hey guys, i want to start a discussion about headphone guitar amps
so i'm on the go a lot, let's just say i have 4 houses (don't bother asking why) and i go between them a lot. i love playing my electric guitar and i do everyday, or should i say everyday that i can, for that the fact that's it's electric makes it limited to one place, which is the place with the amp. that made me think about buying a headphone amp.
the thing is, they're utter rubbish, or at least what i've tested.
first was my headphones jack on my Marshall amp. it's a 30w solid state with a great tone that i love very much. it's range i svery dynamic, the sound's fat and very detailed, the gain sounds like a good english overdrive and the cleans are, well clean.
all of that goes to shit the minute i plug in my headphones. they sound's thin and fuzzy (definitely NOT in a good way), no dynamic range, gain is just noise and all in all it just sounds like i'm playing a very rusty guitar.
so i went to the store and asked to try out they're dedicated headphone amps. all the had were vox ac30 & vox classic rock. both featured vol, tone and gain and a nice little FX loop.
they both sounded the same (except for some different FX features i guess), and both sounded like my amp's headphones jack, except less worse: they were less thin, less fuzzy, more dynamic and the gain felt like actual gain, but they still sounded rusty. also the EQ was terrible; the bass was washed out and the treble was really loud.

so i was left with this question: can headphone amps be GOOD?

i'm not here to thrash headphones amp, not at all. they are cheap and very small so i guess they're worth the price. but i'm trying to figure out if they are actually capable of replacing a normal amp, or at least a practice amp. because there are good (even great) sounding practice amps that are more than just "usable", like the vox pathfinder 15 and the fender frontman 25r, so i'm trying to figure out if there are good headphones amp.
i've only tested the two i mentioned because they're the only ones you can buy where i live, but i'd love to hear some recommendations.

also, if anybody could explain why plugging my headphones in my own amp makes it sound so bad that'd be great!
Headphone amps, like those VOX units, are meant for practice and nothing else. You will not get professional (or to me, usable) tones out of them. And if I had to guess about that Marshall 30w SS amp you have, it is an MG series which is considered not good at all in general- the headphone out is probably just not up to par. Another reason is that it may be sending too high wattage for your headphones, your headphones may just not be good in general, or any combination of the 3. With headphone-outs, the headphones should be rated higher ohms than the output of the amp calls for (never lower), and the headphones should be able to handle more wattage then what the amp outputs, (never under).

There are more usable headphone-capable systems but they are not as cheap as maybe those VOX units you tried (I am guessing the amPlugs?). The first that comes to mind is the Line 6 Pocket POD. I have not tried it but they are often recommended for cases like this. If you have a smart phone, another option is Amplitube with the iRig adapter, I also think that BIAS from Positive Grid has their own mobile phone version. There are also Mini Guitar Heads, like the Hotone Legacy units and the Orange Micro Terror, that have headphone outs.

Are you not able to take your Marshall amp with you? That would be the easiest and most cost-effective option. You could also get a smaller amp that would be easier to take with you everywhere, but again cheaper and smaller generally means you're sacrificing quality as well.
Last edited by Will Lane at Jul 19, 2016,
Do you travel with a laptop by chance? If so check out Peavey ReValver with a Guitar to USB cable. Amp sims on the computer are very nice these days.
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no i cannot travel with the amp itself... way too big. any amp to that matter actually. as for amp sims i tried so a long time ago but the sound card or APU or whatever on my laptop is very bad.. i mean i got huge delays and no amp sim could work. i saw that electro harmonix has a headphone amp too which gets positive reviews. can anybody say anything about it?
I bought a VOX amPlug for cases like this. Tried really bad to like it, but it sounded like I was playing a toy guitar.

Maybe a Line 6 POD will suit your needs better.
Pod, Vox Tonelab, any decent DMFX will work and sounds pretty good. Super portable.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
I love the Boss Micro Br for this purpose. It sounds good and takes 2 AA batteries or a charger. Bought it $60 used, great sounds, records 4 tracks (virtual more, I think 8 takes per track) and can't say it sounds bad through anything I've put it on, sometimes even take just that to jam sessions where there is a PA system. There are other Boss Micro options, newer ones as well, but this one does really nicely, especially for the used price tag:


Here are their newer ones which I assume are just as good if not better although more expensive: