Practicing with Headphones - quality sound

Discussion in 'Accessories [BG]' started by greg_k, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. greg_k


    Nov 27, 2018
    First of all, a big thank you to all of you on this forum. I truly appreciate the combined knowledge and contributions found here. What an incredible resource. I've submitted one other thread here (but I've done a lot of listening) and through it you all helped me find the perfect bass. I'm loving it!

    My question is rather basic, but I'm looking for an improved method of practicing with headphones. Currently I do practice with headphones, but I'm looking to improve the sound quality. I have a small starter Fender bass amp that has an extra input via RCA plugs. I bring my iPhone output to this input. The bass goes into the main amp input and I listen to the combined sound through the amp's headphone output. It works, but I know the sound quality suffers, as compared to the phone output to headphones. That is much clearer. I see small mixers out there How is their sound quality? Is one brand better than another? Many of the plugs won't work directly with these mixers, requiring numerous conversions, as I am inputing sound from an iPhone (lightening plug) and outputting through headphones with the small jack. Am I losing quality through these conversions?

    Thank you very much for any advice or recommendations you might have.
  2. JakobT


    Jan 9, 2014
    Oslo, Norway
    The best solution I’ve found is using a dedicated headphone amp. There are several varieties available - from the cheap and cheerful Vox Amplug to more expensive offerings that often combine preamps and DI’s with headphone out capacity. My personal favourite is the Phil Jones Bass Bighead, a dedicated headphone amp for bass.
    ksm, Bboopbennie and greg_k like this.
  3. dannylectro

    dannylectro Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2010
    Hartsdale, NY
    I use a Focusrite Scarlett (2 inputs), outputs for speakers, and a headphone out. It connects to your computer via USB. You can also connect an iPhone to one of the inputs on the front. You can your bass directly into the front and either plug in an iPhone or other player into the front, or get input via USB from your computer. There is a Mix control that you can use to balance your bass with the other sources.
    The sound quality is dramatically better than the rig you’re using and can improved by using a small pre-amp like a Tech 21 type thing. Probably you can get a Focusrite for $100-150, and a decent set of ‘phones for under $100. Add speakers later, if you want.
    flatwound62p and greg_k like this.
  4. greg_k


    Nov 27, 2018
    Thank you for your response JakobT. I like the Vox price, but I'm not sure of the quality. I read some reviews on the Phil Jones Bass Bighead. Everyone loves the quality, but not the price.
  5. greg_k


    Nov 27, 2018
    Thank you for your response dannylectro. I appreciate you steering me toward some improved equipment. Much appreciated.
    dannylectro likes this.
  6. JakobT


    Jan 9, 2014
    Oslo, Norway
    The older Bighead model, HA-1, is still available, and is about half the price of the newer HA-2. It’s not cheap, but sounds great and it’s bombproof. It also doubles as a recording interface and an analog preamp. One of the best bass-related purchases I’ve ever made.
    greg_k likes this.
  7. Mr Dad G

    Mr Dad G

    Aug 31, 2018
    The first place I’d look for improvement is the headphones themselves. You don’t say what you’re using, but especially for bass, it’s the key element to a good sound. There are plenty of great options in every price range from Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic, Sony, AKG, and others. Lots of review threads exist here and around the web. If it’s available to you, I’d head to your local guitar center with your iPod and some familiar music and give the various options a try. You’re looking for solid and well controlled bass. Avoid the popular consumer headphones that emphasize bass response, they tend to be boomy and muddy.

    Personally I have Sennheiser HD280 Pros for quiet band practice and recording, and HD600s I use for solo practice. The 280s are generally fed from a mixer using a Behringer p2 IEM amp, while the HD600s run off an AMB M^3 headphone amp hooked to a Focusrite Safire pro 40.

    Unless you have a real need for a mixer, I’d go for one of the focusrite scarlets that fits your budget. You’ll get all the functionality you would out of a mixer, plus the ability to record and listen to yourself. That’s probably a second step though. Get some decent headphones on your current rig and see if that gets you where you want to be.
    greg_k and dannylectro like this.
  8. greg_k


    Nov 27, 2018
    Thanks Mr Dad G! While I currently use Bose over the ears headphones, improvements could definitely be made with your suggestions. Thank you. At this stage I want to start with a solid foundation of sound. Currently I hear humming and buzzing from the bass amp headphone output, regardless of the headphones used. This is a starter bass amp, so quality was not a focus. A Bighead or Focusrite Scarlet should address the humming / buzzing issue. I’ll start there and then advance to headphones. Thanks again.
  9. Jim C

    Jim C I believe in the trilogy; Fender, Stingray, + G&L Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    Only as good as the weakest link and I have decent headphones; Sony 7502 and V6.

