Best Electric and Bass Guitar Headphones For Practice and Recording
A good pair of guitar headphones connected to the right guitar amp, can truly let a guitarist appreciate the sound of their bass guitar or electric guitar as clean as if it was running into an audio console and played on monitors, i.e. how music is recorded, mixed, and mastered. So which ones are the best guitar headphones if you want to improve your playing, as well as be able to practice at literally any time of the day? Maybe use them for home recording? Here is our updated list in 2018 based on verified user experiences:
- Audio Technica ATH - M50X best price / performance ratio for a guitar headphone 4000+ 5 star reviews (78%)
- Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones best quality sound for under $100 2200+ 5 star reviews (77%)
- Sennheiser HD 598 SR Open-Back Headphone great bass and mid emphasis 770+ 5 star reviews (69%)
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 80 Ohm Studio Headphone best closed-back headphone to wear for hours at a time 300+ 5 star reviews (73)
Hearing his or her own guitar signal through a decent pair of guitar headphones truly marks a before and after in a guitarist’s life. Suddenly, every little nuance is evidenced and clean playing can be truly set apart from that which, to put it mildly, requires some rigorous guitar practice with headphones.
And practice is exactly what can be enhanced through the use of good headphones. When playing with an amp, some guitar players tend to fall into the bad habit of muffling their sound through distortion or very loud volumes, which can lead to simply ignoring certain mistakes they could be making.
Considering their critically acclaimed high performance and shining customer reviews (currently 4900+ reviews are written on Amazon for the ATH-M50X) at its current price point, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X is almost underpriced.
When it comes to headphones for audio professionals and musicians, these are one of the most celebrated models of all times. They’ve been in such high demand over the last few years, that the guys at Audio Technica decided to redesign the whole “M-Series” in order to come up with a more comfortable and modern design, without losing their distinctive sound.
The newer version, the ATH-M50X, still offers the clarity, extended frequency range and amazing bass response that has made these headphones so popular, but also adds notable improvements when it comes to circumaural design (providing better isolation), rotary phones (great for one-ear monitoring), and overall a more robust construction.
As if that wasn’t enough, these boys fold for easy storage and they come with 3 types of cable, a 3m curly one, and two straight ones of 1.2 and 3m. This is just great if you tend to practice guitar in different spaces, and sometimes need to move around. It’s also super convenient if you’re going to make these your carry-on guitar headphones for traveling or commuting.
Bottom line, the ATH-M50X offer everything you could possibly expect from closed-back monitoring headphones at a reasonable price. They’re truly the only option on their price range that features such versatility when it comes to design. You can even purchase an optional Bluetooth adapter for them, for example.
Some notable users of these Audio Technica’s include Matthew Bellamy, James Hetfield, Steven Wilson, and Robert Delong. Talk about saving the best for last!
These widely praised guitar headphones offer great comfort and complete noise cancellation due to their closed back design. The ear cups can swivel 90 degrees for one-ear monitoring (great for you sound pros) and the cable is detachable, which is always a bonus.
The bass has just the right amount of punch and every range in between is bright and clear. The ATH-M50x has a frequency range between 15Hz and 28kHz, which is more than what you'd need even if it isn't the widest range available for headphones for guitar amp. Impedance is at 38 ohms which covers most audio devices but will definitely sound it's best when plugged into an amp, which is...pretty much the point of getting them in the first place.
At a lower price range stands the Sony MDRV6 headphones. Again with over 2500 reviews at Amazon, the Sony MDRV6 has shining reviews and can be considered a perfect buy at its current price point (see full specs and current price).
With a wide frequency response of 5 Hz - 30 kHz, the MDRV6 offers a full bodied sonic experience where your musical nuances won't be lost. It's actually a wider range than what many higher end headphones support! At an average price of $75 USD, these are a pair of truly classic headphones. These are notable for being inexpensive for flat, compact, and professional-grade.
