The guitar is no doubt one of the most popular musical instruments ever made and with the advancement of technology, so much is possible today than it was just a few years ago.
The way we perform and record as guitarists is way different than it used to be a decade ago. Back then, recording equipment was largely inaccessible to most guitar players. You had to have a big budget or access to a recording studio to get the quality of sound people will want to hear.
Those days are gone. Home studios have pretty much become the norm today. That means that as a guitarist you can make professional sounding music right from home without having to drive to a spaceship-looking big studio just to record one riff or lick for your song.
If this is what you are aiming to do then stick around. We are going to look at the 10 Best Recording Products for guitarists.
- 1/4" Instrument input for guitar, bass, and other instruments
- 1/4" Amp output for use with an amplifier or mixer
- 1/8" Headphone output for silent practice; distortion (THD): 0.007%
Alright since we are talking about home recording, let’s start with the device you always have in your pocket, your mobile phone.
The iRig is a very handy device that allows you to record your guitar straight into your mobile phone. It basically is a portable audio interface that you plug directly from your guitar into the iRig then into your phone and starts recording right away. Cool right?
The main advantage of the iRig is its portability and the flexibility it offers. It makes it really easy to record your guitar anywhere you are. The newest version which is the iRig 2 offers adjustable input gain, a 1/4″ amplifier output and cross-platform compatibility.
Recording your guitar at home has never been this easy.
In February 2016, an Indiegogo campaign was launched with the aim to fund a little device that was said to be a small and portable wireless microphone and can make home recording easier and quicker than ever.
Two years later, the iSolo continues to rise in popularity among musicians worldwide.
This is evident in the number of guitarists on YouTube that have used the iSolo for their covers and original song performances. The iSolo as mentioned above is a small wireless microphone and transmitter. At first sight, it looks like a little beautiful black box with a gooseneck microphone attached to a small antenna for wireless signal transmission.
The iSolo comes in three different pieces. The first and most important is the Microphone Transmitter which is what captures the sound from your guitar.
You can attach the unit to your guitar with a Soundhole holder or special adhesives that can fit on your guitar top. Once the device is in the position you can easily adjust the mic and gooseneck position to get the sound you want.
Closer or farther away from the sound hole, pointing closer to the bridge for a more boomy sound or closer to the fretboard for a softer and brighter sound, etc.
The second piece of the iSolo package is the Recording Receiver. This one is quite straightforward. Once you have the Microphone Transmitter setup, you plug the little USB into your phone, Mac or PC and you are good to go. Amazing huh?
The third piece of the package is the Stage receiver. This made for live performances but we are not going to go too deep into that because right now we are more concerned with recording at home so a combination of the first two pieces of equipment is all you will need for now.
There really isn’t anything I can say about this device that is not positive.
What is the sound quality like? It is amazing for a device as small as the iSolo. You can go on YouTube and check it out for yourself. If amazing sound quality coupled with portability is your thing, then you won’t be disappointed with the iSolo.
- Direct recording to SD cards up to 128GB.Display 2.0-Inch full color LCD (320 x 240...
- Gain knobs, pads, and Phantom power for each input. Maximum sound pressure input: 122...
- Newly redesigned preamps with an ultra-low noise floor, up to 24-bit/96kHz audio in...
The Zoom H6 is easily one of the best digital recorders on the market, for guitarists especially. It is a handheld portable recorder that comes 6 recording channels and allows you to record all 6 channels simultaneously.
That is great for singer-songwriters who want to play and sing at the same time, or even for instances where you are jamming with a couple of friends and you just want to capture the moment.
The H6 also comes with two “built-in” microphones. An X/Y microphone and a mid-side microphone. I’m not going to bore you with too much detail on what those mean as it is beyond the scope of this article.
There is an interchangeable input capsule that fit at the top of the device, allowing you to switch between the mics as easily as switching the lens on a camera.
The design of this product is subject to personal opinion and preference. The cover is generally made of plastic but is strong enough to hold the device in place. It features an LCD screen angled slightly downwards. This allows you to see the screen better when recording another person but can make it difficult to manipulate when recording yourself which is the case most of the time for guitarists.
All that being said, the Zoom H6 is probably one of the best products you can get if quality guitar recording is your goal.
