Practicing electric guitar at home is not always fun. Turning up the volume of your guitar amplifier late at night usually results in having angry neighbors knocking on your door. But thanks to recent innovations, guitar amplifier companies have started integrating headphone jacks in their amplifiers. Some models that integrate a headphone jack include practice amps such as the Blackstar HT1R as well as professional amps such as the Boss Katana 50.
However, the problem with this is that most of the time, the components used in the headphone jack isn’t exactly great. It is decent enough for guitar practice, but it is not in any way comparable to dedicated devices for headphones. The addition of a headphone jack on most guitar amps seems to be an afterthought due to their poor implementation.
This is why it is important to use a quality pair of headphones to have the best experience possible. We have compiled a list of professional as well as affordable gear that will help you have a productive practice session.
(Advanced users who own higher-end equipment such as audio interfaces and effects processors do not run into this problem. However, we will strictly be covering guitar amplifiers with headphone jacks in this article).
Best Headphones For Guitar Amps
Audio Technica ATH M50X – Best Overall
The Audio Technica M50X is arguably Audio Technica’s most popular and most successful headphone. Since its inception in 2007, the original ATH M50 has been the go-to headphones for musicians, sound engineers, producers, and even casual listeners.
With its reputation, it is no surprise that the Audio Technica ATH M50X also works great for guitar practice. It only has an impedance of 38-ohms, which makes it easy to drive. It also does not pick up any hiss from the guitar amplifier’s headphone jack. Also, its sound does not change whether you are using a beginner practice amp or a midrange professional guitar amp.
The M50X also features a detachable cable. This incredibly increases the lifespan of the M50X. You can easily replace the cable in case it breaks or gets into an accident.
Additionally, you have the option of choosing a shorter or longer cable. This gives the M50X versatile both for home use and in live performances.
Also, in terms of the construction, the sturdy plastic construction and folding design perfectly balance build quality and convenience. The folding design makes storing and transporting the M50X easy. The quality plastic material used gives the M50X a lightweight but sturdy feel that helps in its comfort for long listening sessions.
Overall, the ATH M50X is a versatile pair. It perfectly combines build quality, comfort, and sound quality. It is also highly recommended by professionals such as Adam “Nolly” Getgood (EX-Periphery bass and guitar, Getgood Drums, producer). With people like that backing the M50X, it is impossible to question its quality. If you need a high-quality pair for your guitar amplifier, then the M50X is one of the best choices that you have.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro – Best Sounding
If you are not contented with the sound quality of the Audio Technica M50X and want a better alternative, then we also have the DT 770 Pro on this list. If we are talking about build quality and sound quality, then the DT 770 Pro is the better headphone. It is a legendary pair that has existed far longer than the M50X. However, if you are going to use it for guitar amplifiers specifically, there are aspects that M50X executes better, and we’ll explain those in a bit.
Unlike the ATH M50X, the DT 770 Pro comes in different versions. There is the 32-ohm, 80-ohm, 250-ohm, and 600-ohm version. The higher-impedance versions are considered to be the better sounding variants. However, they are harder to drive and require a headphone amplifier, meaning they cannot be used directly with guitar amplifiers.
The 32-ohm and 80-ohm versions are the ones that do not require a headphone amplifier, which means they are the only ones viable for guitar practice. The 80-ohm version has more headroom and has better sound quality, so we highly recommend picking that one up, but the 32-ohm is no slouch if you are on a tighter budget.
As mentioned earlier, the sound quality of the DR 770 Pro is better than the ATH M50X. It is more detailed and has a wider soundstage compared to the congested sound of the M50X. You should consider that if you plan on using these headphones on other tasks since it does not make too much of a difference for guitar practice.
The DT770 Pro also has a more rugged construction. It carries the signature Beyerdynamic build quality that allows them to last for years. The M50X is also a durable headphone, but the DT 770 Pro takes it to the next level.
The problem with the DT 770 Pro is that it is bigger, bulkier, and not portable. The non-removable cable also means that it is harder to fix or replace them in case they break or get into an accident. The non-foldable design also makes it harder to transport if you want to use these in a live setting.
In the end, it comes down to personal preference. If you are mostly going to use the DT 770 Pro indoors anyway and if you better-sounding pair, then the DT 770 Pro is the better choice. However, if portability and replacement of parts is a concern for you, then the M50X may be a better fit. Regardless of your choice, you won’t be disappointed.
Audio Technica ATH M30X
The price tag of both the M50X and DT 770 Pro isn’t exactly cheap. With the price of those two headphones, you could easily upgrade more important aspects of your signal chain, such as your effects pedals. If you aren’t confident in investing lots of money in headphones, then there are also budget alternatives that deliver great sound quality.
If you want to stay with a reputable company such as Audio Technica, then a good choice is the ATH M30X. It is still part of Audio Technica’s monitor line, which means it shares a lot of the M50X’s DNA. There are a few compromises here and there, but the overall experience should still be acceptable for buyers who have a tighter budget.
As for the differences between the ATH M50X and the ATH M30X, the most notable one is the non-removable cable. This should not concern you too much as long as you are careful. The original ATH M50 also did not feature a removable cable but was still heavily used in studios and live performances.