The cable is 10ft long and non-detachable, which is perfect for guitarists who don't need to move around too much. The design allows for great noise cancellation to really immerse yourself in your music, and the impedance of 68 ohms means it's compatible with most audio devices but will really come alive when plugged into an amp.
MDR stands for Micro Dynamic Receiver, a trademark of Sony. The first MDR’s were introduced as far back as 1985, and quickly became popular with audio engineers and disc jockeys for being a cost-friendly option of truly flat headphones that could sustain a lot of abuse and travel (since they’re very durable and even foldable).
Now, the MDRV6 headphone model still stands as a go-to for many professionals in audio, including Paul Van Dyk and Gucci Mane, not to mention the numerous pro’s that use some of the variants of the MDR, such as the MDR-7506.
That being said, the V60’s were the original inception of these headphones, and the first run at the Studio Monitor headphone market that Sony ever took. All the other models wouldn’t exist without these, so you’re looking at real piece of audio history.
These are over-the-ear, closed back headphones with a wide frequency response (5Hz - 30 kHz)... meaning? - These are great for just about anything. Most engineers wouldn’t go as far as to master with these, maybe only use them as another reference point, but if you’re thinking about mixing, recording, Djing, playing guitar or bass, or just pleasure listening, these are an industry-standard by now.
The only con from our point of view is that the cable is not detachable, which, as we’ve said before, means that if your cable ever develops a false contact, you either have to go through the nuisance of getting them repaired or just getting a new pair.
True, at a $75 price point that’s not that big a deal, and these are quite durable, but we’re surprised Sony hasn’t added the detachable cable option to these bad boys even after decades of world fame. Not just because of the risk of cable malfunction, but even just to have more options.
The cable on the V60’s is 10 foot, which is not a lot, and it’s coiled! Meaning it’s not very comfortable if you’d like to be a bit far away from the audio source from time to time. In such a classic model, it’d be great to have those little upgrades here and there.
The same thing happens with the cushioning, and the overall design in general. These may have felt nice and comfy in 1985, but there are definitely far more comfortable options out there nowadays.
Anyway, just some things to take into account. After all, the reason Sony might’ve opted to not do those upgrades and keep this model virtually intact for all these years is because it still sells well and increasing the price would interfere with that.
The Sony MDRV6 may not be as pretty as the other headphones you will read about in our list, but they're certainly brilliant for the price. And *sigh*, we couldn’t agree more. It’s nice to have these headphones still around without having to visit pawn shops or ebay, so at that price point, we’ll take them.
Featuring velour covered ear cups and a light weight, Sennheiser HD598s is ideal for long practice sessions and a sense of comfort that will make the extra dollars worth it. Their impedance is 50 ohms for a full sound experience when plugged into any audio device, and come equipped with a detachable 3m cable (see full specs and current price here).
These open back headphones (which Sennheiser actually invented in the 60's) offer a more "authentic" experience where it will sound like the music is coming from all around you and not just between your ears (this is called 'open soundstage'). But this also means the noise cancellation isn't complete and will 'leak' sound. So if you prefer total immersion with headphones for guitar practice sessions and don't want anyone hearing you play, then these may not be the right set for you.
The HD 598s boast a wide frequency range between 12Hz and 38.5kHz, so you’ll be able to hear all those rich sounds coming from your guitar. Note that the Sennheiser is for those looking for a consistent, balanced, and high quality sonic performance, so the bass isn’t the type to send thumping vibrations throughout your body. If that's what your head-banging self is looking for, then any other closed back headphones on this list would be a better choice.
Okay, now we're at the price peak, but hear us out. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 is arguably the best set of headphones for a guitar amp due to it's amazing frequency response of 5 Hz to 35 kHz for unbeatably clear sound and superb bass reproduction.
A really great thing about these closed-back headphones is that they’re used for pretty much everything. Mixing, sound design, live monitoring, recording… plain old pleasure listening, you name it! One look at the list of professionals that use them should suffice in order to attest their quality and versatility (see full specs and current price here).