An audio interface, also known as a sound card, is a device that acts as a bridge between your computer and your external recording equipment.
It allows you to connect your guitar and microphone into your computer so you can record your songs with your recording software by converting the analog signal from your instrument into digital signals.
Simply put, it is what you need to get sound in and out of your computer. Every computer has an inbuilt sound card that allows you to make basic recordings and play music from your speakers but, if you want to get the better quality recording you’re going to have to step it up a bit and get an external audio interface.
To record guitar audio you don’t need an overly advanced or pricy interface. Something with two inputs for your and mic and guitar will do just fine.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
- Two of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with...
- High-performance converters enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz.
- Quick start tool to get up and running easier than ever.
This is probably the most popular brand of audio interface out there. I’m sure you have seen that famous little red box in countless homemade YouTube videos sitting in the studio and running things like a boss. If you haven’t then you’re missing out.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is one of the most popular audio interfaces that are currently on the market.
It has 4 analog inputs with two natural sounding mic preamps that have plenty of even gains. Which makes it a perfect interface for your guitar recordings, instruments, and microphones. It is a widely respect audio interface that has been very popular in the last year.
PreSonus AudioBox 96
- Bus-powered USB 2.0 audio and MIDI interface
- Compatible with almost all recording software for Mac and Windows
- 24-bit resolution; 44.1, 48, 88.2, and 96 kHz sampling rates
This is also another very great and popular which comes with two inputs and USB bus power so you can just plug it in and you are good to go. No need for external power supply. Both of these sound interfaces are fairly portable and will fit in your backpack.
These days, computers have gotten so powerful that you can get away with using an internal sound card but if you want to have that little nose edge when it comes to sound quality, an external audio interface is a good way to go. Also, some computers won’t have the required inputs to handle your guitar cables.
Okay, so we can’t talk about recording audio without talking about the most popular recording device in all of the music recording, the microphone.
This is probably the main thing you see in any studio or recording setup, mainly because that is what the artist is standing in front of and singing into. It draws attention more than any equipment in the studio. That is so for a reason.
If you want to record your guitar at home with quality sound, you want to have a good microphone. You don’t need to mortgage your house to get the most expensive microphone. All you need is a decent microphone that can record great sound.
Generally, you want a Condenser microphone for Acoustic guitars because it is great for capturing quitter and soft sounds.
For electric guitar, especially if you play a lot of rock guitar, you want to use a Dynamic Mic.
This type of mic can capture a wider range of sounds making it great for loud and punchy sounds of an electric guitar. Of course, you can always plug it into an audio interface and record it directly through your digital audio workstation. However, using a microphone can make your guitar records sound more authentic.
- 10 Year warranty on the Rode NT1-A
- Includes a tripod base desk stand, pop shield, shock mount, premium 20' microphone...
- Large 1” (25mm) capsule with gold plated diaphragm
This is a condenser microphone that works great for recording, acoustic guitars especially, and it is very affordable too. It has good sound quality for home recording.
It comes with other accessories like cables and a pop filter. Rode’s unbeatable 10-year warranty is also an extra benefit you get besides the sound quality.
The reason the Rode NT1A is so good and popular is that it features a large diaphragm capsule with an extremely low noise circuitry, meaning the self-noise the microphone makes is very low. All microphones will make some sort of self-noise from the electrical circuit inside, although you would have to listen very very closely.
- Contoured frequency response is clean, instrumental reproduction and rich vocal...
- Professional-quality reproduction for drum, precussion, and instrument amplifier...
- Uniform cardioid pickup pattern isolates the main source while reducing background...
The Shure SM57 is a dynamic microphone which means it can take a wider range of sounds. As I mentioned before, this is the type of microphone you want to use if you want to play a lot of harsh and punchy music like rock and heavy metal. The Shure SM57 will work great for that purpose.
Both of these are tried and tested products that have organically gained their credibility among musicians because of the great sound they offer. You should get one of these depending on what you are going for and you are good to go.
If you are going to record your guitar tracks at home you will need a way to hear what you are playing live and you will need a pair of good headphones for that. Once again, you don’t need to break the bank to get the most expensive headphones.
