Let’s face it – there’s nothing quite like plugging into your favorite guitar amp cranked to oblivion. Even the best headphones for guitar amps featured here will never change that, but what they do bring with them is the benefit of low-volume practice with no shortage of juice coming into your own ears. For those of us who live in smaller apartments or near sensitive neighbors – or indeed anyone who isn’t in favur of E Phrygian Dominant arpeggios at 3am – that means practicing as loud as you want at any time you want. That’s no bad thing at all…
Then, of course, there are the more production-based advantages too – headphones can provide the clarity to really hone in on those reverbs, delays and background noises without them being colored by the tone of the room you are playing in or the speakers connected to your amplifier. So here’s our look at the best headphones for guitar amps, and how each pair is suited to different needs…
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The best headphones for guitar amps right now?
If anyone is going to be fussy about using headphones over a 100-Watt Marshall stack on full blast, it’s Swedish virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen. Which is exactly what made the footage of him trying Boss’ new Waza-Air Wireless Personal Guitar Amplification System so compelling. Truth be told, if it passes the Yngwie test, it’s definitely going to be good enough for the rest of us mere mortals. Best of all, it’s completely wireless and no amp or pedals are needed…
For the audiophiles among us, the Sennheiser HD 650 Open Back Professional Headphones provide an extremely detailed sonic picture – and though they’re more noisy than closed-black sets, the overspill won’t be loud enough to travel through walls.
Best headphones for guitar amps: buying advice
The first question you might want to ask yourself is what exactly are your headphone requirements? Are you looking for something transparent and simple to deliver authentic amp tones, raw and uncomplicated? Or the kind of wireless system that will allow you to roam free like Metallica headlining your nearest stadium? Or, in the case of the aforementioned Boss Waza-Air, it could be a fully integrated guitar system that removes virtually all need for guitar cables, effects, heads and cabs – truly your one-stop shop for everything.
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The answer will probably depend on the kind of amp you own. Some tube purists may prefer headphones with a short cable and flat EQ, to ensure they don’t lose anything from the experience of playing their favorite head or combo. Think of it this way – would you spend all that money on an amp and then have it colored in some way by the headphones you use? Or sacrifice some immediacy with a wireless set? Probably not. Which is why a lot of the best headphones for guitar amps are geared towards producers, rather than sets designed with home hi-fi or outdoor use in mind.
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Other players, however, might prefer a mix of old school sensibilities and modern technology, bringing more of an analog feel to modern functionality, incorporating things like smart technology or Bluetooth transmission. And of course, for those who don’t own an amp, have a rig in storage or find themselves traveling a lot – with hours to kill going from location to location – the Waza-Air system covers all bases in one easy, simple package which you can program through your phone. Here’s a closer look at which might work best for you…
The best headphones for guitar amps right now
Packing five unique amp types from the Katana amp series, including voicings for bass guitar and acoustics, plus 50 customizable effects through Boss’ Tone Studio smartphone app, it’s hard to see where you can go wrong with the Waza-Air system. The advanced spatial technology and integrated gyro sensor claim to deliver a true ‘amp-in-room’ experience that will impress even the most scrupulous tone hounds out there – we’ve seen the evidence – and its 3D ambience delivered through custom-designed 50mm drivers with virtually zero latency.
Other incentives include a versatile two-way design, allowing the ‘phones to be folded away and built-in rechargeable batteries that offer five hours of undisturbed play time. It’s this kind of clever thinking from Boss that has established them as undisputed pioneers of the trade.
Read the full Boss Waza-Air review
Aimed at higher-end users, this set from Sennheiser is as expressive and dynamic as it gets. It includes high power neodymium magnet systems for minimum harmonic and intermodulation distortion, and lightweight aluminium voice coils that offer a quick and transient response, delivering truly pristine tones to connoisseurs and purists alike. With a frequency range of 10Hz to 41kHz, it covers the guitar spectrum and beyond, ensuring you get the fullest and widest sonic picture possible for the music you listen to as well as the music you play.
