How to connect studio monitors to a TV: Guide with photos


Studio monitors are expensive pieces of kit and so it’s not surprising that people want to use them as much as possible.

I had some friends around recently to watch a movie and I wondered if it would be possible to connect my Yamaha HS7 monitor speakers to my TV.

Usually, I have them running through a computer via an audio interface but that seemed a bit over the top. So I set out to see if I could plug them directly into the TV.

Well, the good news is, I figured it out. And it was pretty damn easy. So I created this article to help you do the same and improve movie night experiences for all!

Firstly: Are Studio Monitors the Best Option For Connecting to a TV?

I have an entire article where I break down the main differences between studio monitors and regular speakers. But in short; I wouldn’t advise go and buy studio monitors specifically to connect to a TV.

This is because studio monitors are designed to analyze sound. They are meant to give you an accurate representation so that you can mix and master tracks in the studio.

For this reason, they don’t boost the bass or ‘color’ the sound in any way to improve the listening experience. Meaning you will hear a very accurate version of the film or TV shows original soundtrack.

Perhaps you think this is a good thing. Maybe you are a film student and you want to truly hear the original sound recording.

But if you are simply looking to get a better sound from your TV. Or want to add more of a surround sound element. Then if you don’t already own studio monitors, you are probably better off with speakers that are specially designed for the experience.

You can get some amazing solutions for under the $200 mark now.

However! If like me, you already own monitor speakers and you simply want to give it a go then here follow the steps of how to connect them to your TV.

Step 1: See What Outputs Your TV Has

Depending on the age and model of your TV it will have various outputs and inputs. Below are a couple of examples from TVs I have around the house.

Most of what we can see in the photo are inputs, not outputs. You are probably aware of HDMI inputs for example, one of the most commonly used inputs nowadays for anything from a PS4 to a Laptop. Perhaps you even remember the ‘scart’ or ‘AV’ connection which is not really used for anything anymore.

For our purposes today we are interested in the outputs, not the inputs. We want to get the sound out of the TV and to our speakers.

On both the TVs I have in my house, there are a few options for audio output.

On both, there is a simple ‘headphone’ jack. An output I’m sure you are all familiar with as it is the standard audio output on most phones, MP3 players, laptops etc.

The second option is one you might not be as familiar with.

This is the RCA output, which has two separate outputs, pretty much always colored red and white. With the white being for the left speaker output and the red being for the right. You may even notice they are labeled such as the ones shown below.

Both the above are analog outputs, which is what you will need to connect to studio monitors.

On many newer TV models you also now have digital outputs. I won’t go into detail on the difference between analog and digital here but check out this article if you want to know more.

Step 2: Check what inputs your monitor speakers have

As with the TV, the inputs you have on your monitor speakers will vary depending on the make and model.

My Yamaha HS7s are ‘powered’ studio monitors, each with their individual power supplies, inputs and outputs.

Both monitors are identical. This means you could just buy one if you wanted and it would still work. But it is rare that anyone does that as the idea is you have two to get a stereo sound.

These monitor speakers have just two inputs, a ¼ inch jack input and an XLR input.

Either input will work fine, I’ve tested both with a variety of cables and didn’t notice any difference in quality.

Connection Option 1: 1/4 to 1/8 inch male to male audio Y splitter cable direct from TV ‘headphone’ jack

My first option is to use a 1/4 to 1/8th inch Male to Male Audio Y Splitter cable. Which goes from a single 1/8th inch stereo jack to two 1/4 inch mono jacks.

This takes the mono signal that comes out of the TV’s headphone socket and splits it into two separate mono signals for your two monitor speakers.

So firstly locate the headphone output if your TV has one and insert the 1/8th inch jack.

The red jack goes into the right speaker (if you can’t remember, think R for red = R for right) and the white jack goes into the left speaker.

Don’t make the mistake I did and buy a cable like the one below which is not adjustable in length. This first cable I ordered was basically useless as the two speakers would have to be so close together they would have to be behind or in front of the TV. Hardly surround sound!

