The Best Guitar Headphone Amps - Bug, Belt, Desktop & Floor Types

The Highest Rated Guitar Headphone Amps

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A good guitar headphone amplifier will let you enjoy your instrument without testing the limits of other people's noise tolerance.

Here we look at the best of these headphone amps for guitar, updated for 2020, also included are top rated compact guitar processors that can do the job just as well.

While many conventional guitar amps have headphone outputs, dedicated guitar headphone amps are more compact and portable, making them easier and more convenient to use. Since many of them run on batteries and plug straight to a guitar, they give you the freedom to play virtually anywhere, without the need to be tethered to a heavy/bulky amp.

The Best Guitar Headphone Amps

Best Guitar Headphone Amps

These are the small types that are most often thought of when talking about headphone amps for guitar.

Vox amPlug 2 AC30 G2

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 1150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$40
Vox amPlug 2 AC30 G2 Guitar Headphone Amplifier

The AC30 Top Boost tone is among the most copied tones, and who better to make a more compact version of it than Vox themselves.

The Vox AC30 G2 is a headphone guitar amp that reproduces the iconic jangly AC30 Top Boost Tone, all within a compact bug-type profile that conveniently plugs into your guitar. In addition, it features 3 amp modes, built-in effects (tremolo,chorus, delay reverb) and it runs on 2 AAA batteries without much issue.

Other features include folding plug, Aux input, auto power off and more.

Features:

  • Tone: AC30 Top Boost
  • Effects: Tremolo, 3 x Chorus, 3 x Delay, 3 x Reverb
  • Controls: Knobs: Gain, Tone, Volume | Button: FX, Power/Amp Mode
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/8"
  • Power Source: 2 x AAA Batteries (Up to 17 hours)

Pros
Awesome and great are just a few of the many positive remarks that guitarists have written about the amPlug 2 AC30 G2. Most users are convinced that it gets the AC30 Top boost tone right, even exceeding the expectations of some, especially when considering its price and size. The overall convenience that it brings is also very much appreciated.

Cons
There are a few who caution that unit can break if not handled carefully.

Overall
With the Vox amPlug 2 AC30 G2, you can enjoy genuine AC30 tones through your headphones.

Valeton Rushead Max

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$40
Valeton Rushead Max Pocket Guitar Headphone Amp

For a compact guitar headphone amplifier, it's hard to beat the Valeton Rushead Max when it comes to features. First off it lets you choose between three amp types, "CL" (clean tones based on US made amps), "OD" (crunchy overdriven tone based on popular UK amps) and "DIST" (based on modern high-gain amps.

Adding to its already impressive feature set are built-in effects (tremolo, chorus, flanger) and switchable ambient effects (delay, reverb). Other features include aux input, and the ability to charge the unit via USB.

Features:

  • Tone: Switchable (Clean, Overdrive and High Gain)
  • Effects: Tremolo, 3 x Chorus, 3 x Delay, 3 x Reverb
  • Controls: Knobs: Gain, Tone, Volume | Button: FX, Power/Amp Mode
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/8"
  • Power Source: USB Rechargeable (Up to 5 hours)

Pros
Versatility and value for money go hand in hand with the Valeton Rushead Max. There are reports of it working well with different types of guitars, from single-coil equipped ones to dual humbuckers. Many also appreciate how they can get good clean and dirt tones with minimal tweaking.

Cons
There are a few who are not happy with its build quality, and there are also some complaints of loose plugs.

Overall
If you're looking for a versatile guitar headphone amplifier, then this is for you.

Vox amPlug 2 Metal

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 475+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$42
Vox amPlug 2 Metal Guitar Headphone Amplifier

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Guitar Headphone Amp.

Regardless of ever-changing musical trends, there's no stopping the popularity of high-gain tones among guitarists. But it's not easy to get good metal tones at lower volumes, let alone when going straight to headphones. Surprisingly, Vox was able to accomplish this feat with great results, as evidence by how well the Vox amPlug 2 Meta is doing in terms of ratings and popularity.

Vox describes the tone as "American high-gain" and for variation, there is a tone knob and a mid-cut mode that gives you the iconic "scooped mid" sound when you need it.

Other features of the amPlug 2 Series are added in, including built-in effects, folding plug, auto-power off and aux in.

