How to Play Electric Guitar Through Headphones

How to Play Electric Guitar through Headphones

Instead of paying thousands of dollars for an amp, you can listen to your electric guitar output through your headphones.

This option is useful for situations when your practicing may disrupt others in your environment. To everyone else, you’ll be jamming out silently.

In your head, you’ll be blasting out the next home-run solo that will top the Billboard charts!

Although it is a straightforward process to follow when playing an electric guitar through headphones, you may run into some issues with some amps and instruments.

If you’ve encountered an issue, this guide will help resolve the problem.

How to Play Electric Guitar through Headphones

Plug your headphones into the appropriate output jack for the size of your connection. Most models use a 3.5mm design since that size has been the standard for several decades. Some amps and instruments only use a 6.3mm jack to transmit audio, forcing you to use an adapter.

Several options are available for you to consider if you want to play your guitar through your headphones.

These selections also work for any electric instrument, including ukuleles, acoustic guitars, pianos, and e-drums.

1. Plug Your Headphones Directly into the Amp.

Most amps today offer a “phones” jack that accepts a 3.5mm or 6.3mm connection. Almost any set of regular headphones works with this connection.

Although the placement is variable, most manufacturers put it on the unit’s right side when facing the controls.

This placement option lets you sit to the side of your amp to lessen the risk of feedback occurring.

Once your connection is secure, you’re ready to play!

Even if your amp has a Rec Out jack instead of one designated for headphones only, a simple 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter can let you listen to your instrument.

Please remember to turn the master volume down before playing to avoid hurting your ears.

2. Connect Your Electric Guitar through a DAW.

If you have a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, download a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) program that works with your system.

You can find dedicated amp apps if you don’t want to compose or record the music that you create.

When you pursue this option, you’ll need an adapter that connects your 6.3mm output jack to your system’s 3.5mm jack.

The ideal solution is to use an interface product for this need. You’d plug the 6.3mm connection into the adapter, run the connection cord to your device, and then plug your headphones into the appropriate location.

Some smartphones don’t offer a 3.5mm jack for headphones anymore. If you have one of these models, you can listen to your electric guitar via Bluetooth instead.

The only disadvantage of this method is that you may need to use more software pedals than what you’ve got in your suitcase. It all depends on the equipment you have at home.

3. Use a Multi-Effects Pedal with Your Headphones.

If your rig runs with some old-school pedals that have been handed down over the years, this option for playing electric guitar through headphones may not be available.

The modern multi-effects pedal typically offers a phones output to use. The largest ones in the industry today almost always have one.

You’ll run into the same issue here as you might with an amp. Your headphones’ connection is likely 6.3mm, which means you’ll need the adapter to have a successful experience.

Using this option assures that you’ll have access to the settings and tones you prefer without sacrificing connections to a DAW. It’s surprisingly versatile and highly portable.

If you don’t already have pedals with this feature, it may not make sense to buy one because of the cost.

4. Connect Your Electric Guitar to a Micro-Amp.

When you travel a lot or need to play through headphones, a micro-amp for your electric guitar is an affordable solution. You can take them almost anywhere, reduce your packing requirements, and use them with your existing setup.

Most of them are battery-powered amps, which means you’ll want to pack a power source for using this option.

Some models offer better tones than others, with the VOX AmPlug the best choice for an authentic sound. Options in this category are available for each music genre you play, so it may help to match to receive better audio.

When going with this route, the primary disadvantage is that you have less control over the effects and tones. It’s more of a straightforward experience used for practicing or learning new chords.

What Are the Advantages of Listening through Your Headphones?

When you can listen to your electric guitar through your headphones, you have a fast and comfortable setup to use for practicing. You can literally plug-and-play with this design.

If your amp requires an adapter, it only takes a few bucks to grab one that works for your system. Ordering them online ensures that it’ll arrive in a couple of days from most shippers.

You also receive the advantage of using your rig without disturbing others.

This option is not suitable for playing in front of an audience. When you have a gig, you’ll want your amp to operate unless the stage offers a full sound system.

Since it only works if your amp or other equipment has a headphones output, an upgrade may be necessary to use this design.

Practice Headphones Are the Best Solution

You can connect regular headphones to an amp or another output source to get a reasonably authentic sound.

The best solution for playing electric guitar through headphones is to use a practice set.

Practice headphones are designed to emulate the sounds, echoing, and amplification of an instrument played through a real amp. Headphones like the Boss Waza-Air track your head movements using augmented reality to change your sound.

By creating a reasonable facsimile of a genuine physical space, you’ll gain more confidence with your electric guitar.

Another advantage of choosing headphones with AR tech is that you can add dozens of virtual effects to your music. These can get controlled through a companion app to produce an accurate sound.

Eventhough the Boss Waza-Air is wireless, the low-latency protocols ensure minimal lag occurs so that you can focus on your work. It comes with Bluetooth capabilities to let you play your favorite tunes in a virtual room with the rest of the band.

Another option to consider is the Sennheiser HD650. These headphones deliver a complete audiophile experience by producing a natural, open sound. The design includes specially-developed acoustic silk to offer uniform attenuation of the ear’s entire area.

The headphones are exceptionally lightweight, and their aluminum voice coils ensure the transient response is where you want it to be.

Cheaper selections that offer similar results, although not at the same quality, including the following models.

Buying Advice for Headphones for Guitar Amps

What are your headphone requirements for playing the electric guitar?

