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Various Ways To Interface Your Instrument To Your Computer

If you're like me, you are obsessed with home recording. I've spent a lot of time and money figuring out the best way to connect my microphones and guitars to my computer over the years. Here are the routes I chose and what worked best. Platform From the beginning I decided to go with the Mac platform, just because I had played with their iLife included software "GarageBand" and was somewhat satisfied with its recording capabilities. I don't think it has everything, but I got a Powerbook G4 in 2003 and now own a MacBook Pro. Straight Line-In w/ Radio Shack Adapter The first thing I tried was to use the built-in line-in on my Mac, which is a 1/8 inch female stereo port.

So, I got a 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch adapter from Radio Shack. This was the worst way to interface my guitar to my computer. The part from Radio Shack didn't fit my instrument cable just right, it caused undue wear on my Mac's port, and the sound was super tinny. iMic The iMic is basically the same as the Radio Shack adapter, only its got a short cable on it and it fit my instrument cable better. I still got a pretty tinny sound.

M-Audio Fastrack USB Audio Interface I had my first fruits of success with this $99 audio interface. Essentially it takes your guitar's or microphone's analog signal and turns it into a digital one. It sends the digital data via USB to your recording software, and voila! This solution was my first experience of semi-professional sounding recordings, paired with some GarageBand post-production mixing and effects. There was still a problem with buzzing and feedback, however. I also borrowed a friend's mixer which would allow me to do some mixing, and balancing, and pretty soon I was making stereo recordings. It sounded pretty good, but the interference increased. I had too many connections and cables and opportunities for signal loss and corruption. Alesis 8-Channel USB Mixer This is the solution that has worked best for me for a small home-grown budget while getting virtual recording studio quality. This mixer was around $200, but acts as both a regular analog mixer, and a USB interface (both parts of which can be used independently of the other). This mixer/USB interface removes some of the seams of the rig, allowing for purer sounding, higher quality recordings.

The mixer also features 100 different pre-amp effects. So, essentially, the signal goes from my guitar, through a cable to my USB mixer, through the USB cable straight to my computer. There are very few analog connections involved. Behringer iAXE 393 There is one more option that has even less analog connections. The Behringer iAXE 393 has a USB port right on it, allowing you to plug it straight into your computer digitally. This is quite an incredible idea, allowing seamless digital recording. Hopefully more guitar companies will jump in and add their own USB versions of their guitars. I tested the iAXE, and I must say that although the action was a little high, the guitar sounded great, pumping data straight into Garageband.


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