I'm in a dorm style apartment at school, so noise is obviously an issue when I'm practicing/hacking on my guitar in the afternoons. My roomates don't mind a little bit of noise, but if I turn on any distortion at all on my little crappy epiphone 15w practice amp is rattling the walls loud. I'm kind of a metal head, so I pretty much everything I play is highly distorted, relegating me to headphones. I HATE playing with headphones because I just don't feel like I'm feeling and hearing everything the same as when the amp is playing. I know that my amp sucks, but is there any kind of pedal or effect I can loop in line to make it sound decent at a lower volume level? Also, when I get a nicer amp, will it be able to sound good at a reasonable volume level? Am I just screwed for a while and need to just invest in a nice set of headphones?

Also, while I am here, I'm going to be in the market for a nicer amp within the next year. I've already outgrown my little epiphone practice amp, but space is an issue. I'd like a reasonable sized combo tube amp that will give a good rock tone. That is the reason I like the Marshal 40w haze combo so much, it will fit in my tiny room but it's high quality and haze a good high gain tone. My playing style is pretty much hard rock/metal, but just to give you a reference here are the bands I cover the most.

-Chevelle (I love Pete's tone on the Vena Sera lp, but a mesa is out of my budget)
-Metallica (pretty much their black album-recent stuff, I'm a huge fan of the death magnetic sound)
-Alice in Chains
-Down (stone the crow is a lot of fun to play)
-Aerosmith (Just good ole fun stuff to play)
-Creed/Alter Bridge

That being said, I also play a lot of stuff in the realm of Incubus and Kings of Leon, so I'd like something versatile.

I don't even know if something that fits all my needs exists, and I'm just thinking about staying on the little practice amp til I get my own place, but I fear even then I'll be in a townhome, so space will still be an issue. I don't really have a budget, but I'd like to keep it under $1200 or so, preferably a lot less, but I don't mind spending money on good equipment.
The little Blackstar HT-5?

It's a 5 watt tube, meant to be pretty amazing, never played one, but I've listened to plenty of sound clips.

EDIT: It's much cheaper than your budget, but still...

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just get a microcube for now. should handle all your buttrock/higher gain needs while keeping you at a very very reasonable volume level.

and as for your future amp, just keep saving up and try out as many amps as you can.
mesas can be great for versatilty, but some love them and some dont. just try out everything.
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The little Blackstar HT-5?

It's a 5 watt tube, meant to be pretty amazing, never played one, but I've listened to plenty of sound clips.

EDIT: It's much cheaper than your budget, but still...

+1 If im correct it might even have a headphone output.
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That little blackstar amp looks nice, I wonder if they have one of those at my local guitar center....I'm dead sure they have a microcube though, I didn't even think of one of those, that would be worth looking into.

As for the meantime, would something like a distortion pedal give me a more distorted sound at reasonable volume, or would it just mud it up and sound like crap? I know it's a stupid question, but I really know nothing about effects and external gear. I grew up in a music family that is all about preserving the sound of the amp and not adulterating it with effects, so I've never been exposed to any of that stuff much.
If your 15 watt SS amp is too loud to be reasonable when you put any distortion on it, going tube would be a huge waste of money. Maybe get something like a Pod X3/Boss GT-10? You could run it through your current amp if you don't want to use headphones.
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Yeah, microcube, or get some good quality headphones, and plug them in.

Then use the rest of your budget to get good gear

Or just turn the volume on your existing amp right down, so its audible but not TOO loud.
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The little bit I've read about that Blackstar HT-5, it seems like exactly what I'm looking for. All the reviews are from people in my exact situation and say that it delivers a good sound at low volumes.

Another thing I was looking at, and I don't know what the general opinion of it is, but I think the guitar rig mobile computer interface seems cool. I know it's not a real amp, but it's something that might make some good sounds at reasonable volume as well as taking up virtually no space.
yea gt-10 through another amp (im running mine through a 30w spider poweramp, the cheaper and more powerful the better) would prolly be best, allows most versitility and since your not gigging you dont need perfect tone or volume.