Do You Need An Audio Interface For A Guitar? (3 Things To Know)

Recording a guitar can be challenging. Recording a guitar well requires the right hardware before it requires the right software, so having the right gear is critical for the process. This leads guitar players to wonder if using an audio interface is necessary for recording a guitar?

You do need an audio interface for guitar to record, stream, or use digital effects. Connecting your guitar to the mic input or recording with a phone or computer microphone does not produce useable audio, as guitar signal is very weak on its own. An interface boosts the signal to usable levels.

Guitars are very versatile instruments that are capable of producing a very wide variety of sounds and tones. The electric guitar is particularly versatile, especially when it is used in conjunction with digital effects. However, the process of recording a guitar is far more challenging than simply plugging in and playing. Let’s explore the necessity of audio interfaces for recording guitar and find out if they are crucial for the process.

Do You Need An Audio Interface For Guitar?

Recording a guitar is only possible with the right set of hardware. This hardware can vary depending on budget and recording requirements, but it is impossible to record a guitar if you do not have the means to get the audio signal from the instrument to a recording device.

electric guitar 2
You will need a way to get audio signal from your guitar to the recording device.

Among the best ways to record instruments these days is to use recording software on a computer and send the audio signal to the software from the guitar by using an audio interface.

Audio interfaces enable the computer to receive the signal from a guitar by converting the audio signal to a digital signal and boosting it to a level that is perceptible and usable by the machine.

audio interface
An audio interface converts signal from the guitar to a digital signal. The audio interface also boosts the signal so that the machine can perceive it and use it for recording.

However, many guitar players wonder if this type of interface is necessary for recording guitar?

The short answer here is that you do need an audio interface to properly record a guitar. There are alternatives to recording with an audio interface, but none of them are as reliable as an interface, and none of them produce audio quality at the high level that an interface does.

Without an audio interface, the process of recording a guitar is even more challenging, and the audio product that is produced is likely to be very low quality. Audio interfaces are not the only way to get a guitar signal into a computer for recording, but they are definitely the best option.

Recording guitar without an audio interface will result in low-quality audio.

Why Are Interfaces So Crucial?

Many guitarists record themselves for writing and recording new songs or covers, or they record themselves playing as a practicing technique to enable themselves to hear any mistakes that they may happen to make.

Using an audio interface gives a better recording so that you can practice your technique and listen for any mistakes.

If you are recording your guitar for practice purposes or just for fun, without making any professional recordings, you may be wondering why audio interfaces are considered to be so crucial for recording guitar if there are other options available?

The truth is that audio interfaces are so crucial for recording guitar because the audio signal from a guitar is very weak. Without using an interface to boost the signal of the instrument, it is incredibly difficult to capture usable audio directly from a guitar.

Acoustic guitars are loud acoustically, but when they are plugged in, they are just as quiet as electric guitars are unless they have a built-in condenser pickup and preamp. Even so, these guitars will still be too quiet in a recording for the audio to be useable if they are not recorded using an interface to boost the signal.

electric guitar 3
The audio signal from a guitar is very weak, so you really do need an interface to get a usable signal.

An audio interface amplifies the signal from a guitar that is plugged into it and makes the audio useable for recording purposes. Interfaces do the same thing for microphone signals, which are also very quiet unless they are boosted, so even recoding a guitar with an amp and microphone requires the use of an interface.

Even if you are only recording your guitar for the purpose of practicing or making backing tracks for yourself, you will still need to hear the audio for it to be useful. Without an interface, the audio from a guitar is inaudible and useless.

What Are The Other Options?

If you really need to record a guitar and you have no audio interface, there are some other options, but they will not work as well as an interface will. With that being said, let’s explore some of the other possible guitar recording avenues.

The most obvious way to record a guitar without an interface is to use a smartphone. Modern smartphones have sophisticated microphones that enable them to record decent audio. This audio is not studio quality, but it can be transferred to a computer and used for practicing purposes, even if it does not sound very good.

smart phone
You can use a smartphone to record guitar without an audio interface. However, you will not get studio quality.

Another way to record a guitar that some guitarists have tried is plugging the guitar directly into a computer’s microphone port or using a microphone plugged into the mic port for recording an acoustic guitar or a guitar plugged into an amplifier.

This option is not ideal because the microphone input for a computer is not powered and can therefore not amplify or boost the signal in any way.

laptop
You can also plug the guitar into the computer’s microphone port to record audio. However, this input is not powered, and so it does not amplify or boost the signal.

Using this method will produce a very soft, almost inaudible guitar signal that must be boosted in post-recording to be audible at all. This post-boost makes the audio audible, but it does not make it useable, as it is likely to be very distorted by the boosting process.

These options are possible, but they are simply not ideal for recording any kind of usable guitar audio at all.

Which Audio Interface Is Best For Guitar?

At the end of it all, any audio interface is better than no audio interface when recording guitar for any purpose. The fact that the signal from the guitar is so weak directly means that any form of signal amplification or boost will make a substantial difference.

The best audio interfaces for guitar are those that boost signal cleanly without distorting it or adding sonic anomalies. However, some interfaces stand out as being the best simple interfaces to get recording quickly and easily.

audio interface speaker
The best audio interface for guitar will boost signal without distortion. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is one good choice.

Among the best and most straightforward interfaces for recording guitar are the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, the M-Audio M-Track Duo, and the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Solo.

These interfaces will provide high-quality guitar audio, and they are very easy to use and not too expensive either. These are some of the best on the market for guitarists.

Get Rid Of Static In An Audio Inter...
Get Rid Of Static In An Audio Interface!

(You can find out which audio interface has the best preamp here).

Conclusion

Using an audio interface is only necessary if you want to run your guitar into your computer for recording, streaming, or using digital effects. If you simply want to play guitar, it is better to use a simple amplifier.

However, if you do want to record, stream, or use digital effects through your computer, there is no better option than using an audio interface. Without it, your guitar will sound weak and quiet, and the audio you receive will be unusable.

Wondering whether to record guitar in mono or stereo? You can learn more here.

Wondering whether to record guitar and vocals separately? Find out what to do here.

You can learn more about when you need an audio interface here.

You can find out which audio interfaces the pros use here.

References

https://www.musicradar.com/news/best-guitar-audio-interfaces

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