If we learned anything in 2020 and 2021, headphone amplifiers are necessary for guitarists in close quarters. Are you looking for the best headphone guitar amp? Perfect for almost silent practice, except the unamplified sound of your pick or your fingers on the strings of your guitar. Headphone amplifiers are must-have gear for any guitarist who can’t turn up their amp in a house full of people working, playing, or sleeping.
There’s a dizzying array of choices across price points. You are probably wondering how to balance the price, features, and limitations of each headphone amplifier you see so that you can make a choice.
Let’s take a look at some headphone amplifiers that I think are worth your time. Some more affordable options get more love than higher-priced items, which I always find exciting, but I don’t think anyone will be surprised to learn that I’ve picked the Line 6 Pocket POD as Best Overall.
I’ll also offer Budget and Best Value suggestions, as well as my picks for the Best for Beginners and the Best Multitasker. I’ll also tell you about One to Watch. Here’s a list of the other guitar headphone amps included in this post:
- Sonicake US Classic
- Vox amPlug 2 (AC 30, Bass, Classic Rock, Metal)
- Fender Mustang Micro
- Zoom G1X Four
- Boss WAZA AIR Wireless Guitar Headphone Amp
Line 6 Pocket POD – Best Overall Headphone Guitar Amp
- Over 300 custom presets
- 32 amp models
- 16 cabinet models
- 16 Built-in effects
- Chromatic Tuner
- CD/MP3 Jack
The Line 6 POD introduced in 1998 was groundbreaking for guitarists everywhere. Then, Line 6 put a substantial portion of the studio capability of the original POD in our hands with the Pocket POD Amp Emulator and Multi-effects Processor. On the market for over a decade, the Pocket POD has been refined to the point that it’s my pick for the Best Overall Headphone Guitar Amp.
It’s a little larger than some of the other headphone amps that I’ve written about here, but it’s still small and compact at 5″ by 3 ½” by 2″. The larger size balances out when you consider that the Pocket POD packs an almost unbelievable number of features for its small size.
The Pocket POD is an excellent choice for an advanced beginner and beyond. Key features include:
- Over 300 custom presets
- 32 amp models
- 16 cabinet models
- 16 Built-in effects
- Chromatic Tuner
- CD/MP3 Jack
If 300 presets were not enough, 3,000 more free presets are available for download. The downloadable Vyzex software editor will let you create your custom tone easier than the somewhat clunky front panel.
It has a 1/8″ stereo in to connect your smartphone, a 1/8″ headphone out for headphones, a 1/4″ out for the input jack on your guitar, and a USB mini connection. These connections allow you to play your guitar through your headphones and hook up the easily accessible USB cable to play along with songs that you love.
You’ll want a decent pair of headphones for this little guy, so consider an upgrade if you need one. Some reviewers advise getting an AC adapter, as the 4 AA batteries that power it will only hold their charge for about five hours. They seem to think you will use it a lot. I do, too.
For quality, versatility, functionality, and sheer coolness, the Line 6 Pocket POD is my Best Overall pick, hands down.
Sonicake US Classic – Best Budget Headphone Guitar Amp
- Classic clean tweed clean tone
- Vintage overdrive tone
- Built-in chorus and reverb effects
- USB-Chargeable (USB Charging Cable included)
- 1/8" Aux In cable included
- Headphone splitter cable included
The Sonicake US Classic is a plug-in-type headphone pocket guitar amp. Get a tone similar to a classic 1950s era Fender tweed. I can’t promise that you’ll be able to channel Beck or Clapton with the US Classic, but it will be fun for you to try, especially at such a great price point.
The US Classic offers built-in chorus and reverb effects and a decent vintage overdrive tone. This budget model includes a 1/8″ auxiliary input jack and a headphone jack, allowing you to play along with your favorite backing tracks and practice silently, just like many of the higher-priced models.
A 1/4″ jack connects the amplifier to your guitar. It does not bend or swivel, so ensure it will work with your guitar’s output jack and protect the finish on your guitar until you are used to using it.
The US Classic’s lithium-ion battery is USB chargeable and provides approximately 5 hours of continuous operation.
Extras included in the package:
- USB cable
- 1/8″ Aux In cable
- Headphone splitter
The US Classic doesn’t offer Bluetooth connectivity, but at such a low price, you can make sure you have some decent headphones with a cord. As with any of the recommended amps that aren’t built into headphones themselves, your experience will be heavily dependent on the quality of your headphones.
