Hello all. I am quite new to the art of recording and I was wondering if anyone could help me out. Right now I am using a Shure SM57 mic to record guitar. I am placing it directly (1in away) in front of the center cone on the amplifier (a Laney). My question deals with how to get a fuller, warmer sound on the guitar. I want it to sound like Sufjan Stevens gets on his recordings (the guitar right at the beginning of this song Sufjan Stevens - Futile Devices - YouTube) because I am arpeggiating a chord, I want each note to ring out clearly. I know little about native decibel levels and what I should be aiming for. I know (think) the mic is -20dB below native level. Does this mean I really do need a preamp to boost it that 20dB? If so, what kind of preamps should I be looking for. Someone on another forum recommended a Mackie Onyx Blackjack as a good beginners level preamp. I don't know if this is true or not but it seems like a good price range for me. My troubles indeed lie in the fact that my recordings are very quiet, so I have to use a digital amplification (I use a plugin in Audacity to do this) on the track for it to be a good volume. However, when using this method it also amplifies the white noise in the background. So I use a white noise remover plugin to remove the excess noise, but then the noise is only gone during silence (any time the guitar is played the white noise is not removed and is still audible. So it's jumping back and forth between being there and not! Sounds terrible) Would a preamp fix this? As you can probably tell, I don't have much of a setup on my computer. I use Audacity to record my tracks. Will this seriously hinder the quality of my recordings, or can I get a good sound while still using Audacity. To me it seems like as long as I record it well (eg. mix it "naturally" on the amplifier, my playing volume, and eq settings) it shouldn't matter what program i use to record. However, I know I am probably dead wrong on this. Tell me why I am wrong (give me some concrete examples here, like some awesome plugins I don't even know about) Another thing is my sound card. I would think that sound card is pretty important for the quality of a recording. Right now I am just using the crappy sound card which came with my laptop. Will this make a big difference on my recording quality? If so, what are some good mid-range soundcards I can get below $100? Is the sound card more important than the preamp? How much should I amplify the guitar when recording? I normally put my amp at about 2.5/10 and my guitar at 7.5/10. Should I increase the volume if I want a better sound? tldr; I need to know more about preamps, how/why they are used. I need to know more about soundcards, programs, and digital recording in general.