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Guitar to laptop mic-in

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May 3, 2011 12:36:51 AM

Hi! So I have been trying to connect my guitar to FL Studio and have got it all working, but I found out it's problematic without a preamp or some kind of device to convert it to mic level. Or something like that. The problem is my tone dial doesn't do anything when directly connected and I'm stuck with a muffled tone level that isn't very pleasing! I've researched and it seems to do something with ohms and...ohms.

So I bought a direct box thinking it would convert the signal to something my mic-in would like more, and it turned out it just outputted as the exact same thing that came in (Guitar > DI box's Input *then* PARPOUT > laptop's mic-in). But I noticed there is another output called XLR balanced, and I was wondering is that the output I should be putting into the mic port? Will it enable the tone dial on my guitar? I have found a XLR to 1/8 adapter, so I'd just like to know if it works this way before I possibly waste money on it! Thank you!

P.S. I just wanted to mention in the past I had a BOSS DS-1 guitar pedal that my tone dial worked with and was happy with the sound. If direct box doesn't work with tone, should I be getting a pedal instead?

More about : guitar laptop mic

May 3, 2011 7:18:35 AM

maybe your problem is the need of a 'HI-Z input'
you should read the instructions for the guitar to know if it needs 'HI-Z input' or regular 'line-level' input.

i read an article that said electric guitars are supposed to use the 'HI-Z input' and not the line-level input.
that article is here:
http://www.recordingreview.com/articles/blogs/86/The-Di...
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May 3, 2011 2:52:50 PM

anwaypasible said:
maybe your problem is the need of a 'HI-Z input'
you should read the instructions for the guitar to know if it needs 'HI-Z input' or regular 'line-level' input.

i read an article that said electric guitars are supposed to use the 'HI-Z input' and not the line-level input.
that article is here:
http://www.recordingreview.com/articles/blogs/86/The-Di...


Ooooooook then. I guess the direct box goes back. It's 50k ohms input and 600 output for the balanced XLR that I haven't tried, but I guess input is where it's going wrong... so then I guess I should just get a pedal like before? I'm clueless about preamps and they sound expensive.
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May 4, 2011 2:07:14 AM

a preamp is simply an amplifier for very low signals.
the output of a preamp might be 2 volts.. it can take a signal that is too smalll and boost it.
kinda like when a person buys an amplifier for a subwoofer because the radio amplifier is too small.

sure, the soundcard can boost an input using the microphone jack.. but it might not be able to boost it enough.

you need to start with the guitar and learn what it needs to be plugged into.
it might be a 'HI-Z input' or it might be a preamp.. or it might be a preamp with a 'HI-Z input'

then you need to know if the preamp is safe to plug into the microphone input of the laptop.
if the preamp outputs too much electricity, you might slowly (or quickly) fry the laptop soundcard until it is broken.
and you dont want to mix balanced outputs with unbalanced inputs unless you are using a specific convertor (not to be confused with an adaptor)
if you use an adaptor on the balanced xlr output, you might make the direct box angry and it will break much sooner than intended.

the instruction manual for the guitar should have the information.
if you dont have the instruction manual.. try the manufacturers website, or search the internet with the model number of the guitar.

when you said the guitar was connected directly to the laptop and didnt work right.. my first instinct told me the input was the wrong one.
maybe the resistance (impedance/ohms) of the laptop input is way too low .. like touching the positive and negative wires together (a short or zap or death to electrical device).
you might be putting excessive stress on the circuit inside of the guitar, which is why the tone knob isnt working.

when you plug the guitar into the line-level input of the laptop.. the sound might be really really low, but the tone knob should still work IF you need a preamp.
because that means the ohms are okay, but the amplifier inside the soundcard isnt strong enough to boost the output level.
since you said the tone knob doesnt work, i can only guess that the resistance/ohms of the laptop input are wrong.. causing the tone knob to fail.
but
maybe the electronics inside the guitar are broken?

i really dont know what the standard is for guitar connections.. but that doesnt mean your guitar uses a standard connection anyways.

a pedal doesnt have to do what you want, it might use the same type of output.

here is an example of a problem someone might run into..
most of the $20-$30 headphones are about 30ohms and can be driven by a portable cd player or soundcard output.
the 'professional' headphones are 300ohms or 600ohms .. and these require a headphone amplifier to work.
a portable cd player or soundcard MIGHT produce some output, but the output will be very low when the volume is at maximum.

