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I am thinking of buying a Focusrite - Scarlett Solo interface to record my guitar. I would like to plug my guitar directly to the interface and hear me playing while I'm recording, but would like to avoid latency.

I read that the Scarlett solo has a direct monitoring feature that is able to output the sound without the signal going through the computer, thus decreasing the latency. I guess this wouldn't work with my guitar plugged in, as it'd require the signal to be amplified by a software amp.

Does that mean that there's no way to avoid latency when plugging the guitar to the interface? Or maybe latency is not such a problem these days because of processing power?

  • "as it'd require the signal to be amplified by a software amp." You mean you want to monitor the effects of a software distortion plugin? – endolith Jan 22 '16 at 17:04
  • That's not what I meant. As I understood it, the signal that my guitar produces is sent to my pc and it is my pc who is in charge of amplifying the signal and producing the sound. Is the interface able to amplify the guitar signal directly? – bvaldivielso Jan 22 '16 at 17:13
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    Yes, the interface amplifies your guitar signal. You can monitor your dry guitar signal using the direct monitoring feature. – Johannes Jan 22 '16 at 17:23
  • @bvaldivielso "Is the interface able to amplify the guitar signal directly?" Yes, if by "amplify" you mean "convert the impedance and signal to usable levels". No, if you mean "simulate the distortion and frequency response of a hardware guitar amp cabinet". – endolith Jan 22 '16 at 17:29
  • @Johann and endolith, thank you so much for your responses, I didn't know that! That means I will be able to hear me playing without latency although I won't be listening the final tone my DAW will produce with the plugins, right? – bvaldivielso Jan 22 '16 at 17:36
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You are correct. Using a software amp will introduce a degree of latency. It may not be very noticeable in an empty recording project, but as you record more tracks, and use more software instruments and plugins, your computer may have trouble keeping up, and the latency will become more and more noticeable.

EDIT: After clarification in the comments, you can still monitor the dry signal of the guitar through the direct monitoring feature. You will be able to hear yourself playing with no latency during recording, but won't be hearing the final tone that your DAW will be producing with the plugins.

EDIT: Referring back to latency with software plugins, this issue is highly dependant on the processing power of your computer. Your computer may have trouble keeping up, and you will have to increase the latency in your settings to prevent dropouts. The interfaces in the price range of the scarlett probably won't play a significant factor in decreasing the latency.

Many DAWs (logic, ProTools, etc) will have a "low latency mode" setting, that when toggled will bypass "non-essential" plug-ins to reduce the CPU load. I suggest enabling that feature when recording with software instruments and plugins.

  • Shouldn't this say something like "your computer may have trouble keeping up, and you will have to increase the latency in your settings to prevent dropouts"? – endolith Jan 22 '16 at 17:30
  • Well said. I'll add it to the answer – Johannes Jan 22 '16 at 18:10
  • Am I crazy, or does this answer not answer the question? The question is about the OP being confused about the direct monitor feature, but this isn't mentioned in this answer. – Marc W Jan 25 '16 at 2:11
  • I interpreted the original question as "can I use a software amp without latency". After the discussion in the comments, that is no longer the case. I'll update the answer with the clarification about direct monitoring – Johannes Jan 25 '16 at 13:46

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