Can I Plug My Bass Guitar Into My Computer?

Do you want to record your bass guitar with your computer? You may be wondering, “Can I Plug My Bass Guitar Into My Computer?” Let’s take a look at different ways to connect your bass guitar to your computer and some great recording options.

Can I Plug My Bass Guitar Into My Computer?

Can I plug my bass guitar into my computer? The answer is Yes. The Best Way to connect your bass guitar to your computer is with an Audio Interface. You can connect your bass guitar directly to your computer with a 1/4″ to 1/8″ mono adapter. You can connect your bass guitar to your computer with a 1/4″ to USB cable. You can connect your bass amp direct output or headphone output to your computer. All of these options will work but I believe the best way to connect your bass guitar to your computer is with a USB Audio Interface. The USB Audio Interface will eliminate latency, give you better sound quality, allow you to add other instruments and midi, and is a great way to do multi track recordings in your DAW software.

Video Credit: Reverb

There are several different ways to connect your bass guitar to your computer. We are going to talk about some different connectors and cables you can use and the advantages and disadvantages of some of these methods.

I believe the audio interface will be your best bet to accomplish professional results.

Connect Your Bass Guitar To Your Computer With A 1/4″ to 1/8″ Mono Adapter

One quick and easy way to connect your bass guitar to your computer is with a simple 1/4″ to 1/8″ mono adapter.

There are several different styles, but a basic adapter will do the trick.

1/4" Inch To 1/8" Inch Mono Adapter

Simply plug your 1/4″ lead from your bass guitar into the 1/4″ side of the adapter and the 1/8″ connection will plug into the microphone input on your computer.

This will connect your bass guitar into the computer so you can get the bass signal into the computer.

In order to get a good recording level, you may need to boost the signal going into the computer from the bass guitar.

You can get a Direct Input box to boost the signal, or you may be able to boost the signal with your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software.

Note, you may experience latency from connecting your instrument to your internal computer sound card and trying to record and multi-track with a stock computer sound card.

Connect Your Bass Guitar To Your Computer With A 1/4″ To USB Cable

Another way to connect your Bass Guitar to your computer is with a 1/4″ mono to USB adapter cable.

1/4" Inch Mono To USB Connector Cable

You can connect your instruments to your computer with a 1/4″ to USB connector cable.

Simply plug the 1/4″ mono lead into your bass guitar or any instrument and plug the USB end of the cable into your computer.

You need to be aware that plugging your instruments into the sound card on your computer may cause latency while trying to record or play along with backing tracks.

In order to get a good recording level or sound level to play along with backing tracks you may need to boost the signal coming into the computer.

You may be able to boost the signal inside your DAW software.

Connect Your Bass Amp Direct Out Or Headphone Output To Your Computer

If you already have a bass guitar amplifier with a direct output or headphone jack, you can connect your bass amplifiers direct output or headphone output to your computer.

Connect Your Bass Amp Direct Out Or Headphone Output To Your Computer

Depending on the type of bass amp you have you may be able to connect the direct out from your amp to your computer.

If your bass amp has a headphone jack you can connect the headphone output to your computer.

In the picture above this amp has both direct out and headphone out so I would connect the direct output to the computer with an XLR to USB cable.

Again, you may experience latency when you connect an instrument to your computer’s internal sound card.

Most stock computer sound cards are not designed for recording instruments.

Not to worry, I have an inexpensive solution that will give you high quality sound, the ability to multi track record, and practice along to free backing tracks while using headphones or studio monitors.

Let’s take a look at the best solution for connecting your bass guitar to your computer.

Connect Your Bass Guitar To Your Computer With A USB Audio Interface

How To Connect You Bass To An Audio Interface

Up to this point we have looked at different ways to connect your bass guitar to your computer.

The Best Way To Connect Your Bass Guitar To Your Computer Is With A USB Audio Interface.

The reason the USB Audio Interface is the best way to connect your bass guitar to your computer is because the audio interface will:

  1. Eliminate Latency
  2. Pro Sound Quality
  3. Better ADC and DAC Converters
  4. Easy To Control Line Input Levels
  5. Easy Volume Control For Monitoring
  6. Easy Headphone Connection
  7. Easy To Connect Studio Monitors
  8. Easy To Connect Multiple Instruments
  9. Easy To Connect Vocal Microphones (Phantom Power)
  10. Easy To Connect Midi Instruments And Controllers

Let’s take a look at each of the PRO qualities listed in the list above to give you a better idea of what we are dealing with.

