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Connecting monitors to a computer

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Tom Galli
Connecting monitors to a computer
on Aug 7, 2016 at 8:33:05 pm

Aloha all!

A couple of recent incidents have made me remember the importance of having a decent set of near-field monitors connected to a sound editing station, and not just relying on headphones. But, how to connect them? Taking the lovely balanced inputs for my pricey monitors and adapting them down to an unshielded 1/8" stereo output from the computer seems... wrong. But what's the best alternative?

Tom G

The difference between theory and reality is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and reality.

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Eric Toline
Re: Connecting monitors to a computer
on Aug 7, 2016 at 9:23:56 pm

Aside from taking the 1/8"trs unbalanced output from your computer and connecting it to a preamp that has a balanced output that feeds your speakers, there is no practical alternative. There is no issue with connecting the speakers directly to the comp's 3.5mm TRS output, just be sure you unbalance the connecting cable end going to the speaker input. If it's an XLR connector connect the ground to pins 1 & 3 with the positive going to pin 2.

"I push the RECORD button and hope for the best"

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Brian Reynolds
Re: Connecting monitors to a computer
on Aug 7, 2016 at 10:41:47 pm

The 3.5mm output should be regarded as a 'Last Resort' output of a computer...... The preferred way is to use a firewire out or at least a USB audio interface....

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Ty Ford
Re: Connecting monitors to a computer
on Aug 8, 2016 at 12:40:03 pm

Aloha Tom,

A lot depends on the audio output drivers in your computer. PCs are notoriously bad. Apples are better.

I only run Apples here and have been using Ebtech HE-2 boxes very effectively.

I would be very surprised if they didn't work for you.

A short unbalanced Y-cord with 1/4" TS plugs from your computer to the box, 1/4" TRS to whatever balanced input your monitors have.


Ty Ford
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Bill Davis
Re: Connecting monitors to a computer
on Aug 8, 2016 at 4:27:15 pm

For the past 5 years, I've monitored exclusively via an inexpensive USB interface and it was surprisingly fine.

About 8 months ago I switched to a Zoom Tac-2 when I simplified things and replaced my older Mackie mixer so I have a thunderbolt audio tap now - but honestly, the sound isn't actually any different to my ears.

I was buying a smaller footprint - as well as the convenience of the big knob design, and simplified mic/source level setting and that Thunderbolt virtually guaranteed zero latency. I was not trying to improve the actual sound. Because the older and less expensive USB tap didn't really need sonic improving.

In a system designed to pass video around, even the most complex audio signal is trivial in comparison to my video signals. It just doesn't seem to tax the system - so the quality of the busses used for output are all working well beyond the quality threshold I can perceive.

My 2 cents, anyway.

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