i have tried to use the internet to learn how a guitar should be properly connected to a computer.
some say you need a preamp.. other's say you need a HI-Z input.
that means the answer is specific to the guitar you have.
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May 4, 2011 2:39:50 AM

Oh, I guess I didn't mention I tried the guitar on a mini amp and the tone controls worked fine. Also, my past guitar did the same thing on a past computer with a soundblaster x-fi soundcard. The solution I came up with was plugging it into a pedal first, then into the soundcard and it was so much better! So I would guess I've got the same situation here.

Umm, I'm not sure where the manual is, but I also can't find anything about HI-Z about this guitar online. It's like it doesn't exist... but anyway, could I just give you the guitar name? Or, actually here's the exact one I've bought: http://www.amazon.com/Epiphone-Special-Collection-Elect...

But I think I had a case of the ohms thing you were talking about. The amp I mentioned I played on, well, I connected the headphone out from it to my laptop and I got insanely low output, but after boosting the level I could make out that my tone controls did work. Though successful with that, obviously the ohms mismatch made it unusable because of the noise floor. And plus I didn't like that I had its volume on like max... fryyy! Soooo am I right to think that it's the input that matters for the tone/tone controls, and the output for the volume?

So still kinda avoiding the preamp thing, could I get a pedal with a mixer out, or would that be worse than the regular output?
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May 4, 2011 5:56:00 AM

a mixer doesnt necessarily mean the output is boosted.

there are only two things you need to know:
1. what is the acceptable input ohm (could be a general term like low or high)
btw.. line-level is low (HI-Z is high)
2. how much boost does the guitar need?


i'm not completely clear about what happened when you plugged the guitar into the laptop input.
you said the sound was 'muffled'
so i dont really know if 'muffled' means the sound was hard to hear .. or if the sound was easy to hear, but distorted.

the guitar doesnt appear to have any power input.. meaning there isnt any amplifier inside.
something has to boost the signal.
a lot of mixers have a preamp inside for microphone input.
but
a mixer can also adjust the impedance/ohms of the source to something lower.

that pedal might have a preamp inside.
the pedal with a mixer might have a preamp inside.
and these things should be clearly stated, if you are looking at pieces of hardware that arent providing an explanation, its best you look elsewhere.

all guitars need their output boosted unless there is an amplifier built in (and the description/specifications would say such a thing)
that is why electric guitars get plugged into an amplifier.
a soundcard's internal amplifier isnt very strong.. its for cheap microphones like PC headsets, not for studio quality microphones.


my soundcard has HI-Z inputs.. so i went to see what the manufacturer has to say about the HI-Z input.
the website said this:

'Connect a line-level source (such as a cassette, DAT or MiniDisc player) to this jack. You can also connect a low output impedance device such as an electric guitar when Hi-Z is enabled. Hi-Z offers high input impedance to match the load delivered by low output impedance devices. This eliminates the need to run such devices through pre-amp equipment.'

since you are on a laptop.. you could probably simply get one of these:
http://www.emu.com/products/product.asp?category=610&su...

its a usb soundcard from creative (emu line of products) that has everything you need for about $99
the soundcard should be an improvement over the laptop soundcard anyways.

that thing has HI-Z inputs and a preamp.. cant go wrong there :) 
it also specifically says something about connecting a guitar.
its a studio/professional piece of hardware with regular inputs and xlr inputs.
the sample rate also goes up to 192khz @ 24bit resolution.. meaning you will get a lot more detail and clarity out of this usb soundcard than what your laptop soundcard can provide.
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May 4, 2011 7:01:17 AM

Wow that emu thing looks good for what I'm after! Kinda pricey... So this will clear up the tone and tone dial problem right? And does it also mean the guitar's noise floor will be wayyy better so when I gain up the guitar, I won't get static?

Though, apparently my soundcard goes up to 192khz 24bit as well... so it says in properties! (Realtek HD Audio) But will I actually hear a difference in quality getting this? Sorry, I'm skeptical! Like, I've compared a soundblaster x-fi, soundblaster live 5.1, and onboard sound, and they actually all sounded the same to me! Actually I think the live 5.1 was slightly muffled vs the other two which seemed equal. Oh, speaking of muffled, what I meant by my guitar being muffled was like turning the treble down. The sound was there, and noise floor once amplified, but the actual sound coming in was like covering your mouth and talking.

