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I see a constant stream trickle of questions asking how to connect instrument X to audio interface Y. (I say Y, but it's usually the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2). The problem usually stems from unfamiliarity with, or uncertainty about, either:

  • guitar vs. microphone vs. line level signals
  • balanced vs. unbalanced signals
  • mono vs. stereo signals
  • headphone vs. line outputs
  • direct monitoring vs. loopback monitoring
  • ground loops

Unless there is already a Q&A that covers these topics, I propose that we create one, so that in the future we can close new questions asking for this kind of advice as a duplicate.

I suggest we keep it simple, with limited jargon (except to explain the jargon that is printed on the instruments and interfaces), and use examples of a few popular interfaces such as the Focusrite Scarlett and Behringer UM range.


After reading the comments, and thinking about what the Q&A would look like, I agree that "how do I connect anything to my audio interface?" is probably too broad. What people will be searching for will be more specific. I think it's logical to split up the question into these three categories:

  • How do I record my guitar/bass to my computer?
  • How do I record my synth/digital piano to my computer?
  • How do I connect a microphone to my audio interface?

The guitar/bass answer could cover high impedance inputs, what to do if your audio interface doesn't have one, output from effect pedals or multi-fx, etc.

The synth/digital piano answer could deal with line outputs vs. headphone outputs, recording in mono or stereo, connecting unbalanced outputs to balanced inputs, etc. And it could also function as a catch-all answer for questions about recording any device with a line or headphone output, like a dj mixer or an emulated speaker output on a guitar amp.

The microphone answer could deal with dynamic vs. condenser, phantom power, balanced vs. unbalanced signals, external pre-amp vs. the interface's pre-amp, etc.

All the answers would of course have similar parts about how to identify the different inputs on the audio interface, outputs on the instrument, cables and plugs, and maybe also direct vs. loop-back monitoring, ground loops, etc... but these could be tailored to the specific question.

6

A single canonical question that poses questions about each of the six bullet points you list would probably be considered too broad.

It would seem that there should already be lots of duplicates around, since this type of question does get asked pretty frequently. Someone could possibly go to the trouble of identifying those dupes, and maybe that someone could edit the tag wiki for the tag to incorporate a list of canonical questions and answers so that they could be easily located. If someone were to undertake a project like this, it would probably be a good idea to try for some semblance of consensus around which Q&As should be considered canonical. Meta doesn't seem exceedingly active around here, so I'm not sure how that would go.

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    My idea was to give the question a generic title like "how do I connect a sound source to an audio interface?" and then simply go over the points mentioned above succinctly, giving the information needed to use the correct cables and plug them into the correct inputs and outputs, without delving too deep into the electronics behind it. I could write most of it and post it as a community wiki, but I'd need help from other users with some of the details, e.g. about impedance mismatching. Maybe we can work on an answer here under this question, and post it on the main site once we agree it's ok? – Your Uncle Bob Aug 1 at 2:27
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    I suspect that even the generic question "how do I connect..." is going to be too broad. Hopefully some other participants on Meta, especially our friends who are expert in the recording arts, will stop by to weigh in on this. – ex nihilo Aug 1 at 2:31
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    I suggest making the question more specific, but let the answer cover the details more generally. – luser droog Aug 3 at 20:20
  • I think this would be an extremely valuable addition to the site, and @luserdroog's idea makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks, YourUncleBob! – jdjazz Aug 12 at 2:02

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