Features:

  • Tone: Metal (High-Gain)
  • Effects: 3 x Chorus, 3 x Delay, 3 x Reverb
  • Controls: Knobs: Gain, Tone, Volume | Button: FX, Power/Amp Mode
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/8"
  • Power Source: 2 x AAA Batteries (Up to 17 hours)

Pros
Excellent and amazing are just two of the many good adjectives that consistently appear in reviews. Most users are satisfied, if not very happy with how it sounds right out of the box, describing the sound as huge, tight and musical. While others are pleased with how it allows them to keep their metal style chops sharp, without having to setup their rig and disturb other people.

Cons
There are some users who caution that the plug requires careful handling. A few describe the sound as just OK for the price, while others recommend getting headphones with good bottom end to get the most out of this unit.

Overall
The Vox amPlug 2 Metal is a portable high-gain metal "rig" that will not disturb your loved ones.

Vox amPlug 2 Classic Rock

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$39
Vox amPlug 2 Classic Rock Guitar Headphone Amplifier

Vox continues to be the number one brand when it comes to guitar headphone amps, thanks to the success of their amPlug line.

The Vox amPlug 2 Classic Rock caters to guitarists who are looking for overdriven tones that resemble the sound used by iconic rock guitarists of the past. The mids are emphasized to reproduce the crunchy rhythm tone and cutting single note lines of an overdriven tube amp. It also comes with two extra amp modes that push the mids further as you prefer.

Adding to its tone versatility are essential effects that include chorus, delay and reverb.

Finally, it also comes with a folding plug for better compatibility with different guitar shapes, battery saving auto-power off function and aux-in.

Features:

  • Tone: Classic Rock
  • Effects: 3 x Chorus, 3 x Delay, 3 x Reverb
  • Controls: Knobs: Gain, Tone, Volume | Button: FX, Power/Amp Mode
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/8"
  • Power Source: 2 x AAA Batteries (Up to 17 hours)

Pros
Market sentiment is quite positive, with many pointing to the Vox amPlug 2 Classic Rock's overdriven tone as its strong point. Many are happy with how its tone works well with different guitar styles, be it Les Paul, Telecaster, SG, Stratocaster and more. The folding plug, which is just as versatile as its sound, also gets a lot of thumbs up.

Cons
While there aren't many complaints about its sound, build quality concerns came up a few times, with specific complaints about its plastic exterior. So again, careful handling is recommended.

Overall
The Vox amPlug 2 Classic Rock lets you rock out virtually anywhere and anytime - without the danger of being kicked out for being noisy.

Electro-Harmonix Headphone Amp

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
Electro-Harmonix Headphone Amp for Guitar

There are times when complex tools can distract, if not totally derail your practice or creative processes. This is the reason why many still prefer straightforward gear like the Electro-Harmonix Headphone Amp, a portable unit that lets you play your instrument through headphones - nothing more and nothing less.

It's a compact box with a belt clip that's powered by a 9V battery, with basic input and headphone out jacks, and a simple volume control.

What makes it interesting is how it is designed to handle pedalboards, which can be nifty if you want to practice quietly while still using your performance rig.

Finally, it is built similar to their nano-size pedals, with a metal exterior for reliability and longevity.

Features:

  • Tone: Clean
  • Controls: Knobs: Volume
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (100 kΩ Impedance)
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/8"
  • Power Source: 1 x 9V Battery

Pros
Simple, reliable and effective are three words that nicely summarize how many feel about the EHX Headphone Amp. Many of its commendations come from users who are happy with its one volume knob operation, while others are impressed with its reliable tank tough build. Some users describe it as having a warm sound that complements the sound of guitars and pedals. Even bassists are impressed with how it can reproduce lows through the headphones.

Cons
The lack of an easy-access battery compartment turned off a few users, although there are others who are happy with having to screw and unscrew the case for improved reliability. And it's no surprise that those who are looking for more tone options will not be content with its simplicity.

Overall
If you're looking for a streamlined approach to playing through headphones then get the Electro-Harmonix Headphone Amp.

Compact Multi-Effects as Headphone Amps:

Here are top rated portable guitar processors that can be used as headphone amps. Although they are not as convenient and portable as bug-type headphone amplifiers, they offer tone variety, and they can be used with a regular amp.

DigiTech RP360 XP

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$220
DigiTech RP360 XP

Compared to most bug type guitar headphone amps which have limited sonic options, the DigiTech RP360 XP gives you a whole lot more features, and it's not limited to just being a headphones amp. From its 32 amp and 18 cabinet voicings, there's a lot more sonic freedom. Add to that the ability to mix and match up to 8 effects from its selection of 74 digital effects, and you have quite a lot in your hands.

