While it is easy enough to turn down the volume on your amp while practicing, it isn’t really the best experience. Not only do you now have to struggle to actually hear what you are playing, but it might still be too loud for your neighbors or roommates.
But luckily, for both us as players and everyone around us, headphone inputs are becoming more and more popular on amps. They are the perfect solution for quiet practice.
But what should you look for in an amp with a headphone input? Well, that is where this article comes in. To help you choose the right amp so that you no longer disturb those around you.
Of course, even though you will be using headphones, you still want an amp that sounds good – that means an amp with both good cleans and distortion.
Tube amps generally sound at least good. But a more powerful amp will usually sound better than a lower power amp.
Amp heads also sound better than combo amps since they are much more focused on just being an amp. The Blackstar HT1R MKII is a good-sounding amp, but something like the EVH 5150III is way ahead of it in terms of sound.
While all amps have some form of EQ, they aren’t all made equal. Many amps, especially cheaper amps, will usually just have a bass and a treble EQ.
Some amps, like the HT1R MKII, even just have a very simple EQ dial. I personally believe in only going for an amp with a full 3-band EQ. That means bass, mid, and treble.
This gives you far better control over your EQ and allows you to make much finer adjustments. But it is also important to consider the quality of the EQ.
Cheaper amps generally have a lower quality EQ that can’t be adjusted as finely. While more expensive amps will usually have a much better sounding EQ that is more sensitive and can be adjusted more finely.
Apart from an amp that sounds good, you also want an amp that is versatile. Not only because it allows you to play a wider variety of music, but it also opens up room for experimenting.
While tube amps don’t usually have a thousand effects like solid-state amps, plenty of them still come with basic effects. The Blackstar HT Club 40, for example, has a reverb effect that makes it more versatile than plenty of other more basic tube amps.
Then there are amps like the Mesa/Boogie Rectifier Badlander that has different distortions. This helps especially if you are looking for an amp that can easily switch from rhythm to lead distortion.
The power output of your amp will likely be determined by what you want to use it for. If you just want a practice amp, then something low-powered like the HT1R MKII will probably be more than enough.
But if you are planning on gigging with the amp as well, then you will definitely need something more powerful. Both the EVH and the Mesa/Boogie are fantastic for gigging.
They are powerful and can easily be connected to one or even two cabinets. The alternative can also be to get an amp with a switchable power output like the HT Club 40.
This isn’t strictly speaking all that important. Any pair of headphones will do since you don’t need the highest quality audio.
But I still think that it is something to consider. Don’t just use any old pair of headphones, and especially not the earphones that came with your phone.
Try and get a decent pair of headphones that also sit comfortably on your ears. This is just so that you stay comfortable while using headphones for extended periods. Something like the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x should be more than enough.
Also, try to get headphones that use a 1/4 inch connector. This is the same size used by amp inputs, although some amps do use the standard 3.5mm headphone jacks. Otherwise, you can just use a 3.5mm to 1/4 inch adapter.
Something else to look for is whether the amp has a USB connection. This lets you connect the amp straight to your computer and a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
This means that you won’t just be limited to practicing with the amp. You can then also record without the need to mic the amp up while still using it with headphones.
Some tube amps, like the Rectifier Badlander, also come with software to change the sound of the amp. This opens up the versatility of the amp even further.
Having an amp with a headphone input is an invaluable asset. They allow you to keep playing late into the night or are just great to have if you live in a quiet neighborhood. I hope this article has helped you to know what to look for in a headphone-ready amp.