These Beyerdynamic include replaceable cushions and cables. The first thing you probably noticed were the silver cushions, which are extremely comfortable. That being said, these won’t be that fun to use if you’re in any place that gets too hot, as they’re not exactly made of dri-FIT.
Going further, the DT 770’s offer a solid and well-balanced sound. These are a great bet if you like bass-heavy guitars, as they feature Beyerdynamic’s “Bass Reflex” technology. The low end you hear from these things is very well defined and clear, almost as if you had a subwoofer somewhere in the room, but they achieve this effect without overdoing it. It’s bass response, and not bass enhancement, so these are good even as mixing monitors. A thing of beauty.
With snug velour earpads, impeccable noise cancellation, and up to 250 ohms in impedance for incredible amp performance, it's easy to see why these headphones have consistently made it to the top of every sound-savvy list.
The best part about this German-made set is that all the parts are replaceable, so you can keep them running for as long as possible without buying a totally new set. Half of the customer reviews are just raving about long they've had their Beyerdynamic's for! So yes, this is definitely a top choice for the best headphones to use with a guitar amp. You won't get a more realistic sound than with these bad boys, so choose wisely.
If you are set on using your headphones only to practice guitar with them occasionally, then we understand if you’re a bit reluctant to spend over $100 on them.
The K44’s are absolutely your best option if you identified with that last sentence. They’re pretty budget friendly, semi-closed back and fairly comfortable. The cable is 8’, and they also include the 3.5 / 6.5 mm stereo adapter. They’ve got all you need, really (see full specs and current price here).
As far as sound goes, they are good when it comes to clarity, but do feel a little overdone on the bass and mid frequencies. Luckily the treble isn’t too spiked, otherwise we wouldn’t recommend them, but they’re good to simply practice with. Certainly better than any other more commercial options such as Bose or Beats. Don’t buy those to practice guitar with them!
Could a pair of professional headphones reliable enough for mixing really be under $50? This is the big question with this model. While they’re not as renowned as other models, they do offer a good audio reference, which sometimes is all you really need.
At an average price of $35 USD, it’s amazing that these low cost headphones could churn out some decent mixes, but as with everything, it’s really up to the person using them.
The SR850’s do sound pretty decent considering the cost. The bass is definitely there, nice and thick without being artificially enhanced, while the highs are nice and clean.
These headphones are mainly used for reference audio, which is the old question of getting a true representation as possible from the audio source. That technology, in plain 21st century, shouldn’t be that expensive, so it makes sense that these Samson’s would give you that without having to break the bank.
They do skip some nice features like detachable cable, interchangeable cushioning, or a more appealing design. But if you can do without those, these are a great bet to start doing your own mixing, teaching yourself what to hear, or even have as another reference point.
Finally, while you won’t find any equipboard clippings with professional artists endorsing these, they are quite popular in music production and audio engineering forums. If you want a pair of headphones specifically to connect them to your guitar amplifier, you probably won’t regret these.
This is another option for those who’d like to keep their budget under $50 USD. The main differentiators with these is that (comparing them to the Samons, which are the only other option under 50 bucks), is that the cable is detachable and they actually fold flat, like literally flat. They can be bent and extended into a straight shape, which helps if you’re squeezing them into a suitcase.
Edi-who? We know, Edifier isn’t exactly a household name when it comes to professional audio, like, say, a Sennheiser, Audio Technica, or AKG. That’s because they’re a Chinese company that was just founded on 1996.
Like most good ol’ Chinese companies, they’re focus is on keeping things low cost, while just at the right amount of functionality.
In that sense, the H850 headphones are no exception. While you may find them marketed as “audiophile headphones” or even for monitoring, we would not recommend this if you’re trying to get into professional mixing or mastering.
However, if all you want to do is get a nice and clean signal from your guitar amp into a pair of ergonomic headphones, that do have a detachable cable, then these are definitely worth looking into. We wouldn’t have them here otherwise.
