In this article, we’ll share 4 different ways to connect the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface to studio monitors or powered speakers. Keep reading to find out which methods we recommend and why.
Quick Answer: We recommend using balanced 1/4″ TRS cables to connect the Focusrite 2i2 audio interface to studio monitors or powered speakers. A balanced TRS to XLR cable will work just as well. Unbalanced cables will work but are more prone to interference and noise.
Studio Monitors & Powered Speakers
It’s pretty common to find 1/4″ or XLR inputs on the back of most modern studio monitors and powered speakers, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find them on all speakers.
We use our Yamaha HS5 studio monitors for most of the demo in the accompanying video, but we also feature a pair of M-Audio AV40s to show you how we would deal with RCA inputs.
Balanced Vs. Unbalanced Cables
To help you understand some of the recommendations we’re about to make, you need to be aware of the differences between balanced and unbalanced connections.
If you look closely at the connector on a 1/4″ audio cable, you’ll notice it either has one or two rings. These rings will help you identify balanced and unbalanced audio cables.
- TS (tip sleeve / single ring) connector
- Sends one version of the audio signal
- Susceptible to noise from audio, magnetic, and electrical interference
- TRS (tip ring sleeve / two rings) connector
- Sends two versions of the audio signal (1 x normal & 1 x phase inverted)
- Compares the signals at the receiving end to prevent noise.
We always recommend using a balanced cable wherever possible. The methods below are listed from best to least optimal.
Method 1 – Balanced 1/4″ TRS Cable
Scarlett 2i2 1/4″ outputs > Balanced 1/4″ TRS cables > Speaker 1/4″ inputs
Balanced 1/4″ TRS cables are the simplest and most effective way to connect your Scarlett 2i2 audio interface to studio monitors. The balanced connection offers the best sound quality and facilitates longer cable runs if necessary.
The connection couldn’t be simpler, and balanced 1/4″ cables are easy to source. The only thing you need to watch out for, which is true of all of these methods, is connecting the left and right outputs to the corresponding speaker.
Method 2 – Balanced 1/4″ TRS To XLR Cable
Scarlett 2i2 1/4″ outputs > XLR cables > Speaker XLR inputs
If your studio monitor only has XLR inputs, this balanced solution offers the same quality, efficiency, and other benefits as balanced TRS cables.
If anything, XLR connectors can be a bit more convenient to work with, and if you need a longer cable run, XLR extension cables will work just fine with this setup.
Method 3 – Unbalanced 1/4″ TS Cable
Scarlett 2i2 1/4″ outputs > Unbalanced 1/4″ TS cables > Speaker 1/4″ inputs
This is identical in execution to the balanced TRS cable solution in method 1 minus the benefits of a balanced connection. It will work for the majority of people connecting the Scarlett 2i2 to studio monitors, but if you notice any buzzing or humming noises, you’ll need to upgrade to balanced cables.
Method 4 – Unbalanced 1/4″ TS to RCA Cable
Scarlett 2i2 1/4″ outputs > Unbalanced 1/4″ TS to RCA cable > Speaker RCA inputs
We would only use RCA inputs if there were no alternatives. That said, if your speakers only have RCA inputs, an unbalanced connection is your only option. It’s still super simple to set up, but you’ll need a cable with 2 x TS jacks at one end and 2 x RCA jacks at the other.
Some studio monitors have 2 RCA inputs on one speaker, with cable wire passing a signal to the second speaker. Others have a single input on each speaker, requiring you to split the RCA end of the cable. RCA works, but we see it as antiquated now.
Scarlett 2i2 & Studio Monitors Pricing & Specs
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2: https://currentprice.io/scarlett_2i2
- Yamaha HS5 Studio Monitors: https://currentprice.io/hs5_monitor
- XLR Cable: https://currentprice.io/xlr_cable
- TRS Cable: https://currentprice.io/trs_cable
- TRS To XLR Cable: https://currentprice.io/trs_xlr
- TS Cable: https://currentprice.io/ts_cable
- TS To RCA Cable: https://currentprice.io/ts_rca
- Mic Stand: https://currentprice.io/desk_stand
- Rode PSA1 Boom Arm: https://currentprice.io/boom_arm
Connect Scarlett 2i2 To Studio Monitors Topics
- 0:00 – Introduction
- 0:30 – Pricing & Specs
- 0:55 – Studio Monitors / Speakers
- 1:36 – Balanced vs. Unbalanced Cables
- 3:50 – Method 1 – Balanced 1/4″ TRS Cable
- 6:03 – Method 2 – Balanced 1/4″ TRS To XLR Cable
- 8:09 – Method 3 – Unbalanced 1/4″ TS Cable
- 10:14 – Method 4 – Unbalanced 1/4″ TS to RCA Cable
- 11:40 – Summary
- 12:20 – Final Thoughts