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Recording Guitar in Stereo - need help!!!

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by TheCult, Apr 21, 2004.

  1. TheCult

    TheCult Guest

    Greetings everyone! I’m having problems recording my guitar in stereo and hope someone can help me. It’s kind of a long (first) post but I hope you won’t mind.

    I’ve been playing electric guitar for quite some time but when it comes to home recording, I’m a newbie. I recently started doing digital multi-track recording on my home PC. I use Fruity Loops for the drum machine and synthesizer functions, as well as pre-mixing my tracks (anything except guitar and vocals). I use Cool Edit Pro for the final multi-track recording (to add guitar, vocals, etc.), mixing and mixdown (I insert the Fruity Loops mixdown in one of the four Cool Edit tracks as a wave file and mix it down with the guitar and vocal parts).

    I’ve been trying to find a way to record my electric guitar in stereo, but I haven’t succeeded so far. I use a Zoom GFX-5 effects processor and connect from its output directly to my PC, bypassing my power amp. The processor has two outputs, one right and one left. I use two 3.5 mm jack to ¼’’ plugs to connect from the outputs to two stereo mini phone plug adapters (a 3.5 mm plug on one side and two red and black audio plugs on the other). I think this is where I start to screw up: Because my computer has 3.5 mm line in and microphone in jacks (as do most computers) I figured I needed to bring these two output cables together somehow. Because each audio output cable coming from the processor (I hope you’ve been able to follow so far) has two audio plugs (red and black), I use two splitters (2 to 1, all ends black) to converge each cable back to only one plug. This way, I'm left with one RCA audio plug coming from each of the two outputs of the effects processor. Finally, I use a 2-to-1 RCA audio-to ¼’’ plug “Y” adapter and route it through a ¼” to 3.5 mm plug to connect it to the PC line-in input.

    Sounds complicated? I think so. Somehow I feel there should be an easier way to do this. Is it possible that I’m losing the stereo signal and going mono at some point in this adapter/splitter mess? If I make sure all the parts are “stereo,” will this fix the problem? What else am I doing wrong?

    I read in numerous articles to always use line in and not mic in to record on a PC. Is it only because the signal from a mic in will be too strong and blow up someting in the PC? When I record on Cool Edit plugged in to the PC line in input, only the “left channel” selection works on the software. In other words, I can only record an audible guitar signal when I’ve selected “left channel” in the program. When I choose “right channel” it records nothing. I can only hear from one speaker during the recording step, however, I do hear from both speakers when I play it back. I do think it may just be the mono signal duplicated to come out of two speakers. This doesn’t make it “stereo” does it? When I select “stereo” in the software, the track’s graphic image splits into two, suggesting it will now record in stereo. However, only one channel records and the other channel is just a straight line. When I use the mic in input and choose “stereo” recording option, both channels look like they are recording (i.e. neither is a straight line). However, the finished recording still sounds exactly the same as when I record in mono plugged in to line in.

    Anyway, sorry it’s such a long post but I’ll be very happy if someone can help me out of this mess. Thanks a lot!
  2. noit

    noit Guest

    Yes, you are most likely losing the stereo in that mess. You will need a cable that retains the stereo. It's sometimes called an "Insert Cable"

    I usually like to use Hosa brand cables. If you search the web on hosa insert cable, you will find what you are looking for.

    You will also need the 1/4" to 1/8"

    to go into the computer with.

    I assume that the outs on your effects box are 1/4"
  3. wockachucka

    wockachucka Guest

    I wrote an article for another website that should help.

    Any other questions, just ask :)
  4. hellogoodbye

    hellogoodbye Guest

    if you are going for the rock song.. try just tracking the parts twice and hard panning them.

    otherwise, record it mono and try a stereo imager.. they work GREAT and usually give more definition to a mono instrument then a stereo recording. your guitar is mono.. record it mono and then play with it. thats what i'd do. recording a mono instrument stereo (if its lined in.. electric..) is tough to get to sound good.
  5. vinniesrs

    vinniesrs Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    In order to record in stereo (forgive me for pointing out the obvious), you will need to record two simultaneous tracks. If your your computer will only record one track at a time then you would have to add stereo effects later, or play the sam part twice and pan to taste as was already mentioned.
    I guess it really depends what you want. If you are trying to retain the stereo effects from you fx pedal, then you would need two inputs to the comp. If you don't have that, perhaps you could use a computer effect with the same parameters.

    If I could suggest that you try micing an amp and doing two separate tracks I think you may get a richer more natural sound with that approach. Direct recording somehow just doesn't do it for me.
  6. wockachucka

    wockachucka Guest

    Or you can simply copy the mono guitar part to another track, pan one hard L and one hard R, then effect then *slightly* different and space them apart by a few milliseconds. Do this more than twice and you'll start approach the "wall of sound" guitar technique. Tons of fun and there are unlimited options to what you can do.
  7. noit

    noit Guest

    you all need to read the post before you reply. He's not looking for a way to make a guitar stereo. He already has one. His zoom box. He's trying to get the stereo into the computer.
  8. TheCult

    TheCult Guest

    Thanks everyone! I did a recording following your suggestions and the guitar sounds so much better. I tracked my connection and found one connector piece that was actually mono - it only had a single line near the tip. I replaced it with an RCA stereo splitter and - bingo! I was able to record in stereo using mic in. I further copied the guitar track and duplicated it onto another channel. I panned them differently, one 75% right and one 75% left. I also zoomed down on the tracks and moved them slightly apart. It sounds pretty neat and spacy now. Thanks for all the tips!

    I guess now the next question will be "how do you determine the ideal input and recording level of instruments plugged into the computer without getting unnatural distortion and noise?"
  9. Mastah

    Mastah Guest

    Regarding the use of an insert cable... I've never had one and I'm not too familiar with their use. Given my situation, do you think an insert cable could help my situation? Would it really be any different than the cable/adapter setup I have now?

    Thanks! :D
  10. TheCult

    TheCult Guest

    This is just a guess but your problem may be with the type of insert cable you're using. After I tried desparately to figure out why I was getting a mono signal from my processor, I discovered that one of the connectors on the way to my PC's line in was a mono piece (previous post). Here's the interesting part though: The way I discovered it was mono was by noticing it had only one black line near the tip. By looking at an electronics vendor's website, I realized that stereo cables, adapters etc. have two lines near the tip, whereas mono gear only have one. This may be obvious to a lot of people here but I had never noticed that before. I recommend checking your cable and if it is mono, getting one that's stereo.
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Your observation is dead on! Mono cables are called tip / sleeve connectors, denoting the two different portions of the connector while stereo or balanced connectors use a tip / ring / sleeve configuration.

    Kurt Foster
  12. Mastah

    Mastah Guest

    Hehe, thanks for the advice! I am, in fact, one of those people :), which is why this dilemma baffles me so. Everything is as it (presumably) should be, in my eyes, anyways. I've never been much of a cable-informed person, always bought what I needed when I needed it. To this day, I still could not tell you what exactly is the difference between a "Speaker Cable" and an "Instrument Cable." :D But I thought that I at least had a grasp on mono vs. stereo. :cry:

    Soooo.... anyways, thanks again!
  13. acavalier

    acavalier Guest

    I think that you could have stopped once you replaced the cable and got the stereo signal recording. When you listen to 2 tracks in stereo, one MUST be panned hard left and the other panned hard right. Without doing this, you will have MONO.

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