Do you want something that’s simple and transparent to deliver authentic amp tones? Are you looking for a wireless system that lets you roam while playing?

With today’s technology, you can even use a fully-integrated guitar system that removes almost all of your needs for cabs, heads, effects, and cables!

The answer to that question depends on the amp you currently have at home. If you are more of a purist, a flat EQ with a shorter cable reduces loss while you’re playing the electric guitar. You can strum tunes playing your favorite combo or head with reasonable authenticity.

Why would you spend a ton of cash on an amp, only to lose the quality and color of your instrument’s tone with a bad set of headphones?

On the other hand, what good is it to use wireless headphones with your electric guitar if you lose immediacy?

Those issues are the reasons why most guitar amps are marketed toward producers instead of being used for outdoor gigs or home setups.

If you already have an amp, get headphones with compatibility. If not, the Boss Waza-Air is a reasonable investment to consider.

■ What If I Route My Electric Guitar through My iPhone?

If you don’t have an amp at home, the other option you have is to route your cabling through a guitar interface to your iPhone, MacBook, Android, or Windows device.

Although several interfaces are available today, the best one is the iRig mobile guitar box. There isn’t a more reliable product, and it has more flexibility than most units.

  • You can use it as a dedicated interface.
  • It works as a simple headphone amp for your electric guitar.
  • Use the iRig HD 2 as a pass-through to let your virtual effects pair up with a real amp.
Use the iRig HD 2 as a pass-through to let your virtual effects pair up with a real amp.

Purists might turn up their nose at a digital solution like the iRig system, but they miss out on numerous benefits.

The best way to use the iRig mobile guitar interface is to experiment with its capabilities. You’ll find several apps available right now that can help you maximize what this investment can provide for your playing.

The table below looks at the best apps you can use today with the iRig interface, your electric guitar, and your headphones:

GarageBandFREEThis software is a full-service DAW. It records, lets you use special effects, and incorporates loops into your recordings. It is available for iOS and macOS.
BIAS AMP 2FREEChoose this option to get 36 amp sims, ranging from boutique to vintage. This app lets you adjust your mic placement, tubes, and even your tone stacks to produce unique sounds.
ToneBridge Guitar EffectsFREEThis app lets you play songs in their original sound. You’ll receive over 9,000 presets on your device, most of which are modeled after popular compositions and performers.
ToneStack$5.00This affordable app offers some of today’s best guitar pedals. You’ll also get to use your electric guitar with several amps and effects. It is powerful enough to replace some of your rig’s equipment.
Cubasis 3$34.00Select this mobile DAW if you want live performance recording and more versatility with your electric guitar. It has tons of built-in effects, and it works with many of the apps you’ll download from this chart.
JamUpFREEYou’ll receive a free multi-effects processor with this download. It comes with several thousand effects, amp sims, and presets. A premium version offers even more.

FAQ about Playing Electric Guitar through Headphones

The goal of playing an electric guitar or another instrument through headphones is to receive responsive audio without disturbing others.

This technique is useful for the times when you want to play with a recorded mix while isolating your instrument.

You may encounter several questions or issues while setting up your instrument, amp, pedals, and headphones for this purpose. Here are the answers you’ll need.

■ Can I Plug My Headphones into My Instrument Directly?

Unless your electric guitar has a place for your headphones, you cannot plug them directly into your instrument. The only exception would be to place your headphone 3.5mm jack into a 6.3mm converter to plug it in, but you’d need power to access sound even then.

As a general rule, you should only plug your headphones into an output jack clearly labeled for that equipment.

If you were to connect your headphones to your instrument directly, you could damage both beyond repair.

Most people plug their electric guitar into an amp, pedal, or DAW conversion box and use the device’s output for their headphones.

■ Will My Guitar Connect to Bluetooth Headphones?

You can connect your guitar through a DAW kit to your smartphone or computer. Once you do that, your Bluetooth headphones can pick up the signal to play it. The issue with this process involves latency. You’ll notice a disconnect between the time you play and when the sounds reach your ears.

■ What Size of Connection Do I Need for My Headphone Jack?

Most headphones use a 3.5mm jack. If your amp doesn’t have this option, you’ll need to use an adapter. Most newer models have this feature, but the older ones can be hit or miss. Something on the front that says “phones” indicates you can use your headphones there.

■ Can I Use Earbuds Instead of Headphones?

Some earbuds may be a viable alternative if you don’t have headphones to use with your electric guitar. Although you won’t have the same amount of reach, you can still hear what you’re playing when practicing.

Before playing your instrument with earbuds, please remember to turn the volume on your equipment down to its lowest level. It doesn’t take long to injure your hearing at the higher settings.

■ Will My Headphones Support My Instrument and Other Sounds?

If you plug your guitar into a computer or mobile device with DAW software, you can hear recorded music while playing your instrument. Most modeling amps let you use external audio sources, such as an MP3, to create sound playbacks. Modern multi-effects pedals do the same.

You could also use your electric guitar with an independent audio interface to play music simultaneously.

Are You Ready to Play Electric Guitar through Headphones?

Playing the electric guitar can be fun. Shredding a solo in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping won’t make you many friends when your audio routes through an amp.

If you have a high-quality set of headphones on while playing, you can practice whenever you want with minimal disturbances to others.

When you route your audio output correctly, it won’t take long to begin playing.

If you don’t see a jack clearly labeled for being used with headphones, don’t attempt to play your electric guitar with that setup.

When you plug something into a speaker output jack that isn’t what the design supports, you could damage all of your equipment.


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