If you play the electric or bass guitar, this article is written to help you with audio gear recommendations.
Please note that if you already have audio gear that you use for home recording of your guitar with your computer, you can very likely just use the gear you already own with our free JamKazam application. In this case, check out our system requirements, and then follow the steps in these help articles to set up the gear you already have to work with our app.
If you don't already have this kind of gear, or aren't sure, then following are some recommendations for different levels of expense and quality gear that you can choose.
We've organized our recommendations into two sets of options:
- If you own an amp, and your amp's specific sound is really important to you, then it's likely you'll want to mic your amp - i.e. put a microphone about 1 inch in front of your amp to capture the guitar audio from your amp.
- If you don't own an amp, or are not hyper concerned with the specific sound of your amp, then you can plug your guitar (or a pedal board or other effects processor) straight into the 1/4" port on an audio interface. Note that if you go this direction, even if you don't have an amp or pedal board or other effects processor, you can use VST or AU plugins like AmpliTube within the JamKazam application to apply effects (e.g. distortion, wah, etc.) to your guitar tone. For more information on using AmpliTube and other plugin effects, please use this help article on using VST and AU plugin effects in the JamKazam app.
Most guitarists don't mic their amp, but rather just plug into an audio interface so we'll cover options for that first (immediately below). If you prefer to mic your amp, then click here to jump down to the section of this help article that deals with this approach.
Neewer Guitar Cable & Headphone Jack ($10)Your cheapest option to get up and running is the Neewer Guitar Bass To USB Link Cable Adapter for PC/MAC Recording (pictured below).
This cable costs just $10. It has a 1/4" jack on one end, and a USB jack on the other end. To use it, you simply plug the 1/4" jack into your guitar, and plug the USB jack into a USB port on your computer. There is no driver software to install. It's a plug-and-play device on both Windows and Mac computers. This cable converts the analog audio from your guitar into digital audio, and passes the digital audio into your computer through a USB port.
When using this cable as your guitar input, you plug headphones or earbuds into the headphone mini jack port on your computer to hear the audio. And you use the built-in microphone on your computer for voice chat - i.e. to talk with other musicians in your online sessions to communicate about what you're doing.
This guitar cable will give you a simple "clean" guitar sound. If you want to apply effects, you can do this using a product like AmpliTube by IK Multimedia. There is a free version of the AmpliTube software application that you can download and install on Windows and Mac systems.
In our testing, we've found that this product usually works OK. It sounds just a little muddy, and can sometimes suffer from some audio artifacts, but it's not bad, and certainly very inexpensive. Using this guitar cable as the guitar audio input, and using the built-in headphone jack for audio output results in about 8 milliseconds of audio processing latency on Mac OS X systems, and about 12 milliseconds of audio processing latency on Windows systems.
Behringer UM2 ($29.99)The Behringer UM2 (pictured below) delivers a pretty amazing combination of low price, high audio quality, good feature set, and fast audio processing performance.
At just $29.99, you get an audio interface that connects to your computer via a USB cable, and gives you 1 combination XLR-1/4" input port, plus a 1/4" input port, headphone jack, and optional phantom power. We see this interface regularly available for $29.99 at certain Internet storefronts. To find this pricing, we'd recommend simply searching "Behringer UM2" on Google, and checking the Google Shopping results, as pricing on this interface is much more variable than the other products listed in this article. In our testing, we've found that using the Behringer UM2 for audio processing results in about 8 milliseconds of audio processing latency on both Mac OS X and Windows computer systems.
You can plug a 1/4" jack directly from your electric guitar or bass guitar (or from a pedal board or effects processor) into either port on this UM2 audio interface, and connect the UM2 to your computer using a USB cable (included with UM2). And you can use the built-in microphone on your computer to chat with other musicians in your online sessions. If you're only playing the guitar and chatting, this Behringer UM2 is all you need.
If you want to sing in addition to playing, you'll want to also plug a microphone into the UM2 to capture your vocals. Using the microphone built into your computer works fine for voice chat in sessions, but not for singing, both due to latency and audio quality issues.
For a great price/performance vocal mic, we recommend the GLS Audio Vocal Microphone ES-58-S & Mic Clip - Professional Series ES58-S Dynamic Cardioid Mike Unidirectional (With On/Off Switch) (pictured below).
This mic is just $29.99. It's a high-quality imitation of the standard Shure SM58 vocal mic. The Shure mic is an industry standard, but it costs $99.99. For $70 less, the GLS mic is really close to the same quality. If you prefer to spend more, you can use this link to the Shure SM58S Vocal Microphone (with On Off Switch).
To connect this microphone to the UM2 audio interface, you'll also need an XLR cable. You can pick one of these cables up for less than $10. For example, the Your Cable Store XLR 3 Pin Microphone Cable (6 feet) (pictured below).
The one other accessory you'll want in this case is a microphone stand. You can't hold the mic while playing your guitar, so you'll want to be able to leave the mic on a stand and position the mic close to your face. For a microphone stand, we'd recommend the Samson MK-10 Microphone Boom Stand, which costs $19.99.
Behringer UCG102 ($39.99)If you can't find the Behringer UM2 for $29.99, and if you don't need to sing while playing, then the BEHRINGER GUITAR LINK UCG102 (pictured below) is another good, inexpensive option, delivering a solid combination of low price, high audio quality, and fast audio processing performance for guitarists.
This interface provides a single 1/4" input port and a headphone jack, and connects to your computer via a USB cable. You can plug a 1/4" jack from your guitar (or pedal board or effects processor) into the 1/4" input port, and then connect a set of headphones to the 1/4" (not 3.5mm mini jack) headphone jack on the interface. With this interface, you'll need to use the built-in microphone on your computer to chat with other musicians in your online sessions.
In our testing, we've found that using the Behringer UCG102 for audio processing results in about 10.5 milliseconds of audio processing latency on Mac OS X systems, and about 8.5 milliseconds of audio processing latency on Windows systems.
If the specific sound of your amp is *really* important to you, then you should probably use the option to mic your amp, but note that this will be more complicated and expensive.
In this case, we'd suggest that you get a Behringer UM2 audio interface (described in an earlier section of this article - scroll up to find it). But instead of plugging your guitar into the UM2, you will plug a microphone into the UM2, and then place the microphone about 1 or 2 inches in front of your guitar amp. If you do this, you can run your amp at "room level" - i.e. not very loud. For this purpose, we recommend the GLS Audio Instrument Microphone ES-57 & Mic Clip.
Here's where things get a bit more complicated. You'll also need to be able to chat with other musicians in your session, so you'll need to use the built-in mic on your computer for that. And that chat mic can easily pick up the audio from your guitar amp. Based on the speed of sound, and the slower audio processing speed of your chat mic, this can create a highly distracting lag effect where an echo of your guitar audio is caused by the chat mic lagging the mic you've placed on the amp. To prevent this, you'll ideally want to put your guitar amp outside the room you're in, or at least away from you and pointed away from you as well, with the volume pretty low - all to try to avoid having the audio from the amp picked up by the chat mic in your computer.