Think of musicians as craftsmen, always looking to improve their craft.
“How do I improve my sound?” is the most crucial thought a musician can have. Thankfully the simple answer to that is the amplifier and the audio interface.
Guitar amplifiers, or simply guitar amps, are specifically designed to amplify the tone and sound you produce. You can control that further with an interface.
This guide can help you learn how to make this connection.
- Connect your guitar amplifier to the output with “line out” directly into an audio interface via its input with a jack cable.
- Be sure to make sure both have similar output and input sockets.
- Don’t jack your line outputs into line inputs, or else risk damage or faulty performance.
- It’s a bad idea to connect your audio interface’s line-out port with another sound component without prior knowledge or consultation. Different machines have different energy consumptions.
How to Connect a Guitar Amp to an Audio Interface
If you have all your equipment but don’t know where to start, don’t worry. You will be able to connect your amp to the interface in 4 EASY STEPS!
1. Line Your Guitar Amp’s Line Out to the Audio Interface’s Input Socket
To connect your guitar amp, You can plug a 1/4-inch jack cable onto the “line out” output.
Install the other end of the jack cable into the line-level input label “instrument” or “line/inst” on your audio interface.
The 1/4th jack audio cable is the standard for a socket plug among amp models and other components.
Although, you may need an XLR adapter in some cases, depending on the model.
This speaker connection is called a direct impact (DI).
2. Turn the Gain Settings on the Audio Interface Input to Zero
Before using your guitar amplifier, set the gain settings on the audio interface’s input to zero.
The setting is to gradually add gain to the audio signal until your desired level signal without clipping or digital distortion.
You can hear the audio signal through the audio interface’s direct monitoring capabilities like monitors or headphones.
Your speaker cones can be damaged if the line-level audio signal is too high or too hot to handle.
3. Open Your Chosen Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
The guitar amp is connected to the audio interface with the line output; you can open your DAW and hit record on an audio track.
You must set the audio interface’s line input to the correct settings with which the amplifier is connected.
4. Play and Record Music Through Your Guitar Amp
You can make a test recording by checking your waveform’s level with a guitar playtest.
You can correct any waveform clipping from your guitar amp by adjusting the gain level, the guitar’s volume control, and even the sound’s tone.
You can finally record your guitar amplifier’s output into your DAW through your audio interface.
Any effects or modeling settings applied before the amplifier will be present on the recording software, along with any pedals made onto the guitar.
Reasons to Connect Guitar Amps to Computer
Connecting your guitar amp directly to your computer and its audio interface for the following reasons.
- Record and hear the output of the guitar amp’s sound through the computer speakers and even headphones while you work or play music.
- Using an amp’s USB connection for editing and downloading the amp’s music onto a computer
- Vice-versa, hear the music through the guitar amp’s speakers and the backing track.
- The interface can connect with a microphone, pickup, and the DAW on your computer.
An electric guitar without a guitar amp produces an external audio signal, otherwise known as an instrument-level signal.
This instrument-level signal becomes a speaker-level signal through the amp boosting the instrument.
Line-level signals can produce the highest level before transmission and amplify another audio component from a technical standpoint.
SIDE NOTE: You can connect the audio hardware and driver software to an amp using a microphone on your computer, but the resulting sound is inferior.
Can I Plug My Amp Directly Into an Audio Interface?
Be sure the amplifier has a suitable output, and your audio interface has an appropriate input.
Both must be COMPATIBLE with each other for straightforward insertion with a cable.
A line output is standard for solid-state and combo guitar amplifiers for sending audio signals to other devices.
How About Plugging My Amp Into a Combo Jack?
Combo jacks are another option, as they are inputs that can accept both XLR mic input and 1/4 TRS or TS input.
Combo inputs are designed to receive mic, line, and instrument-level signals from their respective audio components of choice.
The combo jacks allow a combination of a microphone, keyboard, synthesizer, and even your guitar into the same input and are still effective.
The catch of the combo input, though, is they have a built-in pre-amp meant to plug in a microphone or bass directly into an audio interface.
Combo inputs are intended to BOOST the line-level signals from weak instrument-level signals like that of a mic.
The amp has a line out already at a line-level signal, meaning the boost is redundant. The pre-amp would be in danger of being damaged by the boosted decibel levels of the guitar amp.
When connecting with your amp, you can protect the built-in pre-amp by setting the gain knob to zero.
Another option is to use amp sims or guitar amplifier simulator programs(amp sims) as a budget example.
What Are Line Outputs?
Line outputs are sockets designed to send a line-level signal from an audio component into another, such as a headphone socket.
All is done to produce speaker-level signals to hear some instruments. They are the standard professional audio signal level, as most audio hardware uses them.
Most decent audio interfaces have multi-level inputs as an upside, such as a USB or Thunderbolt.
Compressors, equalizers, units, reverb machines, and other outboard gear operate this line level.
Audio interfaces are designed to accept whenever an amp has a line-level signal sent into its inputs.
On the other hand, line inputs are designed to AMPLIFY or reduce an audio signal’s decibel levels when received.
Speakers and Line Outputs Are NOT the Same
A common mistake in connecting guitar amps with audio interfaces is confusing the speaker with the line outputs.
Some amplifiers don’t have a line output, and the provided speaker output is not a suitable connection.
