Most guitar players know that the best way to amplify your electric guitar is with an amp.
But what if you don’t have one? How do you amplify your electric guitar?
You can amplify your electric guitar without an amp by:
- Connecting your guitar to a PC/laptop
- If you have a home theater system, use that to amplify your guitar
- Use your headphones
Let’s take a closer look at each of these options.
Connecting your guitar to a PC/laptop
You can connect your electric guitar to the headphone jack on your laptop or PC and then play through some dedicated software like Guitar Rig (completely free).
It will let you plug in an amplifier simulator, which is basically just a modeler that allows you to choose the type of amplifier you want and then adjust the settings to suit your needs.
You can use this software by itself, or if you connect an audio interface (like a Universal Audio Apollo Twin) to your laptop/PC, you can get even better sound quality because it will add in digital-to-analog conversion for warmer tones.
Connecting your guitar to a home theater system
If you have an AV receiver (like the Denon AVR-S710W), then there’s another way that makes it easy for you to connect your electric guitar.
First, plug in some powered speakers or bookshelf speakers into any of the analog inputs on your A/V receiver.
Then, connect your electric guitar into the powered speaker’s input using an instrument cable (the same kind that you would use with a keyboard or bass).
Set all of the speakers to Large and then turn on just the ones connected to your instrument.
This is not only easy but also sounds great because it uses the power of your A/V receiver’s amplifier.
Using headphones to amplify an electric guitar
Finally, you can also use a pair of studio monitor headphones (like the Sony MDR-750) and connect it directly into your guitar cable just like we did before with powered speakers or bookshelf speakers.
This works best if you have a headphone amplifier that can drive the headphones.
If your amp doesn’t have a dedicated headphone output, then connect it to an aux input on your A/V receiver and use some Y-adapters to split one of the speaker outputs into two separate cables going to both your guitar cable and another aux cable leading directly into the headphone input of your A/V receiver.
All three methods outlined here will work really well and give you a great amplified tone with no distortion or noise, but it may depend on the situation if one option is better than another.
For example, using headphones to amplify an electric guitar might be best for practicing silently at night while connecting your electric guitar to a home theater system might be more convenient if you have someone over and want to play some rock jams.
It will give you a great tone but also means that your electric guitar can only be amplified by connecting it directly into the connected speakers, so there’s no way for you to control how much or little of that sound is going out to the other speakers in your surround sound system.
Connecting to a PC/laptop might be good for practicing at home but you should only use it if you have access to an audio interface or are willing to get one because otherwise, connecting directly into an A/V receiver will give you better quality since that’s what they’re designed for.
Recording Electric Guitar Without Amp
Amp sims come with some pretty good amp models and effects built-in.
They also come with a preamp pedalboard where you can choose from over 30 different pedals to chain together as your signal goes through an amplifier of choice before hitting the speakers or headphones.
There’s even a built-in tuner to help you stay in tune, a metronome for playing along with some beats and patterns, as well as the ability to export your music via email or Soundcloud.
Using amp sims is great if you want to record electric guitar without an amp but it’s also important that you consider what type of interface (or audio interface) that you’re going to need.
Guitar Rig by Native Instruments is a free guitar amp simulation software that works in the DAW you’re already using, like Pro Tools or Ableton Live.
It comes with pre-made presets for bass amps, clean amps, vintage high gain amps, and modern metal rigs to play around with when simulating your guitar’s sound through an amplifier.
Do You Really Need A Guitar Amp?
The short answer is no.
There are a ton of different amp sims out there and some even come with all the effects pedals, cabinet emulators and more so you can create your own unique tone right on your desktop or laptop computer.
If you’re a beginner I would not recommend buying an amp because you may end up wasting your money on something that you’re not going to use.
You might also be tempted into buying an expensive amplifier with a lot of features if it’s for sale which could be better spent elsewhere.
Amplifiers can be pretty complicated and when it comes down to it, they’re basically just big machines that change the strength of an electric signal through its components (what we refer to as circuits).
So why not use software and your headphones instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars on a new guitar amp?
Can I use my phone as an amp for my guitar?
Thanks to Amplitube and iRig you can connect your guitar to your smartphone and use it as an amp.
This is great if you want to amp up the sound of your electric guitar without buying a new amplifier or just practice at home when you don’t feel like dragging out an expensive rig in front of everyone in the living room.
Depending on what kind of phone you have, it can be pretty good quality too.
Amplitube for Android provides a real guitar amp and effects pedals at your fingertips with stunning quality, so you can play around with different amps to see which tone suits you best.
iRig is a guitar interface adapter that plugs into your iPhone’s touch dock connector or iPad and provides input for electric guitars.
It has its own amplifier inside so you can plug headphones in to hear what it sounds like without having to worry about annoying everyone around you.