The Best Guitar Headphone Amps - Bug & Floor Types

The Highest Rated Guitar Headphone Amps

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Guitar headphone amplifiers let you play your guitar quietly through your favorite ear cans, so you can avoid disturbing the people around you. Here we look at the best guitar headphone amps for guitar, updated for 2021, along with top rated compact guitar processors that can drive your headphones just as well.

Bug type guitar headphone amps are popular because they are small, run on batteries, and can plug straight to a guitar, giving you convenience that you can't get from conventional amps with headphones out. They are also designed specifically to sound good through headphones, which means that they offer improved tone, and some even give you the ability to apply amp modeling and effects. Compact guitar processors can also do the job, but are not as convenient, they offer even more sonic options, plus the added bonus of being able to use your feet to change presets, much like you would in performance settings.

The Best Guitar Headphone Amps

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

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 Classic Rock

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 1600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
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, which have been updated to its 2nd generation.

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 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.

Valeton Rushead Max

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$40
Valeton Rushead Max Pocket Guitar Headphone Amp

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Guitar Headphone Amp along with the Vox amPlug 2 Metal.

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 reports of the plug coming loose so handle with care.

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

Vox amPlug 2 AC30 G2

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 3700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$43
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.

Vox amPlug 2 Metal

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$42
Vox amPlug 2 Metal Guitar Headphone Amplifier

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Guitar Headphone Amp along with the Valeton Rushead Max.

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 Blues

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
Vox amPlug 2 Blues Headphone Guitar Amp

Here is another highly rated amPlug variation, reproducing your favorite blues style crunch tones right in your headphones. It lets you choose between three distinct tones: Clean, Crunch and Lead, and as the label implies all three are meant to appeal to those who love Blues, Rock and similar styles.

To keep its size small, Vox implemented voicing change control via a single button on the side and it has an auto-power-off feature to save batteries. In addition, it lets you choose between three types of chorus, delay and reverb.

Finally, like the other amPlug 2 units, it has a plug that can rotate 180 degrees for convenient storage.

Features:

  • Tone: Blues (Tweed Crunch)
  • 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
Tone is the biggest reason why the amPlug 2 Blues is getting tons of positive reviews, even those who were skeptical of headphone amps ended up liking it. This plug works well with Blues friendly guitars like the Les Paul and Stratocaster, but is no way limited to them, as seen in reviews. Many also appreciate its compact design and easy to use interface, while others are impressed with its sonic versatility, given its diminutive size and affordable price tag.

Cons
There are a few who caution about accidentally changing the settings when bumping or hitting the controls. And as expected, not everyone is impressed with its tone, especially when paired with cheap headphones or earphones. They recommend getting good quality headphones to make the most of this compact headphone amp.

Overall
If blues is your thing, then this is the ideal silent practice amplifier for you.

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 can be used with a regular amp or with a PA system / audio interface.

Zoom G1X Four

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$110
Zoom G1X Four Guitar Multi-Effects Processor

Zoom is a long time manufacturer of guitar multi-effects processors, and is the go-to brand for many beginner to intermediate players. They are also known mostly for their quality to value ratio, as exemplified by the G1X Four, an affordable and compact multi-effects unit with tons of features, including 16 cabinet simulations that make it viable for quiet headphone playing.

For its size, this comes with a wide array of features, including 13 amp models and 71 effects, and 90 total presets. That's a lot of room for everything from subtle overdrive use to experimental use of effects. Speaking of effects, this unit allows for up to 5 types of effects used simultaneously, which should be more than enough to cover a wide variety of tones and for crafting your own sound. It even comes with a built-in looper.

Finally, it comes with an expression pedal for real-time control over volume, wah and certain effect parameters.

Features:

  • Tone: 13 Amp Models, 16 Speaker Cabinets
  • Effects: 70 Effects (Up to 5 Simultaneously)
  • Controls: Knobs: Lo, Mid, High, Vol, | Buttons: Setting, Edit, Rhythm, Looper, 5 Selector Buttons | Footswitches: 2 and 1 Expression Pedal
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/4"
  • Power Source: Zoom AD-16 AC adapter (Not Included), USB Bus Power, 4 x AA batteries

Pros
Versatility and value for money are the main reasons why guitarists are recommending the Zoom G1X Four. And it's not only about having tons of features, because there are plenty of users who regard its tone highly - from clean tones to dirt sound modeling. And while its cab sims make for good quiet headphone practice, its floor pedal form factor makes it viable for stage use.

Cons
There are a few who wish that the interface was a bit more intuitive, while others aren't too impressed with the sound of some effects and amp models.

Overall
The Zoom G1X Four is easily the best value compact multi-effects that can easily double as a convenient guitar headphone amplifier.

