#1
I'm looking to be able to play my guitar into my newly acquired mac. When I was searching online so I can record from my guitar directly to my laptop, I need a cable that fits. Well, the website said no need for adapters...well, I thought, I could buy a 1/8" adapater and plug it into my guitar cable, then run it into the computer. That would work right? I think the answer is simple, but just checking.

Here is the link to the cable.

http://store.apple.com/1-800-MY-APPLE/WebObjects/AppleStore.woa/wa/RSLID?mco=6C04E07A&nplm=TA399LL%2FA

Also, I would rather be able to run my guitar through my amp, then from the amp into the computer. What outlet in the back do I need? I have every one of them, just don't know which to use. I'd like to hear myself play while it records.

If this doesn't make sense, feel free to ask questions to clarify.

Thanks, I appreciate it.
G
Free Thinkers are Dangerous
#2
To go from amp to computer you would use the line-out port on your amp into the line-in on your computer.
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#3
First, the reviews on the cable you are looking at aren't too good quality wise. The "picking up radio stations" review indicates a bad shield, at least on that particular cable.

If you want to record directly onto your computer using the microphone input on the computer, instead of buying the $25 cable you asked about, I'd suggest buying a good quality but reasonably priced standard guitar cable, like a Fender Electro-Volt or similar and then go to Radio Shack or somewhere like that and get a Mono Mini-plug. Radio Shack sometimes sells them in packs of two, so you might have to buy two....no problem because you might need the second later. Cut ONE end off your brand new guitar cable, strip the wire down and solder it to the Mini-Plug. Voila! Same cable for about $12 or less. And I don't think you'll be picking up radio stations on it either. If you don't have the soldering skills or tools, most guitar shops would do this for you, and if you buy the cable and plug from them they might throw it together for you free or at least cut you a deal. You will not be the first person who asked them to do this and it won't take them five minutes.

You can plug your newly created "Frankencable" directly into the microphone input of your computer's soundcard and into your guitar just like the $25 dollar cable you are asking about. WARNING! It will NOT sound great, but you might can do a few things to make it sound a little better. If you have EQ, compression and modeling options in your recording software that can help. Typically you'll find that you just can't get enough volume and fullness. It is going to sound flat and there will be no oomph. It will NOT be the same as running your guitar through an amp and sticking a Shure SM57 in front of the amp to record.

Your second option. If your amp has an EFFECTS SEND or a PRE-AMP OUT a similar Frankencable could be constructed with a three conductor stereo type mini plug instead of a mono one to feed your computer, but instead of connecting it to your computer's MICROPHONE input you MUST connect it to the LINE input on your computer, sometimes called the AUXILARY input. When making this cable you have to wire it correctly for the guitar to feed both the left and right channels. (The guys at the guitar shop will know how to wire it. Basically you use a very short little wire jumper to connect both of the positive terminals together. This is probably not the first time they've done this either.) This would sound BETTER than plugging your guitar directly into your computer because you've got the EQ in the amp, the amp's reverb or other effects plus a hefty signal boost from the preamp. It will sound a little more like an electric guitar should, but still not exactly right.

WATCH THE LEVELS!!! ALWAYS start at ZERO and go up from zero to find a good usable level. You'll have to adjust your levels on the computer's inputs too. Sometimes the AUX/LINE input on your computer is turned off by default so double click the speaker icon (which controls your sound card) and turn the channels on and off and adjust levels.

If this setup mutes your amp (some amps will mute and others won't) you can use headphones or your computer's speakers to hear your guitar. Another way to hear your amp if it enters a muted state would be to get a "Y" adapter (Radio Shack) with one standard male phone plug to 2 standard female phone jacks and plug this "Y" adapter into the EFFECTS SEND or PREAMP OUT on your guitar amp. Next take another shielded short mono phone patch cable or very short guitar cable and plug one end of it into one of the "Y" adapter jacks and the other end into your amp's EFFECTS RETURN or AMP IN jack. Your amp will now work again. Plug the phone plug end of the Frankencable with a stereo Mini-plug into the other "Y" adapter jack and plug the Mini-plug into the LINE/AUX input on the computer's sound card. This way you should be able to hear your amp and it will also be feeding the computer's sound card. Now this setup can inject some noise into both your amp and your recordings if you have a problem somewhere in one of the cables, like a bad shield. In general the more cables running around the worse off you are going to be.

I'd wear headphones anyway because what the computer is hearing will sound a bit different from what the amp puts out.

NOW, what you say that you want to do will work and it is cheap. However you will quickly come to realize you really needed a mixer. A mixer will sound 100% better and be much more versatile. So I'd encourage you in that direction.

A Hosa brand cable with two phone plugs on one end and a single stereo mini-plug on the other end are good to connect a mixer to your computer, a 10 footer is about $10. I use one. A little analog mixer like a Behringer should run 50 to $60. That is all you need. So for $70 you have a little studio going. You can find used mixers cheaper than that on eBay.

With a mixer you also have the advantage of being able to plug a microphone into the mixer and recording anything you want. So, I'm a real proponent of putting a mixer in front of the computer soundcard. With a mixer you can use a monitor send from the mixer to return to your amp's effects return jack if you want too and get rid of the
"Y" adapter. You can plug in a pedal board, a direct box, a wah-wah pedal, a microphone, use phantom power to run a condenser mic, copy off cassette tapes. Whatever. Lots of options.

You have to keep in mind that all sound cards have limitations as to what they can do performance wise whether miked or fed direct by a mixer. The sound card that comes with most computers is usually enough for recording a voice from a headset microphone or playing back pre-recorded music. That is what they were designed for, and typically the microphone preamp is weak. They were not expecting you to plug a guitar into it or record 8 tracks. So, unless you buy a computer that was designed specifically for music recording the soundcard will become a weak link. If you start hearing pops, skips, jiggles or such racket, you may be looking at upgrading your sound card. Most modern computers' sound cards are built right into the motherboard and they simply are not very robust. Upgrading to a dedicated soundcard is easy for desktops but laptops are a more expensive upgrade and the selection of soundcards for laptops is slim. For my desktop PC I've been using a Turtle Beach sound card for about 3 years. It is an older model called the Santa Cruz 5.1 which is no longer in production. I have been very happy with it. They are reasonably priced and mine has been reliable. Some people go with the more expensive SoundBlaster cards because they figure more expensive equals better quality sound, but Turtle Beach cards work great and I prefer them because I'm not rich. I found out about them from a broadcast audio engineer. He told me to try the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz because it was the card he was using in all the computers in the all the studios he was setting up at that time. He was right, it is a good product.

There are also USB soundcards and even USB mixers. These are outboard devices that plug directly into a USB port on your computer and bypass your computer's sound card completely. I've not tried one, but I've heard they work pretty good. If you have a laptop I would encourage you in the direction of a USB mixer, or a USB soundcard with a standard mixer. It would probably be more cost efficient to get a USB mixer than an analog mixer and a USB soundcard.

There is also an even newer product called the "IK Multimedia StealthPlug Guitar/Bass USB Audio Interface Cable" which plugs from your instrument DIRECTLY into a USB port on your computer. This basically is a little USB soundcard built into a guitar cable. I don't know how well it works, but what a great idea! It also comes with recording/modeling software. This is a brand new item I just heard about. It retails for $129 but online vendors have it for $99. However you can't plug a microphone into it. Just a guitar or bass. It looks very promising for home practice and limited recording uses. This is really a great idea and if I didn't need a microphone input from time to time I might try one myself. But I wonder what impact it would have on my existing soundcard. I like playing along to recorded music for practice.

Good luck G. Let us know how you make out.
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