The Sonicake US Classic has an overall positive reputation at a fantastic budget price. Producer Hive described the US Classic as “a nice American amp sound at a budget price.” I agree.
With its features and its tweedy sound, it’s my pick for a budget headphone amp.
Vox amPlug 2 AC30 – Best Value Headphone Guitar Amp
- 3 amp modes
- 9 selectable effects (3 chorus, 3 delay, 3 reverb)
- ⅛" headphone jack
- Requires 2 AAA batteries
The Vox amPlug 2 models have styles for days and sound to match. Designed to mimic the look of classic amps, including the Vox AC30, which is the amplifier responsible for the sound we associate with the British Invasion of the 1960s. These headphone amps fit in the palm of your hand and produce a great sound.
Vox amPlug 2 Models
Choose your model based on what you want to hear. Vox gives some colorful descriptions to help you figure it out:
- AC30: Provides the AC30 top boost sound.
- Classic Rock: Delivers the classic crunch of a UK-made 100W amp.
- Metal: Gives you the high-gain sound of a US-made amp.
- Bass: Designed specifically for low frequencies, offering a wide-range response.
- Clean: The ideal choice for fat, boutique-inspired clean sounds.
- Blues: The authentic, crunchy blues tone of a cranked tweed amp.
- Lead: Searing, high-gain lead tone that’s perfect for solos.
Vox amPlug 2 Features
These impressive little devices feature improved analog circuits in their most recent generation. Each model provides three amp modes. You can also choose between three types of chorus, delay, and reverb effects on the Rock and AC30 models, covering the essential effects most players need.
Control changing voices by a single button on the side of the Vox amPlug 2. Simple to use, I think it is an excellent choice for beginners and experienced guitarists alike.
You can connect your headphones via the ⅛” output jack and simultaneously use the auxiliary input so you can jam along with music from outside audio sources. The Vox amPlug 2 amps don’t have Bluetooth connectivity, so don’t plan on recording what you hear in your cans.
The connector folds and rotates 180 degrees allowing it to fit various input jacks on guitars.
In my book, the Vox amPlug 2 gives you the Best Value. It’s slightly more expensive than the Sonicake US Classic. It’s a fantastic buy for just a few dollars more.
Fender Mustang Micro – Best Headphone Guitar Amp for Beginners
- Extremely versatile range of tones
- Portable package
- Rechargeable via USB-C
- Plugs into a computer for easy recording
- Bluetooth connectivity lets you play along to music from anywhere
- It can't be used for playing live with others
- Limited tone controls
The Mustang Micro is an excellent choice for almost anyone. Between its features, ease of use, and price, I’ve chosen it as Best for Beginners.
With Bluetooth connectivity, you can listen while you play through the Mustang Micro with wireless headphones like AirPods. Or you can use the ⅛” stereo headphone jack for wired headphones. Plugging in headphones is an excellent option for those who dislike the latency issues associated with wireless transmitters.
The Mustang Micro’s appearance is unassuming and straightforward. The controls are easy to understand, with a large volume knob on top and four sets of buttons on one side that control the amp, equalizer, and effects settings.
The power and Bluetooth pairing switches are found on the other side. Like many other headphone amps listed here, the Mustang Micro supports Bluetooth audio streaming from a mobile device, tablet, or computer. Its automatic Audio/Visual Sync feature lets you play along with a metronome, drum tracks, and your favorite songs.
One of the most attractive things about the Mustang Micro is what it isn’t. With 12 classic amp sounds and 12 adjustable effects presets, it has just enough — an outstanding balance between too little and too much choice.
The Mustang Micro offers you more options than most because it has a 3.5 mm stereo output and USB-C for charging and digital output. This connector allows you to let others listen to the audio and for you to record your guitar as you hear it in your headphones.
In a fun twist, you can also record your guitar and your Bluetooth audio stream simultaneously using the USB-C output to create what Fender calls “the ultimate guitar karaoke machine.”
The connector on the amp is designed to swivel to fit into everything from angled- to straight-sided input jacks on guitars. It can be difficult to remove depending on the location of the jack on your guitar. Exercise some caution until you’ve grown accustomed to it for the sake of your guitar’s finish.
With all of these features, sound, and excellent reputation, I’ve concluded that the Fender Mustang Micro is the Best for Beginners.
Zoom G1X Four – Best Multitasker Guitar Headphone Amp
- 13 Amp models
- 70+ built-in effects
- Rhythm section
If you are looking for something a little more versatile that can also perform as a headphone amplifier, this Zoom G1X Four multi-effects unit may be what you need.
