Using headphones for silent practice

Many modern amplifiers offer a headphone output that allows you to silence the speaker and practice without disturbing others. The Quilter MicroPro amps do not have a dedicated headphone jack but there is an easy way to get this functionality with a few extra pieces of gear.

You will need:
A headphone amplifier or small mixer that can amplify a line-level signal to a level suitable for headphones.
1/4" mono plug to go from the amp's send to your headphone amp or mixer
1/4" mono "dummy" plug

The first cable you will need depends on the type of device you will plug your headphones into. A low-cost headphone amplifier may have a 1/8" stereo input. These devices are typically used with portable music players to drive higher quality headphones. For this type of device, you will need an adapter that goes from 1/4" mono to 1/8" stereo. If you don't use the right adapter, you will only hear the guitar in one side of your headphones.

You can buy a low cost headphone amplifier from a store that sells audio recording equipment. These devices usually support multiple headphones and are used in recording studios to provide monitoring to all the musicians simultaneously. Even if you only need one pair of headphones, these types of headphone amps are a good choice because you can use a standard 1/4" mono cable. Try to find an inexpensive model because you don't need any extra features for this use.

If you have a small mixing board, the connection to the amp will be easy and depending on the mixer, you may also have some EQ controls which will come in very handy to adjust for a better tone.

The second "dummy" 1/4" plug can either be a spare guitar cable you have laying around or even better would be to buy the same kind of 1/4" plug you would use to build or repair a cable. This plug is not going to connect to anything, it just serves to activate the internal switch in the return jack to silence the amp's power output section.

Warning! Never plug your headphone amp or mixer into the black speaker outputs. This will damage line-level gear. Make sure you are only plugging into the chrome send and return jacks.

Hooking it all together:
Connect the amp's send to the headphone amp or mixer's input. Insert your dummy plug into the amp's return jack. VOL 1 and VOL 2 will control the amp's output signal. Turn these up until you get enough level to begin to hear the amp. Adjust the headphone amp or mixer's volume control to get a comfortable level. Adjust these controls and EQ settings to get a good tone.

Since you are hearing the amp's raw preamp output, it will sound very different from the sound coming from the amp's speaker. It is very likely to sound too bright and possibly even harsh. This is because the speaker normally tames some of the higher frequencies mellowing out the tone. You can compensate for this somewhat by equalizing the sound with a mixer or outboard EQ. There are even speaker simulator pedals that you can try inline between the amp and headphone amp to warm up the tone.

With a little bit of experimentation, you can get a great tone into headphones to be able to play on into the late night without disturbing anyone.