In this guide, we will be taking you through the steps of connecting your guitar or bass to a computer with an audio interface. We will also provide tips on how to achieve optimal sound quality.
Before you get started, you’re going to need an audio interface. If you haven't already chosen one, we have a separate guide to help you make the best choice for your setup. Read our guide on choosing an audio interface for guitar or bass.
Connecting your guitar / bass to a computer or laptop with an audio interface
To connect a guitar or bass to a computer, connect the guitar's output jack to an input on an audio interface using a jack cable. Once the audio interface is connected to the computer through either USB or Thunderbolt, you can then plug in your headphones or monitors to the audio interfaces to listen to the sound output.
Step 1 - connecting the audio interface to the computer
Connecting the audio interface to the computer is a straightforward process. Simply plug the USB or Thunderbolt cable supplied with your audio interface into a free port on your computer.
After connecting the audio interface to the computer, you will need to install any necessary software that the manufacturer has supplied. This typically includes a driver and a software utility that allows you to configure driver settings, routing, and input type. The installation process varies depending on the manufacturer and whether you are using a PC or Mac, so refer to the manual or website for more in depth instructions.
Once the software is installed, it's important to confirm that the audio interface is recognized by the computer and working properly. This can be done by opening the audio settings or control panel of your operating system. If the audio interface is functioning correctly, it should be listed as an available audio input and output device.
It's important to ensure the audio interface is functioning correctly as any problems at this stage could affect sound quality or cause issues later on.
Step 2 - Plugging in headphones or monitors to the audio interface
The next step is to connect headphones or monitors to your audio interface. The headphones can be connected to the standard headphone jack, usually located on the front of the audio interface.
Monitors can be connected to the output connections which are typically found at the back of the audio interface Output connections usually come in pairs labeled as "Left" and "Right".
Refer to the manual or website of your audio interface for more specific instructions.
With the headphones or monitors now connected, you should be able to hear the sound output by playing audio from a web browser or any other application on your computer.
Step 3 - Connecting the guitar or bass to the audio interface
After successfully connecting the audio interface to your computer and headphones or monitors to your audio interface, the next step is to connect your guitar or bass. Most audio interfaces come with different types of inputs, including:
1/4" TS - most commonly used for connecting electric guitars and basses.
1/4" TRS - commonly used for line level source such as keyboards, synthesizers or the balanced outputs of external audio mixers.
XLR - commonly used for connecting microphones.
If you're using an electric guitar or bass, the most commonly used input is a 1/4" TS jack. To connect your guitar or bass, plug one end of the cable into the output jack on your instrument and the other end into the input jack on the audio interface. Refer to the manual or website for specific instructions on connecting your instrument to the audio interface.
It is important to use a high-quality audio cable when connecting your instrument to the audio interface. A high-quality audio cable will provide a clear, noise-free signal, ensuring the best possible performance and sound quality. Using a subpar cable can result in noise, hum, or a drop in the audio quality. Investing in a good audio cable will not only improve your recordings but also your overall playing experience. For more information read our guide on choosing a high-quality guitar / bass cable.
Step 4 - Setting up the input type
Audio interfaces commonly have a switch (either physical or in the utility software) that allows you to choose between different types of inputs. If your audio interface has this feature, make sure to set the input type to "instrument" for the input your guitar or bass is connected to, rather than "mic”.
Additionally, if your interface has a selectable "line" option, it is recommended to either turn it off, or set it to the alternative option, which is usually "instrument". Line inputs are typically used for instruments that output at a line level, such as keyboards or synthesizers.
Step 5 - Setting up the input level
Setting up the input level on the audio interface is an important step in ensuring optimal sound quality for your performance or recording. It is important to adjust the input level so that it is not too low, causing a weak or noisy signal, or too high, resulting in clipping and distorted sound.
Setting up the input level is typically done by using the gain knob or control on the audio interface. You want to adjust the level so that the audio signal is strong enough to be captured without distortion, but not so high that it clips. In general, it is best to set the input level as high as possible without clipping. This ensures that you capture the full dynamic range of your instrument and get the best sound quality possible. As a rule of thumb, make sure your instrument’s volume is turned all the way up and strum/pick the strings at the hardest velocity you would play them. Monitor your input signal while doing this, and adjust your input gain so that your signal peaks somewhere between -14dB and -9dB, while making sure the signal never clips (turns red). The exact method of adjusting the input level can vary depending on the audio interface and software being used, so it is important to consult the manual or online resources for specific instructions.
You have now completed all the steps required to connect your guitar or bass to your computer. The process may differ depending on the audio interface you have, so be sure to check the manual or the manufacturer's website for more information.
Now that your equipment is set up, the next step is to download a Neural DSP guitar or bass plugin and start playing. Check out our guides for downloading, installing and activating plugins and setting up your plugin to get started.
If you’re planning on recording, you’ll have to install your Neural DSP plugins to your DAW. To learn how to do this be sure to check out how to install plugins to your DAW for detailed information.
Guides for getting started with plugins
How to connect your guitar or bass to a computer