Eliminate Latency

Latency can happen when you connect your instrument directly to your computer Without an audio interface.

Your computers onboard sound card has to take the incoming audio signal and convert it into a digital signal that your computer can work with.

The process of converting analog signal to digital signal and digital signal back to analog signal uses your computers processing power.

Latency often occurs due to this conversion process and hundreds of other processes your computer is working on at the same time.

The Audio Interface has built in converters and does the signal conversion process for your computer and frees up processing power for your computer.

Pro Sound Quality

When you record and play instruments through your computer the computer works with digital signal.

Your instrument and vocals that you want to record has an analog signal coming from your instrument or microphone.

The analog signal has to get converted into a digital signal.

Your computer has onboard converters to take care of this for you but are not designed for pro sound quality.

An audio interface will give you the ability to record your bass guitar with a pro sound quality of 24bit / 192kHz.

The built-in converters on your stock computer will not give you this high quality of sound.

Better ADC and DAC Converters

The ADC converter converts Analog signal to Digital signal.

The signal coming from your instruments and microphones is an analog signal.

Your computer needs digital signal to work with.

The DAC converter converts Digital signal to Analog signal.

The signal coming from your computer is digital and needs to be converted back to analog.

Your speakers, headphones and human ears need Analog signal to work with.

An audio interface gives you pro quality converters for the best analog and digital signal conversion.

Easy To Control Line Input Levels

If you want to play and record your bass guitar with your computer, you need a signal level that is strong enough for your DAW software to recognize.

If you are trying to connect your instrument directly to your computer Without an audio interface, chances are you will need some sort of pedal or DI box to boost your signal. (How Much Are You Going To Spend On That Pedal Or DI Box?)

An audio interface makes it easy to set your incoming level so that the signal is strong enough to work with and also not too loud because this causes clipping.

An audio interface makes it simple to set your line levels going into your computer and you do not need an extra signal boosting pedal or DI box.

The audio interface saves you money and gives your excellent control over your line levels.

Easy Volume Control For Monitoring

When your processed signal comes back out of your computer you need to be able to hear what you’re working on.

The audio interface makes it simple to control the monitoring volume for your studio monitors and headphones.

You may need your studio monitors set at a level that sounds good in your room and your headphones set to a different level that is comfortable to work with.

Easy Headphone Connection

It is much easier to connect your headphones to your audio interface.

If you are trying to connect your headphones directly to your computer, you may have to plug in behind the computer.

You also may have to control the volume level with the computers operating system.

It’s much easier to plug your headphones into your audio interface on your desk and just reach over and set the volume to whatever you want.

Easy To Connect Studio Monitors

Get rid of those computer speakers you have been trying to listen through and get yourself a set of studio monitors.

If you are serious about creating pro quality mixes you need a set of studio monitors.

Relevant Article: Are Studio Monitors Necessary? Good article if you want to learn more.

An audio interface makes it super easy to connect your studio monitors and control the volume levels.

Easy To Connect Multiple Instruments

We already know you want to connect your bass guitar to your computer for recording and play back.

What if you want to add a drum track, keyboards, and some guitar?

An audio interface gives you the ability to connect all your instruments in one central location for recording and playback.

Plug your different instruments into the audio interface and leave them plugged in.

All of your instruments are ready to play and record whenever you need them.

Easy To Connect Vocal Microphones (Phantom Power)

You may be a vocalist or want to record a bass amp with a microphone.

You can plug your microphones into your audio interface and record vocal tracks with your DAW software.

If you have a condenser microphone it will require phantom power.

The Audio Interface will have phantom power available to power your condenser microphones.

You can easily set your microphones level with the audio interface input gain control.

Easy To Connect Midi Instruments And Controllers

You may have a midi keyboard or midi drum pad that you want to create beats with.

Every bass player should think about the endless possibilities of creating your own beats.

Get an audio interface with midi in and out connections.

This way you can connect your midi devices and open up new possibilities for endless creativity.

How To Connect All Of Your Instruments To Your Audio Interface

Advantages Of Using An Audio Interface For Recording Bass Guitar

The biggest advantage of using an audio interface to record your bass guitar is the sound quality and the ease of setting your levels.

Sure, you can connect your bass guitar to your computer with adapters and special cables, but the sound quality won’t be that good and you are probably going to need some sort of pedal or software to boost the signal coming from the bass.

