A USB guitar cable is one of the easiest ways to get studio quality sound right into your computer. As technology has increased, as has sound quality and the price has continuously dropped on these cables. In this post we’ll take a look at how these cables work, what you need to make them work, and where to find the best prices.
The old-school cheap way of hooking your guitar to your computer was to get a 1/4″ to 1/8″ inch converter and run that into the line-in on your computer. This never worked well because of a terrible signal to noise ratio. You were relying on your computer to digitize the input, and all sorts of hisses and pops were the result. Computer sound cards are designed to play music, not create it! You also had the option of using expensive firewire or USB line-ins but those are no longer necessary for the solo player.
USB guitar cables take care of the digitizing of the signal on their own with a small sound board built right into the cable. Sending the signal already digital into the computer results in an excellent signal to noise ratio and in turn near studio quality sound. It’s as simple as plugging the USB guitar cable into your axe and the other end into your computer and you’re ready to rock. No extra drivers are needed, and your computer’s operating system is irrelevant as it will work on both PC and Mac. It also works for acoustics and bass just as well as electric guitar.
Making it all work on your computer takes software though. You can’t just plug in and play through your computer’s speakers. A simple recording program is necessary to put everything together. Macs come with Garage Band, which works perfectly with a USB cable for guitar. If you don’t have a Mac you can use Audacity, which is a free but limited program from Sound Forge, Cakewalk, or whatever your favorite (or cheapest) software is.
If you don’t process the sound going into your computer or with some sort of effects in your software, you’re left with the raw guitar sound. Almost all recording software will have a set of guitar effects that you can use. If you plan on using your own effects, the USB guitar cable needs to connect from the last pedal in your chain to the computer.
Finding good deals on USB to guitar cables is easy. They used to be pretty expensive, but now you can find them as low as $20. Amazon and eBay are always a sure bet to get the best deals around.
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