This is a roundup of the best guitar amps for headphones that we recommend for those wanting to do direct monitoring. Note that this assumes a couple things about the amp(s) in question:
- It runs on a solid state circuit (in the power amp, at least)
- Has either a 1/8" or 1/4" headphone jack
Note that a line out and direct out are not the same as a headphone jack and should not be used for headphones. If you're wanting to run headphones through a tube amp, you'll need to buy a little extra gear.
This guide will show you how: How to hook up headphones to a guitar amp
Best Guitar Amps for Headphones (our top 5 picks)
1. Boss Katana 50 (Katana series)
BEST FOR: Onboard effects, amp modeling, quiet practice, and basic recording.
- Lots of effects modeling of popular Boss pedals
- Nice balance of modern/heavy and vintage/bluesy tones
- Headphone jack is full quarter inch
- Not terribly expensive
- Sound quality is exceptionally good for a digital amplifier
- None for the price
The Katana series is one of Boss's first ventures into guitar amp building, which happens to be a solid state modeling setup. While it does have digitally-built amp models, it's primarily meant to showcase the Boss pedal lineup, with a lot of built-in effects. The headphone jack is a quarter-inch (1/4") TRS output located on the back panel of the amplifier:
If you have a set of headphones with a smaller 1/8" jack, you can use an adapter to plug into the phones/rec out on this particular amplifier. They're pretty cheap and easy to get from Walmart or Amazon. While we recommend the Boss Katana 50, in particular, all of the amplifiers in the Katana series have headphone jacks.
2. Fender Mustang LT (Mustang LT series)
BEST FOR: Vintage tones, practice, smaller headphones, and basic recording
- Cheaper than the Katana (under $200)
- Great if you're into the Fender amp sounds, particularly the tube amps
- Ideal for smaller places and quiet practice sessions
- Emphasis on amp models
- Note quite as versatile as the Katana
While the Katana focuses on one of Boss's strengths - its effects pedals - the Fender Mustang LT focuses on tube amplifiers, which is distinctly a Fender strong point. Since Fender is known for their tube amp combos, those sounds are modeled into the digital preamp of the Fender Mustang LT. On this amplifier, the headphone jack is located on the top panel, next to the regular amp controls. Note that it's an eighth inch headphone jack instead of the quarter inch we saw in the Katana:
We like the Fender Mustang LT for fans of more vintage, Fender-esque tone profiles. It's also a bit cheaper than the Katana, retailing around $180 as of late 2021. Note that you can also get adapters that turn an eighth inch headphone jack into a larger quarter inch jack, which could be useful depending on what kind of headphones you have.
3. Orange Micro Dark Hybrid Head
BEST FOR: Those wanting some tube flavor and a simpler amplifier
- Tubes in the preamp
- Headphone jack is front and center
- Easy to transport
- Distortion (gain) sounds great
- Not a lot of EQ flexibility
- Needs a speaker cab if you want to hear it in open air
An important note about the Orange Micro Dark is that it's an amp head with tubes in the preamp. This means you will need to hook it up to a speaker cab if you want to hear it in open air. Otherwise, the headphone jack is on the front panel and runs a quarter-inch output which you can see in the image below:
It's a simple setup with a single-band EQ, gain knob, and volume knob, great for transporting and smaller setups. As far as guitar amps for headphones go, this is one of the single most popular options on the market.
4. Marshall CODE 50 (CODE series)
BEST FOR: Marshall fans, recording, larger spaces, and practicing
- Models can be separated between preamp and power amp
- Tones are exceptionally good
- Plenty of control from just the top panel
- Marshall amp models sound great
- More expensive than other options
The CODE series is Marshall's answer to the Katana and Mustang amps from Boss and Fender. It allows you to choose different preamp and power amp models based on popular Marshall amps from decades past. And while everything is digitally-modeled, the tones do sound good and are appreciably similar to what you'd expect from the Marshall brand. For headphones you have an eighth inch jack on the top panel which is easy to see and access:
If you're a fan of Marshall amps in general, the CODE 50 is a good entry into a Marshall amplifier that will more easily let you hook up headphones. It's a bit more expensive than the other options in this list, but from a tone quality perspective it's one of the better modeling amps available.
5. Orange Crush 20RT (Crush series)
BEST FOR: Anyone who doesn't want amp modeling or onboard effects
- Two channels
- Clean and dirty tones sound great
- Four stages of gain in the preamp
- The quarter inch headphone jack is preferred (better to adapt smaller if you have to)
- None for the price
The Orange Crush 20RT is a small-form solid state amp with an onboard tuner, three-band EQ, and a headphone jack right on the top panel. Like the Katana, it's a quarter-inch jack, so users of smaller headphones with an eighth inch tip will need an adapter.
While there's no modeling or effects in this amp, it does have two channels giving you a clean and dirty option. If you don't care about effects or amp modeling, this one is the way to go.
Do I need a headphone amp to use these?
In most cases, no.
A headphone amp will simply amplify and give you control over the signal coming out of the headphone jack. In my experience using guitar amps with headphones, I've never had an occasion where I've needed a headphone amp.
I'd at least recommend trying it out first.
If you need to adjust the volume of your headphones, simply adjust the output volume of the amplifier (usually in the power amp stage).
Which headphones should I use?
I've written an article on headphones I recommend for guitar amps. Generally, it's better to use studio headphones with the larger ear pads and comfy headbands, though smaller headphones and even earbuds can work as well.
From a sound quality perspective, the larger studio-style headphones are definitely going to give you a better experience.
Is there a quality difference between 1/8" and 1/4" headphone jacks?
The difference between 1/8" and 1/4" jacks is simply one of size, where one is designed for smaller headphones and another for larger headphones.
I would personally prefer the larger 1/4" jack on my guitar amps for headphones, since then you can use an adapter to size down to the 1/8" jack, if you need to. That's just easier than getting the adapter to size up, and go from 1/8" to 1/4".
But regardless of the size, sound quality is going to be the same.
Can headphones be plugged in anywhere else on a guitar amp?
Unless you have a dedicated headphone jack, you should not plug headphones in anywhere else on a guitar amp. Line outs, speaker outputs, and direct outs are a no-go for headphones.
Questions and Comments
Of the five amps covered, my two favorites are the Orange Crush and the Boss Katana. They're a little more flexible in terms of style and I just think they sound better and give you a higher-quality base tone.
But they're all good options and they'll all make it really easy to plug in headphones and monitor your playing directly.
If you need a solution for quiet practice, this is the way to do it.
For those that have questions about the best guitar amps for headphones, or perhaps an amplifier I didn't mention, feel free to hit me up in the comments section below.
I'll jump in there and help out as much as I can.