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Rock out in solitude
If you play electronic or electro acoustic guitar, you need an amp. Trouble is, even an excellent practice amp like my Fender G-Dec jr needs to be at a certain volume to be effective, and even though it does have a headphone jack, it doesn't seem very compatible with any headphones (even my Sennheiser) not specifically designed to be used through a standard guitar amp.
If you're playing at a certain volume, you can get away with it for awhile. But if it's later at night, or the family are watching telly. What does an aspiring guitarist do when they just want to practice? You have two choices. If you have a guitar with great natural intonation, or one with a semi-hollow body, you can still play. But you can't make any use of the pickups or tone knobs on your guitar.
The other choice, and one I made lately is to get a headphone guitar amplifier. This little beauty plugs in to your jack and has a headphone socket that my Sennheiser came immediately in use with. The result is the ability to play when I want, at a reasonable level without involving anyone else.
Vox in a box
Vox is a name that many musicians will be very familiar with. This originally English company is known for making amplifiers from their base in Dartford, Kent. Since 1992, they are now Japanese owned. Although it's always a bit disheartening to see a great British company owned overseas, without it, it is inlikely that these great headphone amplifiers would ever have been created.
Vox's most famous amplifier without a shadow of a doubt is the AC30. This is seriously an iconic amp, first seeing the light of day in 1958. Guitarists love it. If you've read my Fender amp review, you'll know that guitar amps are either solid state or tube amps. Tubes are generally more expensive, but felt to be more versatile than solid state. I won't go into detail here, but I will say that Jimmy Page used only AC30s for Led Zeppelin. Brian May of Queen loves them. As does virtually all the best guitarists from Richie Blackamore through Tom Petty to The Beatles.
A new AC30 will set you back around £330. For one tenth of that price, you can have a device that will faithfully recreate the sound as well as you can reasonably expect something that size to do. It does this through a Japanese made analog circuit created specifically for the task. The device weighs 41 grams and sits securely in the jack so you know it's not going to fall out if you go for a duck walk!
The AC30 guitar amp is made of black plastic, but feels fairly robust. There are three wheels for your fingertip that control distortion, tone and volume respectively. If you whack everything up to ten (no eleven, I'm afraid) you will get a fair amount of background hiss. But you don't really need to, so it's not too much of an issue.
I got some great settings out of this. Including ones suitable for Stones, Nirvana, Deep purple and Led Zep. All were achievable quickly, and it's particularly gratifying that the headphone amp picks up pitch well enough that the angle and strength of picking is represented well. Other techniques like palm muting and harmonics sound as they should.
Ahead, groove factor 10
Two triple a batteries are supplied, with the manufacturer claiming up to 15 hours of battery life. Even ten hours would be ok, particularly if you are using rechargeable ones. The wheels are easily accessible. The headphone jack is placed so that the flex will interfere as little as possible. There's even an auxiliary input which allows you to play music through the device so that you can jam directly along with your favourite tracks.
This is (groan) a sound investment. I used an Amazon voucher earned through Dooyoo so that this great tool only cost me a fiver. Vox do other headphone amps. There's one for classic rock, one for acoustic and another for metal. But the AC30 is the most consistently highest scoring headphone amp out of all of them. I'm glad I chose what I did. One day I may even get the "real deal" ...!