The same goes for pleasure listening. If all you want is something you can take with you on trips, but the sound from earbuds doesn’t cut it, these do provide nice texture and details on recorded music, with the added benefit of being foldable and very flexible.
Buyers Guide and FAQ
After going into detail with each model, let’s also address some common questions regarding buying headphones to practice or record guitar with.
How to choose the right guitar headphones
Before pulling the trigger on any particular model due to price, brand or look, there a few considerations you should make in order to ensure the wisest purchase.
What’s your practice environment like?
You may know that headphones are usually open ear, closed ear, or semi-closed back. This refers to the level of isolation that they provide, with open headphones letting you listen to the environment (good if you’re playing with a band) and closed ear pairs being much more isolated, letting you hear your guitar and only your guitar.
Hence, the question of what’s your practice environment like should help you determine what type to go for. If you’re in a noisy space, like an apartment building, and want to practice during the day with something that drowns out all that external sound, the closed ears are the obvious choice.
Open ones are good if you practice in a rather quiet space and you’d like to avoid ear fatigue, which is what happens when you use isolation headphones for extended periods of time. If you’d like a good combination of both, as in closed enough for close listening even with outside noise, the semi-closed work wonders.
What do you like in terms of sound?
This question is all about what you like to emphasize and hear when you play guitar. Are you a fan of chunky mid-frequencies? A high-end maniac? Do you really like bassy guitars? All these things should come into consideration as you try to find the headphones that match your taste.
If you’re not sure, going with a very balanced option is the wisest bet. “Balanced” refers to having no particular emphasis on any particular frequency range. This is good because it means you get to hear your guitar exactly as it sounds coming from the amp, with no tampering. That means that if you’re working on a certain sound while using these headphones, that will still sound great once you unplug them and let the sound flood into the room.
What other needs do you have?
Then there’s the question of whether you plan to give your pair of headphones more use apart from playing guitar. If you ever get into home recording, mixing stuff, or even just carrying them around with you to listen to music on your phone, you can find a pair of headphones that fulfils all those needs easily! It’s just a matter of being willing to spend a bit more, but it may well be worth it.
On a final note on how to choose headphones, a good piece of advice is to go for a pair with a detachable cable. Some people are more rough on equipment, and it’s horrible to have a perfectly good pair of headphones be ruined because of a false contact in the cable. This is less frequent with detachable cables, and whenever it happens you can spare yourself the nuisance of getting them repaired and just get a new cable, or use the spare one they came with!
How to add a headphone jack to a guitar amp
Most guitar amps come with a headphone jack. Using it is just a matter of getting the right adapter, which in these cases usually comes with the pair of headphones, giving you the option of having a 3.5 mm or 6.35 mm jack.
If the amp you happen to be using does not have a headphone out, be advised that using an external speaker out isn’t the wisest thing to do, depending on the amp you have. Doing this with transistor amps does not pose any serious threats to the amp. Tube amps, however, must have a load that is matched to the amp’s output, so using the speaker output to plug headphones without having some sort of a dummy load to absorb the output power, could cause some damage to the amp. More on that here.
Of course, if you’re somewhat of an electricity buff, this video on how to add an output jack to any guitar or bass amp might help.
As another option if you’re also considering home recording, you can just get an audio interface to recording into your computer with, and then just mic your amp or plug it direct.
Technical stuff? Frequency Range? Impedance?!
If you’ve opened some of those links and looked through the product description of any pair of headphones we’ve covered, you might have noticed certain technical terms like frequency range, impedance, or the mention of a headphone amp.
While it’s not essential that you know what they mean in order to make a good purchase and reap all the benefits of practicing with headphones, here’s a brief explanation to help you out:
Frequency range means how many frequencies each pair of headphones is capable of reproducing. Simply put, the higher the better.
