To connect studio monitors to an audio interface, you need to run a cable from the audio output of both channels on your interface to the corresponding inputs on your monitors. The type of cable you use depends on the monitors you are using.
I’m Donovan, and longtime musician and avid home studio enthusiast. I love to write, record, and produce music as often as possible and spend most of my free time in my studio. I know through first-hand experience how to connect studio monitors to an interface.
This post will show you how to connect studio monitors to an audio interface. I’ll provide some steps to make this happen quickly and highlight other important information related to what type of cable to use.
Let’s get after it.
- Key Takeaways
- How to Connect Studio Monitors to Audio Interface
- How to Connect Multiple Studio Monitors to Audio Interface
- Do You Need an Audio Interface for Studio Monitors?
- Cables for Studio Monitors to Audio Interface
- Final Thoughts
- Connecting studio monitors to an audio interface is simple, and you just need to run a cable from the two audio outputs on the monitor to the corresponding speakers.
- Most interfaces and studio monitors have ¼-inch inputs for making this connection, but that can vary depending on what monitors you use.
- It’s critical to get the left audio output of your interface connected to the left monitor and the right output connected to the right monitor.
- Some monitors have various inputs you can use for whatever type of cable you prefer, while others have a single option you need to match.
How to Connect Studio Monitors to Audio Interface
Connecting your studio monitors to an audio interface is a simple but essential task for every home studio owner or recording artist. The process for doing this is basically the same for every model of interface and monitors that you use.
You need to run cables from the audio outputs of the interface to the corresponding inputs on each monitor. The types of cables you use can change, but the process for getting these two pieces of equipment connected stays the same.
I’ll break those steps down a bit more in-depth here, but it’s pretty self-explanatory, even if you’ve never set up a studio before. The key is making sure you have the proper cables with enough length to reach where your speakers are.
Follow these steps to connect studio monitors to an audio interface:
1. Locate the audio outputs on your interface. These are typically well-marked and somewhere on the back of the unit, but their exact location can vary depending on the make and model of your interface.
2. Locate the audio inputs on your monitors. Again, these should be somewhere on the back of each monitor. The input might be a different type than the output of the interface, and you’ll need to get the proper cable to match (more on that down below).
3. Plug the proper speaker cable into the right audio output on the interface.
4. Plug the other end of that cable into the right studio monitor.
5. Plug the proper speaker cable into the left audio output on the interface.
6. Plug the other end of that cable into the right studio monitor.
7. Test the monitors and interface to ensure everything works properly.
Quick Tip: Many studio monitors have volume or gain control on the back. It’s a good idea to keep this around the half-level mark so you don’t blast music extremely loud when you run the first test.
How to Connect Multiple Studio Monitors to Audio Interface
Using four studio monitors instead of two is a common approach in some studios. This will allow you to monitor audio in near-field and far-field, giving you a better idea of the mix in different settings.
Some engineers even run three sets of monitors for a total of six. I’ve never seen more than that, but technically it’s possible to do so if you wish.
Many audio interfaces have multiple monitor outputs to accommodate this setup, but not all do. If your interface has multiple monitor outputs, just repeat the steps in the section above for each set of monitors.
Be sure to get the right outputs connected to the right speakers and the left outputs connected to the left. You’ll mess up the stereo mix if you don’t.
If your audio interface doesn’t have multiple monitor outputs, it still might be possible to run four studio monitors by daisy-chaining them together. This involves connecting the speakers to one another through additional outputs if your monitor is equipped with them.
If you want to run four monitors, it’s best to get an audio interface that accommodates this rather than using the daisy-chain method. You’ll have more control over each set of monitors that way.
If your monitors don’t have multiple inputs, you won’t be able to daisy-chain them together and will need to use a different setup. Again, using an interface with multiple monitor outputs is the best way to get a 4-monitor setup.
Do You Need an Audio Interface for Studio Monitors?
Technically, you don’t need to use an audio interface for studio monitors. It is possible to connect some speakers directly to your computer. You’ll just need the proper cables and adapters to make this happen.
But for the purposes of home studio recordings, you’ll want to get an interface anyways. The interface will help you record more tracks and easily connect your monitors to your DAW so you can use them for reference and mixing.
How to Connect Studio Monitors to Computer without Interface
Connecting your studio monitors directly to your computer without an audio interface is possible. Even though I don’t recommend setting up your studio this way, it’s still good to know how to do if you’re in a pinch without an interface.
You’ll need a laptop or desktop computer with the standard 3.5mm headphone jack to do this. You’ll also need a 3.5mm to double ¼-inch Y adapter and the proper cables to plug into your monitor.
