Price paid: $ 39.99
Purchased from: eBay
Sound — 10
The AC30's sound, for the price tag of $39.99, is PHENOMENAL. Let's be clear with anyone who would criticize it - this small device is taking care of ALL of the amplification and colorization of your tone. No, it doesn't have reverb, or a laundry list of effects. That's not what it's supposed to do. It's supposed to simulate the tone of plugging straight into a Vox AC30 tube amplifier, and I can tell you that it does a better job of it than many pedals or modeling amps I have tried. What makes the AC30 the best overall model of the AmPlugs is that it has the most range from sparkly clean tones to full-on overdrive. All of the AmPlugs I have tried have redeeming qualities, but are one-trick ponies - the AC30 can do a lot more. Since it's basically a preamp, there are other things you can do with it that might not occur to you. For example, plug your guitar into an effects pedal (or board), and throw the AmPlug in the output jack of the final pedal in the chain, and you can use your own effects to further color the sound. Or use a 3.5mm cable from the phones jack into any type of portable speaker, PA system, or amplifier with an AUX in jack. Even just into headphones, it has surprising power and clarity without breaking up.
Overall Impression — 10
This is the device I wish I had to practice with when I was in high school and college. I would played twice as much as I did. It's a classic Vox tone that sounds great with all my guitars. If Vox made an AC30 effects pedal that sounded like this, I would buy it in a heartbeat. I've used "Vox in a box" pedals from different companies, but the simple analog circuitry in this tiny device arguably does it better than any digital option I've tried. Also, it seems to sound surprisingly powerful even with some lesser quality headphones. I use a pair of $20 Sony headphones, and aren't even tempted to upgrade. No, it might not sound "as good as an AC30", but it will give you a very dynamic "tube-like" response in your playing, and will make you want to play more than you ever could before.
Reliability & Durability — 7
I felt that a slightly lower rating was fair in the durability category because it is made of plastic, and I could easily see it breaking because of the precarious position in the output jack. Some of the jacks work fine now but might also give out over time. Battery life of about 15 hours on 2 AAA's is actually very good, though I've heard the sound degrades as the battery starts to die out. BUT, weighing any of those concerns against the extremely low price - I don't even consider them to be significant concerns.
Ease of Use — 9
The AmPlug AC30 is a completely analog mini headphone amplifier, with surprising output and sound quality. This thing is basically a miniature pre-amp that goes directly into your guitar's output jack. There are two 3.5mm jacks, one for headphones (but it also acts as a line out), and one AUX input for feeding an MP3 player into the mix so you can jam with it. The three dials are Volume, Tone, and Gain, and while it might be hard to see the numbers on the bottom of the guitar, I have no problem reaching down and adjusting them as I play. It's an incredibly easy piece of equipment to use, ESPECIALLY considering the alternative of plugging headphones into an amp, processing board, or larger unit.