    I've had a lot of headphone amps and did not like them much at all.
    This includes Vox, SWR, Tascam, and Cafe Walter.
    That said, I have not tried Phil Jones which I think would be a good one to check out.
    Might try a small mixer like an under $100 Mackie or even Behringer.
    I used one for just a minute once and remember it to be very good.

    Focusrite sounds like an interesting idea as well.
    greg_k likes this.
  10. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois

    + 1,000 to everything said here. I've been using the Sennheiser HD280 pro ($100) for practice when I need sound isolation and the HD600 ($300) when I want the highest quality sound for critical listening.

    I input bass and music player into a micro desktop mixer like this unit from Mackie ($60):

    As Mr Dad G said, you'll get more functionality out of an interface like the Focusrite, but they'll cost a bit more.

    You may need to use an adapter for the headphone jack and possibly for the music player to tape input, but it won't affect the sound quality at all and they cost just a few bucks.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
    greg_k likes this.
  11. I bought these because of the review and impedance of 32 Ohms after reading a bit about headphones and getting quality sound:

    These at 16 Ohm (and less drivers) didn't sound nearly as good:

    I think the impedance makes a difference, all other things being equal. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable can chime in and confirm/deny this.
    greg_k likes this.
  12. Geri O

    Geri O Endorsing Artist, Mike Lull Guitars and Basses Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    I use an 8-channel Alto mixer ($125, I think. Been a few years) and Sony MDR7506 phones. I can plug in my bass, my computer, and have channels left over.

    I think I get more from practicing with headphones than with studio monitors or amps.
    eriky4003 and greg_k like this.
  13. greg_k


    Nov 27, 2018
    This site has done it again. I asked for your advice and experience. Thanks for sharing it. Using it I ended up with a perfect product for me. I tried the Vox, but ended up with the Phil Jones Bass Bighead Pro (HA-2). Impressive and such high quality. THANKS to all. Very much appreciated.
    eriky4003 and Jim C like this.
  14. Wfrance3

    Wfrance3 Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    Tulsa, OK
    One of these:
    Zoom B1on Bass Effects Pedal
    They have been updated, but this is the one I have. It’s pretty great for headphone practice.
    The new version is probably good too, if not improved, but I have experience with the new one.
    greg_k likes this.
  15. I practice with a good but cheap set of earbuds - KZ ZS7 - plugged into my Ampeg SCR DI - this is the last pedal on my board, and also has an aux input for my phone (cover band player here, I’m learning new songs constantly). A preamp pedal with aux in and phones out is highly recommended - and good quality phones or cans going into your ears.
    el jeffe bass and greg_k like this.
  16. mathewjg


    Dec 26, 2009
    I have been using a very cheap headphone amp that plugs directly into the bass jack socket. It has tone control, gain, master volume and aux input. Batteries last a long time. Very light and ideal for travelling. Tone ranges from sharp treble to muffled. Unfortunately my bass guitar that I am travelling with has a downward facing socket so when I just dragged it a short way across the floor headphone amp broke. I was using it with Bose qc2.5 headphones and sound was fine (bass has active tone controls) Nux It's calledGp-1. They cost about £10
    greg_k likes this.
  17. BucketOfFish


    Mar 17, 2014
    What about wireless headphones or buds. Are there any lower priced setups that work well for the purpose of practice? I get frustrated with a cable dangling over the shoulder and off the instrument. I do have wireless for the bass and some buds that would work if I can cobble together a send/receiver for the buds or headphones.
  18. symbolic_acts


    May 24, 2004
    the only real way to get a "really good tone" while using headphones is to use something that you can tweak and it NEEDS to have a cab emulator. Headphones straight into a cheap practice amp will always sound meh. a preamp pedal with a cab sim probably would do the trick (like the darkglass alpha omega ultra).

    I am very satisfied with the headphone sound im getting from sending a DI from my Genzler Magellan head to my computer and using twonotes wall of sound for cab emulation. with sennheiser hd598. Probably better headphone options but its open back at least
    greg_k likes this.
  19. MrThump


    Mar 8, 2019
    Torrance CA.
    greg_k likes this.
  20. MrThump


    Mar 8, 2019
    Torrance CA.