Let’s face it, a wall of Marshall stacks isn’t always the most appropriate of rigs. If you’re at home wanting to practice without disturbing everyone else, then you might find yourself in need of one of the best headphone amps for guitar. Simply plug your guitar into one of these devices, hook up your headphones and you can play away late into the night.
Headphone amps are a great way to practice silently. While many regular guitar amps feature a headphone output, these handy tools are considerably smaller and much easier to take around with you on the go. It also means you can leave your bigger amp at the rehearsal space, knowing that you’ve still got a practice tool at home.
There are a variety of different headphone amps for guitar available to players right now. Some feature a jack plug built into the unit so you can just insert it directly into your guitar, whereas others require a cable. There are even wireless options available too. However you go about plugging into it, our list of the best headphone amps for guitar covers a wide range of players’ needs and budgets and will enlighten you with everything you need to know about these dinky amps.
Best headphone amps for guitar: MusicRadar’s Choice
With new products coming out regularly, it’s hard to pin down the very best headphone amp for guitar. We really do love the Fender Mustang Micro as it offers a good variety of quality tones, and an impressive set of features at a great price. As you’d expect, it’s the smallest amp in the Mustang range but by no means does the sound reflect that.
If we’ve got a little more to spend, then we’d have to go with the Boss Pocket GT Effects – its advanced sound engine means it’s capable of some great tones, plus it’s one of the best learning tools out there for those that prefer to take their lessons on YouTube.
Best headphone amps for guitar: Product guide
The Fender Mustang Micro manages to score points for both functionality and affordability. Out of all the best headphone guitar amps here, this one probably offers the most, for the least outlay. With 12 different amp models covering everything from shimmering cleans to chunky distorted tones and 13 different effects built in, there’s no style of music that this headphone amp can’t cover.
Alongside the headphone output, you’ve also got a USB-C output allowing you to record directly to your DAW just using this neat little device. It’s also Bluetooth-enabled meaning you can stream your music library wirelessly so you can play along with your favourite songs, all whilst using headphones (need a pair of guitar-specific cans? Check out our guide to the best guitar amp headphones).
There’s an EQ for fine tweaking your tone and the whole thing is laid out in a really user-friendly way. You can get around four hours' worth of use from a single charge, then it’s as simple as plugging it into a USB charger so you don’t have to spend more on batteries.
Read the full Fender Mustang Micro review
The Boss GT sound engine gives you access to over 100 different amps and effects, so you’re never going to run out of ideas in terms of guitar tones. These are high quality tones, as you’d expect from one of the most popular guitar amp manufacturers around today.
It’s also a really useful tool for learning. It pairs with your smartphone or tablet so that you can call up your favourite lesson videos on YouTube and play along. You can set up A/B markers so that particular sections repeat – great for learning those tricky solo sections, and you can control playback with dedicated buttons on the device, so you’re not having to use a touchscreen. There’s even a centre cancel function that can help reduce the volume of vocals and guitar solos in songs you're playing along with.
You can get up to four hours’ use from its rechargeable battery, and there’s a built in guitar tuner. Once you’ve had a quick read of the manual, it’s easy to use and it’s incredibly functional, plus you can get a wide range of amazing sounds.
Read the full Boss Pocket GT Effects review
The Waza-Air from Boss is a really clever bit of kit. It delivers some superb guitar tones, with five different channels from the Katana range and a multitude of studio-quality effects (by linking up with the Boss Tone Studio app, you’ve got access to 50 customisable effects). We’ve come to expect great things from Boss amps of late and the Waza-Air headphones really live up to that.
As well as high quality clean, crunchy and distorted tones, there’s a gyro sensor built into them that helps deliver an incredibly wide, spatial effect, so even though you’re wearing headphones, it really does sound and feel like you’re in the room with the amp. The sound quality from the actual headphones is also very, very good.
The controls are easy to use and give you quick access to volume, six different tones and Bluetooth, should you wish to pair a device to jam along with your music library. It comes included with the wireless transmitter so you don’t have to worry about getting tangled up in cables. Whilst it might be more expensive than many others on the list, it really is one of the best headphone guitar amps on the market.
Blackstar bring their own tonal flavour to the fan favourite AmPlug. Serving up three different channels – clean, crunch and lead, you can cover a wide range tones, all from something that will fit in your pocket. It’s even got Blackstar’s patented ISF control that allows you to dial in an American or more British style voicing. The AmPlug plugs straight into your guitar, and then you just plug in your favourite headphones.
