Connecting my Guitar to n-Track

Recording Electric Guitar

This is probably a FAQ but I’m new.

I’ve got n-Track on my Laptop. I have a line in port on it.

What do I need to record my guitar directly through the sound card?


A guitar chord and a 1/4 to 1/8 adaptor. Plug into the LINE IN (not the mic in) and you should be good to go.


Righ off the Guitar or can I run it from the line out on my Amp? The Amp line out is picked up before the power amp.

Why not Mic in?

Mic In will add unnecessary noisy due to the high gain and possible impedance mis-match. I would try the line out from the amp first. I record guitars direct all the time but I put a Korg Pandora or other similar tone shaping tool in between. Use the line in on your soundcard if you have one though.


If you use the ‘mic in’ you will be back here asking “why is there so much noise in my recording”? Just saving you some time. I think lots of people here started that way (me included)…it is a common error. :)


The “mic in” is not designed for the type of mics used in recording. It’s a special design that only works with the stick mic that comes with the computer or card. You will probably get some sound by plugging a guitar directly in to to the mic in, but there are level mismatches that cause distortion and the circuitry of the input is very noisy and designed for speech, not music.

Use the “line in.” It’s cleaner and designed for the signal level of guitar. You can plug your guitar directly in, but it will be very dry sounding. For a better sound, use a preamp or multieffect that has amp simulation, such as the Line6 Pods DIgitech RPs etc.

Alternatively, there are FX plugins that can be used with n-Track that can be used to add an amp simulation to a track that was recorded dry. Amplitube is one, does anyone have the name (link) for a good free or shareware one?

Sorry, I have nothing to add…

Just wanted to say - Karl ? Were’ve you been ?


The line input of most soundcards is not fit to use as guitar input (input impedance is way too low).
Better use something with a dedicated instrument input (mixer/amp/multi-effect etc.) in between.

You can search Voxengo or Kjaerhaus and find free plug-ins which might help. I also cruise through the stuff on the Sonic Spot.


hansje is right. A guitar is usually a high impedance instrument. Line out of the guitar amp should be the same impedance as the line in of the sound card (usually low).

Hansje is right about electric guitars with passive pickups (no battery). Which is most likely the case here.

If it had active pickups (generally, any guitar that takes a battery, including electric and acoustic guitars), then the output would be a line output and you could plug it directly into a line input.

For an electric guitar with passive pickups, you need either a DI (direct in) box that INTENDED FOR THIS PURPOSE (there are LOTS of different kinds of DI boxes and all are not suitable) or else you can use any stomp-box or FX unit that is active even when the effect is turned off (or an effect you can leave on, such as noise gate).

You can also use any high-impedance mike preamp. The mike input on a built-in or gaming soundcard is a hi-z preamp, but I don’t recommend them because they generally stink – they’re designed to be suitable for chats and talking notes, not music. It’s hard and not cheap to make a mike preamp that lives inside a computer case and it doesn’t make any sense for computer manufacturers to bother. Note: I’m NOT a purist; I think the line inputs on many computers are suitable for making excellent recordings at the amateur level (like me).

For passive acoustic pickups, it depends. Most of these come with their own preamps; others are just like electric guitar pickups; and yet others need a mike preamp.


The input impedance of the line input should be around 10k which is actually higher than the mic in impedance (typically closer to 2k) and the mic in will have DC that is normally used to power low-cost electret microphones used in “stick-mics” and headphones. The DC current will be low and unlikely to damage anything but is an additional reason to avoid that input.

The other comment is that no one has mentioned the other two obvious ways, mic the guitar amp or use an amp simulator such as are made by Line6 or other companies. If you choose to mic your amp you would want to use some sort of mic preamp or small mixer and its output would go into the line input of the soundcard. An SM57 with a small Behringer mixer is a useful thing to have around. You can mic your guitar or vocals and do a variety of useful things.


Right, nothing beats micing a guitar cab with an SM57 for tone. The timbre of an unamplified electric guitar is thin and usually unuseable.

You need one of these…
M-Audio Fast Track

You guys are right that unless he’s using software amp/cabinet modeling like Native Instruments Guitar Rig, or playing a fat archtop and wanting a very clean tone, recording direct will be disappointing.

Jimbob, electric guitar pickups and hi-z mikes are more like 150 to 250 kOhm. 10k would be a line level impedance. And plugging guitars into line inputs doesn’t usually work very well. With really hot humbuckers you can slide by, but it ain’t the real deal.

While having such a relatively low input impedance does attenuate the signal significantly, it can still work OK with a good soundcard. Many mixing desks have relatively low input impedances (in that range) and can be used direct for a “clean” sound. The biggest advantage a board has over direct input to the soundcard is gain. If you plug straight into the soundcard your level will be low and you may be buried in the noise if the soundcard is not well designed.

That said, I would really recommend getting a small Behringer board with an SM57 for a beginner just for the general utillity of it. You can probably pick-up the whole deal for around US$160 (new) including cables.


Plugging a high impedance guitar directly into a low impedance line input (be it a mixer or a sound card) attenuates high frequencies more than lower frequencies, making it all sound extra dull.

Jimbob, sounds to me like you’ve never tried that with single-coil pickup. You can’t drive the input high enough on a normal line input (one without a gain control).

But I did forget to mention that on a mixer channel that has a gain control and the gain control works on the line input (as is the case for most small low-cost mixers, on the “mic” channels), then you can crank the gain up enough to drive a signal near 0dB. The S/N ratio isn’t as good as it could be, but that shouldn’t be a big problem.

On a mixer channel without a gain control, you can get away with it only with hot humbuckers. Or put up with recording a -20dB signal (for weak SC pups).

Also, I believe Hansje is correct about the HF attenuation.

Regardless, Jimbob’s point is there’s no harm in trying it. Just be prepared to be underwhelmed – especially if you don’t have amp/cab modeling software.

Oh – there’s also “re-amping”, where you record the dry signal while monitoring your amp (usually recording the amp too, for quick mixes) and later sending the dry signal back to the amp to fine tune the tone for the mix. That’s kind of a hassle and an advanced application.