Being able to play electric guitar with headphones is useful if you live in an apartment, want to play on the go, or just have a late-night practice session.
The good news is that there are plenty of great options out there that allow you to play electric guitar silently with headphones while maintaining great tone.
Reading: Guitar amp headphone jack size
In this short guide, I’ll explain the different ways you can play guitar with headphones and how to decide which option best suits your needs.
If you want to play guitar with headphones on the go, be sure to also read my ultimate guide to travel guitars and accessories.
option 1: connect your headphones to your guitar amp
Depending on the type of guitar amp you’re using, you may be able to plug any set of headphones directly into the amp.
If your guitar amp has a headphone output option, the most you’ll have to spend to play guitar through your amp using headphones will be less than $10.
Most modern guitar amps have a headphone output jack as shown below:
Some guitar amps have the headphone jack on the front panel, some on the top, and some on the back of the amp. just plug your headphones into the headphone out jack and you’re good to go.
While many modern amps offer 3.5mm headphone jacks (standard 1/8″ headphone size), some use a 6.3mm (1/4″) output (the same jack size than the guitar cable).
if your guitar amp has a headphone output jack that looks like this:
you will need to use an adapter to connect your headphones to your guitar amp.
a simple 3.5mm to 6.3mm audio adapter like this one (link to amazon) is all you need to connect your headphones to your guitar amp.
Note: When connecting headphones to the guitar amp, be sure to turn down the master volume before you start playing. then slowly turn up the volume level to keep your ears from exploding.
Advantages of connecting headphones to your guitar amp:
- cheap to buy an adapter if your amp requires it
- quick and easy to set up
- use your own gear quietly
Disadvantages of connecting headphones to your guitar amp:
- only works if your amp has a headphone output
- not travel friendly
option 2: connect your guitar to a smartphone (or tablet or computer)
This is a great option for guitarists who want to play on the go or want an easy way to play electric guitar silently.
The idea with this option is to connect your guitar to an audio interface like the irig hd 2, which then connects to a smartphone/tablet/pc/mac. then you can connect whatever headphones you want to your device and play the guitar.
There are a few different options on how to connect your electric guitar to your smartphone and the best I’ve tried is the irig hd 2 from ik multimedia.
Read my full irig hd 2 review here to find out how it works.
One of the reasons I recommend the irig hd 2 is because it comes with the full version of the popular amplitube 4 guitar amp/effects modeling software.
With amplitube 4 on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, you can set up different rigs using a combination of different amps and effects. it’s a great way to learn different effects and practice playing guitar with different tones without a lot of hardware.
If you already have guitar pedals that you use at home, you can continue practicing with those pedals by connecting your guitar to your pedals and then connecting the pedals to the irig. so this is a good option if your guitar amp doesn’t have a headphone output.
See also: Over-ear Headphones vs IEMs – Find the Better Choice – SoundsightR
This option allows you to play the guitar using headphones for less than $100.
The great advantage of this method is that you can use it anywhere. simply store the irig and headphones in your guitar case and you can practice silently wherever you go.
This method is also a great way to start recording guitar. Through AmpliTube 4, you can record anything you play right on your smartphone.
irig hd 2 can also be used as an audio interface to connect to your pc/mac for convenient recording. this means you can use irig to connect your guitar to powerful daws and software like line 6’s bias fx or helix native.
Discover how to start recording guitar at home in my detailed guide.
There are many different audio interfaces you can use to connect to a computer, so read the guide above to make sure you find one that suits your needs.
advantages of connecting your guitar to a smartphone:
- you can practice guitar silently wherever you go
- interfaces like the irig hd 2 are cheap
- a good way to start recording guitar
- excellent quality tones are possible with software like amplitube or bias fx
- no amp required
disadvantages of connecting your guitar to a smartphone:
- android users have fewer options (irigua works)
- you can’t practice with your existing amp
my irig hd 2 has been incredibly useful over the years, so I highly recommend one, whether you use it just for silent practice or for recording as well.
read this guide if you want to connect your guitar to a computer and use it as a guitar amp. this is a great option if you don’t have a guitar amp or want to record your guitar playing.
option 3: connect your guitar to a multi-effects pedal
Most modern multi-effects units are likely to have a headphone output. If you already use a multi-effects pedal, you probably already have everything you need to play your electric guitar through headphones.
big multi-effects pedals like the line 6 helix will definitely have a headphone output:
As you can see it uses a 6.3mm (1/4″) output so you would need an adapter as mentioned above depending on your headphones. If your multi-effects pedal offers any kind of amp modeling, it probably has a headphone output.
Even if you don’t have something labeled “headphones,” look for an option to connect the pedal to a mixer. this is often tagged as line output.
advantages of connecting your guitar to a multi-effects pedal:
- access a wide range of tones and settings
- more portable than a guitar amp
- able to connect to a pc/mac for recording
Disadvantages of connecting your guitar to a multi-effects pedal:
- not as portable as other options covered in this guide
- not all multi-effects pedals have headphone outputs
- expensive option if you don’t already have a multi-pedal of effects
If you already have a multi-effects pedal, you may be able to use one output for silent practice or playing. Chances are your pedal has an output suitable for use with headphones.