Avoiding sending a line-level signal from your amplifier to the audio interface input is essential, as the line input is only designed to accept an instrument or microphone-level calls.
Check the label on the input before jacking anything! You avoid confusion among the jack connector ports, instruments, and microphone inputs.
Can I Use a Speaker Output to Connect an Amp to an Audio Interface?
A speaker output can produce a speaker-level signal, very different from the line-level signal. The signal was amplified and designed to go through studio monitors and other speakers.
You should be cautious if your guitar amp has a speaker output!
Connecting it to a microphone, instrument, or line-level input onto your audio interface can damage your gear beyond repair.
The advice applies even to inserting a speaker-level output to its counterpart from an audio interface, no matter the cable type used.
REMEMBER: Speaker-level inputs and outputs should ONLY receive speaker-level inputs and work along with speaker cables.
Speaker cables differ from line-level jack cables as they are unshielded with thicker wires. A shielded and thinner cable can be melted or damaged like an instrument jack.
You may find an input for speaker-level signals at the back of your audio interface, but this isn’t common with all models.
The back speaker-level signal is more common with larger, more extensive models.
Speaker Cabinets and Amp Head?
An amp head is a separate pre-amp that amplifies signals before heading into a speaker cabinet.
The issue is that using an amp head without a speaker cab can damage the amp when using an audio interface.
It would be best if you always connected speaker cabs with an amp head because the amp may accidentally fry the audio interface.
Amp heads are designed with a built-in transformer to MATCH the passive impedance or obstruction to the electric current of a speaker cab.
The amp head may interpret an audio interface as an infinite impedance.
The head will draw out more power than is safe and damage all the equipment without a speaker cab to stop it!
So, permanently attach speakers to the amp when using an audio interface.
Problem With Guitar Amplifier With Direct Impact (DI)
Guitar amp DI can do both a recording and hearing the guitar amp’s sound through headphones or computer speakers.
However, there are issues with this practice in bypassing the guitar amp’s speaker due to how significant it has over the sound produced by the guitar amp.
A stark difference between an amp sound with and without a speaker is a testament to how much a quality speaker can affect your amp’s music.
Hence, a microphone is placed in front of the speaker, and all are held together by an XLR cable.
Another you can do is impulse control (IR), wherein software mimics a specific speaker cabinet in the room.
Be warned that annoying sounds such as clicks and pops plague the sound you want to make.
What Is the Best Way to Do a Guitar Amp Recording
Capturing the amp speaker’s sound with a microphone is the best method for recording guitar amps.
A mic captures the depth and grittiness of the amp and the speaker’s tone through a recording.
Recording music with an amp through the line out to an audio interface won’t be able to capture this tone or crispiness.
You can do such a home recording with the following steps:
- Put the mic on a stand
- Position the pic in front of the cabinet
- Plug the mic
You can experiment with positioning your mic away from your recording gear for a different sound tone.
Here are varying common questions asked by frequent users regarding when you play your guitar directly.
Can You Plug Guitar Pedals Into an Audio Interface?
You can plug guitar pedals into an audio interface by using the correct input.
The pedal signal chain’s output can be sent into the hi-Z instrument input on the audio interface or used with an amplifier and microphone.
What Are the Outputs on an Audio Interface For?
The audio interface outputs are designed to connect to your monitor speakers.
Many audio interfaces offer a pair of stereo 1/4 inch line outputs and even analog outputs for connecting other audio hardware to the interface.
How Do I Connect My Audio Interface to My Stereo Receiver?
You can connect your audio interface with a radio receiver by simply adjusting the connection into the “aux” pair of inputs at the back of your receiver, which most models already have.
Can I Directly Jack My Electric Guitar Into an Audio Interface?
You can jack your electric guitar directly into an input labeled “instrument” or “ins” with an audio cable.
If done with an amp modeler, you can also record the guitar’s sound for a clean and amplified tone.
Alternatives to an Audio Interface on your Guitar Amp?
Here is a list of alternatives should to simply jacking your guitar amp into your audio interface, as different models can have other ports and sockets to use:
You can connect the guitar amp to your via the load box, acting as a replacement for the speaker cabinet connected to the head initially.
You can split the load box into TWO combo varieties with their amp head:
- Tube (Valve) Amp Head: Never run the amp without it being connected to the amp’s speaker cabinet or load, or you risk permanently damaging it.
- Load Box with Speaker Emulation: This combination will make your guitar amp sound as if it’s used with a speaker.
- Connect the load box to your amp head via the speaker’s connection, the audio interface via the output-to-input, and the audio interface itself to the computer via USB or thunderbolt. Now you can record your guitar amp without an actual speaker.
Most varieties of modern guitars and ever-guard amps have a built-in USB plug as part of their design for connecting with their computer.
The data connection can vary when a USB socket is used to click when editing guitar amps, such as controlling their overall output.
Aux-input or Wire
This setup differs from other setups by having a line-level signal from the guitar amp into the computer.
This allows you to multicast as you edit your music and sound via their Bluetooth, aux-in method, and even your guitar amp’s sockets.
You want the experience when playing your songs, whether it’s playing live for small gigs or casual playing with your favorite headphones on.
However, the right gear and proper positioning can elevate your sound to the next level.
You know how to connect amps with their interfaces and other components properly.
Always look for a “line out” when connecting your musical equipment, and you’ll be fine.