how can I get guitar feedback that will only be heard thru earphones. I've been playing 30 years off and on, and I know most equipment, but I want to quietly record but still get that Cobain-esque style distortion with a Fender Stage 160 amp, and/or recording with/of the amp simulation and recording functions of a Boss BR800 eight track recorder.

  • The best approximation should be achievable by mounting a tactile transducer on / below / next to the bridge. It wouldn't be completely quiet but much quiter than any speaker-based feedback, yet have more of the “brutal chaotic” character of acoustic feedback than you get with magnetic sustainers. I've never tried this or know someone who did, thus no answer from me, but it might be a starting point for research. Most off-the-shelf transducers wouldn't work, because they're generally optimed for bass frequencies only. Nov 30 '20 at 14:51

It won't be real. It can't be real. Feedback is the speaker vibrating the guitar, which feeds the speaker, same so forth.

I own a guitar with a Fernandes Sustainer system, which sends the signal through an electromagnet in the neck pickup. It's somewhat disappointing without gain or compression, but some would say that most things about the electric guitar are disappointing without gain.

There are pedals such as the Fender Runaway and the Digitech FreqOut that mimic this effect with electronics. I've not tried them, so I can't tell you how well they work.

  • “disappointing without gain” – you mean without overdrive. Nov 30 '20 at 14:46
  • Or distortion or fuzz. I said what I said. Nov 30 '20 at 17:39
  • Yeah but gain doesn't mean any of these things. Nov 30 '20 at 17:50
  • @DaveJacoby, Never seen a Fernandes in person, but I have a Freqout--I like it. Check out my answer.
    – zedmelon
    Dec 6 '20 at 5:05
  • @leftaroundabout the knob CALLED 'gain' on a guitar amp may well have that function. Dec 6 '20 at 14:17

There is no way to get "real" feedback using headphones only, however there are a couple of fake solutions:

  • A sustainiac, or sustainer pickup will give you feedback which is similar, if not exactly like audio feedback through magnetic feedback.
  • A sustainer pedal emulates sustain electronically.
  • Many DAW's will let you add fake sustain at any frequency you like in post processing (and some real-time, to an extent)

But if you want it to sound real, you need the volume from an amp to create the feedback. No shortcut to doing it right.

  • 1
    For a DAW setup, I saw someone once say they sent a dry signal out to a transducer (like the vibe-it model B0042L29KW) and placed the transducer on a guitar and then armed a track to record it back in with lots of compression and gain vst
    – Yorik
    Dec 1 '20 at 22:39

How quietly is 'quietly'?
You can't do it on headphones, so it can't be done silently, but it can be done with a small studio monitor placed in very close to the guitar, pointing right at the strings & pickups.

You will need plenty of compression, the quieter or further away the speaker the heavier the compression needed. It will compromise your sound slightly, but you can just about get away with a much lower volume that would be required to do this 'for real'.


I needed feedback in a low-volume live setting and got fairly solid results with the DigiTech Freqout $179.99 at the time. It works at any performance volume, acting on the natural guitar signal. Since it's not true feedback it can't sustain forever--but it sounds pretty legit.

A long, sustained note begins one of the tunes on our album, feeding back until the intro solo guitar starts. We captured this on the record exactly as one would expect--in a large room, me ten feet from an amp cranked to nine billion decibels. Live shows found me doing it the same way, with fairly consistent results.

But then...

We booked a show for a Medal of Honor convention, a pretty sweet gig with 45 or 50 recipients, families and dignitaries in attendance. We knew going in this wouldn't be the place for a high SPL, sonically assaulting a bunch of octogenarian war vets, so I sought quiet feedback solutions. IIRC I only found two, and the other didn't review well.

I took a gamble, ordering the Freqout without much time to spare. Felt pretty dumb buying a $180 pedal for one song, but I lucked out.

I never adjust the settings (forgive the sideways photo). The gain and onset are just past noon. Momentary so the pedal only engages when I'm on the button. The 2nd harmonic sounds the best to me. I can't recall what "dry" does. I read the instructions when I got it, realizing in short order I'd likely never touch the knobs again.

DigiTech Freqout

It's not perfect, but it sounds pretty convincing in short bursts--maybe ten seconds--and it then dies suddenly and rather anticlimactically. I've learned to time this and remove my foot before the "feedback" ends, and it fits the need--the LEDs indicate how much more "Feedback Mojo" remains, and I sometimes still watch them to avoid my feedback rug being yanked out from under me.

I've since worked the effect into more songs ...sparingly. Since it's on my board, I can use it while singing--needn't leave the mike to hug the amp. I'm pleased with my purchase, even if I only use it three or four times in a 90-minute show.

I think I saw one at Guitar Center--see if they'll let you test drive one.

  • 1
    I don't like this solution much at all, but +1 because it's the simplest thing that answers the OP's question. Dec 6 '20 at 16:57
  • Haha, thanks--I think! Is the dislike simply a cost-vs-fakery thing?
    – zedmelon
    Dec 13 '20 at 19:47

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