Advantages Of Using A Audio Interface To Record Your Bass Guitar

  1. Best Sound Quality
  2. Always Connected And Ready To Record
  3. Easy To Set Your Line Levels
  4. No Need For Signal Boosting Pedals
  5. Eliminates Latency

Some of these advantages we already talked about in the section above, but I do want to point out that the sound quality with an audio interface will be much better than just plugging your bass guitar straight into your computer.

Best Sound Quality

The ADC and DAC converters you find in an audio interface will be a much better quality than the converters you have in your stock computer.

The ADC and DAC (Analog to Digital / Digital to Analog Converters) greatly affect the quality of sound that you can record in your computer with your DAW software.

A good audio interface should give you the ability to record with 24bit / 192kHz sound quality.

Because the signal conversion is happening inside of your audio interface it takes a load off of your computer. This one thing alone helps to reduce latency.

Always Connected And Ready To Record

With an audio interface you can leave your bass guitar, microphone, and other instruments connected.

You are always connected and ready to play and record.

This means when inspiration hits you are ready to roll and don’t need to mess with setting things up.

Easy To Set Your Line Levels

One huge advantage of using an audio interface for recording is that you can turn your input signal up if it is too quiet or turn it down if it is too loud and causing clipping.

Most audio interfaces will have a led indicator meter showing your signal strength and you can easily adjust the levels by looking at the led lights.

When you are recording instruments the level at which you record the instrument is a big deal and an audio interface makes it easy to get your levels set to the proper level.

MOTU M4 USB Audio Interface With Midi

No Need For Signal Boosting Pedals

When you connect your bass guitar and other instruments to your audio interface you can adjust the levels of the line inputs with the audio interface.

If you connect your bass guitar directly to your computer there is a high probability that you will need a boost pedal or an active DI box to set your line levels with.

Most good quality DI boxes cost more than an audio interface and you will still be using the stock ADC/DAC converters in your computer and facing latency issues.

Eliminates Latency

Because the ADC / DAC converters built into your audio interface are doing the processing of the analog to digital signal and then digital back to analog, this takes the processing load off of your computer.

So, you are getting a better sound quality of 24bit / 192kHz and eliminating latency.

Depending on the type of computer you are using with your DAW software, you may still experience latency.

If you have a newer computer and are using an audio interface, you should not have latency issues.

If you do experience latency you can often make adjustments for this in your DAW software.

Relevant Article: Best Audio Interface For A Home Studio. Take a look at some great audio interfaces with midi to get you started.

Advantages Of Using An Audio Interface With Midi In And Outputs

I highly recommend getting an audio interface with midi in and outputs.

Even if you do not currently play a keyboard or have midi equipment that you want to record with you may in the future.

Being a bass player, you could most definitely benefit from having a midi keyboard to lay down some of your own beats to jam to and record different tracks.

You can use midi to build your own beats and even lay in fills with different chord structures.

Recording with midi and virtual instruments is a great way to build multi track recording sessions where you play all the different parts and create your own tracks, beats, and productions.

What Is DAW Software?

DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation.

DAW software is the software package you use to record your instruments, vocals, midi, and virtual instruments to create multi track recordings.

Current DAW Software on the market is: Studio One, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Image Line FL Studio, and many others.

With DAW Software you can record, mix, and produce your own music.

Relevant Article: What Is Daw Software? Great article if you want to learn more about DAW Software.

What Are Virtual Instruments?

Virtual Instruments are software-based instruments that are used by producers and musicians to create orchestras, string sections, synthesizers, create beats, and even vocal and chorus tracks.

Let’s say you are a bass player and are recording a track but need some drums or a stand-up acoustic bass to go with your track.

You can easily create a beat on your computer with a Drum Virtual Instrument, a Midi Keyboard, and DAW Software.

Some musicians and producers like to use a set of electronic drums or a midi drum pad for their midi controller instead of a keyboard.

Virtual instruments and midi open the flood gate to creativity and give you endless possibilities to work with.

I have an article about virtual instruments you may find interesting. Be sure and check it out.

Relevant Article: EastWest Sounds Opus. This is a great article all about virtual instruments.

