I'm not trying to record and I don't care if the sound isn't studio grade I just want to hear the effect my pedal applies to the guitar through my pc. I don't have an audio interface and I don't want to get one, how can I go about this?

  • Laptops tend to have single TRRS headset sockets. That will be your first hurdle. Socket adaptor & special cables required, probably need to be hand-made. Second will be impedance-matching. Third will be latency. Honestly, I'd wait until I could get hold of my amp.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 14, 2020 at 13:42
  • 1
    If you have no interest in recording then why use the PC at all? For low cost you can get a micro amp with a headphone jack or a headphone amp. Oct 14, 2020 at 15:20
  • @JohnBelzaguy Would prefer not to spend money if possible.
    – mathPhys
    Oct 14, 2020 at 18:54
  • @Tetsujin Thank you, I looked up the socket compatability and I see now why people recommend the audio interface. Thank you!
    – mathPhys
    Oct 14, 2020 at 18:55

3 Answers 3


Audio interface or not, you will need a program that lets you hear your "microphone" in real time (whether that is an actual microphone or a guitar is irrelevant, from the software side of things.) There are free and paid solutions for this, such as Garageband, Logic, FL Studio, and Reason. Without an audio interface, there are a couple of extra problems you may run in to.

Firstly, many laptops have a TRRS combination "headset" jack, which handles both the microphone (or guitar) input and headphone output, rather than a separate headphone and microphone jack. To overcome this, you will either need a cable to plug your guitar into a USB input, or an adaptor that separates the microphone input from the headphones output.

If you choose to plug your guitar into your laptop's microphone input, you will have an impedance mismatch- guitars generally should be used with high impedance inputs, and your laptop will not have such an input. This means your signal will be quiet, and you will have very little treble.

Then your next issue will be latency- the time it takes between hitting a note and hearing it in your headphones. This depends on your laptop's sound card and available drivers. I measured my laptop's round trip latency at about 25ms, which is over double what you might hope for. An audio interface designed for low latency applications will do much better in this regard.

So while you can go without an audio interface, as I have done for a while, it takes effort to get this system working, and you will have less-than-desirable performance.


You'll need a USB guitar cable and an amp simulator program (there are several free ones).

  • USB guitar cable is an audio interface... Oct 16, 2020 at 14:49
  • That’s true, a 1 in by 0 out interface. You got me there. But what kind of answer was the original poster expecting? They want to interface their guitar with a PC without buying an interface. /shrug Oct 17, 2020 at 9:45
  • You're absolutely right, just pointing out Oct 18, 2020 at 4:50

Your gonna have to cough up the money for an audio interface, unless you have a device with a 1/8" or 1/4" jack that you can reduce down to your microphone input on your PC. I've ran signals through my microphone input on my PC, it wont be stereo, but you can play through your PC's speaker(mono). I've hooked it up like that before, but nothing beats a good USB audio interface, you get everything in digital, and there's tons of software made to interact with it.

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