Impedance, when it comes to headphones, means the power that they require to deliver certain audio levels. Headphones with low impedance (around less than 25 ohms) require little power to provide decent audio levels, so they’re best used with equipment with low amplification like a phone or a laptop. Headphones with high impedance (more than 25 ohms) require more power to deliver higher audio levels, these are meant to be used with more powerful equipment than your usual home electronics. This is where the term “headphone amp” might have come in.
Headphone amps are used for people that are going to be using several pairs of headphones, usually for monitoring or mixing purposes. Higher impedance headphones work best with this sort of equipment but don’t necessarily need it to perform. That being said, your guitar amp does count as powerful equipment, as the signal it sends to your headphones for guitar amp practice is certainly stronger. That’s why the Beyerdynamic’s, with 250 ohms, are a great bet for guitarists. The higher impedance means they can sustain more powerful amplification without risk of blowing them out.
Although you may love the sound of your own music, you probably have neighbours or roommates who aren't exactly the biggest fans of guitar solos at 3am! Fortunately, guitar amp headphones have always been the answer to keeping our noise to ourselves, and there are specialised headphones for guitarists like yourself who want good quality sound without busting the budget.
Just like everything and anything on the market, there are different versions of the same product and all at different prices when you are going after the best headphones for guitar. But when it comes to headphones for a guitar amp, is it really justifiable to spend over $200?
Naturally, the more expensive you go the better quality sound you'll get, just like any other regular set of headphones. However, you don't necessarily have to spend hundreds of dollars either. There's a certain price point where anything over that is just brand name benefits and not really sound quality benefits. Generally, the best range is between $60 - $260, where anything under that will likely be followed by a better set soon afterwards.
Now, it's worth noting that choosing headphones for amps is very different from choosing regular headphones to listen to music with. Music has already been mastered and processed, whereas your own musical creations are not, and will be powering through your guitar headphone amp loudly and inconsistently, so a sturdy set that can handle the different frequencies and minimise distortion are a must.
There are plenty more choices out there, but the five headphone models we have reviewed in this article are by far the most recommended by countless musicians like yourself, and who better to get genuine recommendations from than the those actually using them.
As for those of you still thinking "maybe I could get away with getting a cheaper set"... Nope. Bad guitar amp headphones will only result in lousy audio that will either make your guitar playing sound worse than it actually is. An even more dangerous risk is that it could make it sound better than it actually is, and that's not going to be a sweet surprise when you're finally on stage and hear the real deal.
So make the commitment to a good set of guitar headphones (any from this list will do) that will accurately channel your talent, last you a good few years, and most importantly, avoid any ruckus from the neighbors.
While the best way to play your guitar is plugging it into a good amp and making the room shake with its overwhelming sound, there may be times when you can’t just show the world the sound of your guitar, maybe due to a neighbor’s complaints, or maybe it’s just late and you don’t want to wake up everyone in the house.
For whatever reason, there has to be silence around you, while still being able to play and appreciate that electric guitar sound that makes you so happy, that’s where the trusted headphones come in, however, not any pair of headphones will give you the quality you need in order to get a decent sound from your guitar which differ from the usual set of headphones you would use just to listen to music.
First of all, one of the most important aspects of headphones for amps is that guitar audio signal is much more powerful, inconsistent, and a lot more raw than listening to music that was already mastered and produced, that is why you will need a wider frequency response and more durability to sustain this unbalanced sound otherwise the guitar frequencies may cause the sound to peak and not only damage your hearing but also distort the sound a lot more.
Also remember these are not necessarily just to use when playing guitar, any of these headphones can be used to listen to music with an iphone, android or any other device you want, the only thing is that the ones shown here are those that better suit your needs as a guitar player.
The frequency needed for a good sound is just 20 Hz to 20 kHz range which is what most headphones can deliver, but there is also the fact that not everyone likes the same sound, so there are actually plenty of options to choose from.
So with any of these models, rest assured that your guitar amp is enough to get the full potential out of them. Enjoy!