Make sure you get one such as the one below which is a good length and is adjustable!

Connection Option 2:  Twin ¼ inch jack to twin RCA phono cable direct from TV RCA outputs

If your TV doesn’t have a headphone output, then don’t worry, there are other solutions. Your TV could have RCA outputs. As shown in the image below they are usually easy to locate in red and white.

Make sure you have identified the RCA outputs and not the RCA inputs. This is really important to check BEFORE you go and buy a cable.

When checking, one of my TVs had RCA outputs and inputs but one simply had inputs and therefore this method does not work for that TV and if you try and plug into the inputs you will not get any sound.

If they are not clearly labeled then I’d try one of the other options. Or you could risk buying the cable as they are so cheap anyway.

If you do have clearly labeled RCA outputs then you will then need to purchase yourself a Twin Jack to RCA Phono Cable such as this one on Amazon.

Most RCA cables will have clearly labeled jacks, one will be red and the other will be white or sometimes black as the case with mine shown below.

You simply match up the colors at the TV end and then for the speakers you will want to plug the red into the right speaker and the white into the left speaker.

It doesn’t matter massively if you get them the wrong way round. But occasionally films deliberately pan sound to the right or left to match what is happening on the screen.  

FOR BETTER QUALITY

Option 3: Use a digital to analog converter box

You may or may not be familiar with the argument of digital vs analog sound. Sound is an analog signal and both methods mentioned above are analog outputs from the TV. But on newer TVs digital sound outputs are more common.

The reason for the rise in digital sound outputs is that the quality can be constantly improved. This is because more data can be transferred at faster rates due to factors such as a higher ‘bit-depth’.

The digital output type you are most likely to find on your TV is known as an ‘optical connection’. This is probably not a connection type you are familiar with but it looks like the photo below. It doesn’t even look like a hole you could plug something into!

To convert the digital sound signal into an analog signal that your monitor speakers can understand, you will need a DAC converter.

This small box that costs less than $10 and will connect to the optical connection on the TV via an included optical cable.

Bear in mind it does require power from the mains. Or if your tv has a USB connection you can use that for power as I did below.

Once the box is connected to the TV you will still need to connect the box to you monitor speakers. And you do this in exactly the same way as for option 1 or 2 above. As you can see from the picture below the DAC converter box has the same output options of a headphone output and RCA outputs.

You may have to go into your TV sound settings and change the audio output to ‘digital’. I had to do this and as soon as I did it worked fine!

Add A Mixer For More Sound Control

This is my great option if you already own a mixer or were thinking about buying one anyway. These days you can get yourself a very cheap and decent quality USB mixer such as this one from Behringer.

As I mentioned at the start of the article, monitor speakers are designed to give a ‘realistic’ sound output, without any extra ‘color’ or ‘boost’ to the sound. Which you might be used to with other types of headphones and speakers.

A mixer can help overcome this as it will allow you to alter the EQ of the sound. Perhaps turning up the bass for a more cinematic sound. Just be careful not to go too crazy as you may damage your expensive speakers. But a little bit of tweaking should be fine.

It will also allow you to adjust the volume level of each individual speaker without having to keep turning them round to access the controls on the backs.

Simply use any of the three methods above but plug into the mixer rather than straight into the speakers. Then take two standard balanced speaker cables out of the mixer outputs and into the monitors.

Concluding Remarks

I have tested all the above options with different TVs and they all worked fine. The sound quality from the digital output was slightly better, but I wouldn’t say THAT noticeable (at least on first impression).

The most important things to remember are to double-check the outputs from your TV making sure you aren’t looking at inputs by accident. Then to make sure you order a cable of sufficient length that can be adjusted so you can position the speakers wherever you wish.

Rob Wreglesworth

Rob has come to terms with the fact he will probably never be a famous rock star....but that hasn't stopped him from writing and recording music in his home studio. Rob has over 15 years experience of recording music at home.

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