Directly using regular speakers as guitar amps is possible using rca cable adapter or using an audio interface. Without these tools, you cannot plug a guitar cable directly into a speaker – it will not work.
This question has surely been in the mind of every guitarist at some point. I remember searching about this topic even before buying my first electric guitar (because amps can be expensive).
In this article, I am going to explain how to use regular speakers as guitar amps (including stereo and Bluetooth speakers).
I am also going into related topics like the difference between amp and a regular speaker and more about audio interfaces so you know things work in the background!
Let’s first start with why you are here – how to turn regular speakers into amps.
How To Turn a Regular Speaker Into Amp?
To use regular speakers with your guitar, you need to purchase additional tools like an RCA adapter or audio interface. They both don’t have to be expensive and do not take that long to set up.
Again, you cannot plug a guitar cable directly into a speaker – you need a tool to amplify the sound signals coming from your guitar. A regular speaker alone cannot do this.
Option 1: ¼ inch cable to RCA adapter
An rca cable adapter works by converting the ¼ inch audio jack from guitar cable into an rca jack – which then connects directly to your stereo speakers.
Typically, a simple adapter cable will not work with a guitar. For example, simply converting your ¼ inch guitar jack into a 3.5mm audio jack on to your phone speakers will not work – because there’s no amplifier involved.
However, a typical stereo speaker that uses an rca input for left and right audio has an amp present – used to strengthen the single audio signal into dual signal and played in both speakers.
With stereo speakers that use rca input, you can simply use a ¼ inch to rca jack adapter and plug your guitar in.
Your stereo speakers have a built-in amp to strengthen the sound signal and split them to both speakers.
This can be used to amplify sound signals from your guitar – allowing you to use the speaker as an ‘amp’.
You need to be careful when using this approach. Make sure all volumes are turned down when plugging in your guitar and then slowly increase the volume till desired.
I personally have not tried this because this is not the proper way to connect your guitar into a speaker. The sound quality is not guaranteed and it may not even work at all.
But this is worth a try because it’s the easiest and cheapest approach if you already have a stereo speaker.
On Amazon, a ¼ inch to RCA adapter is only $13. Worth a try.
Option 2: Using audio interface
An audio interface converts analog signals from your guitar into digital signals that can be used by a computer.
This means you can connect your guitar to a computer and play it through the computer speakers.
I personally recommend using an audio interface if you don’t have an amp. With an audio interface you can do many more things than a regular amp.
For example, you can use an audio interface to record your guitar jam or add different sound effects to your guitar.
Emulating an amp is just one of the many things that an audio interface can help you do – it’s known as ‘amp modeler’.
You can download thousands of plugins to change how your guitar sounds – without ever buying any new bulky hardware again.
An audio interface ranges in price from $50 to even $1,000. As a beginner a regular $100 audio interface is more than good.
If you are on a tight budget, you can even get this $40 audio interface and then use your computer or mobile device as the amp.
This is how the setup will be:
- Connect guitar to an audio interface
- Connect computer to audio interface
- Setup amp modeler using apps like Deplike or Amplitube
- Play guitar and sound is played through a speaker connected to your computer
Use below interfaces depending on your setup:
- iRig to connect to iPhones or Ipad
- Guitar link audio interface for Android
- Focusrite Audio interface for computers
Related article: Is Audio Interface Better Than Amp: Differences & Sound Quality
Playing Guitar With Bluetooth Speaker
To play guitar on a bluetooth speaker, you need to use an audio interface to connect your guitar into a computer or mobile device – that’s in turn connected to a bluetooth speaker.
However, you may have a high latency when using a bluetooth speaker. Which means there’s a delay between you plucking the guitar string and sound coming from the bluetooth speaker.
Depending on the effects you use, the latency could be too much. A lot of processing is required when amplifying and translating analog guitar sound into digital sounds in a computer – causing the latency.
I don’t recommend using a bluetooth speaker to play guitar. Unless you have the budget to get those equipment designed for wireless guitar play.
So far we have discussed how to connect guitar directly into a speaker, but we haven’t touched on the basics around it. What’s the difference between an amp and a speaker? Let’s cover this next, so everything makes sense.
Amp Vs Speaker: 4 Differences
Amp and speakers are ultimately different products for different purposes. Amp is used to amplify the weak sound signal from a guitar or bass so they are loud enough to be played out with speakers.
A typical guitar amp contains an amp and also speakers within it.
A speaker is just a device used to play out sound signals. A regular speaker cannot be used directly with a guitar because the sound signal from a guitar is too weak for a regular speaker.
Below are 4 key differences between an amp and a speaker – this should clear things up for you. Especially why a speaker can’t be used directly for guitars.
- Functionality. An amp is used to strengthen weak sound signals from a guitar. Whereas a speaker is used to play sound signals from an incoming source. A typical guitar amp contains an amp and speaker inside.
- Frequency range. Speaker built inside an amp has a lower frequency range compared to regular speakers. Amp is great for hiding high frequency noises that you don’t usually need.
- Power rating (wattage). Speaker built inside an amp is guaranteed to have the same power rating. Whereas external regular speakers may have different ratings. Using an amp and speaker with different power ratings can easily roast the weaker device.
- Sound quality. Playing guitar with a regular will sound better than a regular speaker with less noise because of the lower frequency range. Although, you can find amp modelers that can emulate an amp really well when using audio interface
Can I Play Guitar Without Amp? (Unplugged)
You can play guitar without an amp to practice. An unplugged electric can still make some sound when you pluck or strum it – which is great for practicing alone without making too much noise.
Obviously, an unplugged guitar cannot make any distortion effects. So if you need to practice with these effects, you cannot do it without an amp.
If you need to practice regular picking, strumming and slides – an unplugged electric guitar should be good. This is even better for your roommates or neighbors.
Related article: Can Neighbors Hear Your Unplugged Electric Guitar?
Using Speaker As Amp: My Recommendation
If you don’t have the budget for an amp, then using alternatives like an audio interface or the RCA adapter is a good approach – especially for beginners who just want to practice.
Personally, when I first started learning electric guitar, I was using a cheap audio interface to connect it with a phone and play the guitar sound directly to my headphones.
I didn’t want to make a lot of noise for my family and I also didn’t like a bulky amp because I needed to play in different rooms!
I think an audio interface is even better than an amp. With apps like Deplike or amplitube, you can add thousands of sound effects and even change amps using different amp modelers.
You don’t ever have to buy an amp again.
However, as you keep playing, I am pretty sure you will end up buying both an amp and audio interface. At some point in time you will want to experiment with them and that’s a good thing!