Bought an electric guitar, but don’t have a guitar amplifier. Or perhaps your guitar amp stopped working and you can’t afford to buy a new one? Or you are just traveling, and want to play your guitar without having to carry your massive guitar amp wherever you go? In this article, we will explore four ways how to connect electric guitar to speakers?
These 4 methods are
- Connecting electric guitar to speakers using an audio interface
- Connecting electric guitar to speakers using effects processor
- Connecting electric guitar to speakers using a preamp
- Connecting electric guitar to speakers using a ¼ inch to ⅛ inch (aux) converter
But before we dive into these, let’s first understand why you can’t just directly connect your electric guitar to speakers.
Why can’t you connect an electric guitar directly to the speakers?
Although it may seem confusing as to why you can’t just “plug and play” your electric guitar using any set of speakers and instead require a specialized guitar amplifier. But there are actually several reasons why this can’t just work.
Firstly, this is due to the signal strength. The pickups on your electric guitar usually produce a very weak signal, which isn’t strong enough to be picked up by regular speakers. This is why your guitar signal needs to pass to a preamp before it can be passed to a speaker.
A preamp “amplifies” the signal coming from the pickups on your electric guitar. It increases the strength of the signal coming from your guitar, making it stronger (and louder) –enough to be heard through a speaker at a sufficient volume.
Guitar amplifiers usually have a built-in preamp that amplifies your signal before it’s sent to the speaker of the amp. However, most regular speakers do not have a built-in preamp and thus cannot amplify the signal coming from your guitar pick-up before passing it to the speaker. This article discussed in detail how to make a guitar amp from the speaker, if you don´t have separate speakers.
Differences in plug/jack sizes & configurations
Similarly, most modern speakers come with a 3.55mm (or ⅛ inch) aux stereo input jack, and nearly all guitar cables have a 6.35mm (or ¼ inch) TS mono output plug. This means that there is no way for you to directly plug your guitar into a speaker, without the use of some sort of preamp, interface, or converter.
But even if you were to find a way to fit the plug into the jack (such as in method 4 detailed below), there’s a chance it still might now work.
This is because the audio signal produced by your guitar is a single-channel, mono signal, while the aux input jack in modern speakers is usually a dual-channel, stereo input. Although a mono plug can usually work with a stereo input jack, there’s a chance that the plug and the jack won’t line up properly –giving you audio issues.
There’s also a chance that you might face some mono-stereo conversion issues, such as losing volume, quality or getting a lot of distortion in the sound.
But don’t worry! There are workarounds that you can use in order to indirectly (and in some cases –directly) connect your electric guitar to speakers!
Let’s dive in and explore these 4 different methods!
Method 1: Connect electric guitar to speakers using an audio interface
The easiest way to get your electric guitar connected to any set of speakers, with the highest quality and lowest latency, is by using an audio interface.
An audio interface is a small box-like device that you can connect to your computer or laptop using a USB port. An audio interface typically has several sets of input and output jacks that can be used to connect different pieces of sound equipment –including electric guitar– with each other.
You can connect your electric guitar to the audio interface using a standard ¼ inch guitar cable, into one of the ¼ inch input jacks on the interface.
Similarly, there are several ways of connecting your speakers. You can connect your speakers directly into the output jacks on the interface –typically the jack labeled with “headphones”– using a 3.55mm (aux) cable or using a ¼ inch cable, if supported by your speaker.
You can also connect the speakers to the 3.55mm output jack of your laptop –the one where you would typically plug in your headphones– using an aux cable.
Lastly, if your speaker supports Bluetooth connectivity, you can also connect your speaker to your laptop wirelessly by pairing and connecting the two.
The audio interface basically allows you to configure the various input and output ports you have available, using its driver software. Download and install any free guitar modeling program –standalone or VST– such as Guitar Rig Player or Amplitude, select the ¼ inch input jack (the one where you’ve connected your guitar) as the input device, and your speaker as the output device.
You should now be able to hear your electric guitar through your speakers.
Benefits of using an audio interface
There are many benefits to using an audio interface. For one, you can also add various effects on your guitar, such as amp simulations, effect pedals, equalizers, etc. using your guitar modeling software.
An audio interface also gives you the ability to record your guitar (or other instruments) directly into your computer with studio-quality sound. And this isn’t just limited to your electric guitar! you can connect any electronic instrument, such as keyboards or electronic drums, that used a ¼ inch output with your interface
Similarly, there is very low latency when using an interface. That is, there will barely be any delay between you hitting the strings on your electric guitar and the sound coming out of the speakers.
If you don’t already have an interface, you can buy a cheap one for under 100$ –depending on the specifications. Just make sure the interface you end up buying has a ¼ inch input jack!
Method 2: Connect electric guitar to speakers using effects processor
Another way you can easily connect your electric guitar to speakers is by using an effects processor.
If you’re a guitarist, chances are you already have an effects processor. An effects processor is a device that you connect your guitar to, before connecting it to an amp. It allows you to add various modulations, alterations, or tone simulations to your guitar.
An effects processor can also be used as a preamp in order to amplify the signal coming from the pickup on your guitar. This allows you to have a signal strong enough to use with any regular speaker you might have.
For this method to work, however, you need to make sure the effects processor you have has a 3.55mm aux output jack (or you have a ¼ inch to ⅛ inch mono converter –more on that in the method 4 section).
Simply plug your guitar into the effects processor input and connect the aux output on your effects processor to the aux input on your speaker using a standard 3.55mm aux cable.
You should now be able to hear your guitar (and the added effects!) through your speaker!
Method 3: Connect the electric guitar to the speakers using a preamp
The old-school way of connecting an electric guitar to a speaker: using a preamp.
How this works is simple. You use an actual preamp (preferably one designed to be used with an electric guitar) to amplify your guitar signal and get the output from a 3.55mm output jack on the preamp –which you can then connect to any speaker with a 3.55mm input jack.
The idea of using a preamp may seem a bit complicated at first, but with advances in technology, it has now become extremely convenient to use a preamp without the need for any technical information
Now you can get portable preamps that can fit in your pocket, making them extremely useful and easy to use. Just plug your guitar into the preamp using the ¼ inch input and connect the preamp with the speaker using an aux cable.
That’s it! You should now be able to connect your electric guitar to your speakers!
Method 4: Connect the electric guitar to the speakers using a ¼ inch to ⅛ inch (aux) converter
Fair warning, this method may not always work and could also damage your speakers at high volume levels, so be careful!
Some speakers and guitars do come with built-in preamps, which can amplify the guitar signal enough to be picked up by the speaker without the need for an external preamp.
However, since most modern speakers have 3.55mm stereo inputs and most guitars use a ¼ inch cable, you will need a mono ¼ inch to ⅛ (3.55mm) inch adapter. Make sure that the ¼ inch jack accepts mono (single channel) input in order to avoid any mono-stereo conversion issues!
Now you can connect your 3.55mm output plug of the converter to a 3.55mm jack of a speaker. The ¼ inch mono to 3.5mm converters are pretty cheap, but this method may not always work and could damage your speakers.
I hope that this article has given you some guidelines, on how to connect an electric guitar to regular speakers. There could be other ways too but we recommend you stick to methods 1 to 3 to get the best results, but if nothing else works, method 4 is worth a shot. Just be sure to follow the safety guidelines that come with your speaker, preamp, guitar, or any other equipment you use, and you should be good to go!