Can You Plug Headphones Into A Guitar?

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At some point in your musical journey of playing the guitar, you will deal with noise complaints because, let’s face it, playing loud undoubtedly sounds better.

However, when turning down the volume of your amp isn’t a good enough option, the desire to continue being able to practice could make you wonder, “Can you plug headphones into a guitar?”

Although you can plug headphones into a guitar, there will be no sound because guitars do not put out enough voltage to power headphones. A guitar’s signal needs to be amplified sufficiently to be audible through headphones. Headphone outputs on amps or headphone amplifiers can be used.

animated red headphones beside yellow lightbulb and blue electric guitar on white music themed background.

As a guitar player, dealing with noise restrictions can be frustrating, especially if you dream of playing in stadiums!

Finding ways to play at low volumes – like through headphones – while maintaining a tremendous sounding tone can often be challenging if unfamiliar with the available options.

Let’s discover if you can plug headphones into a guitar and how to get a great tone while doing so. 

Can You Plug Headphones Into A Guitar?

For many – if not most – people, the days of being able to play with a massive valve amp through a 4×12 speaker cabinet at glass-shattering volumes are undoubtedly over.

Whether you’re living with your parents, a roommate, or in an apartment block, the need to be able to practice with little to no volume becomes something of a necessity. 

There is arguably nothing more frustrating for a guitar player than being told to turn their volume down, especially when you feel like you’re playing sounds great!

In the case of valve amps, the tone sounded better the more the amp’s volume was pushed, which meant that turning down the volume often resulted in a somewhat lesser quality tone. 

Thankfully, modern advancements in technology have given guitar players plenty of viable options for practicing quietly while maintaining a great tone without disturbing the people you live with or your neighbors.

However, a common question amongst inexperienced guitar players is whether you can plug your headphones straight into your guitar.

While technically, you can plug your headphones into your guitar (if you have the correct adaptor), there will be no sound for you to hear.

This is because guitars do not put out a high enough voltage to power a pair of headphones. The signal from a guitar needs to be amplified to become audible, and headphones by themselves do not do that. 

However, your headphones will not go to waste. Let’s discover how to use headphones with your guitar.

How To Use Headphones With A Guitar

There are several ways to practice at very low volumes while maintaining good quality sounding tones.

Although plugging your headphones directly into your guitar isn’t a viable option, there are great ways to utilize headphones with your guitar to give you the tone you are looking for. And the best part is that no one will need to tell you to turn it down. 

Before diving into these options, it is necessary that we first talk about the headphones you are using.

Although you do not have to go out and purchase top-of-the-range headphones, it would be a great idea to ensure that the ones you have are of good quality. Ultimately, what you play your guitar through will significantly impact the overall quality of the tone. 

There are a multitude of options on the market for excellent quality headphones, which makes it difficult to go wrong. However, to steer you in the right direction, a fantastic pair to try is the Audio-Technica ATH M40x.

Alternatively, if you have more budget to spend, the next model up, the Audio-Technica ATH M50x, is undoubtedly one of the best monitoring headphones.

Any headphones along those lines will go a long way in helping you achieve the perfect tone.

So, with that in mind, let us discover a few easy ways to use your headphones with a guitar so that you never have to worry about complaints of playing too loudly again. 

Plug Headphones Into Your Guitar Amp

The first option is undoubtedly the easiest way to use headphones with your guitar. One of the benefits of the digital world is having the flexibility to play in a way that suits you.

Digital amps are highly popular for many reasons, including versatility and, in many cases, affordability. 

Most digital amps – even the entry-level options – come fitted with a port to connect your headphones. This is a fantastic way to use your existing tone without disturbing those around you.

Check your amp to see if it has a “phones” or “headphones” output. While some might have a standard aux output, most will have a ¼ inch output, which requires the same connection as your guitar cable.

If that’s the case, you will need an adaptor to use your headphones with the amp. Thankfully, these are highly affordable, so don’t worry about breaking the bank. 

Unfortunately, if you are using a valve/tube amp, you probably won’t have this option, so the following few solutions would better suit you.

Read More: Guitar Amp vs. Bass Amp: How Are They Different?

Use A Headphone Amplifier

As previously mentioned, the question of whether you can plug headphones into a guitar is common. So common that entire amp designs have been made for this very purpose. 

Suppose you do not already own an amp with a headphones output. In that case, a headphone amplifier is undoubtedly the easiest and most affordable solution to quiet practice times and noise complaints.

Headphone amps are small units that plug directly into your guitar. They boost the guitar’s signal, enabling you to hear something through your headphones.

There are headphone amps designed for rock music, giving you a higher gain tone or something crispy clean if that suits your style more.

Great options to try are the VOX AP2AC or the Fender Mustang Micro. Their portability makes practicing on the go an absolute breeze too. 

Many of these headphones amp (like the Fender) also allow for Bluetooth connection to your headphones (if they are Bluetooth equipped) as well as headphone connection right into the device – ensuring you can use your existing headphones.

Perhaps the only downside to headphone amps is that they do not provide the best quality tones. They are designed solely for silent practice rather than world-class tone alternatives.

Use An Audio Interface Into A Computer

Lastly, you can easily use headphones if you run your guitar through an audio interface on your computer. However, this could be a more costly option since you will need to purchase an audio interface and a guitar amp emulating software.

If you have the budget, though, this is a great option, especially since the audio interface allows you to record your playing. The Focusrite Scarlet Solo or the M-Audio M-Track Duo are excellent options to start with.

Both of these give guitarists the option of using headphones as the output. Again, remember that you might need an adaptor if your headphones don’t have a ¼ inch connection.

As far as guitar amp emulating software goes, options like Bias FX or Amplitube are fantastic. Both give you seemingly endless possibilities for creating your perfect amp tone and a wide range of effects. 

Conclusion

All in all, while plugging your headphones directly into your guitar won’t work, there are thankfully several cost-effective and great-sounding ways to use your headphones with your guitar.

From the “phones” output on your amp to headphone amps or audio interfaces, there’s no shortage of ways to help you practice silently. 

As always, Happy Playing,

-D

About Damien

Damien is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist from South Africa. He has performed at many events both public and corporate with top musicians in the industry. He has also been teaching guitar professionally for 8 years.