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Novice : please help me choose an audio set up for Laptop for listening to music and playing guitar


BertieBonafides
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Hi,I joined a pc hardware forum a few weeks back but did not get much help so I searched the web for a computer audio forum and joined here to hopefully get some expert help.

I am not very knowledgable on Audio and would not consider myself an audiophile.

Anyway...I play electric guitar and currently use amp modelling software called Amplitube.

At the moment I use an M-Audio Jamlab(very dated) to connect to my PC and play along to my mp3s via amplitube.

I would now like to upgrade a bit inorder to do the same thing but get playback through loudspeakers.

I have been looking around for a reasonable quality interface to connect my guitar to my laptop but my main problem is choosing a decent quality speaker set up to playback my mp3s and with guitar aswell...I will not be doing any recording whatsoever.

I was told I may need a DAC depending on my on-board sound.

I was looking at active speakers such as the m-audio AV42 but there are other ways I have seen such as using a hi-fi amp and passive speakers so I am really lost as to what is going to be best for me.

Basically I want to beable to connect my laptop to a set of speakers that will allow me to listen to my mp3's in good quality and also allow me to play amplitube through them aswell(amplitube has built-in mp3 player).

Volume wise I would like loud enough for a house party :)

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Hi,I joined a pc hardware forum a few weeks back but did not get much help so I searched the web for a computer audio forum and joined here to hopefully get some expert help.

I am not very knowledgable on Audio and would not consider myself an audiophile.

Anyway...I play electric guitar and currently use amp modelling software called Amplitube.

At the moment I use an M-Audio Jamlab(very dated) to connect to my PC and play along to my mp3s via amplitube.

I would now like to upgrade a bit inorder to do the same thing but get playback through loudspeakers.

I have been looking around for a reasonable quality interface to connect my guitar to my laptop but my main problem is choosing a decent quality speaker set up to playback my mp3s and with guitar aswell...I will not be doing any recording whatsoever.

I was told I may need a DAC depending on my on-board sound.

I was looking at active speakers such as the m-audio AV42 but there are other ways I have seen such as using a hi-fi amp and passive speakers so I am really lost as to what is going to be best for me.

Basically I want to beable to connect my laptop to a set of speakers that will allow me to listen to my mp3's in good quality and also allow me to play amplitube through them aswell(amplitube has built-in mp3 player).

Volume wise I would like loud enough for a house party :)

 

The Focusrite 2i2 is both a nice input preamp for instruments, mics and line sources, and a more-than-decent USB DAC for playback. I still use mine for ripping LPs from my phono setup. There are a lot of portable in-out devices like this for home musicians. The Focusrite is particularly musical for the money, IMO, and easy to use. This and a good pair of powered monitors should do just fine.

 

The PreSonus is nice too, and a little cheaper.

 

I've never played along with my music, but either of these units should allow you to mix your guitar with your music playback. They both have free mixing software as well.

 

If you're still unsure, try a pro-music forum. There are probably any number of YouTube vids that can help as well. :-)

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The Focusrite 2i2 is both a nice input preamp for instruments, mics and line sources, and a more-than-decent USB DAC for playback. I still use mine for ripping LPs from my phono setup. There are a lot of portable in-out devices like this for home musicians. The Focusrite is particularly musical for the money, IMO, and easy to use. This and a good pair of powered monitors should do just fine.

 

The PreSonus is nice too, and a little cheaper.

 

I've never played along with my music, but either of these units should allow you to mix your guitar with your music playback. They both have free mixing software as well.

 

If you're still unsure, try a pro-music forum. There are probably any number of YouTube vids that can help as well. :-)

 

Such as this one:

SOS Forum • Forum index

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The Focusrite 2i2 is both a nice input preamp for instruments, mics and line sources, and a more-than-decent USB DAC for playback.

Hi and welcome! I have a bit of experience with your situation - I've been both a professional guitarist and an audiophile for 50+ years.

 

The Focusrite is a great unit at a bit over $100 - but you don't mention budget, you don't describe your playback system (if any), and you don't question sound quality. So I assume you want a simple, inexpensive setup to let you play an electric guitar along with your mp3s through an equally simple but good-sounding audio system. If your goal is simply to practice and play along with your music, you need nothing additional but an amp with 2 inputs and a cable with a connector for your PC's audio output on one end and for your amplifier's input on the other (combining the two channels into one at one end or the other). You can use either a guitar amp or an audio system amp. Run the "speaker" output from your PC into one input or channel of a guitar amp and your guitar into a second input or channel. Every PC with an audio output jack has a built-in DAC driving that jack - it may not be high end audio, but it's good enough for the use you describe.

 

The headphone-out jack on a PC will drive a guitar amp just fine for your purposes - I've used transistor radios, then cassette players, then CD players, then mp3 players, and now my phone to play music through my guitar amp on breaks for many many years. If you only have a single input on your guitar amp (which is true for many of mine, from Vox Nighttrain to Boogie Mk 1 to Phil Jones Briefcase), you can run both the PC output and the guitar through a Y-connector into a single input (Wow! I can hear the sizzling of many audiophile brains as I finish this!) No, it's not good audio practice to run multiple device outputs into a single input - but none of the reasons not to do this applies to your situation and you won't damage anything.