You can get up to a massive 17 hours of play time using just a couple of AAA batteries, and there are even three different types of reverb, chorus and delay built in. This can help inspire creativity during those late night sessions, without waking the rest of the house up!
Vox are quite often at the forefront of guitar technology, and their VGH AC30 headphones represent this nicely. These might look like a simple set of headphones, but you can plug them directly into your guitar to access the legendary sound of a Vox AC30.
You’ve even got reverb, chorus and delay at your disposal to add more colour to your sound. The Vox AGH AC30 headphones utilise Vox’s valve reactor technology which aims to replicate both the sound and feel of playing through a tube amp.
The headphones have been made in partnership with Audio Technica – one of the leading brands in the world of pro audio and studio headphone stalwarts. They’re of a premium quality and deliver a crisp, detailed guitar tone straight into your ears. They’re incredibly comfortable too, so you can wear them for long periods of time without fatigue. What’s even better is that these can also be used as a regular set of headphones, so it’s a nice little two-in-one.
Like many of their effects pedals, the Electro-Harmonix Headphone Amp is simple and rugged. There are no effects, amp models, or tone-tweaking features here – just a single volume knob. This is good for players that just want a no-fuss guitar tone, or for those that want a great base sound for their effects pedals. The Electro-Harmonix Headphone Amp takes pedals really well, so if you want get the most out of your favourite fuzz pedal at all hours of the day, then this is the one for you.
There are no cables hardwired into this model, so you’ll need a regular guitar cable from your instrument to the headphone amp. There’s also a belt clip on the side making it an ideal tool if you’re regularly on the go.
The Vox AmPlug series has been around for a while now, giving players a compact and affordable solution to silent practice. There are various different models available, but we’ve gone with the AmPlug Blues. This allows you to harness the sound of a cranked tweed amp, without anyone else hearing it. It reacts nicely to picking dynamics and has the choice of chorus, reverb and delay to help add some colour.
These plug straight into the jack output of your guitar, then you simply plug in some headphones and away you go. They’re incredibly easy to use, and it’s hard to get a bad sound out of them. They take 2 x AAA batteries, and you’ll get between 11-17 hours out of them depending on whether you’re using the FX or not. It really is surprising what these little units can do!
This is the most affordable headphone guitar amp on our list. In terms of quality, it’s not the most premium, but you do get a lot of bang for your buck with this. You’ve got three channels – clean, overdrive and distorted, as well as decent range of effects, so not bad for something you can fit in your pocket! Paired with some good headphones, you can get some really nice sounds from the Valeton Rushead Max, especially on the cleaner side of things.
This plugs directly into your guitar via the built-in jack, and changes to your sound are made via switches on the top and five knobs on the side, so it’s really easy to use. We also really like the fact that it’s got a built-in rechargeable battery so you’re not having to drop extra cash regularly just to power it.
Here at MusicRadar, we find ourselves increasingly impressed with NUX. While most know this brand for their affordable mini pedals, they actually offer a myriad of well-constructed products. These can range from electronic drum sets to desktop amps and, of course, headphone amps, but no matter what, they always offer superb value for money.
For this guide, we've chosen to showcase the Mighty Plug, a handy silent-play solution for both guitarists and bassists. Like many of the options on this list, the NUX Mighty Plug features a plethora of effects and amp voices, but where this clever device differs is the inclusion of impulse response cabinet models.
Better yet, the NUX also features an acoustic simulator and built-in drum patterns.
Best headphone amps for guitar: Buying advice
What you need to know about headphone amps for guitar
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As with any piece of gear, you should think carefully before parting with your cash so that you choose the right headphone guitar amp for your needs. If you were buying a full sized amp, you’d likely consider what sort of sounds you’d want out of it, and this is no different. Do you want various different channels, or are you happy with just one or two different sounds? Do you want additional effects? How much gain do you like to play with? Asking yourself these kinds of questions will mean you know more about what you’re looking for in the specs of these headphone amps.
How the unit is operated is worth considering as well. Different players work better with gear that only has a few knobs or buttons, whereas others like to get stuck into menus and presets etc. Our list of the best headphone amps for guitar has various options to cover all bases on this front.
The actual physical construction of the amp is worth looking at too. If it has a jack plug built into it, then maybe take some measurements and make sure that your guitar will accommodate it – the barrel of some Telecaster jacks can be a little too shallow for something like this, so always make sure it will fit.
Some of the more modern options on here also allow you to stream music from your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. This is ideal if you like playing along with songs, or tutorial videos, so if that’s something you know you’re keen on doing then look for that feature. It’s likely to cost you a little more money, but it could be worth it in the long run.