Another thing that bothers me. I have Windows 7. Will it butcher the unit's capabilities? I've got this huge impression that Windows 7 doesn't care about what kind of capabilities your soundcard has and just plays it through Windows' software and adding latency etc. Like for example, a gamer soundcard would no longer give frame rate benefits over onboard like it did on XP. So unless I'm wrong about all that, it makes me feel having a $100 soundcard and onboard would be the same thing on 7, give or take what's physically on the card...?

Thank you for the help by the way!
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May 4, 2011 9:50:04 AM

i'm not here to say the emu usb soundcard will sound better than the realtek HD onboard soundcard.. its a matter of the quality within the digital to analog convertor (for output) and the analog to digital convertor (for input)

as far as i'm concerned, you need a HI-Z input or a preamp (or both) and the emu 0202 has those features.
if you want to really compare which soundcard is better, you should have a look at the digital to analog and analog to digital chips on the onboard soundcard AND the emu usb soundcard.
although, that is a bit misleading though.. because the quality of the convertor might be higher - the power supply feeding electricity to the convertor chip might be dirty.
with that said, it's best to listen to the entire product as an assembled whole UNLESS you are fully prepared to modify the electrical components (add some more or replace with higher quality) to get the performance from the convertor chip.

we have come to a point where you dont know the quality of the analog to digital convertor chip because there was a problem.
if the volume of the guitar was loud enough, it may be possible that the analog to digital chip has problems with the treble.
a filter might be in place to attenuate the upper treble frequencies to keep the analog to digital convertor chip from distorting (or self-destructing).
the guitar says it has a lifetime warranty, so if the guitar is broken.. you can get it repaired or replaced.

you've tried.. but you need to try a little bit more.

i checked the emu website and i can't find any drivers at all to say if there are dedicated windows 7 drivers.
but i have read in the past, people use the vista drivers with windows 7 and have success.
the device uses ASIO that is designed to stay away from obnoxious operating system delays.
i've also read windows 7 has a compatibility mode that can solve issues when things arent working correctly.

you could look at the product offerings from m-audio.
they have a selection of usb connection devices for the 'recording artist'

i would be surpised to learn the realtek HD audio soundcard has 192khz 24bit recording.
i've heard of 192khz playback, but havent had any reason to discover the recording capabilities.

if emu or m-audio cant help you.. i'd say you are doomed :bounce: 
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May 4, 2011 8:11:09 PM

Hi, I've found out there's a windows 7 beta driver for the emu 0202 after a bit of researching. http://connect.creativelabs.com/emu/default.aspx ...All the complaints about it not working for Windows 7 seem to have died once that driver came out, and it supports 32 and 64bit XP/Vista/7 according to here http://connect.creativelabs.com/emu/Lists/Downloads/Dis...

I suppose I'll take a chance.

About the Realtek sampling rate... mine goes up to 16bit 192khz recording, and 24bit 192khz playback. Though I can't hear a difference between any of them, maybe since no music I have is above 16bit 44.1khz anyway. Also there's no problem when a device like iPod or Nintendo DS is connected to the same mic-in, stereo by the way. And the guitar is fine when plugged into an amp. Neither are broken or anything... it's just the impedance or ohms thing. But this emu 0202 should be the answer like you said, soo I'll get that soon!
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May 5, 2011 12:24:32 AM

i would have suggested the 0404 model ... but it has something called 'phantom power' that sends 48 volts to a microphone.
and i didnt want you to accidentally turn it on and fry the electronics inside the guitar.

if you record with 24bit 192khz ... you should hear a difference.
each 'sample' recorded would be smaller, and that allows the hardware to zoom in on what it is recording.
i'm not saying the 'zoom in' is going to make it louder.. but it should make the details more clear.

a pixel is one dot on a television.. and a sample is one dot of a soundwave.
more pixels with a television gives the image more detail.
the same can be said about higher sample rates and bit depths.
sample rate is like how many pixels .. the bit depth is like how many colors are available for the pixel.

if you are curious.. have a look at 16bit color.
sega genesis was 16bit color.
nintendo was 8bit color.
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