Electric guitar recording is extremely popular in music production, especially in the home recording crowd. It’s such a popular form of recording that many pro audio brands have specifically designed and engineered audio interfaces for the job, to such an extent that we are rather spoilt for choice when looking to buy a new dedicated electric guitar audio interface for our studio.
There are a number of simple pocket sized devices that are compatible with both iOS and Android devices through to small desktop solutions and rack mountable units, some even with DSP for serious studio and stage demands but which one is the best?
We can’t say. The best audio interface will always be the one you can afford with a feature set that meets your requirements. In this article we share our experiences on a selection of the most popular electric guitar-centric audio interfaces you can buy today to help you make your mind up.
Apogee are best known for their high end high priced professional range of studio audio interfaces. Jam+ is placed much closer to the other end of the spectrum but it is still very much a quality Apogee product.
Jam+ is a pocket sized USB interface compatible with both iOS devices and computer systems. It is a simple affair though it provide all the I/O you need for electric guitar recording with a single instrument input and stereo output. Jam+. Being an Apogee designed product, ensures that build, conversion and sound quality are top notch throughout. Considering it’s compact size and affordable price of $149 Jam+ has does indeed boast an impressive feature set:
Dual mode option for Clean or Overdrive signal
Drive mode makes virtual amps and effects sound more realistic
Stereo output connects to headphones or powered speakers
Blend mode minimizes delay in headphones while recording
Zero configuration - Just plug and play with any audio recording app or DAW
24-bit/96kHz high resolution audio
Rugged metal body with soft touch base
Works with iOS, Mac and Windows PC
Includes Lightning, USB and USB Type-C cables
What’s also cool about this product is that Jam+ includes a lite copy of BIAS FX from Positive Grid providing a selection of three amplifiers and six essential pedal effects. Out of the box Jam+ has everything the home electric guitar recording artist needs on a budget to get you started.
Audient, the UK based masterminds behind many a console, mic preamp and audio interface recently entered into the guitar-centric audio interface genre with Sono. Made in collaboration with speaker cabinet simulation specialists Two Notes Engineering, Sono is firmly geared towards guitar players who regularly produce high quality electric guitar recordings. We’ve had a Sono on our test bench, we liked it very much. Check out our video below to see and hear Sono in action.
Sono ticks a great many audio recording and guitar playing boxes in one simple to use package but it is so much more than just another audio interface. The valve circuit alone is worth the price of admission. The amazing Two Notes emulations sound epic which can also be stored on 3 different “rigs” in the Sono’s memory banks. This enables Sono to be used without a computer, meaning this can be used as a practice and performance tool for the gigging guitarist as well as studio recording.
Sono makes it incredibly easy to dial in a guitar or bass sound that you hear in your head as the entire Sono/Two Notes combination is very flexible.
Sono Main Features:
10 in/4 out USB interface
Classic Valve Preamp with 12AX7 Valve
3 Band Tone Control
2x Audient Console Mic Pres
High Performance AKM AD/DA Converters
ADAT Input for Expandability
Read our full verdict on Sono: The Audient Sono Is A New Guitar Centric Audio Interface With Onboard DSP - We Use It In A Recording Session
Avid Eleven Rack
The Avid Eleven Rack has been with us for over ten years, where has that time gone? Many of us on The Production Expert Team own one and will not record electric guitars without it. It’s core hardware and USB 2.0 connectivity are starting to show its age a bit but that’s not to say that The Eleven Rack isn’t any good when compared up against today’s modern guitar-centric audio interface offerings.
The built-in DSP handles all the amplifier and head tones as well as the stomp box effects with no latency issues. The flexible routing this offers also makes it at home both in the studio and on stage. All the guitar amps and effects are editable by using the physical encoders on the face of the unit, however, the stand alone Eleven Rack Editor has proven time and again to be the quickest and easiest way to dial in guitar tones amongst those in The Production Expert Team who own one of these devices.
If you shop around you can still buy one of these brilliant units today for under £350 for the interface alone which is incredible value for money as these used to cost over £1,000 when they were first launched.
There is a great deal from Avid where for $499 you get the Eleven Rack interface a 1-Year Pro Tools Subscription included, plus a FREE Eleven MKII plugin (total combined value of $1,200 USD). On top there is also a $50 USD voucher toward a future Avid Online Store order -- Get this amazing deal now.
Over the years we’ve published many articles and videos on The Eleven Rack that demonstrates its performance and power in electric guitar production, here is a selection….
You can also check out our tutorial series on creating signature sounds with the Avid Eleven Rack…
IK Multimedia AXE I/O
AXE I/O provides some unique guitar recording features that you don’t typically find in other audio interfaces of this type that IK claims will help guitarist sculpt their sounds like never heard before. The main input offers both a fully discrete Class A “PURE” circuit for tracking uncoloured sounds as well as a clever “JFET” circuit for tracking harmonically rich sounding recordings, great for getting those big tube-like tones. The guitar geekery goes deeper in this device by way of a pickup selector offering an “ACTIVE” mode for bypassing unnecessary gain stages for use with active pickups, keeping the signal path as direct and clean as possible.
There is also a new patent-pending technology in AXE I/O called Z-Tone. This is an impedance-adapting circuit that enables users to adjust the input impedance of AXE I/O to interact with their electric or acoustic guitar's pickups in a unique new way. This lets users change tone, transients, dynamics and more for a massive range of tonal flexibility.
Price: €359, also includes AmpliTube 4 Deluxe software worth €359
AXE I/O isn’t the only guitar-centric audio interface that IK Multimedia offer. Honourable mentions include the iRig range which are iOS, Android, Mac and PC compatible devices for electric guitar recording on the go.
We have tested IK’s iRig HD 2 which is a pocket sized plug and play device that connects directly to Lightning and USB ports. Watch our review to see and hear it in action.
Line 6 Helix Rack
When it comes to getting an authentic sound and feel from a guitar-centric audio interface The Helix Rack represents a significant leap forward for amp emulation guitar technology. The dual-DSP engine provides massive power to accurately recreate the dynamic feel of tube amplifiers, not just their sonic fingerprint.
The new HX Hybrid cabs represents a new approach to the speaker cabinet capture process. Not only do they provide the resolution of a 2048-point impulse response at lower DSP usage, they also provide a far more accurate low-end response than previously possible as the proximity effect of the microphone is accurately captured at 12 different distances. Helix also lets you load custom impulse responses, allowing you to personalise your rig setup even further.
Massive studio power tools such as these often come with a steep learning curves but The Helix Rack challenges that way of thinking. The large 6.2 inch 800x480-pixel LCD display all but eliminates menu-diving and provides the same level of control you might expect from an external editor.
Watch our quick overview of The Helix Rack unit below.
Universal Audio Apollo Range
Although not designed specifically for guitar recording, the Apollo range of DSP audio interfaces from Universal Audio does boast some clever technology that make them ideal for electric guitar recording, not least the Apollo Twin with its front mounted high impedance guitar/instrument input. The Apollo really comes into its own when you team it up with the every growing list of Unison ready guitar amp simulations for for the UAD-2 platform.
Depending on the amp model you choose this desktop interface can give you screaming leads or mellow bluesy overdrive all the way back to cutting clean rhythm tones. Over the years we have tested many of the Unison ready amp simulation plug-ins for the UAD-2 platform. Here are just some of them.
Price: Starting from $899 for the Apollo Twin MKII DUO 2x6 Thunderbolt Audio Interface.
Are You In The Market?
Are you in market for a guitar-centric audio interface? If so, which one of these are you considering and why? If you have used one of these interfaces before or currently use one in your studio then let us know in the comments below what you like about your interface.