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Can You Use Studio Monitors for Regular Speakers? Good News – Read On… (2023)

Can you use studio monitors for regular speakers? Technically, yes, you can definitely use your studio monitors as regular speakers, which is great news

Technically, yes, you can definitely use your studio monitors as regular speakers, which is great news for you and your bank account. The last thing you want to hear after forking out for an expensive set of monitors is that you need to allocate your next paycheck to bringing some regular speakers into the fold too.

Unfortunately, though, much like many things in life, it’s not that simple. Sure, you can hook your studio monitors up to your computer or phone and listen to your favorite records, but you might notice something peculiar about the way they sound.

Let’s get into it! (Click here for a YouTube video on this subject)

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Can you use studio monitors for regular speakers?

Studio Monitors and Flat Response

You’d think that speakers designed for use in studios would offer the best possible sound quality and that regular speakers would pale in comparison.

Well, to a certain extent, that can be true, but you can’t really compare studio and regular monitors on the same level.

These bits of gear have starkly different jobs.

can you use studio monitors for regular speakers

The important thing to remember is that studio monitors are designed to give a “flat” response. I know that can sound confusing at first. Applying physical descriptors to an auditory experience seems kind of redundant, but it’s all we have to express the phenomenon.

The term I like to use to describe the sound of studio monitors is transparent. The general idea is that a studio monitor alters the sound as little as possible as it passes from the sound source, through the speakers, and out to your ears.

Regular speakers, on the other hand, don’t let the music get past without a fight. They might thicken out the bass, make the mids nice and punchy, and smooth out the treble — no frequency is safe from their meddling ways.

Whereas studio monitors are transparent, regular monitors “color” the sound with their own signature sonic stylings. It’s why songs sound different from one sound system to the next.

As we’re using visual adjectives to describe this process, it helps to think about it in a physical context too.

Say you’re uploading a photo to Instagram. You can choose to add any number of filters to your image, altering the way it looks and its mood. That’s what a regular set of speakers does, only to your music. 

Just as you can alter the degree to which you apply a filter on Instagram, a decent set of regular speakers will allow you to alter their sound profile, but the filter is always there to some degree. Unlike on Instagram, you can’t switch the filter off.

This “filter” is a really great thing when we’re kicking back and enjoying our music or movie audio. It allows us to shape the sound to suit our personal preferences, but coloring the sound can be a huge problem for studio monitors.

The reason you don’t want your monitors to alter the character of a sound source is so you can mix and master a track in the studio. They allow you to hear the true tonal qualities of the recorded music.

When you can hear a sound file for what it really is, you can decide how to improve it. For example, a bass line might sound too thin. You can then fix that by layering on another track using the same notes but in sub-bass frequencies.

If you were using regular speakers to mix, that thin bass might be boosted by the sound-coloring properties (or filter) of the speakers, and you wouldn’t realize it needed altering. Instead, you’d be throwing shapes around the room thinking you’d nailed it.

When you finally release the track, all that bass you were hearing through your speakers will be lost, as it was never really there, to begin with.

Next thing you know, Pitchfork has given you a 2 out of 10, and Anthony Fantano’s wearing the dreaded red flannel in the thumbnail of his YouTube review of your album.

To prevent that future from ever materializing, you’re going to need some studio monitors. My go-to at the moment is the Yamaha HS7. I bought a pair a year or so ago and I never looked back. Their sound is crystal clear and even, and they’re a decent size for a home studio.

For casual listening on your computer, I recommend something like the Harman Kardon SoundSticks 4. They’re space-friendly, have a full-bodied sound, and they look so good, they were literally made into an exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Studio Monitors and Projection

Every room has its own acoustic qualities. Some might have an echo, and some larger rooms might imbue a sound with a spot of natural reverberation. The room is just another filter that alters the original sound source. 

To maintain playback fidelity during the mixing process, a studio monitor has to cut out as much input from the room as possible. This is achieved by emitting precise, short-range audio that travels directly to the producer’s ear.

