I have a magnetic pickup... How can I use it to record the sound of a guitar to a laptop?

I was told magnetic pickups should not be directly connected to a laptop (and that might be true, because I hear a lot of noise). What should the magnetic pickup be connected to, before I can input the sound to my computer?

Should I have used a simple microphone?

  • Is it important to you that the recording sound like a guitar, or is the sound produced by the pickup sufficient for your purposes? Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 22:57
  • "I was told magnetic pickups should not be directly connected to a laptop (and that might be true, because I hear a lot of noise)." Noise isn't a result of connecting to the laptop. Odds are good if you're hearing noise it's because the pickup is a single-coil, and, in the same room would be noisy going into a guitar amp. I've plugged my guitars into a 1/4" to mini-phone-plug adapter and into my laptop, and it sounds fine and doesn't hurt the computer or guitar.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 2:37
  • What make and model pickup?
    – Ian C.
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 5:59
  • @ J Assyptoth: if you are responding to the other post about them not being suitable, what he said is not strictly correct. It is correct in the sense that it is a low quality solution, but it will work. The biggest issue with these setups is ground loops and unshielded cables. There are ways to deal with both of these situations.
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 14:49
  • Recording is off-topic (for now). There is an Audio Recording site where you can ask this, however.
    – user28
    Commented May 29, 2011 at 2:54

3 Answers 3


Generally you do not use a magnetic pickup with an acoustic guitar but a pickup designed for acoustic's(such as a piezoelectric).

You can use a microphone or a clip on mic/pickup that clips onto the guitar(headstock or sits in the hole). I wouldn't use a magnetic pickup because it won't pickup a lot of the acoustical sound that makes an acoustic guitar sound the way it does(even piezo's are not the best for this).

Generally the way acoustic guitars are recorded in the studio is to use microphones. There are various ways to position the mic but this is generally the way to go if you want to "record".

As far as the laptop thing is concerned. The main issue you will have is impedance matching. What this means is, basically, your signal may be too quite and require too much amplification to recover it's sound which also amplifies the noise. This shouldn't really be a problem though and piezo's and mic's are not as susceptible to electromagnetic noise as magnetic pickups.

If I were you I'd look into getting a mic or a piezo rather than use a magnetic pickup.

  • Condenser mic is a good way to go.
    – Bella
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 18:00
  • When I was a teen back in the stone age with no money, I would place a pair of decent headphones on the guitar body (like a clip)
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 14:46
  • IME, well-designed (low-impedance!) magnetic pickups for western guitar tend to sound much better than a piëzo on the same guitar. Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 18:38

Is your magnetic pickup part of your guitar? Like it is on my Ibanez? If so, that's a fine way to get sound from your guitar to your computer. You're going to get a different sound than you would from a mic, and a different sound than you would from a regular electric guitar. Every setup has its own sound. Don't worry about that now.

What you need to worry about is getting instrument-level sound into your computer. What you want is an audio recording interface. There are several options.

I personally have and love one of the Line 6 interfaces. The amp / effect models are very good and it's worked with everything I've ever tried to use. I have the one with a single instrument and a single microphone input. The monitoring has zero latency and sounds great.

  • No, I bought the pickup separately. Do you know if I can get a reasonable interface (I'm assuming USB will be better than mic-in) for 20$?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 20:04
  • Or is something like this interface too bad
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 20:08
  • 1
    @John Assymptoth - Obviously I can't tell you anything about products I've never used. But $20 sounds like a really low bar. Here (bhphotovideo.com/c/product/800751967-USE/…) is the best price I can find on a product from a company and supplier that I've heard of. You'll still need some sort of software to deal with your sound once it's in your computer - that's a separate question. Hope this helps!
    – gomad
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 21:41

No matter whether you go for magnetic, acoustic or piezo pickups, the signals are at extremely low voltage, so you want to use some form of pre-amp. This will bring the levels up well above the noise floor. It will also sort out impedance issues (impedance matching is an entirely separate area but also of importance in ensuring output quality).

Some preamps also allow you to simulate an amplifier sound (see the Line-6 range) but this may or may not be what you want.

I tend to use either a DI box, or a Line-6 amp simulator, depending on the sound I want.

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