Recording guitar via an amp - nothing but static.

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DLT
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 10:59 pm

Recording guitar via an amp - nothing but static.

Post by DLT »

Hi,
First I'll just say I did a quick search but can't seem to find any topics that relate to my specific problem.

I recently bought an 6.3mm to 3.5mm audio lead for recording my guitar, and a guy at the show recommended goldwave as audio recording software, and since I already had the trial version I figured I should try that before buying anything.
I first tried the lead directly from my guitar to the laptop (through the microphone in on my soundcard) just to see if it actually recorded, which it did, although it was very quiet but that was to be expected.
Anyway, so I then tried it via my amp, that is, my guitar plugged into my amp and then the amp plugged into the laptop from its headphone/line out socket. Tried a recording and got nothing but static, couldn't even hear any sound of what I had been playing.
Now, my amp really isn't great quality (crappy 15 watts, but it came with my guitar as a package) and it does buzz like crazy if my guitars plugged into it when I'm not playing, but I don't get why Goldwave is just picking up static but nothing from my guitar.
I messed with a few of the volume control settings, both in goldwave & on my PC but no luck, since I don't really know what I'm doing. :oops:

So, any advice/clue why goldwave doesn't pick up anything but static fro my amp? If you need any hardware details for my laptop just ask and I'll see if I can find em.

The sound information it has when looking up my model number on toshiba.com is:
supported audio format : 24-bit stereo
supported sound standards : MIDI support
speakers : built-in Harman Kardon® stereo speakers
manufacturer : Toshiba Bass Enhanced Sound System with Dolby® Sound Room™
Although in dxdiag and device manager my speakers are listed as Realtek HD Audio.

Thanks for anyone who takes the time to reply, sorry if this has been asked before and my lazy searching didn't produce it as a result. :)

Edit: If its any help, I also tried recording using Audacity since its the other program the guy in the shop recommended, and it produced the exact same results. So I'm guessing the problem lies somewhere in the input from amp to laptop.

DougDbug
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Location: Silicon Valley

Post by DougDbug »

Can you hear the guitar from the PC's speakers with the amp connection? I assume you can hear it with the microphone connection?

Note that the Windows has separate software-mixers for recording and playback, so you don't necessairly record what you hear. And, the recording mixer isn't usually a true 'mixer"... Usually you can select only one input at a time for recording (this depends on the soundcard/driver).

From GoldWave's menus, you can get to the recording mixer as follows: Options -> Control Properties -> Volume. Make sure that you've selected the correct input and that the volume is up.

(If you can't get it working, tell us what version of Windows you are running.)
I first tried the lead directly from my guitar to the laptop (through the microphone in on my soundcard) just to see if it actually recorded, which it did, although it was very quiet but that was to be expected.
I think guitar has higher output voltage than a microphone, but it's also higher impedance... So the mic input's low impedance might be "pulling down" the signal. (An impedance mismatch might also alter the tone.)
Anyway, so I then tried it via my amp, that is, my guitar plugged into my amp and then the amp plugged into the laptop from its headphone/line out socket.
That should work, but you need to plug-into the computer's line input.... You should never connect two outputs together! But, here's the catch.... Your laptop may not have a line input. Sometimes, the inputs/outputs are configurable. Your laptop may have a utility installed to configure the mic input for either mic or line.

In general, if you connect the amp's headphone-out to the computer's mic-in, you will overdrive the microphone input and you'll get distortion (and probably excess noise). However, you may be able to get-away with this, if you lower the amp's volume and the computer's mic-in volume. It's probably worth a try... Just don't expect super-high-quality results.

If you are willing to spend some more money... An external (usb connected) soundcard will have a line-input. And, you might consider getting a Direct Box (A.K.A. "DI box"). Pro's either use a direct box, or they record from the amp with a microphone, in order to capture the accurate tone of the particular guitar amp.

If you do get a direct box, make sure it's got an unbalanced line output, or an output that works with both balanced and unbalanced inputs. Home audio uses unalanced connections (one signal wire plus one ground). Pro equipment uses balanced connections, usually with XLR connectors (two signal wires plus one ground).

DLT
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 10:59 pm

Post by DLT »

Sorry I worded that badly, I meant to say I went from my Amps line out/headphone socket to my laptops mic in.

I tried experimenting with the amp's volume, but no matter what I set it to I still got the same static when recording. This made me think it wasn't picking up anything from my amp at all it was just nothing but interference or w/e so I turned my amp off and hit record, and I got the same sound. So I don't get whats going on. :?