Follow these steps to connect studio monitors to computer without interface:
- Plug the 3.5mm to ¼-inch Y adapter into your computer’s 3.5mm headphone jack.
- Plug ¼-inch speaker cables into each input on the Y adapter.
- Plug the other end of each cable into the inputs on your monitors.
- Power up your speakers.
- Test for audio.
Quick Tip: If your laptop doesn’t have a 3.5mm input, you still might be able to make this work if you get some sort of adapter that has that input and matches the existing inputs on your computer. 3.5mm inputs are not on every computer these days.
Cables for Studio Monitors to Audio Interface
There are several different types of cables that you might use to connect your studio monitors to an audio interface. Knowing what these are will help you identify which cables you need to get for this specific purpose.
Using quality cables is important, and I suggest spending a little more money on higher-end cables for your monitors. You don’t want to deal with buzzes, hums, or other types of interference when you are recording or mixing.
Here is a quick look at the most commonly used monitor cables. Remember that you need to match the type of cable to the type of inputs you have and that you can’t just choose any option.
Balanced ¼-inch TRS
A balanced ¼-inch TRS cable is the most common option for connecting studio monitors to an audio interface. These cables look like your standard instrument cable, and TRS stands for Tip/Ring/Sleeve, which describes the design of the cable.
These cables are easy to get and use, and if your monitors have a ¼-inch input, I suggest going this route for the reliability and audio quality you’ll get from it.
Unbalanced ¼-inch TS
An unbalanced ¼-inch TS cable will look basically identical to a balance TRS cable until you look at the input ends closely. The TS cable only has a tip and sleeve and is missing the ring that the TRS has. This is why it’s an unbalanced cable.
These cables are more affordable than TRS options, so they can work if you are on a budget. But because they are not balanced, you are more likely to experience interference and other audio issues when using them.
Balanced XLR to ¼-inch TRS
Another commonly used cable is a balanced XLR to ¼-inch TRS. This cable will have the standard ¼-inch tip on one end and a 5-pin microphone-style end on the other. You’ll use this cable if your monitors have XLR inputs rather than ¼-inch inputs.
These cables are high quality and function just about the same as a balanced ¼-inch TRS. These aren’t used as often, so they can be a little more difficult to find at your music store. But you can still get them easily.
If your monitors and audio interface have smaller black and red inputs and outputs, you’ll need to get RCA cables to connect them. These cables are somewhat old school, but you’ll still run into them depending on what type of setup you have.
These cables are not as thick as the others on the list, but they can still work effectively for your monitor setup. Just be sure to get the right and left channels set up properly.
RCA to ¼-inch
If your speakers have RCA inputs and your audio interface has ¼-inch outputs, you’ll need to use an RCA to ¼-inch cable. These will have a red and black RCA connection on one end and typically a TS ¼-inch on the other.
The ¼-inch end will have two tips, one red and one black, to match the RCA end. Be sure to set these up properly to get the correct stereo field.
Here are a few quick answers to some of the most commonly asked questions related to how to connect studio monitors to an audio interface.
Can you plug studio monitors into an audio interface?
Yes, every audio interface is designed to work with studio monitors. You can easily plug them into one another using the proper monitor cable. Not every audio interface can accommodate multiple monitor setups, but it should be able to give you two.
What cables do I need for studio monitors to interface?
The most common type of cable used for connecting studio monitors to an audio interface is a balanced ¼-inch TRS. But you need to look at the outputs of your interface and the inputs of your speakers to see which cable is required, as not all setups are the same.
Do you connect studio monitors to PC or audio interface?
For home recording purposes, it’s better to connect your studio monitors to your audio interface. That will allow you to get better-sounding audio from your setup than just connecting the monitors to the computer.
Should I get an audio interface for studio monitors?
If you are trying to set up a good home studio, using an audio interface with your studio monitors is a must. This will provide you with the ideal listening setup for recording and mixing and is better than connecting speakers to a computer.
Is it okay to use studio monitors as computer speakers?
It’s totally fine to use studio monitors as computer speakers, and doing so won’t cause any harm to your speakers. Just know that you’ll need to power on your audio interface if you have one to get sound in the monitors from your computer.
Connecting studio monitors to an audio interface only requires you to plug in the proper cable from the interface outputs to the inputs on the monitor. The most commonly used cable type for this is a balance ¼-inch TRS.
Not every set of monitors has the same inputs, and you need to use the correct cables with each. Look on the back of your monitors to find out what type of inputs you have, and get the necessary cables to match.
What type of cables do you use to connect your studio monitors to audio interface? Let me know in the comments below.