Conversely, the aim of the game with regular speakers is to saturate large areas with as much sound as possible. So, unless you’re going to be sitting right by your monitors, a lot of sonic details may not be as present when you try and use them for recreational listening.

How to connect studio monitor speakers to a computer

  1. Check the inputs on your studio monitor speakers. Most studio monitors have either XLR or TRS input options, while some also have RCA inputs.
  2. Locate the audio outputs on your computer. These can vary depending on the type of computer you have, but most desktops and laptops have a 3.5mm headphone jack, RCA outputs, or a USB port.
  3. If your computer has a 3.5mm headphone jack, use a 3.5mm to RCA cable to connect the computer’s headphone output to the studio monitor’s RCA inputs.
  4. If your studio monitor speakers have XLR or TRS inputs, use an audio interface to connect the computer to the monitors. Connect the interface to your computer using a USB or Thunderbolt cable, and then connect the monitors to the interface using XLR or TRS cables.
  5. Once everything is connected, turn on your studio monitors and adjust the volume to a low level before playing any audio.
  6. Play music or a video on your computer and adjust the volume accordingly on the computer and the studio monitors until you reach a comfortable listening level.
  7. If you experience any issues with the sound, check the volume levels on your computer, the studio monitors, and the audio interface (if applicable), as well as the cables and connections to ensure they are secure.

FAQs

Can I use studio monitor speakers as regular computer speakers?

Yes, you can use studio monitor speakers as regular computer speakers by connecting them to your computer’s audio outputs. However, keep in mind that studio monitors are designed for accuracy and may not have the same frequency response or volume range as traditional computer speakers.

What are the benefits of using studio monitor speakers for computer audio?

Studio monitors are designed for accurate sound reproduction and can provide a more detailed and balanced audio experience compared to traditional computer speakers.

They can also handle higher volumes without distortion, making them ideal for music production, audio editing, and other audio-intensive tasks.

Do I need an audio interface to use studio monitor speakers with my computer?

It depends on the connections available on your studio monitor speakers and your computer. If your studio monitors have XLR or TRS inputs, an audio interface may be necessary to connect them to your computer’s audio outputs.

However, if your monitors have RCA inputs, you can use a 3.5mm RCA cable to connect them directly to your computer.

How do I adjust the volume of studio monitor speakers when used as computer speakers?

You can adjust the volume of studio monitor speakers using the volume control on your computer or by using the volume control on the monitor itself (if available).

Keep in mind that studio monitors have a higher maximum volume level than traditional computer speakers, so be cautious when adjusting the volume to prevent hearing damage.

Can I use studio monitor speakers with a subwoofer for an enhanced bass response?

Yes, you can use a subwoofer with studio monitor speakers to enhance the bass response. Many studio monitor speakers have a dedicated subwoofer output that allows you to connect a subwoofer directly to the monitors.

Related Article: What is a Subwoofer And Why Are They Important? (2023)

Additionally, you can use a crossover to split the audio signal between the studio monitors and the subwoofer for a more balanced audio experience.

Final Thoughts

Studio monitors and regular speakers are sort of like jam and jelly. They’re the same but different, which is where a lot of the confusion arises.

Technically, you can use studio monitors as regular speakers and vice versa, but then the question becomes, should you use studio monitors as regular speakers? 

Unless you absolutely have to, the answer will always be a resounding no. If you’re used to hearing your music through something like these Bose-301 V Stereo Loudspeakers, transitioning to your studio monitors will turn all your favorite bops into flops.

If you really want to master the art of mixing as well as enjoy your recreational listening sessions, you’ll need both a pair of dedicated studio monitors and a pair of regular speakers.

YouTube Video: Studio monitors as computer speakers

Our recommended Audio Interphase

Happy Playing!

Jake
Jake
Passionately invested in the music world for over 20 years, Jake studied music for 14 years at the Royal Conservatory Of Toronto. He has a degree from Champlain College & Bishop’s University in Business & Music. He is the owner of Fly Away Music & Media Studio in Montreal since 2014, with over 500 happy artists recorded, mixed and mastered.

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