Headphone Practice Amp - Review

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by ArtechnikA, Aug 18, 2013.

  1. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    No affiliation, just bought one and wanted to share impressions.

    Guitar Works, Inc in VA is offering a small, inexpensive 'guitar and bass' headphone practice amp. I searched the forums and didn't see Guitar Works, Inc on anybody's sh!tlist and I had an excellent transaction...

    It's the "Concept 3" offered on EBay in various auctions by 'guitarworksinc' for the easily amused risk-takers, but after losing a few because I wasn't around when the auction closed, I just followed the link and found the $22 'buy it now' flavor. That's the price shipped USPS and arrived well-packaged and ready to go with a 9V already installed.

    There are cheap (borderline useless) headphones in the package with a stereo 1/4" TRS connector. All they promise is 'basic' headphones so I have no complaints. They work fine, I just couldn't make them fit well. Not an issue for me. Because my 'good' headphones have 1/8" connectors I was glad I didn't have to go find my adaptors and could verify operation right out of the box.

    So - a 1/4" in, the 1/4" headphone already mentioned. RCA 'Aux-In' connectors is a nice touch but I didn't test those. 1/8" TRS might have been nice but no complaints - I've got a bunch of adapters and they're cheap.

    A 'Clean' volume knob and a 'Tube' (distorted) volume. PIck a blend you like. Clean is pretty clean. 'Tube' won't be replacing any Ampeg's but it has an edge. Master volume.

    It's about the size of a cell phone and maybe 2" thick. The pictures on the EBay listings give you a good feel for the form factor.

    It's light - that's a good and bad. You can toss it in a gig bag pocket and never care it's there. It also gets dragged around by the cables plugged into it and fell off my desk several times - no damage tho - it's sturdy.

    There is a lot of hiss even with everything dialed down and no input. It's not a deal-breaker for me and didn't adversely affect the instrument tone. Adequately even volume from low-B up through 12th fret G. I did not plug in a guitar. I don't have any passive basses so I couldn't check gain with those. (I'll go plug in a passive guitar and report back if there's any gain issues with that...)

    There is no upper bound on headphone amp price and the good ones are really good. At the lower bound, it's about functionality and value.

    There's more hiss than I'd prefer but for $20 I'm not complaining. It works for me. I had previously looked at the various Rockmans and Vox's and such, and I'm glad I ran across this. It's not fancy, it's not super quiet, but it does the job and IMO represents an excellent value for $22 to the door.

    I have seen some auctions close for close to the $11 starting bid, so if you're _really_ bargain hunting, timing is everything.
  2. spiritbass

    spiritbass Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2004
    Ashland, MO
    It's too bad Cafe Walter headphone amps are no longer in production. :rollno: Mine isn't going anywhere.
  3. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    No question they're very nice!
    But they're pricey enough that I'd have to think about it.
    (In fact, I have been thinking on this subject for a while.)

    $20 kinda makes it a no-brainer for something that's useful out of the box. If you find yourself wanting something nicer - there is always an upgrade path ;-)
  4. bpa11


    Feb 9, 2012
    San Diego, CA
    Cafe Walter headphone practice amps are still in production and you can buy them through Bass Northwest. I just bought mine and love it. Yes, it's rather pricey, but the quality is unmatched. Besides, there's something to be said about supporting a sole proprietor who produces a quality, hand-crafted product.
  5. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    They do seem to make you work for it ;-)

    Went to the Bass Northwest site, which has no search function.

    Looked through all the sections - no Café Walter.

    Went to the 'Company Links' section, and there is Café Walter. That page shows the product, but has no pricing.

    It does have a link to the Bass Northwest site, which has no search function...
  6. bpa11


    Feb 9, 2012
    San Diego, CA
    I agree. Could be a little more search friendly. I just called them and placed a phone order. It was shipped out right away via FedEx Ground.
  7. nubs


    Mar 1, 2005
    Cafe walters are still available through bass NW. I just today sent an e-mail inquiring information and received confirmation. There is a phone number as well.
  8. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    and yet the mystery continues...
    OK - I'll just ask: what do they sell for ?
    (If this is supposed to remain a mystery, a PM will be fine.)
  9. bpa11


    Feb 9, 2012
    San Diego, CA
    $169 + $15 shipping. And in my view, worth every penny. Well-built and high quality audio. Just make sure your headphones' impedance is between 50 - 300 ohms. Mine are 80 ohms and work fine with it.
  10. hsech

    hsech Work hard. My Social Security needs a raise.

    Jun 27, 2012
    Central Iowa
    I have an old Tom Sholz Rockman Bass Ace that does pretty good.
  11. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    I recently got a set of Grado and have been using them with the cheap amp reviewed in this thread and my Scarlet 2i2 interface. Sounds fine with those but I'll have to check the actual data sheet to learn the impedance.

    < $200 delivered is actually less than I was expecting.
  12. steelbed45

    steelbed45 33 on Ignore Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2011
    Nolanville, TX
    +1, I started playing in 1983 and mowed a summer's worth of lawns to buy a Bass Rockman. I still use that as a preamp from time to time if I record something direct to the computer. Never tried the Ace and always wanted to take a Cafe Walter out for a spin as well as the Fodera model.
  13. phishaholik

    phishaholik Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2005
    Portland, Oregon
    Honestly, I used a Cafe Walter for years but I think the amplitube app on my iPhone sounds a good bit better and is much more useful for a lot less money. I learned almost every song I know on the Cafe Walter, but don't miss it a bit.

    Michael Grote
  14. 1dreday


    Nov 22, 2009
  15. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    Not sure if this is still made, but I've enjoyed my [sfx] Micro-H headphone amp. Sound is pristine, size is terrific esp. for travel. It includes a micro jack for input from my iPad or other music source. Separate volume controls for the music jack and the bass jack.

    The [sfx] website is at http://www.sfxsound.co.uk/mainpage.asp?page=home and it's based in the UK. I think they are now offering just the H1, which is a bit larger.
  16. I love my little vox
    not exactly studio-recording quality, but lightweight and convenient
  17. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I have owned my Cafe Walter HA-1 for a long time (#178) and it is still going strong.
  18. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    you might have had that for a while - they seem to go for about $45 these days...
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