Any cheap 5.1 gear recommendations?

All my films have been in stereo and now distributors want 5.1 I just got some consumer gear and it’s not working, so I’m looking for recommendations for the lowest entry harware from soundcard to speakers.

I’ve been using Komplete Audio 6 and 2 small Klipsch desktop stereo THX powered speakers and they have been great for what I have been donig, but the Komplete is only stereo, so I have to upgrade/crossgrade to some 5.1 gear.

I bought a CreativeLabs SoundBlaster x4 and hooked that through optical out to a Vizio M512e-K6 which is a soundbar plus sub plus 2 satelight speakers that has an optical in, an HDMI in and a stereo 3mm in.

It didn’t work.

Nuendo didn’t recognize the soundBlaster’s optical out as 5.1, but instead as stereo, so I wasn’t able to create a working 5.1 bus. Also, it sounded like the internal clock was off.

I’ve dusted off an old PreSonous Firestudio Project (firewire 8 track external card w stereo coax SPDIF) and nuendo recognized that just fine and allowed me to create a 5.1 bus, by assigning the channels to regular individual channels on the 8-track, but I have no way of translating that back into something that I could hook up to th eVizio or anything else so all I have to go off of is the stereo headphone out.

Sooooo… Ideas? Something that won’t break the bank hopefully. I spent about $600 on the soundblaster and Vizio so far, but if I get a quick response, I might be able to return it to get something else.
Thanks in advance

Long time ago with an old windows desktop that had 7.1 analog outputs (4 stereo pairs), I connected 5 powered speakers and 1 powered subwoofer and used asio4all as driver.
I was able to set 5.1 output in Cubase.
Someting like this

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Not familiar with that hardware. Is that Soundblaster card treated as an external audio interface, or does it just become the OS audio interface? Could be a driver issue, also in case it’s become the OS audio interface, there are speaker configuration settings for the OS that may default to stereo and that may have to be switched to 5.1 for it to work. Guessing here a bit.

What optical protocol does that port run? Some of them can only do 2 channels. And a variety of protocols.

Generally, if you want to stay low cost I’d stay away from optical and HDMI. They are harder to connect or require costly converters, especially once get past stereo. A basic USB interface with TRS out and some low-cost active speakers might be a better choice. There are lots of options now - many come as stereo pairs where the amp is one side and the other side is a passive companion. You could get three of these pairs for front, surround and center, and have the sixth one be a dummy LFE. At that price point, just make a 5.0 mix and don’t use the LFE. You can always swap that out later.

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You might be able to get a consumer surround receiver system somewhere. That accepts analog inputs from your sounbdblaster card.

Best Buy???

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The SoundBalster x4 works as an audio interface. The optical is 5.1 out, but Nuendo recognizes it as stereo only. Likewise, it recognizes the analog 7.1 as stereo.

I was, however able to find an old driver for my built in montherboard audio, so I might be able to use that.

So are front speakers the same as back speakers? If i get a bunch of the same speakers, would I be ok, or would my mix be WAYYYY off?

Gahhhh… Nuendo recognizes the onboard sound as stereo insted of surround/multitrack :frowning:

So what is the “right” way to monitor Nuendo with surround sound?

You should get an at least semi-professional interface with the required amount of analog outputs and connect speakers to them. Don’t go through the soundbar. A lot of devices - receivers etc. - (at least in the past) got surround sound by getting a surround encoded signal and then the device decoded that signal. That means that if you have an interface that does 5.1 surround sound but via S/PDIF then that’s probably not going to work because it’s a device that basically just reads the encoded signal and sends it on to the external device for decoding, meaning Nuendo won’t encode that for you on the fly.

So, get a good interface with 6 or 8 outputs, install the driver for it, connect the speakers.

You could probably use the same brand but different size speakers for surrounds but at least LCR should be the same. If you can get the same make/model throughout that’s probably easier. You should also calibrate your setup so it’s even.

No offense, but if you are working on movies where there’s distribution that demands 5.1 surround I’d think they would need someone with more experience at the very least technically. I’m kind’a feeling you should either pass on the project or maybe rent a studio or stage that’s set up for it and mix there instead.


I agree with @MattiasNYC, getting by with essentially consumer interfaces is less than optimal and probably cause more harm than good.

For cost savings consider a used interface. This Focusrite is only $389 on ebay Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 USB 2.0 mixer Audio Recording Interface | eBay

I’ve used this interface for quite a while and mixed 5.1 on it. It has enough analog outputs for a good set of speakers.