 

You can certainly get great sound from audio system speakers, but none was designed for use as an electric guitar speaker and most make poor choices for this purpose unless you keep the volume 'way down. You can get great powered monitors from JBL etc for $300 a pair or less. Any of these (I have and love a pair of LSR305s) will let you play your music with fine sound quality, even using your PC's onboard DAC. I've never seen small monitors with multiple inputs, although you may be able to find some with multiple connectors to the same input (e.g. 1/4" and 1/8", XLR and 1/4" or RCA, etc). This is not ideal, but it'll work fine for what you seem to want. Yes, serious monitors can handle both live input and playback of very loud bands. But a table-top monitor is not going to serve well or long as a guitar amp - you'll soon blow it apart at much above a whisper.

 

If you want to build your first computer audio system, the above is irrelevant - but if you just want to practice and play along with your music, I'd do it through a guitar amp.

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Hi,I don't own an amp anymore.

I currently use an m-audio jamlab to connect to my laptop via usb and I use guitar amp modelling software (gtr3 and amplitube)which allows me to play along to mp3's with my headphones.

I would like to upgrade to a better quality interface as the jamlab is very dated although I am having no problems with it soundwise.

I would also like to listen to me playing along with my mp3's through speakers in realtime in my bedroom rather than always use headphones but will obviously need speakers that can cope and be able to fill my small bedroom volume wise.

I don't need the top quality pricey gear as I am not going to be recording. but don't want the poorest quality gear as that is what I am probably using at the moment.

I am going to try and pick up an interface and speakers 2nd hand but don't know which interfaces/speakers are good/bad.

I will also be using the speakers to playback only mp3 music so want decent quality soundwise.

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Hi,I don't own an amp anymore.

I currently use an m-audio jamlab to connect to my laptop via usb and I use guitar amp modelling software (gtr3 and amplitube)which allows me to play along to mp3's with my headphones. I would like to upgrade to a better quality interface as the jamlab is very dated although I am having no problems with it soundwise. I would also like to listen to me playing along with my mp3's through speakers in realtime in my bedroom rather than always use headphones but will obviously need speakers that can cope and be able to fill my small bedroom volume wise. I don't need the top quality pricey gear as I am not going to be recording. but don't want the poorest quality gear as that is what I am probably using at the moment. I am going to try and pick up an interface and speakers 2nd hand but don't know which interfaces/speakers are good/bad. I will also be using the speakers to playback only mp3 music so want decent quality soundwise.

M-Audio stuff is fine. There's nothing at all wrong with your JamLab, and I don't see any need to replace it - it's a simple box with one input for guitar and one output for headphones, so there's nothing to update but associated software. As I recall (I've never used one), the JamLab came with GTExpress software and is pretty versatile. Since you're happy with the sound quality and you've already gone beyond the GT software with Amplitube, why not just add a small pair of powered monitors from Fostex, M-Audio, Alesis, JBL etc? Compare them at a big box music store (e.g. most Guitar Centers carry a good stock of them) and grab the pair that sound best within your size and price range. Drive them from the headphone jack on your JamLab and you should be very happy, as long as you don't drive them very hard with live guitar. Although you can't use audio monitors as a guitar amp, you shouldn't have any problem at all at reasonable volume levels in your bedroom.

 

You could add a simple USB audio interface like a $30 Behringer 202 for very nice sound and a pair of line level RCA outputs that you could use to drive small powered monitors. But I don't think you'll gain anything at all over using small powered monitors with your JamLab - the Focusrite and its ilk are wonderful devices, but I don't see how you'd benefit from them at all since you're not recording.

 

You're running Amplitube on your PC already, so you should be all set to boogie in real time with a simple pair of powered monitors and the cables to connect them to your PC. Just remember that you're not playing through a Marshall and keep it down to a dull roar.

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thanks....I don't blast it out as my neighbours wouldn't be very pleased.

I was looking at a lexicon alpha as an audo input/output rather than the jamlab as it might be a better quality dac(rather than on-board sound) for playback of mp3's as it is very cheap on amazon...would that be any improvement over the jamlab?

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thanks....I don't blast it out as my neighbours wouldn't be very pleased.

I was looking at a lexicon alpha as an audo input/output rather than the jamlab as it might be a better quality dac(rather than on-board sound) for playback of mp3's as it is very cheap on amazon...would that be any improvement over the jamlab?

A Lexicon Alpha's a great piece too - but I really don't think it'll sound any better than your JamLab with the systems we're discussing here. You're playing mp3s, not FLACs or other lossless file formats. You're not playing hi-res files, and you're not using an audiophile source. The DAC chips in $100-and-under musical instrument USB interfaces are essentially interchangeable, so the DAC in your JamLab is either the same as or very similar in quality to the one in the Lexicon piece. My TEAC US-1800 was a typical step up from these, with 24 bit 192k res and generally better quality. But the minor difference was apparent only in recordings made through it and wasn't really audible through the monitor (phones or speakers) while recording. Without better source, amplification and speakers, I strongly doubt that you'd hear a significant difference.

 

If I were you, I'd plug a good little pair of powered monitors into the JamLab and use it for a while before making any other decisions. A decent pair of monitors will sound even better with a better source and DAC, so you can always upgrade in the future for better sound with the same speakers. As for me, I'd save my money for guitars and amplifiers if I had to choose between my instruments and my audio system. I used my guitar amps for audio in high school and for my first 3 years of college, before I got a pair of "real" speakers.

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