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I have an electric guitar, a Micro Cube amp and a Macbook Pro (mid-2012, so no aux). I've always been wondering how to connect all that into a small rig for practicing and probably some recording?

Ideally I think I want to have backing tracks playing on the Mac into the amp where I could get the mixed sound out of the amp either through the speaker or the headphones. And also if there is a way to record some backing to play it back?

I'm looking for some recommendations around adapters, cabling and possibly some extra devices if necessary. Thanks.

PS(1): I understand this question may be regarded as some opinion-based off-topic, but hopefully I can get some guidance and amend it so that it's a little more specific.

PS(2): Clarification: recording is only a side-effect here and quality is not very important. Also the idea is to use existing equipment or invest a minimum into any required extras.

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Sounds like you want a mixer. There is a wide variety of mixers available, and they basically do the "connect my audio inputs to the computer" part, as well as the "funnel my computer's output to nice speakers" part.

Presonus is a well known brand, M-Audio also makes the NRV10 which is pretty legit.

So anyway, if you want to record music to your mac and play it back through your amp, the only pieces you need to obtain are:

mixer, software

Software-wise, garage band is very good when you know your way around it, and the next step up would be something like ProTools (which has "everything and the kitchen sink" so to speak)

Electric Guitar > Mixer > Computer

Computer > Mixer > External Speakers / Amp.

(this setup probably does not need bi-directional cabling but just a good firewire or USB3 cable.)

Please note that Amp can refer to a pre-amp to boost an audio signal, or an external speaker amp that bass and guitar players would commonly say.

There is a lot of free software available, but basically you want something with an arrangement-view where you can record a single source for a while and layer it with other sources.

If you just wanted to jam along to a song without all the hullabaloo involved with a computer, you can always plug and mp3 player into your AUX IN (headphone size) on the amp and your guitar (simultaneously) and it will play both sources at once. Good if you have some drum and bass tracks you want to play over top of.

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    Do you really mean mixer, or do you mean audio interface? – topo morto Dec 13 '15 at 16:24
  • I don't know, what's the difference? I mean a physical hardware piece that connects an input (instrument) and an output (computer). I guess it could take a variety of shapes. – sova Dec 13 '15 at 20:51
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    As you say, actual hardware comes in various sizes and shapes, but conceptually, an audio interface gets your audio in and out of a computer; a mixer mixes signals together. Some hardware mixers do have audio interfaces built in, and that's the case with the NRV10, but it sounds like the OP only needs to record a single audio source, so they may not need a physical mixer at all. – topo morto Dec 13 '15 at 21:11
  • @topomorto ah, thanks for your clarification. yes I suppose a simple audio interface with 2-5 inputs would be a suitable alternative to buying a mixer. Cost-wise it looks like an audio interface is $100-200 whereas a mixer is as much as $500-$1000 and up – sova Dec 14 '15 at 13:24
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    Cheap mixers are much cheaper than that, certainly. – Bartek Banachewicz Dec 15 '15 at 15:40
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The typical studio setup would add recording on top of existing, basic playing infrastructure. That is, you connect guitar to the amp and monitor (listen to yourself) on it, while the line-out signal goes into some sound interface that converts that to digital and feeds back into the PC.

Playing backing tracks through a guitar amp is a pretty meh idea, IMHO, even through as versatile ones as yours. They are simply not built to provide good sound quality for other parts of the song, and are tuned for guitar-specific output instead.

What I do myself when practicing with my amp is feed another set of monitors with the backing track signal. That way I get each speaker set do the job.

On headphones it's even easier; you just need to mute down your amp to 0, and route the input back to the interface output, doing the mixing on the PC. Some (better grade, typically) audio interfaces also allow the input to be mixed directly into the output, thus eliminating latency, while still allowing you to get good quality recording.

In this setup, if your audio interface of choice also allows impedance matching, you could get rid of the amp completely and do the whole modelling on the PC, but that might be less convenient depending on your preferences.

If you insist on using the amp as the only speaker, then you either need to

  • mix everything digitally before sending it to the amp
  • use an analog mixer and mix the guitar into the amp feed before it even hits the PC, send a copy to the PC and mix the PC output into the main mix as well. A mixer with a USB port would function essentially the same, but you'd utilize its A/D/A converter instead of your PC's.

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