Hotone Ampero

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$400
Hotone Ampero Amp Modeler & Multi-Effects Guitar Processor

Thanks to Hotone's proprietary SHARC digital signal processing architecture the Ampero is a compact multi-effects pedal that can do more than its competition. For the price, you can use 9 effects simultaneously from a line up of 200+ effects. It also lets you choose from over 60 amp models, 60 cab models, and it even has 10 slots for 3rd Party IR loading.

And with its floor pedal form factor, this is a guitar processor that's equally at home on stage or being used for quiet practice. It can even double as a USB audio interface for direct recording.

Other features include built-in drum machine and looper, which together with a good set of headphones, will let you spice up your practice further, without disturbing the people around you.

Features:

  • Tone: 64 Amp Models, 60 Speaker Cabinets, 10 IR Slots, 198 Presets
  • Effects: 200 Effects (Up to 9 Simultaneously)
  • Controls: Knobs: 2 Main Knobs | Touch Screen | Footswitches: 4 Assignable and 1 Expression Pedal
  • Inputs: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8" (Aux in), MIDI I/O
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/8"
  • Power Source: Zoom AD-16 AC adapter (Not Included), USB Bus Power, 4 x AA

Pros
Balancing portability and features is not an easy feat, but it seems that the Hotone Ampero has hit the sweet spot for many of its satisfied users. But more important for those who use headphones is its cab sim quality, which many adore, especially with its ability to load 3rd party IR. Owners are also pleased with how intuitive the interface is, thanks to its big touch screen display.

Cons
There are a few who aren't too impressed with some of the models and effects, but this is expected - given the many options this pedal offers, there is bound to be a few that some users will not like.

Overall
The main point of recommending the Hotone Ampero as a guitar headphone amplifier is that this is an all-in-one quality solution for amplification and effects needs - and can easily serve as your main rig for recording or stage performance.

Line 6 HX Stomp

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$600
Line 6 HX Stomp Guitar Multi-Effects Processor

The HX Stomp takes the digital sound processing technology of Helix and packs it in a portable 3-switch pedal complete with high-end cab simulation for use with headphones or direct recording.

If comes with 126 presets, and you can use up to 8 blocks per preset. To fill up these blocks, you can choose from over 300+ amp models, effects and cabinet simulations from the Line 6 Helix line M-series effects and it even includes some of their older models.

If that's not enough, it even comes with pitch shifting effects and a looper. And all these features are packed inside a compact pedal with just 3 foot switches.

Features:

  • Tone: 100+ Amp Models, Speaker Cabinets
  • Effects: 200+ Effects (Up to 8 Blocks Simultaneously)
  • Controls: Knobs: 6 Assignable | 2.4" Display | Footswitches: 3
  • Inputs: 2 x 1/4" (L/Mono,R), 2 x 1/4" (L/R, Aux In)
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/4"
  • Power Source: 9V DC power supply (included)

Pros
Inspiring is a good summary of how most users feel about the Line 6 HX Stomp. Many owners appreciate its versatility, given its compact size, while others find it to be easy and fun to play with. Even though it is more expensive than other compact guitar processors, many still consider it as a great value pedal. Its support for IR combined with its versatile design make this a very fun guitar headphone amplifier. More importantly, it is just as viable on stage or for recording, as it is in quiet practice.

Cons
There are a few users who aren't impressed with some of the amp and effect models, but they usually recommend getting something with a much heftier price tag. There are also a few who wish for a more desktop friendly version, and aren't satisfied with its USB audio interface functionality.

Overall
If you're looking for a high quality compact guitar processor that can give quality tones straight to your headphones, then check out the Line 6 HX Stomp.

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 spend more time improving your skills and your tone, or maybe even write a song or two - hopefully resulting in making more and better music.

  • 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 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 misplaced. 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 is 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 those that sound 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 studio headphones if you want more information on good headphones.

Best Guitar Headphone Amp Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2018 and the latest edition was published on January 15, 2021.

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 update, we expanded our preliminary list to 25 candidates, which required us to gather and analyze over 15,200 relevant reviews, ratings and comments, including the most recent ones as of January 2021. All these data were then processed with the Gearank Algorithm, this resulted in rating scores out of 100 that we used to select the highest rated guitar headphone amps based on actual market sentiment. We divided the list into two categories, the first of which features the best guitar headphone amps, while the second part features top rated compact guitar processors. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Drawing from his experience in performing and recording, he teaches guitar and bass and mentors young artists to be better musicians. And when he is not busy playing or tinkering with musical gear, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat, which helps fund his passion for collecting guitars, mecha figures and Gunpla kits.

Contributors

Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Produced by Gearank.com using photographs of the Vox amPlug 2 Metal and Valeton Rushead Max.

The videos above have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

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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