What's better for practicing home: An amp or an audio interface?

I was talking with a newbie guitarist friend and instead of getting an amp, he just bought an audio interface and I was thinking: What’s better, if you just want to practice home?

I never looked too much into gear (I just need a bass and an amp), so I don’t know what’s on the Amp market (I have a battered 12 year old Harley Benton amp), but seems like having an Audio Interface is a good idea, specially if you want to record, apply effects (instead of buying amps that are more expensive, prone to break, etc).

Sadly, I don’t know too much about amps or audio devices, so I want to ask: What’s your experience with (one or both) them? What do you like about it? What you don’t?

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I don’t think that it matters when it comes to practice… I’m guessing that if you use the DAI then you’d hear via speakers or headphones, so it comes dow to the quality of those… like you said with the DAI has other purpose but that’s beyond practice, also you don’t need as much space… if it has to be just one the DAI gets you more for your money I guess, but I like to feel the room vibrating every now and then :wink:

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Hah, I didn’t think about it. Part of the cool thing of playing bass is to shake the walls (Despite what my neighbours think…).

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quality monitor speakers will let you shake the walls :eyes: It’s all about whether they can reproduce the right frequencies well or not, and the power available to them.

Heck, my Phil Jones Double Four has no issues shaking the walls :woman_shrugging:t2:

Some modern/newer amps even work as an audio interface, too.

Right now I do most of my practicing through monitor speakers, either into a mixer or my computer’s interface then out to monitors.

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Many (if not all) of us have pondered this question at some point… and then embarked on a more or less tortuous path to find the “right” (individual) answer!

So, I guess the boring answer is: you will need to find out for yourself what is best for you. Keep in mind that most hardware can be bought used and sold again. You should really just start investigating for yourself and have fun learning about all those types of gear.

To help you on the way, there should be tons of input already available on this forum. Have you tried the search function yet to look for information/discussions on DAI, amps, etc??

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If cost isn’t an issue, I would prefer having both setups. I started off with an amp and cabinet, and like you mentioned, I wanted to record which required me to buy an AI. Then I discovered plugins that would allow me to emulate many different amp brands and effect pedals in the DAW. This is a great feature, and can be a huge cost saver if you want to generate different sounds/tones. If I only could have one setup, I would do AI with a decent pair of studio monitors. That being said, it is more convenient for me to still have the amp/cabinet when i want to play with other people (I have the Ampeg Portiflex setup which is meant to be portable and is well suited for gigging).

I will say, when I am just practicing, I mostly plug into my amp, and generally only use the AI when I want to record.

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Thanks for the answer. The balance is moving in favour of AI more and more…

Have you tried it with headphones?

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For me it’s audio interface all the way. YMMV. This is something you’ll have to discover yourself. If you want to record, you’ll need an audio interface anyway. If you want to play live, an amp might be a better choice - though a combo amp adequate for live use will set you back $300-500.

I use my audio interface with both headphones and studio monitor speakers.

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After doing this post, I got a suggestion to read yours (Plugins I Have Known And Loved) and I liked (and learnt!) a lot.

Have you tried amps with a Data connection? You can record on your PC, play backing tracks without the bass part on your amp, etc etc. You can even apply pedal-like effects, and more

Sounds like the best of both worlds, right? Have you tried them?

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Like so many things with music, it comes down to preference. I would add with either you might want to include a pair of headphones so you can practice late/early without annoying neighbors/family

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+1 @joergkutter

I have only bought one piece of real equipment (call it >$20) new - a set of Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones (a replacement for AKG Pro Audio K245 phones I returned). Everything else has been used - basses, amps, mixer, Zoom B1-Four, and I haven’t been burned yet.

I play almost exclusively through headphones - IMHO probably the cleanest/true sound you’ll get, not impacted by amp electronics, room acoustics, etc.

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I wouldn’t want to rely on one. It’s really likely you would eventually want to upgrade the amp, and then you lose both your audio interface and effects.

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The amps I’m talking about have a standard USB connection. Basically are amps that can connect with the DAI, making a bi-directional connection (You can play backing tracks on your amp, and you can use your amp in a AI fashion.

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Yes I know, like the Rumble Studio 25 and 40.

Neither of theae are amps that will last beyond beginner or home practice level.

I would simply prefer a separate audio interface; YMMV.

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All the time.

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My personal input would be amp for practising. 100%. You’ll see why below…

I’ll admit I bought an audio interface fairly early on because I wanted to explore things as well, but you’re opening yourself up to a whole new bunch of rabbit holes such as: learning to use a DAW, finding plug-ins suitable to your taste, understanding how all the effects work, be limiting yourself to playing through headphones unless you own or invest in decent monitor speakers…

Effects are very good fun and a great novelty for a beginner, and while I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from experimenting, they will detract from your practise.

So to answer your question, I would advise an amp. But to agree with another in this thread, there is value in both, but I’d worry about audio interfaces and quality recordings later!

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This is good advice. Starting with a bass and amp is the most easy way to get started.

That said if you are interested in music production or playing more instruments a digital audio interface and workstation would be the way to go imo.

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Thanks, that was a very good input. The pedal effects was more of an extra than the main reason to go for an AI instead of an amp, but you raised good points.

After I wrote this post I saw there are amps with an USB connection that let’s you do both things (send the audio signal to your PC via amp and record, and receive the PC signal letting you play backing tracks and apply pedal effects too) and maybe that’s a good middle solution.

Right now, I have my PC on the opposite side of the amp, and when I practice the backing track sounds on the opposite side of what I’m playing, so it is a bit weird, and the main reason I’m looking for a solution (and why I thought an AI would be nice). What do you thing about this third option? have you ever tried them?

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I haven’t personally used any of these more ‘smart’ features amps tbh, and they may well be suited to your current situation by the sounds of it!

You can always use an aux-in to play audio from a computer out the same amp your bass is plugged into - but understanding that everyone’s practise spaces and preferences are different this may or may not be the best option for you, cabling might not work well in your space or audio quality might not seem as good as you want it.

It sounds like you have a good idea of what you want to get out of it. Personally I’d research the kit, pick one option that ticks all (or as many) of the boxes as possible and go for it. You might then find that there are features you thought you wanted but don’t need; or that you actually want to focus on a better quality setup for a particular feature.

Unfortunately a lot of initial gear acquisition is going to be trial and error - just remember you can always sell kit, as long as you learned something from it or at least got enjoyment from it I’d still call that progress!

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I have my headphones connected to my Audio interface. I purchased a Darkglass 500v2 amp which has a compressor, distortion, and cab sims that I connect to my interface thru a XLR Cable. I rarely use plug ins unless I need wah or something or extra flavor for a recording in post. I use headphones 90% of time for practice, 10% on my cabinet when I want to play to a song on my vinyl player lol.

The most important thing is buy a pedal or amplifier with an XLR out. that way you can connect to anything in the future. Darkglass + Aguilar + sadowsky SBP-1 products have that.

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