I have recently purchased a Focusrite 2i2 audio interface and have begun experimenting with recording guitar. I have also downloaded Reaper, as well as Guitar Rig and Amplitude and various other VSTs to try out different effects.

Although it has been great fun to play about with, I have found that the sounds are not quite as authentic as my amp (I have a Line 6 spider 4 amp). Also with high distortion, I experience clipping with my guitar (Schecter Damien 6 FR).

I have been looking to give the sound that little extra warmth to make it sound more realistic and have several people suggest to me that a pre amp might give it that extra kick and solve some of my sound issues.

Will a pre amp help much with this? If so, how much money would I need to spend to get a quality one? I was considering a Pod 2 which was recommended at a local guitar shop, can anyone who has experience with pre amps and recording give me some advice.

  • 1
    One thing to be aware of with preamps in the recording world: Interfaces almost always have a preamp built in. The interfaces that are usually considered the best typically have nice preamps that do not 'color' the sound much. A lot of the nicer interfaces will detect when another preamp is in use and disable the on board one. Before using another preamp, you should check that your interface will handle this; using two preamps can certainly cause problems, as others have suggested. Mar 3, 2014 at 16:31
  • On Focusrite you can NOT bypass the built-in Preamps. Even if you insert a TRS instead of XLR, the interface always bring it down to mic level and then you have to use the Focusrite gain to bring it back to the desired level. Not really nice...
    – user10866
    May 24, 2014 at 18:59
  • "Also with high distortion, I experience clipping..." you're aware that distortion is nothing but clipping (deliberately shaped in a particular way)? May 25, 2014 at 22:55

4 Answers 4


You (almost certainly) do not need a separate preamp (yet) -- you should try taking the phones/line-out from your Spider 4 and record that on your computer. Note that when you do this, you'll want switch the the input to "line" level. If you do this you should be able to capture the sounds you're getting out of the amp onto the recording, without need to use any software effects.

Note that with respect to the Line 6 Pod in particular you'd be buying essentially the same effects models as are currently present on your Spider IV.

With respect to the clipping, you want to think about "gain staging", c.f. this Sound on Sound article on gain staging. You almost certainly do not want the pre-amps on the 2i2 to be clipping, and probably want to consider the signal levels within the effects models if that is where the clipping is occurring.

Added on second read of question.

You may also want to examine how you are monitoring the sound in your recording setup. Listening to the recorded guitar through, for example, computer monitors will weaken and otherwise color the guitar sound relative to what you've come to be familiar with from your amp. Getting good speakers or headphones may improve your perception of the sounds that you are getting.

In all, you need examine the complete signal chain: from guitar to external effects (in your case the amp) audio interface, audio software & effects back out through the speakers, find the weakest link, and improve that.

  • So do you always get better quality recording from amp into interface into pc? My amp needs fixing atm, so for time being mainly using interface. What about adding a mixer in instead of preamp, e.g. guitarguitar.co.uk/pa-live/detail.asp?stock=10031218100642 . Would that be a good way to boost quality?
    – AdamM
    Mar 3, 2014 at 10:02
  • No, my diagnosis was the following: you were not getting sounds that you liked using the interface+software effects. You do like sounds you get from the amp. Plugging the amp into the computer (via interface) and recording without software effects should give you sounds that you like.
    – Dave
    Mar 3, 2014 at 13:48
  • I think I probably need to play about with the settings more and do more experimenting, I just see many videos of people on youtube with really professional sounds and just wonder how they achieve this, some of them use pre amps, and some have mixers as well, so was wondering if I should purchase one of these if I want really professional sound.
    – AdamM
    Mar 3, 2014 at 14:03

I'm almost positive that the problem is not the interface but the settings on the amp sims you use or the amps sims themselves. Experiment more.

As for the clipping, I'm not sure but your interface might have a pad button which lowers the input signal. Look for it.


as I seen here , Focusrite 2i2 already have 2 award winning pre amps! and according to my experience its not a good idea to have 2 pre amps together. this may sound so bad I tried it in a concert practice with a Dynacord mixer pre amp and a zoom pre amp.

  • Would having 2 pre amps sound alright for recording?
    – MrTheBard
    Mar 3, 2014 at 13:20
  • doesn't make a difference you can buy a good expensive preamp and use just that. what is the reason for 2 pre amp?! :) Mar 3, 2014 at 14:04
  • I asked my question incorrectly. I've read that you can bypass the preamps on an audio interface if you want to use another preamp instead of the 2 preamps in the focusrite. I have not yet tried this and wanted to know if bypassing the focusrite preamps and using a separate preamp plugged into the audio interface produces good results for recording.
    – MrTheBard
    Mar 3, 2014 at 15:02
  • 1
    sure it will :) but take a look at clipping. and be sure to buy a pre-amp that better sounds than your interface , go for high end pre-amps Mar 3, 2014 at 18:34

To whoever is reading this: You NEED a "Direct Box". end of story

You will be able to plug your guitar in without your actual amp.

You will get a clean signal with TRUE color of you software effects such as Amplitude or Guitar Rig.

In USA the cost is around $40.00

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