Recording Synths Through Guitar Amps: 5 Tips

Recording Synths Through Guitar Amps: 5 Tips

Can you record synthesizers via guitar amplifiers – and what’s the point of that anyway? We’ll show you some techniques for recording synths through guitar amps. You’ll learn what to look out for, which amps and mics to use, how to position them, and more. In the video below the article, Felix explains the individual steps.


Recording synths through guitar amps

Why is it worth recording synths through guitar amps? Why all the effort when you can simply connect a synthesizer to the mixer or audio interface via a jack cable? The reason is simple: the amp, speaker, and microphone used for recording can give synthesizer sounds a whole new character. Unlike studio monitors guitar amps are specifically designed to colour the sound. When recording with a microphone, the reflections of the room also become part of the sound, which is much more complex than if it were only transmitted via cable. All of this can be used creatively in sound design and production.

In our video, Felix reveals some tricks for recording synthesizers through guitar amps. For the recordings he uses the Moog Grandmother analogue synth, which is sent through two different amps: a Fender Twin Reverb and a Harley Benton Tube15 . A Shure SM57 and a Royer R121 are used as microphones.

Moog Grandmother analogue synth

Moog Grandmother analogue synth

Recording synths via Fender Twin Reverb

Important when recording synthesizers via guitar amps: The output level of the synthesizer should not be set too high because the inputs of guitar amps are designed for the low levels of electric guitars. Therefore, only turn up the volume control of your synthesizer by about 10%.

You can use the built-in equalizer of the Fender Twin Reverb to influence the sound during the recording. In addition, many guitar amps offer built-in reverb (often an analog spring reverb) that is also good for adding interest to synthesizer sounds.

Fender 65 Twin Reverb guitar combo amp

Fender 65 Twin Reverb guitar combo amp

It depends on the correct microphone position

Where you place the microphone has a decisive influence on the sound, when recording through a guitar amplifier, and offers plenty of room for creative experimentation. If you move the microphone further away from the amplifier, the proportion of the surround sound increases. The sound is correspondingly drier close to the speaker. And if you vary the distance from the center of the speaker, you get different frequency curves. There are no fixed rules for this – anything that pleases your ears is allowed! Move the microphone horizontally and vertically, experiment with the distance and listen carefully to see how it affects the sound.

Shure SM57 LC dynamic mic

Shure SM57 LC dynamic mic

For even more creative possibilities, add a second microphone in a different position and record it on a second track. Then you can later combine the two signals in different ways in the DAW and experiment with stereo effects, for example. The signals of a cheap Shure SM57 and a significantly more expensive Royer R121 ribbon microphone, for example, can be creatively combined with each other.

Royer Labs R-121 ribbon mic

Royer Labs R-121 ribbon mic

Expensive equipment? Doesn’t have to be!

In order to record synthesizers via guitar amplifiers, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive Fender Twin Reverb! Very good results can also be achieved with an inexpensive tube amplifier, such as the Harley Benton Tube15. With this amp you can also experiment with the EQ and spring reverb. So you can add a great creative option to your setup for little money.

Harley Benton TUBE15 Celestion

Harley Benton TUBE15 Celestion

Incidentally, the guitar amplifier does not necessarily have to be used during the recording. You can also send previously recorded synthesizer tracks (or of course any signal from your DAW) through an amp and add a new color to the sound. This turns the amp into an external effects device that you can use creatively in every phase of a production. The sky is the limit!

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Joe has been singing since he can remember and started playing guitar when he was 10. He's been using it as a songwriting tool ever since. He is passionate about melody and harmony and admires musicians who create these in unique ways. Check out his alternative / indie projects Best of Feelings and Zef Raček.

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