How to Play Electric Guitar Through Headphones?

How to Play Electric Guitar Through Headphones

Practicing the electric guitar can be quite loud, especially when it needs all these effects pedals and an amplifier to bring out its real sound.

As you may have already known, amplifiers can be extremely loud despite being on the lowest volume, which gives just the perfect opportunity for your parents, siblings, or even neighbors to tell you to “SHUT UP!”

However, with modern technology, it is very possible (and quite easy to do with the right tools) to listen to your own electric guitar without disturbing others, which is through headphones.

This article will help passionate rockstars like you to confine the sound of your guitar to your own ears, increasing quality, focus, and lessening noise pollution in your living area!


Using Your Own Amplifier


For as long as you’ve used your regular guitar amplifier, it’s most likely sure that you have already seen all the different ports on it, may they be DC/AC or even just input and output ports.

To hear your electric guitar through your earphones using your amplifier, you’ll be making use of the output port, which is actually a bit more intricate than you’d expect and want it to be, as audio ports, like any other port, are very specific to a type of plug, or audio jack in this case. 

First and foremost, you would have to be aware that not all amplifiers have an audio out port, often labeled as “Out” or “Line-Out”, which would mean that without these, you can’t use your amplifier to connect your guitar to your headphones.

Once you have verified that your amplifier has an audio out jack or port, you would then need to identify what kind of connector it needs, which is most likely an audio plug, which I find necessary to mention since a lot of headphones these days are made with a USB Type-A connector.

Headphone audio plugs are most commonly manufactured with 2.5mm or 3.5mm plugs, while quite a lot of amplifiers utilize 6.3mm or 4.4 mm, but if you’re lucky enough, then the audio plug on your headphones would match exactly the audio jack on your amp.

If it doesn’t – which isn’t an uncommon case – then you’d have to look for an adapter that will allow you to use the audio out on your amp with the plug on your headphones, acting as a sweet mediator between the two.

Oh, and pro tip: lower the volume of your amp before playing the guitar to prevent damaging your precious eardrums, and remember to always play at safe sound levels to maintain your hearing health!

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Using a Dedicated Guitar Headphone Amplifier


Dedicated guitar headphone amps come in different names and sizes, like mini amps, micro amps, and sometimes even practice amps.

What’s great about dedicated guitar headphone amps though is their size, as they are completely portable and allow you to easily connect your electric guitar or bass to your wired headphones, unlike those old and bulky amplifiers that can be hard to carry around and may require audio plug adapters to connect to your headphones.

These dedicated guitar headphone amps are perfect for those living in small spaces, like apartments, dorms, or simply those staying in hotels yet still want to practice and rock out with their beloved guitar.

Unlike regular amps, too, dedicated guitar headphone amplifiers don’t need multiple wires for power, audio input, and audio output, as some of these can actually plug right into your electric or bass guitar and have easily recognizable audio jacks that are meant for the plug on your headphones.

These amps are also small enough to fit just right in your pocket, which might also be quite the concern if you have the tendency to lose things easily, so just remember to keep such a nifty device in a proper or dedicated container every time after you use it to prevent misplacing it and eventually having to replace it.

Additionally, it would be nice if the headphones you had already came with a volume controller, to prevent damaging your ears with  explosive sounds that can come even from just a single strum of your instrument.

VOX AP2AC amPlug 2 AC30 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier
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Using Audio Interfaces on Your Laptop/Desktop Computer


If you’ve got a laptop or desktop computer, and don’t want to play your guitar without disturbing other people living with you nor spend a large sum of money on an amplifier, then you should definitely invest in an audio interface that allows you to do quite a lot.

Audio interfaces are basically pieces of hardware that will allow you to hear your guitar through your headphones, record your music, and even adjust the sound of your guitar digitally, which is perfect for those who want to record their own music and upload it without changing sound quality. 

All you have to do is purchase the hardware, connect it to your computer through the USB port, connect your guitar through the audio jack, and finally connect your headphones to the dedicated audio output jack on the interface to be able to hear your guitar.

However, most – if not all – of these interfaces actually require you to install (usually) free software or “drivers” which essentially allow you to use the interface so it can be activated and you can listen to your electric or bass guitar.

Additionally, most of the software or drivers that the interface uses will also contain features that will allow you to record and edit the sound coming from your guitar, allowing you to easily upload pieces on YouTube or SoundCloud without having to ruin the sound quality by recording it with a microphone close to your amp.