Oh and, I found a line in on the front of my laptop, which I tried recording with instead, and although it gave me better quality recording when not using the amp, I still get just buzzing with my amp.
I just don't get it, it doesn't pick up anything when plugged into my amp, but does when plugged straight into my guitar, and changing the volume and even what its.. inputting to.. I still get the same crazy buzzing/screeching sound.

Thanks for the reply though, I'm a little reluctant to try buying an external sound card until I've managed to get something from my amp, since I don't know how the quality is of recording from my amp is yet as it won't record. :P

To make matters worse, I now somehow can't get the lead out of my guitar, its stuck. :x

DougDbug
Posts: 2062
Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2005 3:33 pm
Location: Silicon Valley

Post by DougDbug »

Oh and, I found a line in on the front of my laptop, which I tried recording with instead, and although it gave me better quality recording when not using the amp, I still get just buzzing with my amp.
That's weird... So, we know line-in is working, and you shouldn't need an external soundcard. Headphone-out to line-in should work too. It's not a "perfect match", but it should work.

You say "better quality" direct to line-in. Is it OK, or is there still a problem?

Are you sure the amp's headphone output is working? Have you tried it with headphones? Maybe the cable is bad??? I assume it's a "regular" stereo headphone output (3.5mm like an iPod?). Are you using a stereo cable? (A mono cable might short-out the "stereo" headphone output.)
To make matters worse, I now somehow can't get the lead out of my guitar, its stuck.
That's terrible! I've never seen that problem before! :evil: Don't break the guitar!!! You can probably get inside the guitar... But if you're not comfortable with electronic repair, take it back to where you got it, or take it to an expert.

DLT
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 10:59 pm

Post by DLT »

I say stuck, its just that the plug's a bit too tight, which wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't for the awkward angle at which it plugs in meaning you can grab it with two fingers at best, and the material protecting the wires is really slippery. I'll see if I can get someone to pull it out tommorow.

And the headphone socket out of my amp is a 1/4" like the input, I assume its just a regular line out but they just labeled it headphones. The cable I'm using is a 1/4" to an 1/8" (or 6.3mm to 3.5mm) to connect the amp to my computer.

And the better quality referred to when I record straight from guitar to laptop, with no amp in between, I'm still getting nothing off the amp which is what I don't get.
Unfortunately I don't have any headphones that I can test it with, so if my amps headphone socket isn't working I have no other way to prove it. And I bought both from a internet site so I can't take it to where I bought it, only to local shops if it really needs fixing.

The Great Watbol!
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Post by The Great Watbol! »

You can pick up some cheap headphones from a dollar store, they will let you know if the socket works.
Last edited by The Great Watbol! on Wed Oct 08, 2008 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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DougDbug
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Location: Silicon Valley

Post by DougDbug »

And the headphone socket out of my amp is a 1/4" like the input, I assume its just a regular line out but they just labeled it headphones. The cable I'm using is a 1/4" to an 1/8" (or 6.3mm to 3.5mm) to connect the amp to my computer.
OK. You need a stereo cable. Depending on what you can find, you may need an adaptor or two. The line-input on the computer is stereo, and a stereo cable will give you sound out of both PC speakers... You don't really need to record in stereo since both channels will be identical anyway, but there's no harm in it either, other than your WAV files being twice as big.

Guitars use a "mono" 2-conductor TS (Tip-Sleeve) connector. Headphones use a stereo 3-conductor TRS* (Tip-Ring-sleeve) connector.

When you plug in your (guitar) TS connector, the output jack's "ring" contact (right channel output) is connected to the "sleeve", which is also connected to ground. And, since the guitar amp is actually mono, there is only one output connected to both left & right connections (tip and ring contacts) and these are both now shorted to ground.


* From Wikipedia:
If a two-conductor plug of the same size is connected to a three-conductor socket, the result is that the ring (right channel) of the socket is grounded. This property is deliberately used in several applications, see "tip ring sleeve", below. However, grounding one channel may also be dangerous to the equipment if the result is to short circuit the output of the right channel amplifier. In any case, any signal from the right channel is naturally lost.

DLT
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 10:59 pm

Post by DLT »

Ooh, I see, that makes some sort of sense even though I don't know much about this sort of thing. :P
I checked my cable (finally got it unplugged by wedging it out with a penny lol) and it doesn't have the sleeve bit, its just a mono/2-conductor thing which would explain why it can't pick up my amp's output. I'm guessing that explains the static it got even when the amp was off, even though I'm not sure why.

I guess I'll have to take the cable back to the shop and say its not the right connection type. Thanks for all the help.