Another difference is the swiveling earcups. The M50X earcups rotate 90 degrees while the M30X only swivels a bit. The build quality is also different, with the M30X feeling a bit cheaper. This is to be expected since it is only an entry-level model. However, it still adheres to Audio Technica’s standards and manages to feel more high-quality than standard headphones.
Of course, the major difference is the sound quality. The M30X is noticeably less refined. The bass sounds more bloated, and it does not pick up as much detail as the M50X. However, the sound quality is adequate in reproducing the guitar tones, which is the most important thing in our use case scenario.
Overall, if you are planning to use the ATH M30X for guitar practice exclusively, then it is good enough for the job, especially for its asking price. Build quality and sound quality take a hit, but for buyers with a tight budget, this is the best option that you can get.
Status Audio CB 1 – Budget Option
If you are willing to go with a lesser-known brand, then the Status Audio CB1 presents a lot of value. Its top-notch design and sound quality can match higher-end models like the Audio Technica M50X for a fraction of the price.
It features the same swiveling earcups, detachable cable, and foldable design that are mostly seen on higher-end models like the ATH-M50X. The sound quality of the CB1 is excellent and is a step above the Audio Technica M30X. It features a tighter bass response and more detail compared to the M30X and other budget offerings.
Of course, the sound quality isn’t going to be on par with the M50X, but it can get close enough, which should be adequate for guitar practice. Also, like the M50X, it is easy to drive and does not produce hiss.
Despite its good qualities, there are some downsides that you must consider when purchasing from a less reputable brand. The build quality has not been proven to be as durable as the Audio Technica’s models. Warranty and replaceability of parts may be an issue when something inside the headphone breaks.
This is where something like the ATH M30X makes more sense. It may have fewer features and an inferior sound, but at least you have some sort of confidence that it won’t suddenly break while you are using them, especially in a live scenario.
But if you are okay with those downsides, then the CB1 is downright the better value. It is arguably the best value that you can get on this list. If you have a tight budget and you want the best sounding and most feature-packed headphones for your guitar amplifier, then the Status Audio CB 1 is one of the best choices that you have.
Beyerdynamic x Drop DT 177X Go – Best High-End
For users who have lots of money to drop on headphones, then the Beyerdynamic x Drop DT 177X Go is one of the best choices available. It is the successor of the already excellent sounding DT 770 Pro and a modified version of the DT 1770 Pro. With only an impedance of 35-ohms, this is incredibly easy to drive and won’t be a problem for most guitar amplifiers.
The original DT 1770 Pro is a 250-ohm headphone that was designed for professional use. It carried over the excellent sound quality of the DT 770 Pro and further enhanced it. The result is a headphone that has lots of detail retrieval, a wide soundstage, and arguably the best bass response in the sub 500 USD category.
It also added much-needed features such as the removable cable. This would have been the perfect headphones for guitar practice; however, the 250-ohm impedance makes it impossible to use with most guitar amplifiers (especially budget offerings).
However, Drop has managed to transform the 177X Go into a low impedance headphone. With its new 30-ohm impedance, almost any guitar amplifier with a headphone jack could drive it. And despite the significant reduction of power requirements, the DT 177X retains the sound quality of the original Beyerdynamic DT 177X Go.
The original DT 1770 Pro was already an excellent performer and a mainstay in professional studios. The DT 177X Go further improves the design is arguably the most accessible and versatile version of the 1770 Pro. If you want the best sounding headphone for your guitar amplifier, then the DT 177X Go is hard to beat.
Due to the unoptimized and overall low-quality parts used in most headphone jacks in guitar amplifiers, you must use the right headphones to have the best experience possible. These are some qualities that headphones should have to be used with guitar amps:
Low Impedance/Easy to Drive
Guitar amplifiers do not have a powerful headphone amplifier built into them. That is why it is very important to use headphones that are easier to drive to make sure that you get an audible volume. Headphones with an impedance below 100 ohms should work fine.
What is headphone impedance? Click for a detailed explanation.
However, take note that not all headphones with low impedance are easy to drive. There are several other factors, such as sensitivity that determine whether a headphone is easy to drive or not. When dealing with headphones not included on this list, please refer to our Headphone Amplifier Guide to learn more.
Not Affected by Source
The sound of some headphones can slightly change depending on the source. This phenomenon is usually observed in higher-end or higher-impedance headphones that scale with better gear. This should not be the case with headphones that are being used with guitar amplifiers.
A headphone must not hiss, nor should the sound quality be worse when plugging to lower quality sources. They must sound consistent regardless of the source. Just to be on the safe side, try to stick with lower impedance headphones since most low impedance headphones are not dependent on the source.
Closed-back vs. Open-back
This will depend on your preferences. However, if you plan on gigging with your headphones, we highly recommend going with closed-back headphones. Closed-back headphones will isolate external noises and will allow you to focus on the sound you are monitoring. And also, the advantages of open-back headphones do not seem to apply here since the headphone output of most amplifiers isn’t that great anyway.
Stephen is a musician, cinematographer, and headphone enthusiast who is passionate about reviewing audio equipment. He has been playing guitar for at least a decade, which introduced him to professional recording equipment such as headphones and in-ear monitors. With the help of reviews and online content, he was able to learn the ins and outs of the hobby. His goal is to give back to the community by providing quality content to help others enjoy the beautiful (and expensive) world of audio.
Favorite Headphones: Sennheiser HD660s