How do I record bass with an audio interface? (Explained for beginners)

If you are a musician who records their own music and wants to record bass guitar at home with an audio interface, this post will show you how.

It starts by explaining what an audio interface is and why it’s crucial for recording instruments.

Then we’ll take a look at the best interfaces for recording bass guitar and go through some tips for setting up your space so that you can get great recordings of your instrument.

Finally, we’ll look at some helpful ways to edit the sound of your final mixdown so that it sounds just like you want it to!

Do you need a di box with an audio interface?

Yes, and no. The short answer is, you don’t need a DI box with an audio interface. But the better explanation is that it does depend on what you’re looking to do and how your recording setup looks like.

Suppose you want to use some kind of amp simulator, then yes. In that case, you’ll probably need one because these usually require a DI signal to work correctly.

If not, then no, you don’t necessarily need one – but keep reading!

First off, let’s talk about what a DI box does: A DI box converts unbalanced signals into balanced ones (or vice versa).

This means that if any unwanted frequencies come through from the guitar/bass pickups or have too much noise picked up by their cables before going into your audio interface, this will be eliminated. 

One way to use your audio interface without a DI box is by using one with an instrument input and what’s known as “48V phantom power”.

This provides the guitar/bass pickup with 48 volts of power, which will eliminate any noise picked up in its cable before going into your audio interface.

It also provides them with balanced signal output. So you can plug directly into your interface without needing to worry about things like ground loops or interference from other equipment nearby.

The downside, though, is that now these pickups are being used at their maximum volume.

They might start to lose some tonal range because of this extra headroom (you should always make sure just enough gain for the type of sound you’re going for and not too much).

This is why some people prefer to use a DI box, as it will provide the instrument with power and give you a more even signal.

Can you connect a bass to an audio interface?

Yes! You can use a DI box designed to convert the signal from an instrument, like bass guitar, into line-level signals.

This will allow you to connect the output of your audio interface directly to your mixer or digital recorder’s input channels without needing any additional equipment such as a microphone and mic preamp.

How do I set up my audio interface to record bass guitar? 

The first thing is to make sure you have the suitable cable to plug into your bass guitar.

You will need a ¼” (balanced) instrument cable, and this should be plugged into the MIC input on your interface.

Set the gain to a reasonable level.

There is a knob on the top of the interface that will allow you to do this.

There should be instructions in your manual about what levels are likely appropriate for recording bass guitar.

Turn up the track volume, so it is not too quiet when playing back through headphones or monitors – but make sure it isn’t clipping!

If you have an input meter clipped at max red (0 dB), turn down either gain control or output until they come into balance.

Next is setting up which inputs you want to record with – we’ll select “Mic/Inst,” then hit Record or press the spacebar on our keyboard.

It doesn’t matter if it’s mono or stereo because, for this example, we’re recording just one track at a time anyway.

You may want to EQ before recording, but wait to add EQ and effects after.

This way, you can compare the sound of your bass before and after you add products.

Finally, hit Record or press the spacebar on the keyboard again to start recording.

What’s the difference between a bass DI and a Microphone Preamp for bass?

A DI box is a passive device, meaning that it does not have any built-in power supply. It’s easy to use and will work with non-powered signal sources such as electric basses or acoustic guitars.

A mic preamp has a power source (usually phantom) that feeds the audio into the recorder for capturing your sound at optimum levels before converting it from analog to digital recording format in most cases, so you get better quality recordings than using just an interface alone.

If you are looking to record bass or upright bass, this is definitely worth considering since they require more gain.

Often times need more amplification than what can be achieved by simply plugging them straight into the interface without proper level adjustments on the input channel of your DAW.

A microphone preamplifier has a power supply that feeds the audio into the recorder for capturing your sound at optimum levels before converting it from analog to digital recording format in most cases, so you get better quality recordings than using just an interface alone. 

Tips for recording bass with audio interface:

  • Use a microphone preamplifier if you are looking to record bass or upright bass.
  • Blog to digital recording format in most cases, so you get better quality recordings than using just an interface alone.
  • A microphone preamplifier has a power supply that feeds the audio into the recorder for capturing your sound at optimum levels before converting it from analog to digital recording format in most cases. Hence, you get better quality recordings than using just an interface alone.

How To Record Bass With Audio Interface?

First, you’ll need a computer and some sort of audio interface.

Next, plug in your bass to an appropriate input (usually labeled “Input”) on the back of the interface or into one of its own inputs if it has them (* not all interfaces have this).

Finally, turn up the volume using either hardware knobs for each channel’s individual volume control or by tweaking parameters in your software settings panel. Most will also allow you to adjust levels with the mouse wheel as well.

* The *typically called input is used when multiple inputs can be selected using buttons next to those inputs specifically for that purpose.”

You can add EQ and effects to your bass tracks by looking for similar features in the software you’re using.

* If there are effects buttons next to the inputs, those should be used when setting up and recording with an interface.”

Is bass a mono or stereo when recording?

Bass is a mono signal when recording with an audio interface.

But you can configure the audio interface to record in stereo.

The bass can be recorded separately for each channel and then mixed together later in stereo.

The benefit to recording in stereo is that you can pan the bass to either side of the mix.

The downside, however, is that it takes up twice as much space on your computer’s hard drive.

To record in stereo: 

Configure your audio interface by changing from Mono to Stereo input mode for both channels at once (typically a button on each channel). Then select an appropriate option such as ‘Stereo’ or ‘Mix.’

On playback, make sure external speakers are correctly set and try out different Channel Routing options.

Note: You will need two inputs for recording in stereo with most interfaces; one left and one suitable microphone cable going into their respective Inputs A & B/Left&Right channels, respectively.

If you are using a microphone, then the input levels will have to be adjusted accordingly.

Note: not all microphones can be used for this

To record in Mono: 

Configure your audio interface by changing from Stereo to Mono input mode (typically a button on each channel).

Configure the input for Input A by selecting an appropriate option such as ‘Mono’ or ‘Mix.’ And configure the input for Input B to be set to Off.

Should I compress my bass guitar when recording?

Compression is typically used to make the bass more apparent in a mix. It can also help get better isolation or clarity if other instruments are playing at similar volumes.

Try recording an un-compressed take and then re-recording it with compression, noting how this change affects the sound of your bass guitar as well as its volume level with the rest of your mix.

Two recommended compressor settings for electric bass include:

A) A fast attack time (somewhere between 20 ms – 80 ms), moderate release time (~150 – 300ms), and low ratio (between .12x and .25x).

B) A slow attack time (~300ms+), longer release time (around 500ms), and low ratio (between .12x and .25x).

Adjust the threshold so that you can get a noticeable amount of compression while still keeping as much dynamic range in your signal as possible without any constant pumping/thumping sound.