14 September 2011

3 Alternatives to Guitar Amplifier

A few days ago I wrote about how a lot of guitar amps are too ugly to sit in your living room. That post seems to have rung a bell with many readers who left comments or sent me email.


So what can you do if you’re looking for something to amplify your electric guitar for home practice but don’t want one of those “black breeze blocks” (thanks to Ukulele Hunt for the term) in your home?


As some commenters pointed out, you can build your own amp, or at least its housing. Or if you’re less DIY minded you can save up for an expensive amp that comes with a more decorative finish.


But if DIY is not your thing, and you don’t have lots of spare cash, are there any good alternatives to amplify your guitar for home practice? The answer is yes, and here are three alternatives that might work for you…


Pocket Amp

Pocket sized guitar amp amps can be used at home with headphones or you could plug them into your home stereo. When you’re not using it the amp will be small enough to put away in your guitar case.


A few of the products you can try in this category are the iGTR, Korg Pandora, the Line 6 Pod range, Amplug by Vox and the Boss BR micro recorder range. Some of them have additional useful practice features such as an input jack for your mp3 player, drum and bass rhythm backings, a looper, or multi-track recording.


Effect Pedal Amp

A little larger and heavier than pocket amps, a multi-effect pedal can also be quite easily hidden away behind your sofa when not used. A pedal offers the advantage of foot control and you can also use them with an amp or PA for rehearsals or gigging.


Boss, Vox, Line 6 and Zoom, for example, all have multi-effect pedals with a headphone jack or a line output that you could plug in to a home stereo.


Pedals from Vox offer a tube amp stage for those who prefer tube tones. Many models offer amp modelling and effects options for you to play with. And again, you can get useful practice features like aux input, rhythm backings and looper included.


Virtual Amp

Lastly, a convenient solution if you have a computer in your practice area is a virtual guitar amp – an amp provided by software on your PC to produce guitar sounds. An example is IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube. This kind of amp often uses modelling technology and can offer a lot of sound options for home practice and recording.


Gibson published a useful article describing Top 5 Guitar Amp Modelling Sofware Products. You can find more by googling “guitar amp software”.


Some of the products, such as AmpliTube for example, can also be used on an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.


If you can’t persuade your family to host one of those ugly black boxes in your living room then maybe one of the alternatives above could be your ideal practice companion. And of course you can always buy one of those black boxes with more power to use away from home for rehearsals or gigs.


What about you?

Do you use any of these , or other, guitar amp alternatives for home practice? What’s your experience? Tell us by clicking the comments link below.


Robert said...

I use all three.

My Digitech RP350 and Roland VG-8EX don’t grace the living room, but I do practice with them with headphones.

I have a Vox AC30 amPlug, which I throw into the case whenever I take an electric anywhere.

More often, though, if I am away from the rig, I’ll be using Ampkit or Amplitube on my iPhone or iPad. The Ampkit iLink is roughly the same size as the amPlug, and my iPhone or iPad is almost always with me anyway. It does require carrying a cable that the amPlug doesn’t, but in trade you get more flexibility. Plus, the amPlug—great as it is—can be a little awkward.

On the other hand, sometimes the simplicity of the amPlug is preferable.

Scott said...

I use Amplitube 3 for 99% of my playing. I love the flexibility and having a guitar shop's worth of amps at my disposal. Its a lot of fun. Plus I can crank that JCM800 to 11 without blowing the windows out using amp sims.

Anders Bornholm said...

With a toddler of 1.5 years sleeping in our bedroom where my gear is almost always when I have time to practice AmpKit has almost become my main rig. It's awesome, especially in combination with Apogee Jam. Here's a cover I recorded using it: http://soundcloud.com/osirisguitar/the-trooper-cover-ampkit

I have an amplug but I never use, I really like to be able to tweak my tones...

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