This christmas I picked up a copy of the game Rocksmith. This half-game/half-tutor allows you to connect a real guitar to a console or PC and is basically Guitar Hero with a proper instrument. Unlike Hero all the time you invest in getting better at the game actually builds real musical skills, rather than just coming away from it a highly talented coloured button masher.
You supply your own guitar and the connection is made by the Real Tone cable which is supplied with the game. Inside it is a Hercules board which converts the analog signal from the guitar into a USB digital stream.
But not only can this game provide a leg-up getting the motivation to learn, but the Real Tone cable also allows amp modelling sims to be used outside of the game. This is not something that is advertised by the game manufacturers but with a free driver, a little fiddling and a copy of Guitar Rig or Amplitube this is pretty easy to do. And a standard interface for connecting guitar to PC will cost around $100, so Rocksmith really is giving you some excellent value beyond what is already a great game.
The driver that is needed is called ASIO4ALL. This is because a standard audio interface has both input and output, but the Real Tone cable is input only. In order to keep latencies low amp modelling software take exclusive control of the audio interface and they expect to only have to use one for both the incoming and outgoing sounds. ASIO4ALL is needed to work as a ‘bridge’ so that the Real Tone can be selected as the input but a different device selected as the output (for example your motherboard sound chip). I didn’t find ASIO4ALL super intuitive to use, so I will devote the rest of this post to explaining how mine is configured to get the sound working properly in Guitar Rig 5.
Once ASIO4ALL is installed fire up the amp modelling suite and select ASIO4ALL as the audio device.
Whenever a program starts using ASIO4ALL a little green triangle symbol appears in your system tray. Clicking this brings up the ASIO4ALL configuration menu. Here you should see your standard PC sound card (probably with a highlighted green symbol next to it indicating that it is the active selection) and your Rocksmith USB Guitar Adapter (which will probably not be selected). Expand your PC sound card entry by hitting the + and exposing the inputs and outputs. What you want to do is arrange it so that it looks like mine below, with your PC sound card output selected, your PC sound card input deselected and the Rocksmith USB guitar selected.
This might take a little bit of fiddling to select them in the right order – ASIO4ALL has a habit of going all-or-nothing, but trust me it is possible to do it if you find the correct order of operations.
Once this is achieved go back into Guitar Rig and make your input and output selections. These can be found under the Routing tab. You want USB Guitar Adapter as input and your PC soundcard as output.
While all this is going on I like to have the metronome going, because that way it’s really easy to tell when the output is correctly configured. If you can hear the metronome and when you strum your guitar you get sound then all is good!
If you strum your guitar and you see the input VU meter move then you know that output is a problem. If you can hear the metronome but when you strum the input VU does not move then you know that input is a problem.
Lastly, sometimes I have experienced some clicking and clipping using the Real Tone cable in this way. Often just opening up the ASIO4ALL config menu makes this go away. Certainly I don’t experience this problem all the time.
This is a different issue to simply interference on the analog side of the cable – which this set up can suffer from (like any guitar setup). Running the cable too close to your PC, power cables and other electrical devices can impart a hum. Either have a go at moving the cables around, or do as I do and simply slap a virtual Noise Reduction pedal into your onscreen setup!
(UPDATE: here’s a look at a proper dedicated audio interface)