Never one to pass up an opportunity to marry one of my hobbies with another, I thought it might be interesting to try recording my guitar-playing using my computer. The easy way, of course, would have been to simply buy a microphone, plug it into my sound card, and get on with it. Of course, that’s not nearly complicated enough for my tastes. Besides, I was playing (if you can call it that) my electric guitar at the time, and it seemed like an interesting idea to find a way to plug it directly into my sound card.
Unfortunately, the signal level coming out of an electric guitar is generally too low to get good recordings by running it directly into the sound card, so a little preamplification is needed. Another issue is that, well, the output from an electric guitar pickup is pretty boring unless you run it through an amp to add some effects.
This little baby is an external USB sound card for your PC that is designed for jacking in a microphone and/or a guitar, generating effects, and then becoming a sound source for whatever recording software you’d like to use. The included Gearbox software acts as your virtual amplifier and includes amp models that give you a wide range of sounds from clean to crunch to heavy and distorted–not only for your guitar, but also for your mic.
In a word, this thing is fun.
I admit that my TonePort UX1 sat idle for several months when I started playing my acoustic guitar exclusively. As Charlie has helped me improve my playing, I’ve wanted to record myself to see how I sound, and the TonePort does the job wonderfully. It’s easy to bypass the amplifier models and record clean guitar (my Martin has a Fishman Ellipse Matrix Blend pickup), and I can feed the output directly into recording software like Audacity. (A lite version of Ableton Live is included with the TonePort, too, but it’s way too powerful and complicated for my needs.)
Here’s a short mp3 clip of me playing Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, to give you an idea of how the TonePort records clean guitar. Keep in mind that (a) I’m a beginner guitar player, and (b) I don’t really know much about recording guitar. I’m sure someone who knew what they were doing could improve upon this (especially the guitar-playing part).
And, just for fun, I cranked up one of the TonePort’s amplifier models and played a few power chords through it using my acoustic guitar (here’s another mp3 clip). Cool, eh?
The TonePort UX1 has inputs for a guitar, a mic, headphones, and line-level inputs. It also includes line-level outputs as well as outputs for monitor speakers. Finally, it has knobs to control the mic preamp level and the output level.
Installation was easy–install the driver software, plug in the TonePort to a USB port, and then install the Gearbox software and jack in your guitar. Plug in some headphones or speakers, and have at it!
The only difficulty I encountered was when I plugged my TonePort into my notebook computer. The TonePort picked up quite a bit of AC hum from the notebook’s power brick. No such problems with my desktop system, though.
It appears that the TonePort UX1 has been discontinued–several online retailers have it on clearance for about 70 bucks. Line 6 appears to have replaced with POD Studio UX1–it sure looks a lot like the TonePort, anyway. I haven’t checked it out, but it probably does pretty-much what the TonePort does.
At any rate, of you’re looking for a cool way to record your guitar, Line 6 products like the TonePort might be just what you need.