Can an Audio Interface Fully Replace an Amp?

Nothing beats the sound and performance of a real amplifier, especially if you have an old-school approach to music. However, in some cases, using a real amp might not be possible; you might not have enough space or money for a good amp. A good audio interface costs less than a good amp, so you might wonder if you can use it to replace your amplifier.

An audio interface can fully replace an amp. If your audio interface has direct monitoring, you can listen to your guitar directly through it. However, it’s better to connect your audio interface to your computer and use a DAW and an amp sim to achieve better quality and versatility.

This article will explain in-depth why you would use an audio interface instead of an amp. I’ll also discuss how to replace your amp with an audio interface so that you can practice even if no amp is available. 

Table of Contents

Can an Audio Interface Fully Replace an Amp?

Why Use an Audio Interface Instead of an Amp?

Replacing your amp with an audio interface is an excellent choice if your living space is too small. An amplifier can be bulky, so it’s not always convenient to have one in your room if it’s small. 

Plus, big amplifiers can be pretty loud, making them unsuitable for apartment buildings, dormitories, and other places where you can annoy people with your music.

On the other hand, smaller amps often don’t produce a sound that’s good enough. An audio interface is a great way to achieve fantastic sound quality with little or no noise and without too much effort. 

On the other hand, audio interfaces are cheaper than high-quality amps. You might not have enough money to buy a good amp, but you crave that high-quality sound. In that case, getting an audio interface is a budget option. You might have one already, so you don’t have to invest any money. 

Of course, using a real amp is the best option because it’s easier to achieve a unique and natural sound. However, if that’s not an option, using an audio interface is the next best thing. 

If you don’t already have one, don’t miss my guide on how to pick the right audio interface for your studio. I talk about the factors you need to consider when choosing. How to Choose an Audio Interface or Mixer for a Studio

How To Replace an Amp With an Audio Interface

You can use an audio interface instead of an amp in two ways. The easiest way is to use direct monitoring on your audio interface if this is an option. The more complicated way is to connect your audio interface to a computer and use an amp sim. This option will deliver better results. 

Direct monitoring allows you to plug your headphones, studio monitors, or speakers into the audio interface and hear your guitar (or any other instrument) that way.

Not every audio interface allows you to do this, but the famous Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 has this option, and if you own an audio interface, it’s most likely that one. 

This method is extremely easy to use but doesn’t let you do much with your tone. You have few options to tweak your guitar’s sound, and there isn’t much you can do if you want to use various effects. 

That’s why it’s best to connect your audio interface to your computer and use a DAW and a guitar plugin. 

Some people argue that an interface may improve your headphone’s quality. Find out if that’s true in my full guide. Do Audio Interfaces Improve Headphone Audio?

How To Use an Audio Interface With an Amp Sim

An amp sim is a great way to obtain a high-quality guitar sound that seems natural without a real amp. It also gives you almost limitless possibilities for modifying your sound. 

Amp simps can simulate almost any real amp, allowing you to use many different effects and pedal simulations. This gives you a ton of versatility, and you can get the feeling of playing through a real amp. 

You’ll also retain the benefits of playing silently. Plug your headphones into your computer, and no one knows you’re playing. 

The downside is that you need more gear and effort to pull this off. You’ll need the following items:

  • A computer
  • A digital audio workspace
  • An amp sim
  • Your audio interface

You’ll need a computer with as fast a processor as possible. A slow processor will increase the latency and thus ruin your practice. Therefore, an Intel Core i5 should be the bare minimum, but an i7 would be preferable

You don’t have to upgrade immediately if you have a slower processor. See if it gets the job done, and only get a new one if you have to. You might get lucky and save a bit of money this way. 

Check out my full guide to learn more about how audio interfaces affect CPU performance. Do Audio Interfaces Affect CPU Performance?

You must connect your audio interface to your computer and DAW to get everything going. Any DAW will work, but Ableton Live might be the best choice if you intend to use this setup for live gigs. If not, you can use anything you like. 

You’ll then have to download an amp sim and use your DAW as its host. You can choose from hundreds of amp sims and many great free options. However, you’ll have to pay for the premium ones. Free amp sims will probably be more than enough if you only want to jam at home. 

After that, you must plug in your guitar or whatever you play and start playing. You can use your computer speakers, but studio monitors are probably the better choice. You can also use high-quality headphones if you want to stay silent. 

You’ll have to connect your laptop to a PA system if you want to use this setup for a live gig. This can work, but using real amps for live shows is best. This will help you avoid problems with latency, and your audience will probably prefer the natural sound of amps. 

Final Thoughts

You can easily use an audio interface to replace an amp. You can do anything with that setup with a real amp. Whether you’ll like the sound you get or not is a matter of personal preference. 

You might not notice any difference, but you might also heavily dislike the synthetic quality of the sound. Nevertheless, it’s an option if you can’t use a real amp now.

Juan Louder
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Juan Louder

I started SoundStudioMagic to learn how to record my own audiobook at home, and now I'm addicted to all the latest techniques and gear.

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