Definitely get the same brand of speakers if you can, to avoid different sounding. Back can be smaller. But key is to get yourself at least an spl meter and calibrate the volume of each.

You don’t want to end up here:


There is a lot of used gear floating around- are you thunderbolt?

UA is pretty good. To work with atmos you should have 16 channels. The Focusright isn’t bad either. Pay it out it is a one and done. They all use the same chips…s

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Yes, I retired the Focusrite in favor of an Apollo X8/X16 on Thunderbolt. Much nicer interface, but also a notch up on the budget.

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get the best you can - it is the heart of the system. 16 i/o is best for atmos

I got a lynx and ma paying it out

I want to work my way up to 9.1.4

Do you have lots of ram for plug ins

I got my mac with all it can hold

I look at it this way it is all tax deductible -

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today cheap doesn’t mean bad


Hi @spencersnygg,

nice question, which describes what I also ran into a while ago: how to get things working without having to spend too much.

What I came up with may not be "THE"common (or best) studio solution, but it seems to work for me:

  • grab ye olde HiFi speakers and some extra passive monitor speakers, plus a low priced Sub
  • get an old (not too expensive) 5.1 receiver which understands Dolby and DTS (and has SPDIF IN)
  • get an ASUS Xonar U7 MKII (which is currently at around USD / EUR 80,- to 85,-)
  • use a lightpipe AND also the 3 TRS to RCA cables (amp needs to have 6 analog RCA IN for that)
  • (alternatively: you could get a used 5.1. system & controller like the Logitech Z906 via eBay, etc.)
  • (alternatively: 5 Tannoy Reveal 402 / 502 active monitors, plus a low cost sub like the Fostex PM-SUBmini 1 or 2)

In my case, “Sonic Studio” (the routing tool) by ASUS works quite well, and the only remaining extra step is to switch between lightpipe IN and the 5.1. analog INs, since Cubase uses the ASIO driver.
Oh, and one little problem: the over 20 year old Pioneer VSX-D511 I’d bought for less than EUR 50,- “eats” 220 Watts, so I always need to remember to switch it off when I’m not at my PC for more than a few minutes, to save some energy. Whereas most active near field / mid field monitors nowadays use energy saving methods.


[-edited: typos, readabilty-]


Yes Klipsch makes some nice small speakers - subs are cheap on ebay and not bad. Also check amazon for powered Altec speakers not bad and a pair comes with a sub.

Amps are cheap I use Berringer for my ceiling speakers. Also if you have a space problem look at Bose.

I keep running into driver issues on N12 - I can’t get input from my a/d if I am using the Dolby bridge. It needs a second driver which Nuendo I hear doesn’t allow for. Logic and other DAWs do… Make sure the native driver will handle all you need…

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So here’s a stupid question… If you are using an 8 input/output rack like the PreSonus Firestudio Project and have it hooked to a bunch of individually powered speakers, how do you turn down the volume in the room without affecting your mix or running around and adjusting every speaker individually?

To change the global volume you can use the control room.
And you can adjunt the relative volume of each speaker with its own volume control. You would need to do this once.


The Nuendo Control Room is fantastic and very flexible for this part of work. It’s essentially a fully featured speaker controller, as you can set up different speaker paths, headphones, etc. and have a central volume control. You can also mute/solo speakers as you mix which can be helpful especially in multi-channel work. And an under-used feature is the ability to add inserts to your monitor paths that are not part of the mix, but only apply to the selected monitors. That can be corrective EQ or anything else, and separate sets for different speakers or headphones.

But also check your interface. A lot of interfaces like FocusRite and UAD come with control software that also enable that control as well. FocusRite has a decent control app, UAD’s is exceptional. Not sure about the PreSonus one.

To calibrate your room you do want to have the ability to adjust the individual speaker volumes in some path after your master fader. Many active speakers will have a volume control on the back. If you use a consumer receiver, you may have a master volume control, but not channel level control. FocusRite control allows you to adjust, and so does UAD. I don’t think it exists in Nuendo ControlRoom though, unless you do it via plugins. You want to use an SPL meter and then run pink noise at -20dB one speaker at the time and make sure you get the same SPL that is appropriate for your room on each speaker at your listening position.

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Nuendo has dedicated plugins specifically for this job. They are found in the “Surround Plugins” category and are “Bass Manager” and “MixerDelay”.


Bass Manager (
MixerDelay (
Also note that in addition to level compensation you have delay compensation that you can also set using distance instead of milliseconds… and phase invert…


Nice, wasn’t familiar with them.

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