Guitar playing at home: How to get the best sound

Can't go out? No gigging allowed?

How are you supposed to scratch that guitar itch when the other half despises the volume on your amp set to anything more than 0.5 and you're just not feeling it?

Well, there are several ways to approach playing at home when low volume is a must, and you'll be glad to hear that it is possible to achieve a great sound as well as a great feeling of interaction between guitar, pedals and amp.

Digital amps

The most straightforward and family-friendly way of getting a good guitar sound at home is to use a digital amp. Most digital/solid-state amps these days utilise modelling technology to emulate various famous amp variants, and many also include effects such as reverb. Not only that, but you'll more than likely find a headphone jack, making a small digital amp the perfect solution for jamming at home. Look for something like a Boss Katana Air or Marshall Code 25: it's just a matter of plugging your favourite set of headphones in and getting on with it. Easy!

Valve amps

But what if you have a valve amp? Well if your amp has a master volume, the first step - and this may seem counterproductive - is to turn down the gain or channel volume (we know you have it cranked 😉 ) and turn up the master volume. You can balance this so it's still very quiet, but by opening up the master volume it lets the amp 'breathe' and tends to yield better results than having the channel volume up high and the master just off 0 on the dial.

Your best bet for a fire-breathing non-master volume valve amp is to either use a volume pedal in front of the amp, or hook up an attenuator. The Universal Audio Ox seems to be a very popular choice, although (as stated before) our preference is for the awesome Fryette Power Station as it can do so much more than simply attenuate the signal.

Isolation cabinet

There are other options is you're of a more practical mentality. How about constructing an isolation cabinet for your speaker? An old-school alternative to modern IR tech, it basically involves shutting your favourite speaker and mic away in a strong wooden box padded out with anything from old duvets to sound absorbing foam. Do it right and you can crank that amp and barely hear the speaker. How to build a guitar amp isolation cabinet

You could, of course, purchase a professionally made isolation cabinet, but where's the fun in that?6

Preamp pedals

Finally, you could ditch the amp altogether. If you happen to own a computer with DAW software and an audio interface, simply run your guitar straight in ('DI') or run it into a preamp pedal and then into the audio interface. Use the pedal as a replacement for your amplifier's preamp stage and use IRs in the DAW to replicate the sound of a Greenback-loaded 4x12 cabinet, or whatever is your poison.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas for getting the best guitar tone at home volumes.