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Thread: Headphones and valve / tube amps

  1. #1
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    Headphones and valve / tube amps

    Hey guys and gals,

    I want tube sound and dynamics but unfortunately will play mostly through headphones. It seems like most tube amps that have headphone outputs are actually using a solid state circuit, possibly with digital emulation. Does it make any sense to get a tube amp in that case? Are there any good options other than using software amp emulation?

    Thanks,
    JG

  2. #2
    I'm getting some great sounds and feel out my Line6 HX Stomp. I use mainly with headphones and it also acts as a fully fledged audio interface with my Mac. Can also be used direct into PA or FrFr speaker for an amp in the room feel. Has stacks more features which you can look into if something you think worth exploring.

  3. #3
    Mentor jugglindan's Avatar
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    It's definitely not a tube amp, but I have been using a THR10C for 7 years. It's fantastic for low volume or headphones (I use mine with Audio Technica M50x's). The new THR-II has even more amp models (and 20W stereo output if needed).

    As far as I can tell, the amp models are quite good. For example the one modeled after a Fender Deluxe Reverb has all the flubby bass of the original

    Responds well to picking dynamics and guitar volume adjustments.

    The USB provides an audio interface to computer.

    No effects loop, but it takes pedals well.

  4. #4
    Overlord of Music McCreed's Avatar
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    Fortunately we are currently living in a golden age of musical instrument technology, so your options are practically limitless.

    The bad news is, your options are practically limitless.

    Your choices for tube amps with HP out are going to be limited, but solid state amp technology has come so far (even in the last 5 years) there is something for every budget and every player's needs. AND a lot of them sound great!

    If you're solely a bedroom/lounge room player, the previous suggestions are great options and there are heaps more that can do double duty for headphone or live playing. The Fender Champion 20 or 40 are great, have a headphone out, aux in and won't break the bank.
    What I like most about them is they are just plug & play. There's no faffing around with deep-diving computer interfacing. Just knobs on the front of the amp. (This is what I disliked about the Mustang Series. Too much mucking around with patches and parameters blah blah blah)

    It would help to know what your budget is, because there are good inexpensive options or great expensive ones.

    I own one of the Fender Deluxe Reverb ToneMasters, and it is effing brilliant!
    Yes, it cost nearly as much (or more) as some tube amps, but it is worth it to me. It weighs under 11kg and keeps up with a bass player and hard hitting drummer no problem and sounds as close to my original '64 Deluxe Reverb as any other I've heard.
    It doesn't have a "headphone out" but I can connect it via XLR into my mixer or DAW for "silent" playing/recording.
    Last edited by McCreed; 29-04-2020 at 12:01 PM.
    Making the world a better place; one guitar at a time...

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Bakersdozen View Post
    I'm getting some great sounds and feel out my Line6 HX Stomp.
    Casually looking up the cost of one had me falling off my chair.
    Geez I could get 2 amps for the price.

    cheers, Mark.

  6. Liked by: Joe Garfield

  7. #6
    Overlord of Music McCreed's Avatar
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    Casually looking up the cost of one had me falling off my chair.
    Geez I could get 2 amps for the price.
    Still less than the Tonemaster Deluxe Reverb...
    Making the world a better place; one guitar at a time...

  8. Liked by: Bakersdozen

  9. #7
    Member Andy123's Avatar
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    A valve pre-amp pedal would do the job nicely. You could plug your headphones direct into the output, or hook it up to an amp in the effects loop, or push the front of the amp into over drive.
    Kingsley make some awesome ones. Check out the Squire:
    http://kingsleyamplifiers.com/products/pedals/17/

  10. Liked by: Joe Garfield

  11. #8
    Mentor jugglindan's Avatar
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    That reminds me that I really want to build a Valvecaster. DIY 12AU7 overdrive, tasty!

  12. #9
    GAStronomist Simon Barden's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy123 View Post
    A valve pre-amp pedal would do the job nicely. You could plug your headphones direct into the output, or hook it up to an amp in the effects loop, or push the front of the amp into over drive.
    Kingsley make some awesome ones. Check out the Squire:
    http://kingsleyamplifiers.com/products/pedals/17/
    But you'd also need to use it with a cabinet simulator (as they state) with headphones, otherwise you'll get all that HF fizz that sounds awful once you start adding any drive to the sound.

    Valve amp headphone outputs use a very simple low pass filter affair, a couple of capacitors and resistors and that's it, to remove most of the frequencies above 6kHz (well I definitely know that's all that Blackstar use). Yes, they'll also use an op-amp to drive the headphone output, but it's just cleanly representing the signal coming from your pre-amp, and not taking anything away. But most valve amps don't have headphone outputs.

    If you are going to spend almost all your time on headphones, then either get a solid state modelling amp (they really are very good now), or maybe a valve/tube amp for playing without headphones and some form of stomp or desktop modeller for when you are. But get one of the latest models, as they have all improved considerably since they first came out. For instance, don't get a 10 year-old Line 6 combo. But the Mk 1 and Mk 2 (current) Boss Katana models are certainly worth considering and sound excellent on their own and through headphones.

    The Blackstar HT5R is one of the few valve mps that do have a headphone output, and although the speaker emulation is basic, it is useable, and the amp does sound good on its own. But it's only 5W, and although that's more than enough for home use, it's not really enough to gig with unless miked up, and it's never going to sound as nice clean as say a Fender Princeton, Blues Jr or Deluxe.

  13. #10
    Mentor jugglindan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Barden View Post
    For instance, don't get a 10 year-old Line 6 combo. But the Mk 1 and Mk 2 (current) Boss Katana models are certainly worth considering and sound excellent on their own and through headphones.
    I have been tempted by the Katana amps for over a year, but my first-gen THR10C works well enough, and I have patches tuned exactly right for me. Plus I know that if I ever did get something like the Katana I would spend all my time experimenting with different pedal chain simulations and no time playing. They are nice amps though.

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