Designed as a floor pedal, the G1X Four works equally well on the stage and at your desk. That’s why I’ve selected it as the Best Multitasker.
Zoom G1X Four Features
With 13 amp models, 71 effects, and 90 total presets to choose from. The Zoom G1X Four is a compact multi-effect pedal that doubles as a guitar headphone amplifier. Even at about double the price of the Fender Mustang Micro and the Vox amPlug 2 (AC 30, Bass, Classic Rock, Metal), I consider this a lot of gear value for what you pay.
One of the best features of this multi-effects unit is the built-in 30-second looper so that you can play along with yourself. One drawback, though, is that the looper function does not feature a layer “undo,” so you may find yourself stuck with what you’ve recorded or starting over.
Another valuable feature, the Zoom G1X Four, has an auto-save feature so that you won’t lose what you just set up or did if you shut the unit off by mistake. It features a built-in tuner, which includes settings for alternate tunings. You can use up to 5 effects simultaneously with the Zoom G1X Four.
The G1X Four has a standard guitar input jack, an auxiliary input for external audio players, and one ¼” jack for output so you can run a cable to an amplifier. If you want to use the device with headphones, you will need a ¼” to ⅛” adapter for that output jack.
The USB connection is solely for firmware updates and powering the device and cannot be used as a recording interface.
The Zoom G1X Four uses 4 AA batteries or can be charged using USB. For those who want to plug it in, Zoom makes a Zoom AD-16 AC adapter, but buyers should be aware that it is sold separately.
Boss WAZA AIR – Best Guitar Headphone Amp to Watch
- 5 amp types
- 50+ effects based on BOSS’s Katana amplifiers
- 6 memory slots for storing custom presets
- Low latency wireless technology
- Built-in rechargeable batteries with auto standby/wake function to conserve battery life
Boss is really onto something here. The WAZA AIR is designed to simulate playing through a real amp in an actual room. In many ways, it is light years ahead of the other headphone amps in this list. At nearly ten times the cost of the Vox amPlug 2 models, it should be.
There is, of course, a reverb effect, but then there is the addition of audio positional technology. Combining these features, the WAZA AIR lets you “stand” in one of three virtual rooms.
Surround mode simulates the experience of playing in a recording studio.
Stage mode simulates standing on a stage in a live performance with you in front of a band. Static mode relies on WAZA AIR’s integrated gyro-sensor to track your head movements and use that information to alter the amp and room sounds that it is emulating to give the guitarist the sensation of moving through a room.
The WAZA AIR features five customizable amp combinations based on Boss’s stage-class Katana amplifiers and 50 effects. There are ready-to-play presets available from the free Boss Tone Studio App.
The WAZA AIR has a tuner feature that uses audible tones to guide the user. There is a visual chromatic tuner available in the Boss Tone Studio app for those who prefer it.
This entirely wireless guitar amp is built directly into the headphones. The sound quality is fantastic. Some find the headphones themselves flimsy and suggest they may only be suitable for quiet solo practicing.
Potential WAZA AIR Problems
If you spend any time online reading about the WAZA AIR, you know that users are frustrated by connectivity issues with the Boss Tone Studio app that remains unresolved. Users also complain of the audio “drifting off-center” with the gyro algorithm that makes the Surround and Static Modes interesting. Some find that this intermittently leaves them with unbalanced sound too far to the left or the right in the headphones.
Potential buyers should know that there is no way to get the sound you hear in your headphones to the outside world. There is no audio out or another way to stream audio from the WAZA AIR to another device.
Overall, the WAZA AIR is a fantastic advancement in wireless headphone amp technology. However, as the most expensive item on this list, some buyers may want to wait for the next generation or a software update to see how it improves. I can’t wait to see it myself, so I’m rating the WAZA AIR as the Best One to Watch
So, which guitar headphone amplifier should you choose?
If you want to play your guitar without making everyone in your house listen to you, it’s time to buy a headphone amplifier. Let the baby sleep, and your spouse work uninterrupted.
Think carefully about what you need. If you already own a quality pair of headphones with a cord or even a pair of earbuds, any of the wired headphone amps might work for you.
Wired headphones are also crucial if you are concerned about connectivity and latency with wireless options.
Of course, look for Bluetooth connectivity if wireless function and connection to other devices are essential to you. My Overall Best pick is the Line 6 Pocket POD for its quality, versatility, functionality, and sheer coolness.