-to-beat home practice solution.
Not only does the Waza-Air give you access to five realistic amplifier models as well as 50 customizable effects via the Boss Tone Studio app, but it also boasts spatial technology and an integrated gyro sensor that delivers a unique 3D soundscape.
We found the Waza-Air to be incredibly easy to use, with the buttons being accessible and intuitive. An obvious plus for this stellar headphone amp is the lack of cables. The wireless nature means you won’t get tangled up when you are trying to nail that tricky new solo.
Read our full Boss Waza-Air review
Blackstar’s amPlug Fly is built on the same architecture as the Vox amPlug, which is actually designed by Korg (stay with us here). So when you initially pick it up it looks and feels exactly the same as Vox’s offering, just with different branding.
Like the Vox amPlug, there are three rotary controls and a button for switching on/off and selecting your channel. On the clean setting, there’s a surprising warmth and depth of tone considering its diminutive dimensions. Add some of the effects and you get a very 3D sound filling your headphones.
It also handles higher gain settings very well, with a powerful distortion that doesn’t sound tinny in the slightest. Blackstar’s famed ISF control gives you the power to switch from an American amp tone to a British one.
Electro Harmonix’s headphone amp for guitar is a typically no-nonsense offering from the New York-based guitar pedal giant. Featuring just one knob, an input and a headphone out, it lets you get straight down to business with minimal fuss.
Coming from a behemoth of the FX pedal world, it’s no surprise to discover that the EHX headphone amp is designed to be a great pedal platform, offering a fantastic base clean tone that takes fuzzes, distortions, reverbs, delays, and anything else you can throw at it.
It features a handy belt clip should you want to go for a wander whilst noodling your favorite riffs or practicing scales. Unlike some others on this list, it doesn’t plug straight into your guitar, so you’ll need an additional cable to get up and running.
The Valeton Rushead Max comes from a company that makes lots of famous pedal clones, meaning you’re getting great guitar tones for a very low price. It’s rechargeable via USB, so no repeat buying of batteries is necessary here.
Three switches on the front face of the Rushead Max give you three amp sounds, with a classic Fender clean sound, Marshall-type crunch, and high gain distortion for getting heavy. Combining these settings with tone and gain knobs gives you plenty of scope for sculpting.
Effects-wise we’ve got classic Delay and Reverb settings that go from simple slap-back to vast, celestial sound spaces. Alongside this, you can dial in some warm chorus sounds, tremolo, and a flanger, making the Rushead Max extremely flexible.
The original and still one of the best, the Vox amPlug Classic Rock is designed for those who want that heady drive of the late-’60s/early-’70s. Featuring a very Marshall-esque crunch alongside nine effects, you’ve got a lot of power here for very little money.
The battery life is estimated at 15-17 hours, depending on your use of effects so you’ll get plenty of playtime out of it. A 3.5mm jack output lets you connect various devices, allowing you to jam along to your favorite tracks.
It’s an analog circuit here, so you’re getting a very genuine amp sound rather than something digitally recreated. The mid-boost switch is a nice touch, helping elevate your tone when playing along with recordings.
If you prefer your amp sounds of the Tweed-covered variety, then the Sonicake US Classic is the one for you. Emulating that much-loved tone very well, this headphone amp for guitar offers simple usability to get you up and playing quickly.
Featuring a built-in rechargeable battery, you can get around 5 hours of playtime on a single charge, more than enough to last you a few practice sessions over a week. The Aux In is great for practicing with recordings or a metronome.
It goes from warm clean tones all the way to deliciously crunchy overdrive, making it a versatile practice tool for a variety of styles. The built-in reverb allows you to add some space to your sound, great for a clean sound and lead guitar licks.
Yep, it’s another Vox amPlug! This particular model is designed for players who want crushing distortion sounds for heavier styles, and it's great for those late-night chugging sessions.
As with all the Vox amPlug series, the construction is the same, with your gain, volume, and tone controls, nine effects, plus a line out for jamming along with your preferred device. With up to 17 hours of playing time, it’s got plenty of juice to keep you going.
The sound is what you’d expect from the name – crushing high gain sounds abound here. It’s modeled on American-style high gain amps and it pairs great with humbucker-equipped guitars and dropped tunings. If you’re an extended-range guitar player you’ll love this as a practice tool.
Best headphone amps for guitar: Buying advice
Much like choosing a regular guitar amp, picking out the best headphone amp for guitar requires many of the same considerations. Chances are if you enjoy the sound of a clean Fender amp, then you’ll want something similar in your headphone amp. Likewise, if you’re the sort of player that likes the heavier end of the scale, you’ll need to factor this into your decision and pick something that caters to dirty tones. There are plenty of offerings from major amp manufacturers like Fender, Blackstar and Vox, so you’re sure to find your perfect match.
The type of guitar that you have plays a factor too because of the way a lot of headphone amp input jacks are designed. There are some that may not suit guitars with inputs on the bottom of the body, like the Telecaster and Gibson Les Paul for example. Likewise, a Strat-style input jack can have limitations too because of the way the socket's recessed into the body, so be certain you think about that before purchasing. A lot of the newer headphone amps for guitar have a flexible input jack, allowing you to find the perfect position for any kind of guitar, but others do not – so bear that in mind.
If effects are a must-have, then you’ll find plenty of headphone amps for electric guitar that include these, just bear in mind that some are designed to be pure amplifiers so may not have effects included. Classic delay and reverb type effects are fairly easy to come by here, but if you’re after something more esoteric like ring modulation, you might not find what you’re looking for here. It will really help if your practice tools mirror your full-size rig, so ensure that your headphone amp of choice has the effects you need, or integrates well with your existing effects selection.