Can You Plug Headphones into an Electric Guitar or Bass?

You can definitely plug a set of headphones into your electric guitar or bass, but not much will happen. Luckily, there are plenty of other compact and less-compact solutions if you want to hone your playing technique while wrapped in the privacy of a set of headphones. Read on to find out how it’s done!

First of All: Electric or Acoustic?

Before we get into it, it’s worth mentioning that all of the tips included in this blog are for electric guitars. If you have an acoustic guitar, then you’ve probably noticed that the big hollow body kind of amplifies itself, so you don’t really need an amplifier or headphones. Unless of course, you have a really specialised acoustic guitar like the Yamaha Silent Guitar, which doesn’t even have a hollow body and comes pre-fitted with a headphone output – so you can easily plug your headphones into one of those.

If you have a standard acoustic guitar and you really want to plug your headphones in, then you might want to think about getting an electro-acoustic guitar, which comes fitted with some kind of pickup and a jack output so it can be plugged into an acoustic amplifier or other gear. Otherwise, you could get a soundhole or contact pickup for your acoustic guitar, which kind of converts a standard acoustic guitar into an electro-acoustic guitar so it can be plugged into an amp.

» Yamaha Silent Guitars
» Soundhole & Contact Pickups
» Electro-Acoustic Guitars
» Electric Guitars

Can You Plug Headphones into an Electric Guitar or Bass?

So, Can You Actually Plug Headphones into a Guitar?

The short answer is: no. Plugging a normal set of headphones into a guitar or bass just doesn’t make any sense. Feel free to try it, but you probably won’t hear anything because the audio signal is too weak for your headphones to get any volume. Some rare electric guitar models have a headphone output with some kind of built-in amplifier, but like I said, these are rare. So, what you’re likely to need is something that’s able to amplify the sound of your guitar and then send that sound to your headphones. Below, you’ll find plenty of options for solving this very problem!

Oh, yeah! And before we go any further, the exception to the ‘no headphones’ rule is a set of headphones with a built-in guitar or bass amplifier:

» Headphones with a Built-in Guitar Amplifier

Can You Plug Headphones into an Electric Guitar or Bass?

Guitar Amplifiers

Since almost all guitar amplifiers (designed for practising at home) will have a headphone output, they can be the easiest solution to go for. This way, you have something you can play your guitar through with or without your headphones. You can also get really compact little amplifiers, some of which come with an integrated rechargeable battery, so they’re really flexible and easy to carry around. There are also plenty of practice amplifiers that come with built-in effects so you can hammer out a raw shred-worthy guitar sound without having to buy any extra effect pedals.

» All Combo Guitar Amplifiers
» Compact Combo Guitar Amplifiers

Tips & Warnings:

  • Is the headphone socket too big? Then you can use this kind of adapter.
  • Is the headphone socket too small? Then you can use this kind of adapter.
  • Got a guitar amplifier that doesn’t have a headphone socket? If it has an AUX or Line output socket, then you can use that instead.
  • Note: ONLY ever use an output labelled ‘headphones’ (or ‘phones’), ‘AUX’ or ‘Line’. Otherwise, there’s a chance that you’re plugging your headphones into a socket that’s designed for a big external speaker cabinet. Basically, the volume that comes out of it will be too much for your headphones to handle and you’ll end up with broken headphones.

Can You Plug Headphones into an Electric Guitar or Bass?

Headphone Practice Amplifiers

Maybe you don’t have the budget to go for a guitar amplifier, or you just don’t want one. In that case, a little headphone practice amplifier can be a really great solution. You can plug your headphones directly into one of these little amps and then, it can often be plugged directly into your guitar or bass. They usually run on batteries as well, or can be charged via USB, and most models also come with some built-in effects like overdrive (that classic distorted guitar sound) or reverb – or both.

» Headphone Practice Amplifiers

Multi-Effect Pedals

A multi-effect pedal is like an all-in-one unit that’s able to mimic the sound of an array of different guitar amplifiers and effect pedals. Simply plug your guitar in using a jack lead, plug your headphones into the headphone socket, and play! Even if you want to play without your headphones, these pedals can be plugged into any normal guitar amplifier, the mixer of a sound system or an active PA speaker.

» Multi-Effect Units
» Guitar Cables
» Active PA Speakers

Audio Interface

These days, you can even plug your guitar into a computer, tablet or smartphone. All you’ll need is an audio interface (also known as a sound card) with a guitar input. Depending on the kind of audio interface you get, you’ll be able to plug your guitar and your headphones into the interface, or plug your guitar into the interface and your headphones into your computer.

» Audio interfaces with a Guitar Input
» How to Connect a Guitar to a Computer

Can You Plug Headphones into an Electric Guitar or Bass?

What Are the Best Headphones for Guitar?

There are no headphones that have been specially designed for guitars, apart from headphones that feature a built-in guitar amplifier. Have a look at our Headphone Buyer’s guide (link below) if you need some help finding the right set of headphones.

A couple of tips: In-ear headphones or earbuds are neat and compact and easily stuffed in a pocket. If you want a normal set of headphones, then it’s a good idea to go for an over-ear model since they shut out all of the noise of the outside world so you can focus on your playing. We also need to add a little disclaimer here, and we mean it: try to keep the volume at a reasonable level. While there’s nothing like playing the guitar at blistering volumes, it’s so easy to damage your hearing. You might not notice it at first, but if you listen to any loud music for long enough, you’ll start to hear a constant background ringing and your hearing will slowly deteriorate. An unbelievable amount of musicians suffer from this, so don’t go thinking you’re immune.

» Headphones with Built-in Guitar Amplifiers
» All Headphones
» All In-Ears
» Closed Over-Ear Headphones
» Headphone Buyer’s Guide

Can You Plug Headphones into an Electric Guitar or Bass?

Can You Use Wireless Headphones?

Using a set of wireless Bluetooth headphones and a Bluetooth transmitter isn’t really recommended. When Bluetooth transmits audio, there’s a slight signal delay, so you’ll hit a chord and hear it through your headphones a fraction of a second later – not a nice experience when you’re playing the guitar. So, if you want a wireless setup, then you’ll need a system that doesn’t use Bluetooth but some other form of wireless transmission, like the Boss Waza Air system, which is basically a guitar amplifier built into a set of headphones that comes with a little transmitter that you can just plug into your guitar.

» Why the BOSS Waza-Air is a Must-Have for Guitarists

Can You Plug Headphones into an Electric Guitar or Bass?

Need more inspiration? See our blog: 7 Ways to Make Your Guitar Rig More Portable

See also…

» Headphones
» All Guitars & Accessories

» This is Why the Boss Waza-Air is a Must-Have for Guitarists
» 7 Ways to Make Your Guitar Rig More Portable
» Loop Stations: What Are They & What Can They Do?
» The Electric Guitar: History, Sound and Playing Techniques
» Which Acoustic Guitar Do You Need in Your Life? Steel-String or Classical?
» Guitar Effects: Chorus, Flanger or Phaser?
» Guitar Effects: Distortion, Fuzz or Overdrive?

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