There are many legit reasons to play electric guitar with headphones. For one, your siblings or neighbors may not appreciate your shredding the same way your bandmates do. Worse yet, you could be living in a small apartment or shared space.
Times like these leave you looking for a way to practice anytime while retaining great tone and volume. Not getting evicted is an added bonus.
One might wonder, “Hold up, can you plug headphones into an electric guitar?”
As in, quite literally just plugging a pair of headphones into the output jack of a guitar. Will it work? Can you hear the sound of an electric guitar through plain ol’ headphones?
In this post, we answer this burning question and show you some music gear that lets you use your headphones with your guitar.
Can You Plug Headphones Into An Electric Guitar?
No, you cannot plug headphones into traditional electric guitars as they do not come with a headphone jack built-in. However, there are certain midi guitar controllers that offer this functionality.
Sure, you can fit your headphones into that socket, but the signal is not strong enough to power headphone speakers. The ‘instrument level‘ signal from your guitar needs to first be amplified by a – you guessed it – guitar amplifier.
Let’s quickly examine the components of a typical set of headphones. You’ll see a headband, padded ear cups, a speaker, and a cable with a 3.5mm connector. Notice something missing? Yes, a built-in amplifier – a crucial part of the setup.
Now, remember the flow: Instrument signal -> Amp -> Speakers.
Your guitar is the instrument and the headphone is the speaker. The ‘amp’ is missing from this equation. Therefore, there will be no audible sound in the headphone speakers.
The only exception is to get headphones or a guitar with a built-in amp, which is not the norm.
But, all is not lost. You can still absolutely use headphones with an electric guitar, just not directly. Let’s look at how that works…
So, How Can You Play an Electric Guitar Quietly?
You need an external amplifier to boost the guitar signal before you can listen in your headphones. But what if you don’t own an amp or want a portable practice tool?
We’ve got you covered with five on-the-go options to play guitar through headphones.
1. Buy a Headphone Amp
Simplistically, a headphone amp is a tiny device that amplifies any signal so that it can be heard in headphones.
It is designed to raise the level of a low-voltage audio signal from your guitar or other devices to improve the sound and performance of headphones.
They have other uses, especially if you have a home studio or want to jam silently with your friends.
You can find several headphone amps based on your budget. Some of them have additional features such as a built-in speaker or tone-shaping controls. But a utilitarian one would be enough to amplify the guitar signal to play through headphones.
Some manufacturers make headphones specifically for silent practice. Don’t confuse these with regular headphones, which need amplification.
We are talking about high-quality headphones with built-in amplification. In this case, the headphones ARE the amp. You can use them to play the guitar or as regular headphones to listen to music on your way to work. So, you won’t need a ‘special’ pair just for practice.
Using Vox’s acclaimed amPlug technology and combining it with Audio-Technica’s innovative headphone design, VGH Guitar Headphones deliver top-notch guitar tone perfect for late-night sessions or wherever cranking your full-stack is frowned upon.
Why We Love It:
Perfect for silent practice and low-noise settings
Among the two choices, Waza-Air has a slight edge due to additional features, but this comes with a huge uptick in price. Either way, both deliver a hassle-free and true guitar-headphone experience and you can pick the one that suits your needs and budget.
3. Headphones with a Guitar Multi-FX Pedal
If you own a multi-effects unit, you have everything you need to practice the electric guitar through headphones.
Most multi-effects pedals have a headphone-out (Phones) or line-out on the back panel.
Micro-guitar amps, also called mini guitar amps, are a compact and portable option for guitarists.
They are tiny amps powered by 9V batteries with 1W to 3W output and volume/tone controls. They cost between $30 to $70 and weigh less than 1 lbs on average.
They include a headphone jack that cuts off the main speaker for silent practice. You can plug an electric guitar into a mini amplifier and connect headphones to it to practice quietly. Micro-guitar amps are still considered novelty items or indulgences.
Buy one and keep it in your guitar case so you can practice anytime, anywhere. As long as you have a pair of headphones around, you’re set.
Some cut-price models offer simplicity and utility while others are feature-rich units that push the boundaries of technology. But if you are willing to spend three figures, you can find a guitar headphone amp with built-in looping, guitar effects, audio over USB, and Bluetooth technology.
Clearly, there is more to it than ‘not disturbing others’. These rechargeable units can serve as the ultimate travel rig and at-home practice tool when paired with high-quality headphones.
Here are our top three picks for the best guitar headphone amplifier in the current market.
Thanks to Blackstar’s amPlug2 FLY, your practice sessions are about to get a whole lot more interesting. You get the great sound of a Blackstar — just plug in and you get amazing guitar amp tones right in your headphones.
Nothing can compete with a guitar amp cranked and blazing. But an electro-acoustic guitar or headphones, in the ways discussed above, can be the next best thing to play an electric guitar without an amp.
They allow you to practice without disturbing others whilst retaining a great tone.
What Are The Best Headphones For Electric Guitar?
Any wired headphones can be used to practice electric guitar quietly. Needless to say, the quality of your headphones will determine the user experience.
There are countless options to single out the best headphones for electric guitar. Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, and AKG offer a wide range of options that are highly rated by many professionals.
Studio headphones are an excellent resource for practicing guitar. They allow you to closely monitor the intricacies and precise details of your playing.
You can also use them to record, practice, and play quietly at any time of the day. However, avoid prolonged use with loud volumes as it can cause permanent hearing damage.
Can you Practice an Electric Guitar with Bluetooth headphones?
You can use guitar audio interfaces (like the iRig2) and a smartphone to connect Bluetooth headphones to an electric guitar. However, you will experience ‘latency’ issues even with the best Bluetooth headphones.
The IK Multimedia iRig 2 Guitar Interface plugs into the 1/8" TRRS jack on your device, sending your guitar or bass signal to your favorite effects or recording app, and returning the stereo output to your headphones.
Latency refers to the lag or gap between what you play and what you hear due to the time it takes for the signal to travel from the pickups to the headphones. Latency is generally introduced via digital processing, so you won’t notice it with a regular guitar amp but you will notice latency if you try to play your guitar through a home theater system or any other setup that is not made for guitars.
Can I Plug Headphones Into An Amp?
You can connect headphones into an amp if it has a headphone output jack. This feature is common but not found in all guitar amplifiers.
Some amps have a headphone output jack that is 1/8″ (3.5mm) but most have a 1/4“ (6.35mm) jack. You may need an amp headphone jack adapter to connect headphones into an amp with the latter.
Do All Guitar Amps Have a Headphone Jack?
Most guitar preamps, amp heads, and solid-state amplifiers feature a headphone out to connect a set of headphones. However, not all guitar amps have a headphone out.
Refer to the product manual if you are unsure. Don’t connect headphones to the input jack, speaker jack, or effects loop as it can damage your equipment.
We covered the meat and potatoes of the topic in this guide, and you should know by now that when it comes to using your headphones with your guitar, tone, convenience, and cost are key factors in getting your money’s worth.
Check product spec sheets, video demonstrations, and reviews to find the perfect solution for your practicing needs. Your neighbors will thank you!