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best practice amp for apartment? ($1,500 budget) headphones? PC recording?

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  • best practice amp for apartment? ($1,500 budget) headphones? PC recording?

    I live in an apartment so I need a good practice amp, as well as an amp for playing with the band. My main guitar is a Fender Strat, but I also play jazz on a jazz box. I play blues, jazz, rock and some metal, but mostly medium gain.

    Should I just get headphones? What amp? What headphones?

    What about one of those Line6 things you plug into? (I'm a noob)

    Is there something I can get so I can play into my laptop PC and record on my laptop PC?

    Should I just get a low-watt amp? What amp?

    Any tips for blocking out sound?

    Please help, I am totally new at this.


  • #2
    If you're OK with 2nd hand, check out the Marshall 1974x. It's one of my favorite amps of all time, and it's only 18 watts. It might still be too loud for your apartment though... but it would be great with the band.

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    • #3

      gawdrawk wrote:

      I live in an apartment so I need a good practice amp, as well as an amp for playing with the band. My main guitar is a Fender Strat, but I also play jazz on a jazz box. I play blues, jazz, rock and some metal, but mostly medium gain.

      Should I just get headphones? What amp? What headphones?

      What about one of those Line6 things you plug into? (I'm a noob)

      Is there something I can get so I can play into my laptop PC and record on my laptop PC?

      Should I just get a low-watt amp? What amp?

      Any tips for blocking out sound?

      Please help, I am totally new at this.


       

      The whole low-wattage amp thing is a harmful myth propagated by a small number of vocal dweebs who insist that the only legitimate way to play electric guitar is to overload a power amplifier to the point that it distorts (and, of course, it must be a vacuum tube amplifier, or else you're a worthless phony). If you follow this misguided nonsense, you will still have problems with your neighbors even if the amp is just 5W, because even low wattage is damn loud if cranked to the point that it distorts.

      A very low wattage amp will tend to be uselessly under-featured and have a crappy, small enclosure and speaker with no bass response.  It's better to look for features in an amp. Want headphone practice? Look for a headphone output built into the amp (and one that sounds good, with decent cabinet emulation and possibly stereo reverb and other effects.)

      Go to the largest music store you can find in your area with the most gear and spend an afternoon trying everything they have that looks like it might be apartment-sized, and doesn't need wheels to cart it off or a crane to lift it.  You really don't want anything less than a 10" speaker. (At the risk of sounding like the wankers from my first paragraph, I humbly suggest that guitar amplifiers need 12" speakers, because that's Just How It Is, Amen.)

      A good amp for apartment practice and for playing with the band is one that produces good tones at any volume.  However, do not expect the same settings to sound equally good at any volume; it is not realistic. Tone has to be adjusted between practice volume and live volume. (Less so if live volume means that you're picked up by a microphone.)  Bring your good pair of headphones to the store (and make sure you have a 1/4" plug adapter for them, if they are are based on an 1/8" jack) to try the headphone outputs on the amps. And of course, your guitar. A useful amp comes with a foot switch that lets you flip between at least two sounds, more ideally three. It can produce a wide range of tones (from pristine cleans to the "br00talz"), and has decent effects: a good sounding reverb is particularly important.  Look for a compression effect on the clean channel; it's very, very useful clean guitar work, regardless of style.

      About going into the PC, that is done with a piece of gear called an audio interface. There exist USB or FireWire connected audio interfaces. These things usually have inputs and jacks for balanced microphones as well as unbalanced instrument inputs. With a suitable software package like Amplitube or whatnot, you can play guitar through headphones or the computer's speakers, and record directly. There is a lot to learn about. Some audio interfaces do not have adequate impedance on their instrument input, which completely sucks the high end out of passive pickups. (Cough, Tascam, Cough). This might not be a widespread problem, but I'm mentioning it just because I ran into it myself.

      The only way to block out sound is to build a sound proof room. This takes a lot of effort, and if you don't own the place, you might not be allowed to do such remodeling. You're better off practicing at a reasonable volume, and using headphones in those important practice hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. But you don't even have to do that. Just play the amp quietly in the wee hours of the night. Tilt it, or lift it up on some support so that the speaker is aimed at your face so you can hear better.  At night it's quiet, so you can hear yourself better at low volume: less traffic noise from the street and so on.

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      • HamerMonaco
        HamerMonaco commented
        Editing a comment

        There is actually a fantastic low watt option that unlike many low wattage amps, is actually very quiet and sounds killer. Traynor makes a head called the Darkhorse that runs either 15watts 6V6 or 2watts 12AU7 output tubes at the flick of a switch. It is the best sounding low wattage(quiet low wattage)you'll ever hear because they use a low voltage preamp tube for an output tube on the 2watt setting. Very affordable at around $500 for the head and they offer a cab that is matched to the head loaded with a greenback for another $300+/-. It is a master volume amp and is super responsive. I highly recommend you check one out before you rule tube amps out. This thing kills and sounds incredible on both 2 & 15 watt settings. I play mine at the 2watt setting all night long while the wife sleeps and it never wakes her. Neighbors won't even know you play guitar if you play it on this setting. The 15 watt setting is real nice and I use it for band rehearsal and small gigs. The closed back matching cab rocks and sounds full at the quiet volumes too. Check it out. You won't be dissappointed.


    • #4

      Gonna say used Mk IV combo. Great master volume for keeping the volume down, gorgeous clean and high-gain tones, multiple wattage options, and silent recording out. Also Boogies sound sexy as hell with single coils. No headphone out though.

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      • guitarcapo
        guitarcapo commented
        Editing a comment

        I never understood why you'd shell out that much money just for something for you to practice on in your apartment. It's just for practicing in your apartment. You're the only one who is going to hear it. Get something like a Roland cube and spend the other grand on recording equipment, a nicer guitar, PA equipment, microphones, a nice television etc......


    • #5

      Carr

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      • #6

        You can make ZERO noise with a preamp, effects and headphones.

         

        Something I can highly recommend is an Ethos (preamp-pedal) with an effects unit like a TC G Major, and a pair of decent headphones (closed back not "open air").  This would cost about $1000.  The Ethos is based upon various Dumble models over the years.

        I also recommend some kind of music generation software, be that Band in a Box, Garage Band whatever. This way you can play along to songs in total silence.

        Nice to have some recording software like Cakewalk, ProTools,  etc too.

        I'm not wild about modeling preamps. 2 years down the road you'll simply want the "latest". Personally I like my guitar's preamp to be analog, but the effects can be digital.

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