DougDbug
Posts: 2062
Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2005 3:33 pm
Location: Silicon Valley

Post by DougDbug »

I think the exact cable will be hard to find (a 1/4" stereo plug on one end and a 3.5mm stereo plug on the other end).

If you need to "assemble" something, you should be able to find a headphone adapter (like this) that allows you to plug 3.5mm "portable" headphones into a "standard" 1/4" headphone socket. These adapters are always handy to have around.

Then, you just need a cable with stereo 3.5mm plugs on each end (like this).
I checked my cable (finally got it unplugged by wedging it out with a penny lol) and it doesn't have the sleeve bit, its just a mono/2-conductor thing which would explain why it can't pick up my amp's output... I guess I'll have to take the cable back to the shop and say its not the right connection type.
I'm confused... The 2-conductor plug is correct for the guitar (but wrong for the headphone output), and that "guitar connector" was stuck in the guitar, right? (If it was me, I'd hang-onto that "wrong" cable... I have a little box full of adapters/cables.)
I'm guessing that explains the static it got even when the amp was off, even though I'm not sure why.
I don't really understand the static either, but I think we shouldn't worry about that... Let's just assume that problem will go away when we get the connections working. :wink: You're going to get some noise from the soundcard, but a shorted input shouldn't increase the noise. (It's generally OK to short an input to ground.)

DLT
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 10:59 pm

Post by DLT »

Okay, let me try to summerize things a little bit about the cables to make sure its all clear:

-I have a regular mono 1/4" to 1/4" cable to connect my guitar to my amp as normal.

-I bought a 1/4" to 1/8" cable to connect my guitar to PC, or my amp to PC, which turned out to be mono not stereo and won't work with my amp for the reasons you pointed out. It will work with just the guitar though.

-I got the 1/4" to 1/8" cable stuck in my guitar, when recording from my guitar to my PC without the amp, because I couldn't get the 1/4" end out of the guitar due to the covering on the wires being impossible to grip. I almost broke it in the process but I got it free by wedging it out.

-Now I need a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter for my headphone socket on my amp, and a 1/8" to 1/8" stereo cable to record successfully from my amp to my PC.
I will need to keep the mono cable though for recording from the guitar directly I think, and for anything else it could come in handy for in future.

Think thats about it, I'll have to go to that shop again at the weekend and try to explain the problem and get the right stuff, and if they don't have it try somewhere else. Then I'll see if the static problem was caused by using a mono cable in a stereo socket, and go from there.
Luckily my amp still seems to be working despite the fact I could've short circuited it though so thats good.
Thanks again.

DewDude420
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Post by DewDude420 »

The Great Watbol! wrote:You can pick up some cheap headphones from a dollar store, they will let you know if the socket werks. :·)~
I usually keep quiet about other people's posts (most of the time), but seriously, I don't see where that contributed to the discussion, that's like the one silly frame in the thread.

Also, I'm sure if you continue to substitue "internet-spellings" for actual words, the likelihood that anyone will take you seriously will drop, i for one have already started to disregard your comments.

As far as the problem...there was a lot there, i skimmed over it. I'll just toss out my generic things for recording from a guitar amp.

Headphone out and line out ARE NOT THE SAME. In theory, yes, however, line-out is generally a fixed level that corresponds to the generally universal line-in signal of audio components. You can use headphone as line out, (as most ipods and portable CD players do), just mind the volume.

you SHOULD have a set of RCA plugs labeled line-out on the amp...if not, then that's bizarre becuase even most cheap amp's i've dealt with have them. my colleges in the studio are digging through our gear, but everything we've got has RCA line-outs.

the buzzing is probably caused by a ground loop...using a mono jack on the stereo connector SHOULDN'T cause that, it would short the right channel to ground and cause no input. i'm the kind of guy that would rewire the plug...you MIGHT be able to find something that will work at radio shack (although thier selection of stuff is crap)

oh, and not that it matters because i've only seen this on microphones...but SOME microphones use a TRS connector rather than a TS becuase they offer balanced output (+, -, gnd) which requires three contacts...that's not to say you wouldn't see it on other applications (but generally, in a pro-setup they're using XLR)

The Great Watbol!
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Post by The Great Watbol! »

DLT wrote: Unfortunately I don't have any headphones that I can test it with, so if my amps headphone socket isn't working I have no other way to prove it.
what I wrote was a suggestion to him not having a set of headphones to test with. That's how i felt i was helping out this thread. :oops:
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DewDude420
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Post by DewDude420 »

well, as i said, i glanced...plus i'm sure people know where to buy headphones...dollar store headphones would be my last choice..it's hard enough finding a pair that works properly.

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