Being able to play electric guitar with headphones is handy whether you live in an apartment, want to play while you travel, or simply get a late-night practice session in.
The good news is that there are plenty of great options that allow you to play electric guitar silently with headphones while keeping a great tone.
In this short guide, I will explain the different ways you can play guitar through headphones and how to decide which option suits you the best.
If you want to play guitar with headphones while traveling, make sure you also read through my Ultimate Guide to Travel Guitars and Accessories.
Option 1: Connect Your Headphones to Your Guitar Amp
Depending on what type of guitar amp you use, you may be able to connect any set of headphones directly into the amp.
If your guitar amp has a headphones out option, the most you might need to spend to play guitar through your amp using headphones will be less than $10.
Most modern guitar amps have a headphone out jack as shown below:
Some guitar amps have the headphones jack on the front panel, others on the top, and some on the back of the amp. Simply plug your headphones into the headphones out jack and you’re good to go.
While many modern amps provide 3.5mm headphone jacks (1/8″ standard headphone size), some use a 6.3mm (1/4″) output (the same size jack as your guitar cable).
If your guitar amp has a headphone out 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 your guitar amp, make sure you turn the master volume down before you start playing. Then slowly bring the volume level up to avoid blasting your ears.
Advantages of connecting headphones to your guitar amp:
- Cheap to buy an adapter if your amp requires one
- Quick and easy to set up
- Use your own rig in silence
Disadvantages of connecting headphones to your guitar amp:
- Only works if your amp has a headphones output
- Not suitable for travel
Option 2: Connect Your Guitar to a Smartphone (or Tablet or Computer)
This is a great option for guitarists who want to play while traveling or want a simple way to play electric guitar in silence.
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. You can then connect any headphones you want to your device and play 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 by IK Multimedia.
Read my full review of the iRig HD 2 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 guitar amp/effects modeling software AmpliTube 4.
With AmpliTube 4 on your smartphone/tablet/PC, 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 guitar with different tones without a lot of physical gear.
If you already have guitar pedals you use at home, you can continue to practice with those pedals by connecting your guitar to your pedals, then connecting the pedals to the iRig. So this is a good option if your guitar amp doesn’t have a headphones output.
This option allows you to play guitar using headphones for less than $100.
The big advantage of this method is you can use it anywhere. Simply pack the iRig and your headphones into your guitar case and you can practice in silence wherever you go.
This method is also a great way to get started with recording guitar. Through AmpliTube 4, you can record anything you play directly on your smartphone.
The iRig HD 2 can also be used as an audio interface to connect to your PC/Mac for proper recordings. This means you can use the iRig to connect your guitar to powerful DAWs and software such as BIAS FX or Line 6’s Helix Native.
Find out how to get started recording guitar at home in my detailed guide.
There are plenty of different audio interfaces you can use to connect to a computer, so read through the above guide to make sure you find one that suits your needs.
Advantages of connecting your guitar to a smartphone:
- Can practice guitar in silence wherever you go
- Interfaces like the iRig HD 2 are cheap
- A good way to get into 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 (iRig UA works)
- You can’t practice with your existing amp
My iRig HD 2 has been incredibly handy over the years, so I highly recommend one whether you use it only for practicing in silence or also for recordings.
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 headphones output. If you already use a multi-effects pedal, you probably already have everything you need to play your electric guitar through headphones.
Large multi-effects pedals like the Line 6 Helix will definitely have a headphones output:
As you can see, this uses a 6.3mm (1/4″) output, so you would need an adapter as mentioned earlier depending on your headphones. If your multi-effects pedal offers some type of amp modeling, it will likely have a headphones output.
Even if it doesn’t have something labeled ‘Headphones’, look for an option to connect the pedal to a mixer. This is often labeled as line out.
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-effects pedal
If you already have a multi-effects pedal, then you might be able to use an output to practice or play in silence. The chances are your pedal will have an appropriate output to 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 likely suit you better.
Option 4: Connect Your Guitar to a Micro Guitar Amp
Tiny battery-powered guitar amps are becoming incredibly popular for guitarists who travel or like to practice in silence.
The big 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 check it out to find an amp that suits you.
Most of the mini amps in the above guide can easily connect to headphones for silent practice.
If you’re not interested in the built-in speaker and only want to play with headphones, then there are a few more options to consider that may suit you better.
The VOX AmPlug 2 range is popular for giving you a decent guitar amp tone in a tiny package.
Simply plug the AmPlug directly into your guitar, then connect your headphones into the AmPlug. Simple.
Read my review of the VOX AmPlug here for full details on how it works and whether it will suit you.
Different models are available to suit different types of playing 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 micro guitar amp:
- Extremely portable
- Able to play with or without headphones anywhere
- No cables or adapters needed for VOX AmPlug
- No need for adapters
- Aux input can be used to jam along with music
Disadvantages of connecting your guitar to a micro guitar amp:
- Sound quality isn’t 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 headphones. So if you already have a set of headphones at home, you can use one of the above methods to play your guitar with them.
If you don’t have any headphones, here are some of the best headphones for electric guitar (links to Amazon):
The above headphones are highly praised for their quality. There are plenty of other great models to choose, but the above headphones are a good place to start looking.
BOSS WAZA-AIR Wireless Guitar Headphone Amp
There’s one more interesting option you may want to consider that doesn’t involve using guitar amps or any other hardware.
Think of the BOSS WAZA-AIR as a guitar amp built into a set of headphones. It’s a wireless system, so you plug the wireless transmitter into your guitar and it automatically connects to the headphones.
What makes this different than 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, as you turn your head, the sound changes to emulate what you would hear if you were in a room with a guitar amp.
The companion app (Android or iOS) allows you to dial in your tones from 5 different guitar amp models and 50+ effects. You can also change settings for where the virtual guitar amp is positioned in the room or change to other setups such as a stage location or a surround sound mode.
This is an expensive option compared to most of the above alternatives, but if you’re looking for an easy way to practice guitar in silence, this is one of the best options.
Electric Guitar Headphones FAQ
Can I connect an electric guitar to Bluetooth headphones?
A the moment, there are no good options for connecting an electric guitar to Bluetooth headphones. While it is possible to connect Bluetooth headphones to your electric guitar (eg: via smartphone and iRig as explained above), the results aren’t good.
The problem with Bluetooth is latency. Latency is the delay between when a signal is sent (eg: when you pick your strings) and when the signal is received (when you hear the note coming out of the 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 makes it perfectly comfortable to play electric guitar with Bluetooth headphones, but at the moment I don’t recommend any of the options.
Can I plug headphones into an amp?
If your guitar amp has a headphones jack, you can plug headphones into it and it will work fine. Some guitar amps have an Aux output which will also work with headphones.
Not all guitar amps have output suitable for headphones, so don’t plug your headphones in unless you have read the advice covered earlier in this guide.
Can I plug my headphones into my electric guitar?
No. You cannot plug headphones directly into an electric guitar. Even if you buy an adapter to fit your headphones into the guitar’s jack, it won’t work.
If you plug your headphones into your electric guitar, you won’t hear anything. 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 amp before connecting to your headphones.
Do guitar amps have headphone jacks?
Some guitar amps have jacks to connect to your headphones. These are usually clearly labeled as headphone jacks to avoid any confusion with the amp’s speaker outputs.
Some guitar amps have 3.5mm headphone jacks, while others use the larger 6.3mm jacks which may require an adapter to connect to your headphones as explained earlier in this guide.
Be careful that you only plug headphones into jacks clearly labeled for headphones. Plugging a headphone into a speaker output jack can damage your amp and headphones.