There are several matters to consider when building a home recording studio. It is not merely connecting all the equipment, but also choosing the right equipment and connectors, and connecting them correctly.
One of the essential factors that affect the quality of home recording experience but often overlooked is monitoring the sound being produced. Hence, it pays to know how to connect studio monitors to audio interfaces properly.
The Ways to Monitor Sound
The sound being produced and recorded in the studio can be monitored using either a headphone or a studio monitor. Headphones are definitely less costly than studio monitors.
In addition, using studio monitors involve a more complicated set up than simply using headphones. That is because there are a lot of things to consider when setting up studio monitors aside from deciding which cable and connectors to use.
However, studio monitors are still preferred because they provide more “uncolored” sound because of their “flatter” response to frequency.
Studio monitors allow the technicians to judge the sounds more objectively. This is especially true when the studio monitors are connected to the audio interface really well.
The Studio Monitors
Studio monitors are not simply loudspeakers. These are special speakers also referred to as near-field monitors and they do not have tonal enhancements in terms of frequency and amplitude like commercially-sold speakers. They provide raw and unadulterated sounds to produce better quality output during the mixing stage.
With the more natural sound emitted by these speakers, they are what the producers rely on when they need to make critical decisions during the final mixing stage.
The Audio Interface?
An audio interface is an equipment or hardware that allows the computer to have more sonic capabilities. It also has a lot of slots that allows a number of other sound input equipment like microphones and musical instruments, as well as output equipment such as headphones and studio monitors, to be connected to the computer.
Aside from the additional input and output capabilities it provides the computer, it also improves the quality of sound that gets into the computer and to the software that records and mixes the sound.
The audio interface also provides a more accurate and raw sound. It acts as an external sound card of the computer and can be connected using a USB or a PCMCIA, depending on the available port available and preferred.
How to Connect Studio Monitors to Audio Interfaces: Materials Needed
Before you would understand how to connect studio monitors to audio interfaces, you should have the right tools to use in order to accomplish such. Thus, you must have high-quality cables with appropriate jacks and connect it to the proper slot or hole in the audio interface.
When it comes to cables, in a general sense, a connection between studio monitors and audio interfaces is done using optical cables. These are also known as lightpipe cables. This is the type of cable that can carry more than one channel of digital audio with only one connection. Optical cables accept both ADAT and S/PDIF or TOSLINK signals.
ADAT carries eight channels at 48 kilohertz or four channels at 96 kilohertz. On the other hand, S/PDIF carries two channels of audio. The latter is what is commonly used to output sound from the studio interface to the monitor speakers.
Jacks and Connectors
With regards to jacks and connectors, the following are normally used:
- ¼” TS to ¼” TS
- ¼” TRS to ¼” TRS
- ¼” TRS to XLR
TS stands for Tip, Sleeve; while TRS stands for Tip, Ring, and Sleeve. XLR, on the other hand, means X Latching Resilient Rubber Compound. ¼” is the diameter of the plug.
Among the three, TRS connections are preferred because they make balanced or grounded connections. This, in turn, rejects noise or grounded hums that are commonly picked up by long cables.
The cables from the studio monitor should be connected to the appropriate slot in the audio interface. Accordingly, the two kinds of audio input and output in the audio interface are mic and line levels.
- Mic level signals are considered very weak. They normally come from microphones connected to the audio interface. These need some kind of boost from a preamp.
- Line level signals, on the other hand, are a lot stronger and do not need any amplification. Signals from the audio interface going to the studio monitors need line level output connections.
Things to Consider When Connecting the Two
Basically, the studio monitors are connected to the audio interface by using an optical cable with either TS, TRS or XLR connectors that are inserted in the line level output.
However, it should be noted that connecting studio monitors to the audio interface is not simply joining them by cables.
t is imperative to know where to put the studio monitors relative to the location of the audio interface. This is to make sure that they will be able to provide the rawest sound possible to make better judgment during the recording and mixing. With that mind, there are things to be considered when connecting the two.
- Find the right kind of speakers for this purpose. Those are not consumer speakers that are very tempting because they promise to make audio sound better. Always evaluate the speaker that you are opting for.
- Use cables of appropriate length to be able to set up the studio monitors strategically to maximize their purpose.
- Ensure symmetry when positioning the speakers. Make sure that the distance of one speaker from the left wall is the same as the other speaker’s distance from the right wall. Also, the distance from the listener should also be the same in the left and the right.
- The two speakers should be angled properly from each other and from the listener. The ideal angle is 60 degrees between speakers and 30 degrees between each speaker and the location of the listener.
Connecting studio monitors to the audio interface does not only require the right kind of cable, connector, and input and output slots. To get the best out of the studio monitors, they also need to be positioned correctly inside the studio relative to the location of the audio interface and of the main listener. They should be positioned symmetrically, at 60 degrees angle, and not directly onto the wall.