Just as mixing consoles and reel-to-reel tape machines used to be essential to any recording system, today laptops and computers are just as important. you can connect any device to a laptop, including guitar amps, interfaces, preamps, and monitors.
how to connect the guitar amplifier to your laptop: there are several methods you can use.
The easiest way to connect a guitar amp to a laptop would be to link the two devices together with an audio interface. Alternatively, some amps offer USB outputs specifically for connecting to laptops and desktops, or other line outputs can be used.
Ultimately it depends on what you’re hoping to accomplish by connecting a guitar amp to your laptop.
if it’s just for recording, you’ll need to take a direct output from the amp and connect it to the laptop through a recording device as an interface.
if you’re trying to download software or presets into a digital solid state amp, that requires usb connectivity. I’ll explore all this and more in the next guide.
using an audio interface to connect a guitar amp to a laptop
If you’re wondering how to connect your guitar amp to a laptop to record yourself playing, there are a few easy ways to do it. The first is to purchase a device that essentially links the laptop to the amplifier.
audio interfaces are the most common devices used for this purpose. Staples of all digital recording studios, the availability of interfaces has made music recording and production accessible to the masses.
- Connecting a guitar amp to a laptop through an audio interface is very simple, assuming the amp has an aux output.
if so, all you need to do is connect the output to the preamp input on the audio interface using a jack cable, and the interface will receive the audio signal from the amplifier.
If your amp doesn’t have an aux output, don’t worry, there are a few alternative methods you can use to connect it to an audio interface and then to your laptop.
- Most amplifiers have a line level headphone output.
this can be used to take the signal from the guitar amp and feed it to the input of the audio interface. the method is the same as the one just described: use a suitable cable to send the signal from the output to the input on the interface.
In some cases, the headphone output may be a 3.5mm jack plug instead of a conventional guitar plug. this would mean that you would need to use a cable with a smaller connector and perhaps use an adapter so that it is able to fit the 6.35mm input into the interface.
once the guitar amp is connected to your audio interface, you can record directly into your daw. The amp settings you choose will influence the tone and sound of your recording, as will the gain settings in the interface.
The only potential problem with this simple method is that there may be some electrical hum or hum present in the recordings. this is usually due to using a low quality cable or a low quality adapter.
Using the headphone output is more likely to create noise issues than using a dedicated aux output that is specifically designed to record the sound of the amp.
Another option would be to use a noise gate pedal with the amp, or equalize the hum in post.
digital amplifiers & program
If the reason you want to connect your guitar amp to your laptop is to link it to software or edit the digital aspects of the device, you’ll need an amp that makes this easy. many solid state amps now have usb connectivity installed.
This makes it very easy to connect the amp to a laptop or desktop computer.
You may need to download specific software designed by the amplifier manufacturer. Many of these programs feature downloadable presets, sounds, settings, and effects that you can add to your amp’s memory bank.
The usb port is usually found on the back panel of an amplifier. If you’re not sure if your amp is USB compatible, check all connection ports to see if you can find a USB output.
all you need to do then is simply use a usb 2.0 cable to establish the connection between the amp and your laptop.
you don’t need an audio interface, as the usb cable carries the information between the two devices and allows you to change the characteristics of the amplifier within the specific software.
boss, being one of the most well-known manufacturers of solid-state amps, has extensive software that allows you to download amp presets, effects, and modelers from a vast collection. the katana mkii is a good example of this. many other manufacturers also offer the same service.
look at the katana here on amazon.
it is also possible to record the amp when connected via usb in most cases.
The software you use may make this easier, but if not, you should be able to choose the amp as the input device in your daw, then simply arm the track to record and play guitar through it.
usb connectivity is surprisingly reliable when it comes to connecting audio related devices. A good example of this is USB condenser microphones, which plug directly into your laptop and can record without the need for an external interface or device.
There is a possibility that the usb connection may lag when you use it to connect your guitar amp to a laptop. this can be corrected by using a high speed usb cable or by changing the sample rate and buffer settings within the software.
Amp modeling is a common feature in solid-state guitar amps.
This allows you to access the settings of other amplifiers, mainly “vintage” devices, and play them. By connecting the amp to your computer, you can access a wide selection of amp models and download them to your device for later use.
using amplification software
If none of the above methods seem practical for your guitar amp, there is another easy option to consider. this involves using a vst plugin instead of a physical guitar amp.
Plug-ins have gotten so good in recent years that it’s very hard to tell them apart from genuine guitar amp tones. the guitar rig is one of the best examples of this, but there are plenty of other options available to choose from.
This video explains in detail the basics of guitar plugins.
The advantage of using guitar amp software instead of connecting a real amp to your laptop is that it’s much more convenient. you can access the amp sounds anywhere, as long as you have your laptop handy.
Inside these guitar amp vst plugins, you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of presets.
You can pair certain cabinets with amp heads to create unique mixes and choose from some of the best amps ever made. Have you ever wondered what a tweed cab would sound like with an orange-style amp? vsts allows you to create combinations like this in seconds.
In my experience, the only danger of relying too much on software instead of using a real guitar amp is that it’s too easy to get carried away with the sheer number of options at your disposal.
While guitar amps may have a handful of presets, software offers limitless possibilities, and this can stifle your creativity if you’re not careful.
That said, I’ve found that having a clear idea of the sound of the amp I’m trying to create before using the software is a good way to stay on track. By all means, experiment with the various settings and presets to find your desired tones, but don’t let that get in the way of your creative process!
here is a table summarizing the options i have covered in this guide:
The option you choose to connect a guitar amp to your laptop depends on the specifics of your setup. if you have an audio interface or would consider buying one, I’d say this is the most reliable method.
Alternatively, if your amp is of the solid-state digital variety, you can simply use the usb output to connect it to your laptop. this provides the benefit of using dedicated software to shape the sound of the amp and customize it to suit your style.
can you connect a guitar directly to a laptop?
To connect an electric guitar to a laptop, you’ll need a 6.35mm jack cable on one side and a 3.5mm jack on the other. then simply plug the larger plug into the guitar and plug the smaller plug into the laptop’s onboard mic input.
how can i record my guitar amp without an audio interface?
The easiest way to record the output of your guitar amp without an audio interface would be to use a microphone. The microphone should be placed in front of the speaker and connected to the laptop via USB or plugged directly into the microphone input.
do tube amps have usb connectivity?
no, amps that have usb connectivity are predominantly solid state devices with digital capabilities. tube amps usually don’t have any digital components installed, which means they can’t be used with digital software on your laptop.