If you’re a musician who lives in an apartment with roommates, then being able to play your electric guitar through headphones is essential.
Luckily, with today’s technology, there are plenty of practical ways to get in your jam sessions, without disturbing the peace
In this article, you’ll learn 5 of the best ways to listen to your guitar playing through headphones.
Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll never have to hear another noise complaint again.
1. Plug Directly into Your Normal Amplifier
This is the most obvious way to play your electric guitar through headphones. Nowadays, most guitar amplifiers have a dedicated headphone output jack. Simply plug in your headphones and you should be good to go. You’ll be ready to play just like you normally would.
One thing to mention is that the headphone outputs on guitar amps almost always require a 1/4” cable. If you want you to use a standard pair of headphones that use a 3.5mm, or 1/8”, cable, you’ll need to purchase an adapter. You can find them for less than $10 on Amazon.
If your amplifier doesn’t have a headphone output, then worry not. You still have plenty of other options to listen to your guitar through headphones.
2. Use a Guitar Headphone Amplifier
Guitar headphone amplifiers are a simple plug and play solution for anyone who wants to play their guitar through headphones. It’s essentially a mini self-contained guitar amplifier that’s small enough to fit your pocket. Simply plug it directly into your guitar, and plug in your headphones into the 3.5mm output and that’s it. No cables. No adapters. This makes it a very convenient tool for practicing without driving your roommates crazy. The sound quality is decent for what it is, but it’s obviously not meant to replace your real amplifier.
From my personal experience, I would recommend the Vox Amplug guitar headphone amps. The quality is very good, and they only cost about $40 on Amazon. They also have plenty of different amp models for different types of music, such as metal, clean, classic rock, and blues, so you can choose the one that best suits your play style.
3. Connect to Your Computer Using an Audio Interface
This method is great for people who want to play and record music quietly through their headphones. An audio interface is a piece of hardware that allows you to connect your electric guitar to your computer via USB (or Thunderbolt). Simply plug your guitar into one of the inputs, and plug the USB into your computer. You might need to download some drivers depending on your specific interface or computer.
For beginners, I typically recommend the Focusrite Scarlett Solo. It has very good build quality, and the sound quality of its preamps is top notch. It has enough ports to plug in your guitar and an additional microphone at the same time. It’s also a very affordable option selling for under $100 on Amazon.
After the interface is set up, you’ll be able to record your guitar playing right to your computer in your digital audio workstation (DAW).
You’ll be able to plug your headphones directly into the audio interface as well, so you’ll be able to hear yourself play. You’ll also be able to listen to your computer audio simultaneously, allowing you to play along to backing tracks.
For this method, you won’t be using an amplifier, but rather amp simulator software. There are hundreds of free and paid guitar VST plugins that you can download to simulate virtually any guitar amplifier and effects pedal on the planet. These plugins integrate directly with any DAW, so you’ll be able to play and record right on your computer with your headphones on.
My personal favorite VST plugin is Bias FX. I’ve used it for most of my guitar cover videos because of the amazing sound quality, ease of use, and amount of different amps and effects pedals you can choose from.
4. Connect Your Guitar to Your Smartphone or Tablet
Another convenient way to play electric guitar through headphones is to connect it to your mobile device, whether it is a smartphone or tablet. To do this, you’ll need to purchase a digital guitar interface designed for mobile devices. Then, you’ll use an application for your amp sims, similar to a VST plugin.
If you’re on an iPhone or iPad, I’d recommend using the iRig HD 2 interface. The iRig is one of the most well-known interfaces for mobile devices. It’s simple, portable, and sounds great. Once you’ve connected your guitar to an iOS device, you can download Jam Up Pro or Bias FX Mobile by Positive Grid for your guitar tones. The quality of these amp simulator apps are identical to the desktop VST plugins that I mentioned in the previous example, so these are my go to. They even integrate with Garage Band, so you can record your music right on your mobile device.
If you’re on an Android device, I’d recommend the iRig UA guitar interface. It’s essentially the same as the iRig HD 2 but designed for Android. For your guitar tones, you can use Amplitube for Android, which comes free when you buy the iRig.
5. Use a Digital Effects Possessor
Digital effects processors are an all in one solution for playing guitar through headphones. The main purpose of these units is to provide a high-quality simulation of amplifiers and effects pedals.
However, unlike VST plugins, this is a hardware unit rather than software and does not require you to use a computer (though you can connect them to a computer for easy recording). With a digital effects processor, you won’t need to worry about connecting to a computer, smartphone or any external software. You’ll have the ability to dial your amp settings and effects right on the unit with knobs and even foot pedals depending on your device.
The best part about digital effects processors is that they have plenty of different ports such as audio outputs, USB, and headphone outputs. This makes them versatile allowing you to hook up to a PA system for live performances, connect to a computer for recording in your DAW, and even just playing music through headphones.
Though effects processors are a bit on the pricey side compared to audio interfaces, there are some good entry-level affordable models. The digital effects processor that I used for 3 years before I ended up upgrading was the Line 6 Pod HD 500X. I loved using this device due to its versatility. It’s a floor unit meaning it has a pedal and buttons to switch between effects that you step on. Also, you can connect it to your computer and it will act as an audio interface.
However, my favorite part about this unit was that in addition to having a headphone output jack, it also has an audio port that allows you to plug in an external audio source to load MP3 files. This means that you can plug your phone or laptop directly into the device and jam along to backing tracks while you play guitar, and you’ll hear everything through your headphones.
And there you have it. Here are 5 of the most practical ways to connect your electric guitar to a pair of headphones. Now you’ll be able to rock out as hard as you want without anybody telling you to keep it down. If you’re interested in learning other useful guitar gear to help elevate your play to the next level, be sure to check our other articles.