playing with myself
December 26, 2008 4:44 PM   Subscribe

need recommendation for headphone amplifier for an electric guitar...

I need a tiny headphone amp (rockman style) but I havent played in a while and dont know what sounds good out there. Mostly I'm playing rock and blues (blues to REM to black sabbath). I was looking at "Dean Stack in a box" and the rockman (whats the difference between 'guitar ace' and 'metal ace'?). Of course I'd like something that can at least approximate tube amp punch. Anyway so any recommendations? The Dean stack is only 30 bucks (cheaper the better!) at amazon, does anyone know how it compares to rockman? Are there any other brands out there that I need to consider?

posted by jak68 to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Musician's Friend seems to have several options you could check out. I've heard good things about the Smokey mini amp, but have no personal experience with any of these. The various Vox offerings seem interesting, though it looks like they might not fit properly if you're playing a stratocaster or similar.
posted by jjb at 5:02 PM on December 26, 2008

I have one of those mini-Vox amps (the AC30) - it's pretty darn sweet, and I've been happy with it. For $30, it was money well spent. Fit hasn't been an issue for me, but then I'm not playing a Strat, so YMMV.
posted by swngnmonk at 5:05 PM on December 26, 2008

Response by poster: Does anyone have any experience with the Fender Hello Kitty headphone amp (only $15 used!). Or the Vox?
posted by jak68 at 5:07 PM on December 26, 2008

I've been recommending the smokey amp cited above to a lot of friends, but it's not a headphone amp (ie: it has a mono output, but I would not plug headphones into it). The 2-inch speaker is a bit buzzy and not really useful, though a 9V battery will give you months of fun. The thingy really stands out when used as a distortion box, though. It's got a really mean southern rock-blues type distortion. And, it can drive a 12-inch cone surprisingly loudly for its size (this kills the battery really fast).

To play with headphones (or as a simple effect unit) I'm happy with a Korg Pandora PX-4: it's a headphone processor with 50 factory presets and 50 user presets, various amp/speaker models, plus basic effects (a mod section with chorus/flanger/phasers, a delay section and a reverb section) and some basic training/jamming features (a few preset rhythm patches with bass, metronome, an aux input to record/loop a phrase and jam on it). You can hook the output to headphones, a couple active speakers (even decent computer speakers can do) or your guitar amp. Alternatives: a line6 pocket pod or other similar thingies.

I've also read rave reviews about the Roland microcube amp and its sound models, and I'm very tempted to buy one myself.
posted by _dario at 5:31 PM on December 26, 2008

Oddly enough, I got the Hello Kitty headphone amp for Christmas to go with my Hello Kitty Strat. It sounds too tinny to be especially pleasant to me. It is also extremely dry so it has very little depth to it.

I have somewhere a Rockman X100 with a faulty switch that makes it no longer usable without some resoldering. BUT when played through headphones, it makes your guitar sound pretty damn massive (and exactly like Boston). The Rockman brand, however, is no longer owned by Scholz R&D so don't expect to find anything current that matches Scholz's exacting standards of Bostonitude.
posted by plinth at 5:35 PM on December 26, 2008

Response by poster: thanks for the recommendations, I'm checking them out... I may be leaning towards the vox because it uses aaa batteries (i could use rechargeables) and comes with its own plug built in which seems convenient.

The hello kitty one is dirt cheap on the other hand :)

Anyone have any experience with the dean stack-in-a-box?
posted by jak68 at 5:37 PM on December 26, 2008

I have one of these its basically a ipod lets you play along with mp3s slow down and loop sections
has amp models and built in effects
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 5:48 PM on December 26, 2008

Response by poster: satanscabanaboy -- yes, that one is definitely on my wishlist/buylist :) But not yet, I think I only have about $40 to throw at the headphone amp for now :)

Guess I'm leaning towards a vox amplug metal, pretty well rated everywhere and I like the convenience of aaa batteries and built in plug. Should be about $40 I think. There are youtube videos demonstrating some of these by the way, which is helpful too.
posted by jak68 at 5:53 PM on December 26, 2008

It's a bit bigger and pricier than the stuff you've mentioned, but I'm a fan of the Pocket POD. Sounds good, lots of features, and it has a belt clip and can run on batteries or AC adapter.
posted by sinfony at 5:55 PM on December 26, 2008

I have a Roland microcube, but it's not what you're looking for, I think. I do recommend it--it's small enough to fit under the couch in my living room, so I can rock out whenever I feel like it. It'll run off of 6 AAs, and comes with an AC adapter. Definitely too big to clip on your belt, though you could fit it with a shoulder strap.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:35 PM on December 26, 2008

Try the Pocket Rockit by CTech. It's got differing levels of distortion, a tuner, and a host of other goodies, and fits in your gig bag.
posted by eclectist at 7:54 PM on December 26, 2008

IMHO, there is nothing in the headphone world that will do what you describe. It is like trying to get a great-tasting sausage made out of soy. Good luck!

However, since you haven't played for a while, go from Sabbath to REM, you're probably just interested in something diverse, reliable, cheap, immediately usable, and non-shitty sounding. Right?

Stay the bloody hell away from Rockman. Remember the guitar sounds of the '80's?

I wonder if you've thought out whether or not you're leading yourself into a bit of a dead end. I think you may want to rethink the question.

You want JUST a headphone device ONLY? Or are you interested in something that you can use as an effect pedal/recording interface also? These days, many multi-effect pedals have amp and cabinet simulators built into them for headphone use. I know Zoom does, and those are damn cheap. Also, have you considered looking into playing through your computer? ProTools for example? There are older versions free on the net. An MBox is pretty cheap (that's what you need for ProTools) and you can use it for guitar work in the future.

I'm thinking $100 American is in your budget?

The problem with those headphone things is that they are only good for ONE THING. To me, that's where the tofu enters and the pork leaves.

The great thing about multi-effect pedals/recording software is that you can not only get varying levels of OD and EQ, but you can get many more amp simulators, cabinet simulators, etc. It's not anywhere near as complex and aggravating as it sounds, not as expensive as you might think, and will keep you up to date as far as emerging guitar technologies are concerned.

Good luck!
posted by Waldo Jeffers at 8:32 PM on December 26, 2008

Response by poster: waldo-- thanks for the info. I'll consider what you said. I actually just wanted something simple (and cheap). I'm not diving back into playing in a heavy way, I'm just putzing around but wanted the best of whatever is available for about $40 or $50. Simple would be good. However I will look into the mbox/protools combination, which is intriguing.

eclectist -- I was looking at the C Tech, but initial reviews I read at zzsounds and elsewhere werent that great. I take it you've had some experience with it? I'll take another look at it. Thanks.
posted by jak68 at 8:41 PM on December 26, 2008

i love my pocket pod and want to second it. it comes with a ton of amp models that sound great and nice software for playing with the effects and whatnot. i was going to say you could probably get one used in your 40-50 dollar range, but i can't seem to find any. that's probably because everyone else loves it too.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 11:31 AM on December 27, 2008

I have one of the VOX Amplugs and they work great (and fit on the Strat just fine).

I have a pocket pod too, and it sounds much better and has a better variety of sounds, but it's not nearly as portable so I never bring it along...
posted by mmoncur at 4:55 PM on December 28, 2008

Response by poster: thanks mmoncur. I'm going with the vox for now :) Looks amazingly convenient :)
posted by jak68 at 6:49 PM on December 28, 2008

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