For building up your timing as you practice, this unit comes with a 40-second looper and 60 rhythm tracks. It also comes with an expression pedal and a chromatic tuner, so you literally have everything under your feet.

Features:

  • Tone: 32 amps, 18 cabinets, 74 (8 Simultaneous)
  • Presets: 198 (99 factory, 99 user)
  • Input: 1 x 1/4" 1 x 1/8" (Aux)
  • Output: 2 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Headphone)
  • Extra Features: 40-Sec Looper, 60 Rhythm Patterns, Chromatic Tuner, Amp / Mixer mode
  • USB: 2 x 2 USB audio streaming
  • Dimensions: 11.5” x 8.5” x 2”
  • Weight: 4.12 lbs.
  • Power: USB Bus, Included Power Adapter

Pros

Digitech is known for reliable multi-effects units, and this holds true with the RP360 XP, which has a solid feel even with its plastic exterior. Affordability and sonic flexibility also make this a favorite among compact multi-effects. Many describe it as a reliable, cost effective and compact rig that can be used as a headphone amp at home or even in gigs where you don't want to bring too much gear.

Cons

Not everyone was happy with its preset sounds, especially with its high-gain tone. There are also a few who caution that controls may take a while to get used to.

Overall

The DigiTech RP360 XP is a compact rig and guitar headphone amplifier - all rolled into one, which you can get at a very affordable price point.

Boss GT-001

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Boss GT-001

Boss takes the best features of their flagship GT-100 multi-effects pedal and compresses them all into the GT-001, a desktop guitar processor.

This form factor makes it ideal for recording and practice, but more importantly, it also works nicely with headphones.

As such, it comes with Boss' latest COSM technology amp models and digital effects but at a more space saving size.

And since it can also double as your USB audio and Midi interface (complete with an XLR mic input), you are getting even more use out of just one unit.

Features:

  • Tone: 8 Comp, 22 OD/Dist, 30+ Effects, 27 Amp Models, Multiple Cab & Mic Models
  • Presets: 200 User, 200 Default
  • Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" Aux In
  • Output: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Headphones)
  • Extra Features: USB and MIDI Audio Interface, Can be powered by USB Power Banks for Portability
  • Dimensions: 8.3" x 5.4" x 2.3"
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs.
  • Power: USB Bus, Included Power Adapter

Pros
Users and exerts alike appreciate the simplicity and intuitive design of the Boss GT-001. Trevor Curwen of Music Radar describes it as "A convenient source of guitar sounds for recording and practice at home." While it may not be everyone's cup of tea, those who are looking for a compact desktop guitar processor have mostly great things to say about the unit. Sound quality also gets a lot of thumbs up, especially when listening through headphones where amp modeling and cab simulation really shines through. Having been made by Boss, reliability is a given, as attested to by experts and regular users alike.

Cons
As expected, there are some purists who are not impressed with the unit's amp modeling quality, while others are not too happy with the side mounted ports which limit the units position on a desk.

Overall
Boss hit multiple birds with the GT-001, a powerful guitar processor, recording interface and headphone amplifier - all in one package.

Additional Option

Here is an option, that while not quite as highly rated as the others above, has been very popular with Gearank readers over the last couple of years so we thought you might be interested in seeing our analysis of it.

Line 6 Pocket POD Guitar Amp Modeler

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$130
Line 6 Pocket POD

The Line 6 Pocket POD is true to its name, a compact palm size guitar processor that can fit into average size pockets.

For its size it offers 32 amp models, 16 cab models and 16 effects, all of which are developed by Line 6, a prominent manufacturer when it comes to digital sound processing and amp modeling.

It also comes with easy to use "presets" that cover various musical styles, more than enough to keep you busy practicing or playing with your favorite tracks.

In addition, this compact unit can run on four AAA batteries, allowing for true mobile use, especially when paired with headphones.

Features:

  • Tone: 16 Effects and 32 Amp Models
  • Presets: 300+
  • Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" Aux In
  • Output: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Headphones)
  • Extra Features: 68 Rhythm Accompaniments, 30-Sec Looper, Chromatic Tuner, Auto-Save
  • Dimensions: 5" x 3.25" x 2.5"
  • Weight: 0.375 lbs.
  • Power: 4 x AA Batteries / optional DC power adapter

Pros
Portability is the key factor that endeared the Line 6 Pocket POD to many, most of which are musicians who want a way to play their electric guitar while they travel. Many are satisfied with its overall sound quality, especially when using headphones, while others are impressed with the unit's solid build.

