Submit Hint Search The Forums LinksStatsPollsHeadlinesRSS
14,000 hints and counting!

Use your Mac as an amplifier System
If you play electric guitar or bass, and don't want to fork over the cash for an amp, here's a solution:
  1. Visit your friendly neighborhood electronics store and buy a 1/4" -> 1/8" audio jack adapter.
  2. Plug your guitar or bass' amp cable into the adapter and plug the adapter into the audio-in jack on your Mac.
  3. Open Audio MIDI Setup in the Utilities folder. Click the "Audio Devices" tab (I'm on 10.2, so this might be different on Panther). From the Input Source, select "Audio In", then check the "Play Through" checkbox.
  4. Enjoy all the money you saved on an amp!
[robg adds: Not being in any way musical, I have no way to test this one!]
  • Currently 3.60 / 5
  You rated: 5 / 5 (5 votes cast)

Use your Mac as an amplifier | 14 comments | Create New Account
Click here to return to the 'Use your Mac as an amplifier' hint
The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: Evvrom on Dec 16, '03 11:15:38AM

You probably wouldn't want to use this or a concert.... But maybe for pratice?

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: arekkusu on Dec 16, '03 11:45:52AM

This will sound terrible. The line-level output of a guitar is too low for the Mac's line in. It will be audible but if you do any processing of the signal (for instance, with Amplitube) there will be very bad gate noise from the weak signal.

A much better idea is to get a cheap pre-amp, or run your guitar through your home stereo's line in, then to your mac.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: th_ginjeet on Feb 05, '04 10:32:33PM

Another way to boost the sound is to run your guitar through an effect pedal set to bypass, or a multieffect set to boost the volume only.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: cybergoober on Dec 16, '03 12:20:20PM

Man, I wish my lowly iMac DV had audio inů would probably sound pretty nice with the SoundSticks.

I may have to bring my guitar and effects pedal into work next week and give this a shot. I would imagine that you could also capture the audio using Audio Hijack similar program.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: swedentom on Dec 22, '03 03:29:55PM

I could be wrong, but I think iMac DVs have audio input?

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: mav.rc on Dec 16, '03 01:34:51PM

Arekkusu is probably right, this won't sound very good without a pre-amp between instrument and Macintosh. That said, this hint is a GREAT tip for those of us who were just looking for a way to pass audio through from input to output! I never knew how to do this before.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Audio Input Play-through
Authored by: robleach on Jan 04, '04 06:59:53PM

Absolutely! Up until now, I'd been using Sound Studio to accomplish this via its audio settings, but I'd always have to keep it running any time I wanted to set the play-through.

Play-through used to be an option in Mac OS 9 and earlier in the control panels and I was disappointed when it seemed to disappear in OS X.

I like to hook my radio up to my computer via the mic jack so I can take advantage of the speakers I have hooked up to the computer. Plus, it allows you to be able to record from the radio and know what you're getting.

One warning though - if your radio is hooked up via a different power strip or wall outlet from the computer and/or speakers, you will probably get a lot of low-pitched feedback. This is called a ground-loop caused by the different resistance potentials of the different outlets. You can either avoid this by plugging everything into the same power strip, or you can use a ground-loop isolator. I've found though that using the same power strip is a lot better than using a ground-loop isolator which doesn't completely eliminate the hum.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: trevor on Dec 16, '03 01:45:46PM

I question the value of this hint. You'll get far better sound from an inexpensive guitar amp like this one: Why use a non-portable, ~$2000 appliance when a $27 portable appliance works so much better?

Plus, there is the very real issue of static electricity damaging the computer through the misuse of the microphone input. And the impedance and line level of the microphone input on the computer is mismatched with the output of a guitar.

If you need a cheap amp, check out the link above, don't endanger your computer to save $27.


[ Reply to This | # ]
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: th_ginjeet on Feb 05, '04 10:28:30PM

I don't know about the issue of static electricity causing damage. I've been recording my guitar this way for four years and have never had a problem.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use a Low-Latency card and Cubase SX
Authored by: techmission on Dec 16, '03 02:21:45PM

As an extension to this hint, and a poor guitar player, i found the sound quality and latency of the builti-in audio card to be unacceptable. I have a Gibson Les Paul and the output of those wonderful pickups easily overloads the audio input. Picking up a (not too expensive) audio card with switchable gain and low-latency is certainly advised. Try for some great sounding yet inexpensive cards.

now for the hint:

For those of you who use Cubase SX, open it up, make a new document and set am audio channel to monitor (ie playthrough) the channel you have the guitar plugged into. Notice you can use VST plugins in real time (or very close to it) and there is a wide variety of tube/amp emulators and effects available!! Just as fun as the old days of stomp-boxes but with the convenience of being able to save patches.

Same goes for bass guitar players or any electric instrument

As a final note, watch your levels! computer or stereo speakers aren't meant to be used this way and you can damage them if you aren't careful!

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: vonkas on Dec 16, '03 08:22:13PM

If you have a recent Mac (pre-installed Jaguar and up) you can also use your Mac as a recorder with sophisiticated multi-track editing & dubbing facilities - Sound Recorder is the app to use. The cheapest and most fully featured Mac for audio/MIDI is, by the way the eMac - it's the only one left with analogue line in.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: stonemtn on Dec 17, '03 06:48:47AM

This is no longer true. I have a Dual-2GHz G5 and it has both analog and digital line in. I use the analog in all the time to record radio shows.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Yup. G5, and PowerBooks too
Authored by: nebula on Dec 20, '03 09:28:20PM

The powerbook family also has line in.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use your Mac as an amplifier
Authored by: Sgtpepper75 on Feb 06, '04 12:34:48AM

Hi all. I have an eMac 1Ghz, and I use it to record and mix music. The BEST way to get guitar into your mac, well, there are a couple of ways, but the common item in them all is a powered mixer. you can plug that into the line in, and the guitar will plug into the mixer directly (balanced line in) or, plug the line out from any amp into the line in (if you don't have a mixer) and for the best sound of all, of course, is mic the amp into the mixer, into the mac. I use Digital Performer 4, it's the best. Highly recommened.

[ Reply to This | # ]