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A set up consists of a single instrument that is guitar and a recording software like pro tools along with amplitube as the guitar effects.

Is there a difference between using the internal mac sound card and an audio interface in this simple setup?

  • Check out the answer here... Although not directly answering your question, the points made are also (perhaps unintentionally) describing the differences between built-in sound cards and external audio interfaces. – JoshP Feb 10 '15 at 13:30
  • There's a whole bunch of impedance-matching issues missed out on that link, as the answer [imo correctly] assumes the computer's regular in/outputs would not ever be a part of the equation. Simple answer to the OP, there's a big difference in going from 'no' interface to 'some' interface, after that it's a new question of 'which one'. – Tetsujin Feb 10 '15 at 19:50
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Internal soundcards may give you accurate A/D conversion but get let down by compromises in the audio chip. There can be noise from the surrounding electronics, and the chip itself is optimised, often, to handle a partially amplified domestic capsule mic plugged straight in - so it's neither a proper high-level line-in nor a low noise mic-in.

Going straight into a Mac desktop, I found it possible to achieve pro standard recording, with low noise and distortion, but only after putting in mains ground-lift and a ground spike to the external audio chain, an audio isolation transformer, filters to remove 20kHz hash from a solar array... and careful gain staging. It then became possible to handle straight audio from a preamp.

It worked very well, but with hindsight, it would have been wise to go to a nice little front end box such as the Scarlett 2i2 - a favourite among my narrator colleagues.

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