Cons
There are users who are not too happy with some of the effects and amp models, but they do concede that many of the essential tones sound decent, if not good.

Overall
If you're looking for a pocket-friendly guitar headphone amplifier with multiple effects and amp models, then check out the Line 6 Pocket POD.

Things to Consider When Buying a Guitar Headphone Amplifier

  • Headphone Amps vs Guitar Amps

    There's really no substitute for the feel and vibe of a cranked guitar amp, but since people around us have limited noise tolerances, we won't always have this privilege. While some amps do have headphone outputs, they are not as convenient as headphone amplifiers. And sometimes, the convenience of quick plug and play use, and the ability to play your guitar on your bed, or while walking around, can inspire you to improve your skills and generally make better music. This is the reason why it is practical to have both, especially if you want to increase your productivity and practice time.

  • Form Factor

    Headphone amps come in many different forms, but the most popular ones are compact bug-type units that directly plug into your guitar. These are favored for ease of use and mobility, the downside being the need to regularly replace/recharge batteries. Compact box type headphone amps (usually with belt clips) are also mobile, but require an extra cable to connect to your guitar. We've also included floor and desktop based guitar processors because they can provide the same headphone amp functionality with the added benefits of digital sound processing and more - albeit with some limitations to comfort and portability.

  • Portability

    Speaking of portability, this should be your priority if you're always on the move. Bug-types are ideal, just remember that they need a bit more handling care, and they can be easily lost if you're not careful. The compact guitar processors we included here are reasonably light and compact, but they will usually require dedicated bags, or storage spaces for transport.

  • Tone

    While it's unreasonable to expect studio quality tone from headphone amps, many of them will provide usable if not good sounding tones. It is important to get your guitar sounding good to your ears, because sound quality will affect your playing experience. Thankfully, guitar headphone amps are designed to compliment the sound of electric guitars, many of which even come with familiar amp voicings - like Classic Rock, Metal, Clean and many more. So make sure to get one that sounds close to the style and voicing that you prefer.

  • Features

    Having extra features can be a good thing, especially if they can promote better playing technique, longer practice times, or more productive music production. Features like aux input allows you to play with tracks to keep your timing skills up. The same can be said with metronomes, auto-accompaniment or built-in rhythms, as well as loopers. The ability to quickly and conveniently record your playing also helps a lot in terms of checking and improving your technique, or for storing song ideas.

    On the flipside, if you just want something straightforward, then extra features can be distracting. At the end of the day, you have to know what you need and get one that fits the role.

  • Headphones

    The quality of your headphones will play an important role in terms of sound and comfort. This means that when buying a guitar headphone amp, it is best to consider your budget for good headphones along with it. While cheap earphones and headphones can work, they usually lack low-end, resulting in thin sounding tones. Check out our roundup of the best headphones if you want more information on good headphones.

Guitar Headphone Amp Research & Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on March 7, 2018 written by Alexander Briones and he also wrote the latest major update which was published on .

We started off by looking at popular guitar headphone amplifiers, which are mostly bug-type units, and we shortlisted those with good ratings. We then expanded our research to included top rated compact multi-effects and guitar processors that are reasonably portable and headphone friendly. For this 2020 update, we ended up with a preliminary list of 18 candidates, which required us to gather and analyze over 5.900 relevant reviews, ratings and comments, including the most recent ones as of February 2020. All these data were then processed via the Gearank algorithm. This resulted in rating scores out of 100 that we used to come up with a list of the best guitar headphone amps based on actual market sentiment. We divided the list into two categories, first of which feature the best guitar headphone amps, while the second part features top rated compact guitar processors. Finally, we included a special pick that features the Line 6 POD, a very popular guitar processor that can also double as guitar headphone amp. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

Today we removed the

Today we removed the following item from our recommended list above due to a lack of availability, but you can still read our analysis of it: Zoom G1Xon.

My favorite is the NUX PG2.

My favorite is the NUX PG2. They are cheap and all the fx sound good. Easy to use to. Actually prefer over the basic POD

The PG-2 does have some good

The PG-2 does have some good reviews, but we haven't short-listed it because the manufacturer has discontinued production.

Had two VOXs, had. They are

Had two VOXs, had. They are cheap made and break easy. Need one with a metal case for a mobile device.

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