Speakers & setup for playback


I am using Cubase LE to record and playback music via a laptop. I would like the playback to sound as close to the original recorded sound as possible. (Within economic $$ limits.)

Here is my current setup:

Two Audio Technica omni-directional condenser mics attached via XLR to a Tascam US-122.
The US-122 is attached to a laptop via USB.

Currently I use “computer speakers” for playback, which attach to the computers “stereo out” jack (green hole).

What are my options for upgrading the playback setup?

A few other questions:

  1. The audio information is entering the computer via USB. Does some of this information get changed or lost when it exits as “stereo out”? Should I playback the audio via a USB instead?

  2. The US-122 has an RCA RL audio out and a “Phone out” for direct monitoring. Can these out puts be used for playback of recorded material? (i.e. can I send the audio information from the computer back through the USB to the US-122 for playback on the 122’s output ports?)

Please let me know if you need more specific specs on the mics or laptop.


Yes (according to the US-122 user manual and the Cubase user manual).

Hi-if you’ve got a decent stereo or entertainment set up at home, just drag your laptop to the amp (or other input device), a pain,I know, but temprary) and hook up you line out from you laptop to your home system. At least that will get you by untill you make a further decision. Also give you a better idea of what thinga REALLY sound like before you purchase a setup dedicated to playback. :slight_smile:

I hooked the computer up to the old stereo system (well mono, because one of the speakers broke). I think the main difference is it had a much deeper bass than the computer speakers. I am thinking about taking the laptop to best buy and plugging it in to a bunch of different speakers to test the sound. (Does anyone have any other recomendations?, maybe dedicated audio shops?)

I am confused about “studio monitors” vs. “Hi-Fi” speakers. I’ve heard that monitors are designed to give a “truer” sound whereas hi-fi speakers make the recording sound better.

This seems odd to me since most if not all speakers I’ve heard don’t sound as good as a live performance (which would seem to be as “true” a sound as you can get).

If monitors sound more like the live sound, wouldn’t that be better to listen to than a more artificial distorted sound?

Or maybe, a speaker sound is naturally not as good as the live instruments. Maybe a monitor keeps this inferior “speaker sound” whereas hi-fi speakers try to artificially enhance the sound to make up for this? (maybe getting closer to the live sound than the “true” monitor?)

As you can probably tell, I am a novice with respect to speakers

Hi, Folks!

Finally managed to get properly registered to post comments and replies!

Two factors regarding playback performance that are critical:

  1. Good Speakers and 2) Good Room or Listening Space

Both are about equal in importance, but cost is not! Rebuilding a room is usually a bit more costly!!! :astonished:

Firstly, if you’re looking to upgrade your speakers, you have to decide if you want to pay more for self-powered speakers, or combine a new or existing stereo power amplifier to drive the new loudspeakers. Your computer audio output is really designed to drive headphones and power amplifiers, it’s not designed to provide the wattages necessary to drive loudspeakers.

Now that we’ve settled that, the next question is budget?

Good monitors are designed to provide a clean sound, and relatively flat frequency response for critical mixing, if properly installed. They can start around a hundred USD each, and for top notch models gather into thousands of dollars… each! Don’t despair, there are some really good monitor pairs out there for a couple of hundred bucks. Probably the easiest choice, is to look into self-powered speakers with built-in amplifiers. They’re more expensive due to the incorporated amps, but the built-in amps are generally tailored to the speakers, so it’s usually a good marraige between speakers and amp(s). This holds true for most of the price ranges across these speaker-amp combinations.

Some brands to consider: Behringers, Mackies, plus I’m sure there are others out there, that other members of these forums can recomend.

How to choose what will provide what you want in your studio setup?
First, see if you can work with your vendor or store, to see if you can try them in your mixing space. That’ll help you focus on the speakers that work best in your specific mix space.
Second, bring some CD’s or mp3 music sources that you are very familiar with to the vendor’s shop to listen to various speakers at their location. Once you find some speakers you think sound pretty close to what you are familiar with, then, if you can affort them, see if you can bring 'em home and try them out in your space for a day or two. This is where the “rubber meets the road” because this is where you’ll really be using these speakers and need the best representation of what your mixes will sound like. You may have to do this several times until you find speakers that provide a representative sound at your mixing area that gives you the sound your striving for (and be advised, you will probably NEVER find speakers at any price that will do this 100%!). Placement of these speakers is also important, so expect to be busy for those several days, repositioning equipment to try different speaker placement locations.

As I said do this over several days, as you will find you’re much more objective about what you’re listening to as time passes, rather than trying to compress all the listening into one day.

Finally, if you have the luxury of tinkering with the space, there are a number of books that can help you fix some problems that exist in almost every listening space.

For starters, get a hold of Bob Katz’s book, “Mastering Audio”. It’s one of the better books around to help explain some of the ins 'n outs of audio and audio mastering. It’s available from Bob’s Digital Domain website, http://www.digido.com (which is also a treasure trove of additional audio and mastering information), or any other number of booksellers for less that $50 USD. If you are really lucky, your local library might even have a copy to check out before you buy it. It’ll give you some good foundations in basic audio. Next, although not 100%, some of the late F.Alton Everest’s books have a good deal of information within their covers on Studio Design.

You’ve asked an interesting question that everyone who’s really into serious music listening and recording have struggled with for decades. But there’s a lot more information around now, than the “historic days of yesteryear”! So, dig in, and come on back here as you continue your journey to ask questions, get forum help, and gain knowledge. Keep us posted on your progress!

Hope this helps!