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Why does guitar sound weird with headphones?


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Strangeness...  I've always thought that the headphone out of my Spider amp sounded kinda 'fake', kinda 'plastic'...   I mean the sound is somewhat close to what you're hearing from the amp, but it's like the sound has a sort of digital background noise, you can hear it say if you pick a single note with distortion in the attack, or some sort of digital 'cheap' plastic sound in the background if you strike a 3 note power chord with distortion...  It's like maybe 90% of the sound is there and fine, but if you listen closely, you're hearing that the last 10% of the sound is like digital crap which sounds like lollipop, if that makes any sense...  :\ 


I always attributed it to just the amp having a low quality headphone out sound; or the lower quality speaker driver somehow masking this sound...  But lo and behold,  for some reason, I'm hearing some of that in the Go...  It's not as bad, but it's definitely there, it doesn't sound totally 'clean', there's also this sort of 'plastic' overtones in the background, which just doesn't sound quite right...  I mean it's close... If Spider was 90%, maybe this is 95%, but there's some strangeness to the sound...  I also remember old multi effect pedals having the same sort of issue...


And I'm a little bit confused, because plugging the same headphone out on speakers, and I can't really hear the same sort of digital distortion of whatever it is I'm hearing on headphones...  I don't think it's the headphones, I've tried so far with Sennheisers 598 and Bosshifi b8 (closed) and while neither are ultra high end, they're not cheap either; they both sound quite decent with music.  The B8s sound slightly better with the Go, maybe because of their closed nature, or I was playing them louder...  Maybe a sensitivity issue between headphones and the amp or go?


And another thing I've noticed, if you increase the volume as to have the sound quite loud, it sort of goes away, and seems to sound better...  It's really weird...   Anyone else ever noticed anything of the sort?

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Most 'regular' headphones, regardless of cost, are primarily designed to listen to music (eg with 'emphasised' bass response) and their frequency range isn't designed to cope with eg a guitar mfx processing unit.  So what you might be hearing are disparities as between the frequency range that your headphones are designed to manage, and the wider frequency range coming from your amp/Pod Go. 


You might find that a studio quality monitor headphone is better for a guitar mfx unit because these will have a significantly extended frequency range.  I use Audio-Technica ATHM50X headphones with my Vox Tonelabs (my Pod Go should arrive next week) that are studio monitor professional headphones:


  • Critically acclaimed sonic performance praised by top audio engineers and pro audio reviewers, with detachable cable (3 cables included)
  • Exceptional clarity throughout an extended frequency range, with deep, accurate bass response



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Thanks for your answer voxman! 


When you're talking about frequency range, which frequencies do you believe are at fault?   And when you're saying that the fx unit's has a wider frequency range, do you mean bass or treble?  On the low side, the low E string is like ~80Hz, even with a drop c, it only drops to like 65Hz, something easily handled with mid-fi headphones like 598 or B8.  Don't forget that 'music' pretty much covers all frequencies; from low frequencies(organs, bass, tubas, etc.,) to high frequencies (cymbals, triangles, snares, etc.), and everything in between.  So if it can reproduce a bass low end and a drum's cymbals, electric guitar shouldn't be an issue, even dropped C tuning and harmonics! 


The bass boost you mention is most commonly what I'd call.. I don't know like techno hipster 'garbage' (sorry ppl) like BOSE or Beats or the such, and it's typically a mid bass boost.  Also, I'm sorry to inform you that your headphones have quite a bass boost.  lol   Much more so than the 598 or B8, you can check out measurements below.  (though <100Hz, so bit lower than the typical mid bass boost)


Also remember that there's really nothing particular about studio monitor headphones vs audiophile headphones.  Sure, they try for a flat FR, but that doesn't mean they succeed!   Also you can't beat the flat & low bass of a decent planar, anyway, studio monitors like the Sony V6, Sennheiser HD280, AT M50X, etc., all are closed headphones (for isolation) with dynamic drivers...  They all reproduce from ~30-50Hz to ~15kHz.  There's really nothing inherently different about them, higher end 'audiophile' headphones do exactly the same thing they do, even better.  ;)  They all largely target the harman target curve, anyway, I'd be curious to know when you get your Go what you think!  Let me know how it sounds to you!  :D Thanks!

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Hi @grdGo33 my post was only meant as a suggested possible reason for what you are hearing. I'm not a techy when it comes to things like frequency response etc.  It could also be to do with output settings that might be causing some distortion or even the type of delay and settings you might be using that are giving you some kind of audio 'aftertaste. It's difficult to know without hearing what you're hearing. 


I'll certainly come back to you once I've had a chance to bed in my Pod Go a bit. In my Tonelab SE I can globally switch between amp out and Line out, whilst my Tonelab LE gives 3 amp out and 2 line out settings with one line out giving additional EQ control parameters.  I'm assuming Pod Go offers something similar. If so, have you tried playing around with these?  It might also be the fx chain order or particular fx that are giving rise to what you are hearing. It might be worth starting to build a patch and seeing if the digital aftertaste is there from any starting point or if it arises with certain fx and level settings. 

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