The type of headphones you want to get is closed-back headphones. These don’t allow any sound to get out of your ear when recording so your microphone doesn’t pick up the sound that is coming through the headphones. This is commonly known as ‘bleed’. You don’t want that at all when recording. You want one that fits comfortably on your head too and doesn’t feel like a clamp on your head.
- Voiced to remain true to the character of KRK’s class leading studio monitors,...
- The latest reference quality frequency response for closed-back, circum-aural dynamic...
- Newly developed headphone acoustical system bringing a new level of headphone...
This is made by the same company that makes the KRK Rokit series which are probably the most popular studio monitors out there so you know their headphones have to be good.
These pair of headphones have a big brother called the KNS8400. This model is also great for recording and for mixing too. That is a bonus if you mix your own songs but if you don’t that’s not a problem. They are closed-back, around-the-ear headphones so you won’t any issues with bleed. Very natural sounding too.
Digital Audio Workstations
So you have got your hardware and your guitar ready but now you need a software that can allow you to record into your computer or mobile phone. Well, that software is what we call a DAW. It is what records your sound in digital formats like WAV or MP3.
Recommending a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is very tricky because a DAW is essentially a tool that we use to achieve the desired result and how people use this tool is unique to them. That being said, there are a few DAWs that over the years have become favorites of musicians everywhere.
Ableton Live $79 – $599: Ableton is the first one I will recommend you to get. If you are into audio production even a little bit then you have heard about Ableton. It’s very flexible and user-friendly. It’s great for tracking and recording your guitar parts. It’s great for mixing too. You can get a 30-day trial and try it out before you buy
Garageband – FREE: Garage is the one for you. Also very simple to use. You can find a lot of educational information online also. The best thing about GarageBand is that you can use on your phone too. This only goes for iOS users and so that is a minus for people who use Android phones.
All in all, whatever DAW you use, just learn it well enough so you can get your guitar recordings done with ease and fluency.
Cables are not the most fun thing for guitarists. They get tangled and make your recording space clumsy. Unfolding them and folding them is a pain for a lot of guitarists including myself. Depending on what kind of recording setup you have, you may or may not need cables. If you are using an iSolo for instance, you won’t need any cables apart from the cables that come with it. If, however, you are using an audio interface, then you will need cables to plug your guitar into the interface.
The technicalities of cables can get boring really fast so I won’t go very deep. All you need to know for now as a guitarist are the two main types which are the TRS and XLR cables. The TRS is the most common one for guitarists. It is the one you probably use to plug your guitar in currently. The connecting jack is like a large round pin. You will also see a variation of this which is the TS cable. The XLR cables are the ones with three pins, used on Audio interfaces and microphones. Having a good quality pair of these will allow you to record great sound through your Audio Interface very easily.
- DUAL-LAYER POP FILTER: The first screen blocks air blasts as any pop filter normally...
- ADJUSTABLE GOOSENECK: The steel metal gooseneck holder fully supports the filter's...
- CLERAER SOUND: Banish the dreaded hissing and lisping sounds that come when...
You have seen that round, net-like thing that stands in front of every microphone in every studio setup you see online. That thing is a pop filter. It is mostly used by vocalists to reduce the harshness in their ‘P’ and ‘T’ sounds. For a guitarist this is by no means a must have but it is a good thing to have to reduce the harsh sounds of your pick striking the guitar or your fingers doing the same. This will make your guitar sound cleaner in your song so you don’t need to spend too much time in the mixing stage. Pop filters are not too expensive too. You can get them as an additional accessory to give you a little extra edge.
Guitar Rig Pro 5
There are a lot of great ones on the market but the one that I have personally used is Guitar Rig 5 Pro. This Plugin gives you a wide range of Amps from different eras and styles of music. It has a nice and interactive interface and is very easy to use. You won’t regret getting this at all.
Another great one that you can use is Amplitube from IK multimedia. They have different versions and you can use this within your DAW. Amplitube is also great because they have apps for the iPad, iPhone and best of all, Android users get their own version for free!!! That’s a great deal if you ask me. Both of these are available on Mac and PC. You can use them as standalone or in your DAW and they work perfectly.
Now, this is last on the list because this is not a necessity for everyone. You can completely record great guitar audio without an Amp simulator. But, for some people who want to get a specific Amp tone for a song in a specific genre then an Amp simulator will help you achieve that.