Best Guitar Headphones For Practice and Recording
Let’s start with a quick comparison table highlighting our favorite guitar headphones in 2019. Stay tuned after this for in-depth reviews of our top choices and what they can offer you.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M50x > clarity throughout an extended frequency range, with deep, accurate bass response
- Sony MDRV6 > wide frequency response of 5 Hz – 30 kHz, 10-foot oxygen free copper cord
- Sennheiser HD 600 > excellent transient response, oxygen free copper cable with very low handling noise
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 250 Ohm > ideal for professional mixing, mastering and editing
- Audio-Technica ATH-M70x > M-Series flagship model with detachable cables
- Phil Jones Bass Guitar Headphones H-850 >> frequency response: 20Hz ~ 20KHz, impedance: 32 Ohm Maximum
Hearing his or her own guitar signal through a decent pair of 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 practice.
And practice is exactly what can be enhanced through the use of good headphones. When playing with an amp, some 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.
A good headphone guitar amp, can truly let a guitarist appreciate the sound of their 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 headphones would be the best investment 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?
- 1 "7" Top Guitar Headphones in 2019
- 2 How to choose the right guitar headphones
- 3 Final Thoughts
"7" Top Guitar Headphones in 2019
When it comes to headphones for audio professionals and musicians, these are one of the most celebrated models of all time. 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 as bass guitar headphones, 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 in different spaces, and sometimes need to move around. It’s also super convenient if you’re going to make these your carry-on headphones for guitar amp while traveling or commuting.
Bottom line, the Ath M50x Professional Studio Headphone offer everything you could possibly expect from closed-back professional 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 Ath M50x Professional Studio Headphones include Matthew Bellamy, James Hetfield, Steven Wilson, and Robert Delong.
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 reference headphones, 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.
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.
The thing we love the most about this ‘phones, apart from that fancy look, is the fact that they’re capable of sustaining good volumes of guitar without becoming distorted or sounding saturated. They always sound nice and clean, even with fuzz or meaty guitars. They also hold their ground in every frequency range, so you can expect to get the full sound of your headphones for guitar amp when using these.
As far as features go, Sennheiser HD 598 do have everything you would expect from headphones at this price level. They’re quite lightweight, the pads are made of velour and they include a detachable 3m cable as well as a 3.5mm adapter plug.
The HD 598’s also feature Sennheiser’s “E.A.R” technology, which stands for “Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement”. This means that they have a special design that channels audio directly into your ear. This along with the fact that they’re open backs means that the listening experience mimics what you would get if the sound was in the room with you. It’s more natural, so the 598’s are a great option if you’re very used to practicing with your amp next to you.
Finally, the leatherette headband of Sennheiser HD 598 is cushioned, and the velour cushions are almost like pillows wrapped around your ears. These are very comfortable to wear for hours and hours.
A really great thing about these closed-back headphones is that they’re used for pretty much everything and different types of playing – acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass guitars and more. 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 sound quality and versatility.
These Beyerdynamic headphones 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 Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro’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.
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 provides good comfort. The cable is 8’, and they also include the 3.5 / 6.5 mm stereo adapter. They’ve got all you need, really.
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 these headphones for guitar amp to practice with them!
Samson SR850: 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.
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 SR050’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 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.
How to choose the right guitar headphones
Having gone into detail with each model, let’s address some common questions regarding buying headphones to practice or record guitar with. 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.
1. How to play guitar through headphones
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.
2. 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.
3. 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!
4. How To Add A Headphone Jack To A Guitar Amp for Headphones?
Most headphone guitar amps come with a jack. Using it is just a matter of getting the right adapter, which in these cases usually comes with the 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 for guitar amps without having some sort of a dummy load to absorb the output power, could cause some damage to the amp.
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.
5. what are monitor headphones? Frequency Range? Impedance?!
If you’ve opened some of those links and looked through the product description of any headphones for guitar amps 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 for guitar amps, 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 amps 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.
Here’s a quick rundown of our favorite pairs:
- Sennheiser HD 598: The look of these things just screams “Premium Headphones!”, and they are! Over the ear, detachable cables and balanced, crisp sound.
- AKG K44: A good budget option for guitarists, semi-closed back and decent audio output, but beware of the non-detachable cable.
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250: Super comfortable, with very well-defined bass thanks to their “Bass Reflex” technology. Extremely clear.
- Audio Technica ATH – M50X: A true classic of the modern era, extreme clarity, extended frequency range and super versatile bass response. These are very practical, since they fold for easy storage and come with 3 cable varieties.
So with any of these models, rest assured that your guitar amp is enough to get the full potential out of them. Enjoy and make sure to read our guide for best loop pedals on the market here for the next step in your guitar playing journey!