In this article, we’ll show you 3 different ways to connect your computer (PC or Mac) to a set of studio monitors or powered speakers. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to get your laptop or desktop connected.
Quick Answer: A headphone to dual RCA or 1/4″ cable is a quick, cheap way to connect your computer to studio monitors. If you’re building up a home studio or want high-quality audio, we recommend investing in a dedicated audio interface instead.
Speaker Cable Length
One quick tip with you before we get going. We’re always surprised at how much cable it takes to connect things that are relatively close together.
Whichever cable you decide to use, we strongly recommend buying the 10′ version. We learned this the hard way, trying to save money buying 6′ cables, only to find that they were a few inches too short.
Entry Level Studio Monitors
Entry-level studio monitors, like the M-Audio AV40, often have a pair of RCA inputs on the back of one speaker and a wire sending a signal to the other speaker.
This limits your connection options, especially if the speaker only has RCA inputs. You’ll still be able to get the speakers working, but only with an unbalanced signal.
Method 1 – 1/8″ To RCA Cable
Computer headphone jack > 1/8″ to RCA cable > Speaker RCA inputs
If your entry-level studio monitors only have RCA inputs, you’ll need a 1/8″ to RCA cable to take the stereo output from the headphone jack of your computer and convert it to RCA.
Simply plug the 1/8″ stereo jack into the headphone port on your computer, and then connect the RCA jacks to the speaker. The red connector always goes to the right channel input.
Method 2 – 1/8″ To 1/4″ Cable
Computer headphone jack > 1/8″ to dual 1/4″ TS cable > Speaker 1/4″ inputs
A high-end studio monitor like the Yamaha HS5 will have 1/4″ inputs, which are a step up from RCA connections.
Again, it’s simply a case of plugging the headphone jack into the computer, the red 1/4″ connector into the right speaker, and the black 1/4″ connector into the left speaker. You’ll need to pull the cable apart at the 1/4″ end if it’s joined.
Method 3 – Audio Interface
Using an audio interface to connect your computer to studio monitors offers a big step up in quality for a variety of reasons, including:
- You get a pair of balanced outputs that provide improved audio quality.
- You gain inputs allowing you to connect microphones and instruments to your computer.
- A convenient volume control knob for your speakers
There are many ways to connect an audio interface to powered speakers, but we’ll talk you through the simplest and most effective method here.
- Connect your computer to the audio interface
Computer > USB cable > Audio interface.
- Connect the audio interface to your speakers
Audio interface 1/4″ outputs > Balanced 1/4″ TRS cables > Speaker 1/4″ inputs.
Check out the linked article for more on the benefits of using an audio interface with studio monitors.
How To Connect Computer & Studio Monitors | Featured Equipment Pricing
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2: https://currentprice.io/scarlett_2i2
- Yamaha HS5 Studio Monitors: https://currentprice.io/hs5_monitor
- 1/8″ To TS Cable: https://currentprice.io/14_to_dual_18
- 1/8″ To RCA Cable: https://currentprice.io/18_rca
- TRS Cable: https://currentprice.io/trs_cable
- TRS To XLR Cable: https://currentprice.io/trs_xlr
- Rode PSA1 Boom Arm: https://currentprice.io/boom_arm