Vox headphones aThese new and unique Vox headphones underline just how differently musicians see the world to all of us peace-loving citizens.

These are very clever things and they’re aimed specifically at people who play electric guitars. Plug them into one and they mimic the sound of specific amplifiers.

Now the Vox AC30 is a very famous guitar amplifier. Dating from 1958 it’s still going strong and is noted for a sharp top end that verges on being discordant. It’s a tough, aggressive, in-your-face sound that grabs your attention and says ‘listen to me’.

It’s a sound that’s as popular with audiences as it is with musicians. The AC30 has been used by so many famous performers (particularly from Britain) that it’s now something of an icon in the business.

The Vox AC30 headphones mimic its sound very accurately.

I know this because my mate Dave Birrell, rhythm guitarist with a group called Captain Midnights, uses an AC30 amp all the time. When he plugged these headphones into his guitar and started playing he was impressed. Impressed enough to buy them.

He didn’t like the earcup-mounted controls because he obviously couldn’t see them while the headphones were playing; they’d be far better on the cable. But he did like the comfort (one of his sessions went for two and half hours) and the various effects that can be dialled in, including reverb that leaves a decaying echo, a nice effect when you want a note to end, but not die.

It was what he liked about them most, however, that illustrated the disconnect between Dave the musician and all of us.

I figured he’d go for them because, being the father of a four-week-old son and having neighbours with young kids he’d be able to practice after work without disturbing anyone.

That’s because when the headphones are plugged into the guitar’s amp outlet all that other folk hear are the unamplified strings. So it’s quiet even when he’s blasting at full stretch.

I suggested this and Dave looked at me like I’d just arrived from Mars. Such had not even blipped on his radar.

He liked that he didn’t have to pull out his amplifier whenever he wanted to muck around with his guitar.

“I don’t have to lug it out, I don’t have to have a power point handy,” he said. “You can’t practice without the amp because an unamplified electric guitar sounds nothing like it does when it’s plugged in. These headphones solve that.”

And when his venerable AC30 is on the blink (it’s a pretty hard worker) he can still practice. And, hey, $150 for headphones is a lot easier than $600 for an amplifier.

There are four headphone varieties wearing the Vox name – AC30, Bass, Lead and Twin – and all have different sonic characteristics. They can all be used as regular headphones when they’re not plugged into an amp, being supplied with both 3.5 and 6.3 mm plugs.

Published May 2013