Being an open back design, it doesn’t contain sound as well as other headphones, though will manage well enough to avoid any complaints from neighbors. As well as a gold plated 1/4" jack plug and a low-noise detachable cable made from highly conductive OFC copper, there’s a specially developed damping element made out of fine acoustic metal mesh. Seriously, it’s as hi-fi as headphones can get and better still.
This closed-back set from Audio-Technica sits amongst the most popular studio-quality headphones on the market and are well suited for guitar players, supporting frequencies between 15Hz to 28kHz. They’re highly effective at delivering amp tones that are uncolored and real – with very little change in EQ and response, and a quicker response compared to mainstream wireless options.
While the original ATH-M50x Headphones stayed true to headphones in the more classic sense, this wireless version will appeal to musicians wanting less physical restrictions (although they do come with an included 3.5mm audio cable for a wired connection, too). It’s ideal for anyone hoping to hear their favorite tones during less-friendly hours but also anyone looking to record, enhance and mix their guitars with total pin-drop clarity.
Though they’ve been out of production for quite some time, the Yamaha NS10 remains one of the most popular studio monitors of all-time, celebrated for their midrange honesty and unexaggerated low ends. This headphone set, launched by Yamaha back in 2015, was designed with those speakers in mind – offering a high-resolution sound with precise stereo imaging and faithful source signal reproduction from 15Hz to 25kHz.
There’s a three-dimensional arm pivot construction and adjustable slider length to alleviate fatigue during prolonged usage, with synthetic leather and large low-resistance cushions that ensure stress-free wearability and high levels of isolation. Perhaps the only downside is that, much like the monitors they’re inspired by, they could be a little too flat, but then again if you’ve already dialed in the perfect guitar tone, that could very well be for the best…
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Not all of the best guitar amp headphones are made the same when it comes to comfort – some can feel too tight and build pressure on the ears over time, therefore distracting the musician from what matters most. This is where the AKG k240 Studio shines, with a self-adjusting headband system that easily sits and sets easily on just about any head size.
With a frequency response of 15Hz to 25kHz, these headphones will cover your guitar sound in full and for little expense compared to other models made for studio use. They offer little in terms of extras, designed primarily with mixing in mind, but still double as a great pair of headphones for listening to your favorite albums.
These closed over-ear headphones from German manufacturers Beyerdynamic are very high-end, with a frequency response ranging from 5Hz to 35kHz for maximum resolution and precision. That extended range means all notes feel defined and articulate, even at the extreme bottom end of the register, with punch and clarity in areas other sets may lack in.
They’ve been popular with producers – especially for vocal recordings – because of their superior noise isolation, bringing a complete sonic picture into your ears with virtually zero bleed. While the 880 and 990 models, semi-open and fully open respectively, are equally as impressive, it’s the sheer quietness of the 770s that make them ideal for any pro-level guitarist. The price is great, too.
These brand-new active noise-cancelling headphones from Vox certainly turned a few heads at NAMM 2020. The internal and external microphones make them an excellent tool for guitar practice and vocal training – picking up and isolating frequencies from your instrument, amp or voice for a clear and pristine tone. You can even feed in an audio source and blend it against what you play, which is perfect for rehearsing or jamming to backing tracks.
But that’s not all – the VH-Q1 also supports voice assistant services (Google Assistant and Siri) and comes with a rechargeable battery that lasts 36 hours on a single charge. It’s even clever enough to pause tracks automatically when you take the headphones off and restart the track when you put them back on. So whether you are taking calls, gaming, practicing or playing to someone down on the other end of the line, or simply just want to listen to music, Vox has you covered on all fronts.
Though they’re classed as outdoor headphones, there’s nothing to say you can’t use this Sony set for practicing or creating music at home. The frequency range of 12Hz to 24kHz will suit guitar players and the self-adjusting, soft-cushioned swivel cups will ensure they don’t feel too tight once on.
This set from Sony also features an in-line remote and built-in microphone on the headphone cord, so you can switch from listening to or playing music to calls with minimum fuss. Best of all, they’re incredibly cheap and well suited to beginners or those tied to lower budgets.