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“The easiest way to connect your electric guitar or bass to your computer is to use one of the small guitar audio interfaces on the market. Just connect the cable from your instrument to the interface and you’re ready to rock.”https://support.soundtrap.com/hc/en-us/articles/205506232-How-to-connect-my-guitar-to-my-computer
“cheapest would be 1/4 to 1/8 adapter at radio shack for around $5. your going to need something like a pedal to boost the signal a bit. this will not give you that great of a sound.”https://www.talkbass.com/threads/cheapest-way-i-can-plug-my-basses-guitars-straight-into-my-pc.810950/
“Connecting your guitar to a PC or laptop gives you a way to start recording your playing, experiment with different amp simulators, effects, plugins, and more.”https://guitargearfinder.com/guides/how-to-connect-guitar-to-pc/
“Your best option is to buy an interface (USB probably). You plug the interface into your computer and then your guitar into the interface. This also involves downloading and installing the right driver for your interface.”https://www.reddit.com/r/Bass/comments/2tzbbd/adapter_to_plug_bass_into_a_desktop/
“One of the easiest ways to record your bass is to go direct into your audio interface, and then the interface goes directly to your DAW. An audio interface is basically a low-latency box that has some inputs on it which then connects to your computer via USB. Most have somewhere between 2 to 4 inputs, however you can shell out some extra cash to get more inputs and features.”https://www.bassguitarguide.com/how-to-record-bass-guitar-to-a-computer-and-phone/
“For the best results, bypass the analog connection entirely and connect your guitar digitally to your computer. You can connect your guitar digitally to your computer through a pre-amp with a USB or Firewire outport.”https://www.wikihow.com/Plug-a-Guitar-Into-a-Laptop
“While cheap 1/4” (guitar/line) to USB cables exist they are exactly that….cheap. A good audio interface is the next step. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive to work great.”https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-directly-connect-my-electric-guitar-to-my-computer-without-an-amp
“You can connect an electric instrument, such as an electric guitar or bass, to your computer to play and record in an audio track. You can record the sound from your guitar to an audio track, and use the amps and pedalboard effects to shape your guitar sound.”https://support.apple.com/guide/logicpro/connect-an-electric-instrument-lgcpebe8e7cd/mac

In Conclusion

“Can I Plug My Bass Guitar Into My Computer?” The answer is yes. We learned all about the different ways to get your bass guitar connected to your computer.

I believe the audio interface is the best way to accomplish this because you will have much better sound quality, eliminate latency, better for multi-track recordings, can easily connect midi devices, and is the best way to get your headphones and studio monitors set up.

If you enjoy playing, writing, and producing music I have a lot of great articles that you may find helpful.

Take some time and look around my website and let me know if there is something you are interested in or need help with.

Feel free to leave your questions and helpful comments below.

6 thoughts on “Can I Plug My Bass Guitar Into My Computer?”

  1. Ahead of reading your post, I was wondering how the sound from the bass guitar could be properly reproduced with the laptop. I now understand latency thanks and that this can be mitigated with the use of an audio interface. My brother is far more musical than I am but I like the DAW Software and virtual instruments for trying to recreate that true full band kind of feel. I was wondering whether certain specs of laptop were best recommended for DAW to avoid crashing. And I am wondering if most DAW’s work with most plugins available?

    Reply
    • There are some great virtual instruments out there for the bass guitar.  UJAM has some nice bass guitar virtual instruments.

      The computers we use when doing music production need to be built for performance.  I recommend a good multi core processor and at least 32GB of RAM.  If you are going to do multi track recording and using virtual instruments this would be the minimum starting point in my opinion.

      Most DAW’s will work with most plugins.  Always check the plugin specs before making your purchase.

      let me know if you have other questions.

      Thanks

      Reply
  2. Thank you for this informative article. I didn’t know you could actually plug in a bass guitar directly into a computer – I have an amp and I also use a keyboard connected to my computer with an audio interface but I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to plug it in directly! I like my computer too much. Luckily you have some other options which I feel happier about…. but you never know… one day! 

    Thanks. And keep these informative blogs coming. Gail 

    Reply
    • Glad you liked the article.  An audio interface is the way to go for sure.  You can plug your bass guitar directly into your computer with an adapter, but the sound quality and latency will be an issue. 

      I think if you’re going to record an instrument then it’s best to use the best tools available

      Reply
  3. Hey, cool article and thanks for opening my eyes. I do have an amp where I plug my guitar, not my bass in this case. Thing is, i never thought it was possible, this will save me a lot of money as well as arguing with my neighbours… I am about to buy a bass also, so would like to know if this is possible with all basses. Thanks for the info!

    Reply
    • I’m glad you like the article.  This article covers different ways to connect your instrument to your computer, but I recommend using an audio interface. 

      Sure, you can plug your instrument directly into your computer but using an audio interface is the best way to get your instrument connected to your computer.

      Reply

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