One other nifty thing about audio interfaces is that they can be portable if you’re just using a laptop, allowing you to record anywhere at your own convenience, but I’m sure you know by now that this is impossible to do with a desktop computer.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface

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Using Your Smartphone or Tablet

You best believe that audio interfaces are not made for laptops and desktop computers only, as there are developers that have made such devices so you can use something as small and convenient as your smartphone, tablet, or iPad to listen to your guitar through your headphones and record it at the same time.

What’s better about audio interfaces for mobile devices is that they are more portable than audio interfaces for your laptops, as they mostly come in sizes similar – if not smaller than – to your average 2024 smartphone.

It’s quite easy to use these too, as all you’d need to do is connect them to the charging port on or through the audio jack on your phone via the dedicated cable, and connect your guitar and headphones on the interface itself so you can play the guitar and hear it through your headphones.

Just as you need drivers on your computers to use the audio interfaces, you’ll also need to install apps that are compatible and work with the audio interface so you can record, edit, and hear yourself play through your headphones.

You do have to note that some audio faces are built for different and highly specific operating software, where some audio interfaces can only function when attached to an android device, and other models only function when using an iOS or Apple software.

So before you hit the “buy now” button on the mobile device audio interface you’ve been eyeing, take extra care to check if the device is compatible with your own Android or iOS smartphone.


Using Multi-Effects Pedalboard


A lot of seasoned guitarists and bassists know that the full potential of their beloved electric or bass guitar is not truly achieved without a proper pedalboard, and because some of them can be too tired to build their own pedalboard, they often opt for a multi-effects pedalboard. 

If you already have one, then that’s just wonderful, as all you’d need to do now is look for the audio output jack and connect your headphones to it, and it’s that easy to listen to your guitar through your headphones.

However, if you find that the audio output jack on your multi-effects pedalboard is not compatible with the plug on your headphones, then you will need to buy an adapter similar to that mentioned in number 1, which uses regular amplifiers to be able to listen to your guitar through your headphones.

If you don’t own a multi-effects pedalboard yet, we suggest doing some research on it now to find out which one would fit your playstyle best while staying within your budget, as aside from allowing you to listen to your guitar through your headphones, multi-effects pedalboards can allow you to adjust the tone and sound effects of your guitar on the spot.

Smaller multi-effects pedalboards are also easier to bring around than amplifiers, as most of them really are just a board loaded with different kinds of screens and buttons to help you adjust, record, and plug in your headphones to your guitar.

BOSS GT-1000 Guitar Effects Processor with AIRD Technology

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Using an Amp Modeler Pedal


If you’re one of those guitarists who are very meticulous about the details and what kinds of effects pedals go on their rig, then you might as well invest in an amp modeler pedal if you haven’t yet, as these add a nice amp-like tone to when you play and most are designed to work with headphones.

This is also a great opportunity for beginner guitarists to get into the effects pedals hype, as buying this one alone will help you recognize what effects pedals can do for your playstyle while allowing you to play your electric or bass guitar without bothering others living with you.

Simply activate the amp modeler pedal by switching it on or plugging it into a power source, connect your guitar and headphones, and play it however you like for as long you want!

This single pedal is also typically small, which means that you can easily bring it with you while you travel to different places, allowing you to essentially practice playing your guitar without letting other people hear you, no matter how good or bad you think you sound.

If you think you’ll often be going to places without a power source, then it might be wise to invest in battery-based amp modeler pedals to make sure that you can still practice with your electric guitar without having to plug your amp modeler effect pedal into a power source. 

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Using Wireless Headphones


The last (but definitely not the least) method that allows you to listen to your guitar through your headphones is certainly one of the best, especially for the audiophiles who keep up with the latest tech.

Wireless practice headphones have been developed and are very useful for those looking for a techy solution to their problem, and what these are are not just simple Bluetooth headphones that you can easily connect using an auxiliary cord. 

Wireless practice headphones connect directly to your guitar, and you can instantly hear the music coming from it once you’ve successfully connected the transmitter to the headphones themselves. 

One issue that a lot of people have with wireless practice headphones is latency, or the speed at which you can hear the sound on your headphones from when you strum your guitar, which isn’t really a problem if you go with the high-end headphones from good brands that promise fast pick-up speeds. 

Audio-Technica ATHM50XBT Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

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With the advancements of technology today, there are definitely more solutions or methods you can use to listen to your guitar through headphones, but we’ve weeded out the best methods for you to keep it plain and simple.

Quite a lot of products have been created before and during the problem, as brands saw the need of itchy-fingered guitarists for methods to rock out in their own rooms without creating noise pollution in their own homes and neighborhood.

Not one method is unanimously preferred by all guitarists, as it all depends on what you prefer and the resources you have available, so don’t be scared to explore all the possibilities while taking into consideration your budget.  Good luck and enjoy!


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