But if you don’t have a multi-effects pedal, buying one just to play guitar with headphones is overkill. one of the other options will probably suit you better.
option 4: connect your guitar to a guitar mic
Tiny battery-powered guitar amps are becoming incredibly popular with guitarists who travel or like to practice quietly.
The great advantage of these tiny guitar amps is that you can take them anywhere and play them with or without headphones (depending on the model).
I’ve written a detailed review of the most popular battery powered guitar amps, so take a look to find the amp that’s right for you.
Most of the mini amps in the guide above can easily be connected to headphones for silent practice.
If you’re not interested in the built-in speaker and just want to play with headphones, there are a few more options you can consider that may be more suitable for you.
the vox amplug 2 range is popular for giving you decent guitar amp tone in a small package.
See also: 5 Types of Headphone Jacks – Explaining Headphone Jacks & Plugs
Simply plug the amplug directly into your guitar and then plug your headphones into the amplug. simple.
read my review of the vox amplug here for full details on how it works and if it suits you.
Different models are available to suit different types of play styles. the most popular is the ac-30 model (shown above), but there are also models for blues, classic rock, clean, lead, bass, and metal.
Advantages of connecting your guitar to a guitar mic:
- extremely portable
- able to play with or without headphones anywhere
- no cables or adapters needed for vox amplug
- not need adapters
- aux input can be used to jam along with music
Disadvantages of connecting your guitar to a guitar mic:
- sound quality is not as good as other options
- limited control over guitar tones or effects
best headphones for electric guitar
The good news with the above methods is that they will work with any wired headset. so if you already have some headphones at home, you can use one of the methods above to play your guitar with them.
if you don’t have headphones, here are some of the best electric guitar headphones (links to amazon):
- audio-technica ath-m50x (best choice)
- sony mdr-7506
- akg k240
- sennheiser hd 598sr
The above headphones are highly praised for their quality. there are plenty of other great models to choose from, but the headphones above are a good place to start looking.
boss waza-air wireless guitar headphone amplifier
There is one more interesting option you can consider that doesn’t involve the use of guitar amps or any other hardware.
Think of the boss waza-air like a guitar amp built into a pair of headphones. it’s a wireless system, so you plug the wireless transmitter into your guitar and it automatically connects to your headphones.
What sets it apart from other options covered in this guide is that the headphones use spatial technology to make it sound like you’re playing in a room with a real guitar amp.
In other words, when you turn your head, the sound changes to emulate what you’d hear if you were in a room with a guitar amp.
The companion app (android or ios) lets you dial in your tones from 5 different guitar amp models and over 50 effects. you can also change the setting for the virtual guitar amp’s location in the room or switch to other settings, such as a stage location or surround mode.
This is an expensive option compared to most of the alternatives above, but if you’re looking for an easy way to practice guitar quietly, this is one of the best options.
frequently asked questions about electric guitar headphones
can i connect an electric guitar to bluetooth headphones?
At the moment, there are no good options for connecting an electric guitar to bluetooth headphones. Although it is possible to connect bluetooth headphones to your electric guitar (for example, via a smartphone and irig as explained above), the results are not good.
the problem with bluetooth is latency. latency is the delay between when a signal is sent (eg when you pluck the strings) and when the signal is received (when you hear the note coming out of your headphones).
while listening to music through bluetooth headphones is perfectly fine, trying to play guitar with bluetooth headphones is a nightmare.
I’m sure there will be options at some point that make playing electric guitar with bluetooth headphones perfectly comfortable, but at the moment I don’t recommend either option.
can i connect headphones to an amp?
If your guitar amp has a headphone jack, you can plug in headphones and it will work just fine. some guitar amps have an aux output that will also work with headphones.
Not all guitar amps have a suitable headphone output, so don’t plug in headphones unless you’ve read the tips discussed earlier in this guide.
can i connect my headphones to my electric guitar?
not. you can’t plug headphones directly into an electric guitar. even if you buy an adapter to put your headphones on the guitar jack, it won’t work.
If you plug your headphones into your electric guitar, you won’t hear a thing. the guitar needs something to amplify the signal before it reaches your headphones.
This is why you need to connect your electric guitar to an audio interface or amplifier before connecting it to your headphones.
do guitar amps have headphone jacks?
Some guitar amps have jacks for connecting headphones. these are usually clearly labeled as headphone jacks to avoid confusion with the amplifier’s speaker outputs.
some guitar amps have 3.5mm headphone jacks, while others use larger 6.3mm jacks which may require an adapter to connect to headphones, as explained earlier in this guide.
be careful to plug headphones only into clearly labeled headphone jacks. plugging a headphone into a speaker output jack can damage your amp and headphones.
See also: How to Remove a Broken Headphone Jack – Headphonesty