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Moving from Passive to active monitors

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Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby forumuser792318 » Thu Oct 31, 2019 4:28 pm

Hello!

I have a music production system based around a PC, with the soundcard being a ESI MAYA44 XTe. The output on this card is a 6.35mm Stereo jack which originally had a splitter cable to two RCA connectors into my amp. The old speakers were passive Spirit Absolute Zero's.

Now I have purchased a pair of active KRK Rokit 7 G4's which have XLR/TRS sockets in the back.

What is the best way to connect these speakers directly to the soundcard? Or do I need something in between them?

Cheers ,

Mark
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Oct 31, 2019 4:47 pm

The ESI soundcard only provides unbalanced outputs, unfortunately. So while a direct connection with your new speakers is possible, there's a high chance you're going to suffer from unwanted ground-loop buzzes and hums.

The easiest solution is to buy (or make) a splitter cable with a stereo (TRS) jack plug for the ESI end, and two mono (TS) jack plugs for the new KRK speakers. That arrangement will work so far as getting signal to the speakers is concerned... and it may work just as well as your previous setup with the hi-fi amp. It would be worthwhile making sure that both KRK speakers are plugged into the same mains plug-board as the computer, just to minimise the size of the potential ground loop.

If you do have nasty hums and buzzes with this arrangement, then you'll need to break the ground loop between the computer and speakers, and the easiest way to do that is to buy an ART DTI line isolating box. You would insert the two TS plugs from the splitter lead mentioned above into the box's two inputs, and then run balanced XLR-XLR cables from the box's outputs to the speakers.

However, this all feels a bit like throwing good money after bad... and given the age and consumer nature of the ESI soundcard, my advice would be to invest in a better, more modern, and more professional USB interface (or internal card). The sound quality will be better and it will have balanced interfaces which greatly simplify connection to your new speakers without fear of ground loops.

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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby forumuser792318 » Thu Oct 31, 2019 4:56 pm

Thank you Hugh for that solid advice.

That then leads on to a follow up question of:

is there a recommended soundcard for PC that has balanced stereo outputs? I have a DAW with VSTi's so i will need ASIO for near zero monitoring! Budget <£500

I think I may have opened up pandoras box here!

Cheers

Mark
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby ef37a » Thu Oct 31, 2019 7:44 pm

I would also suggest a monitor controller twixt card output and monitors.

I have the Mackie Big Knob Passive and it works fine into my Tannoy 5As.

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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:30 pm

forumuser792318 wrote:is there a recommended soundcard for PC that has balanced stereo outputs? I have a DAW with VSTi's so i will need ASIO for near zero monitoring! Budget <£500

If you want an internal PCIe card, I'd recommend the RME AIO card. I use one myself and it's very good. Stereo analogue and digital I/O, plus ADAT and MIDI, and bang on your budget.

https://www.scan.co.uk/products/rme-hdspe-aio-pcie-(x1)-interface-192-khz-24-bit-highest-performance-analogue-card-89-dawbench-llp (Other retailers are available...)

Alternatively, there are numerous external USB interfaces with stereo and multichannel I/O. Check out the various RME and Focusrite offerings for starters, but there are a lot of options and I'm sure others will have plenty of recommendations for you.

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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Thu Oct 31, 2019 9:09 pm

Second recomendation for RME here!

Superb low-latency performance, absolutely rock solid drivers - and second-to-none long term support.

Caveat: I don't use the AIO card myself, I use a different RME device (Fireface UCX currently, plan to upgrade to one of their PCIe MADI devices ASAP). However, I bought my UCX way back in 2012 and RME are still releasing driver an firmware updates for it.

In fact, they still release updates for products much older than the UCX.
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby James Perrett » Thu Oct 31, 2019 10:15 pm

n o i s e f l e ur wrote:Second recomendation for RME here!

Thirded here too.

n o i s e f l e ur wrote:In fact, they still release updates for products much older than the UCX.

While they've dropped support for the interface that I use (which was first introduced over 20 years ago) they still make and support its successor which was introduced in 2003 if I remember right. The only problem is that the cheapest suitable interface is probably the Babyface Pro which is slightly above your budget. However, Synthax, their distributor, often have B-Stock units with fully warranty available.
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Thu Oct 31, 2019 11:03 pm

https://www.thomann.de/gb/rme_hdspe_aio ... ImVuIn0%3D

Bang on £500 actually James, marginally cheaper than the Babyface Pro (£539).

ETA: Yeah, I see what you mean about suitability though - the AIO has PCIe lowest latency performance as its main strength but the BFP is certainly more versatile as regards I/O.

That said, RME USB kit has excellent low-latency performance - easily best in class over USB 2.
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby James Perrett » Fri Nov 01, 2019 1:47 am

I figured that the OP could get away without a monitor controller with the Babyface - at least to start with.
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Fri Nov 01, 2019 1:21 pm

Yeah, good call. The BFP would be perfect for that as OP seems to have a single set of monitors so no need for a "real" monitor controller - but a handy-dandy dim function and monitor gain control within easy reach would be very useful.

Certainly saved my bacon on a few occasions - my UCX came with the Basic Remote, before they discontinued those and started selling the Advanced Remote separately . . . and I believe the BFP provides similar functionality right out of the box.

Something we haven't mentioned specifically WRT the RME gear in the thread is audio quality, so I'll take the opportunity to attest to same here . . . they're excellent! Okay, maybe not super-duper high-end . . . but it's doubtful anyone swimming in this end of the market would be disappointed.
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby forumuser792318 » Fri Nov 01, 2019 2:27 pm

To all - many thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated. I note that the recommended RME card requires a separate breakout cable for an additional £60.

Does anyone have any experience with the Marian Seraph range of cards?
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Fri Nov 01, 2019 11:15 pm

No personal experience with Marian, and a quick websearch doesn't turn up much beyond a rather mixed few mentions on Gearslutz . . . so you'd be taking a chance. They do look interesting though.

Is the breakout cable for the RME AIO really a dealbreaker?

Speaking from experience, I went through a few audio interfaces before I could afford RME kit and bitterly regret the waste of time and money (not to mention the VAST amount of time and energy spent on pissing about trying to "optimise" PCs) when the solution was simply to buy truly professional kit to begin with.

By "truly professional" I mean - it just works reliably and efficiently 100% of the time.
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 01, 2019 11:37 pm

forumuser792318 wrote:To all - many thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated. I note that the recommended RME card requires a separate breakout cable for an additional £60.

I can't deny that the stock breakout cables seem expensive... although they are well made.

But you can make your own easily enough if you are handy with a soldering iron, or you can get one made up by any of the custom cable companies for a bit less than RME charge. The pin-outs are all in the manual.
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby Eddy Deegan » Sat Nov 02, 2019 12:39 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I can't deny that the stock breakout cables seem expensive... although they are well made.

But you can make your own easily enough if you are handy with a soldering iron

Echoing Hugh's point here. I know next-to-nothing about electronics. My brain has some sort of weird "don't go there, don't want to know unless you spend a lifetime on it" response to all things to do with volts, amps, resistances, circuit diagrams, capacitancies and any other number of things that I would love to learn more about in principle but don't have the time (or perhaps more accurately, I'm scared of trying but failing to succeed) to understand.

But when it comes to a pin-out diagram and a soldering iron I'm more than happy to spend any amount of time wiring up this that or the other to solve a problem, and I've whizzed up more than a few custom soldering jobs along the way and they have all worked out splendidly. Even to the point I soldered a bodge job once to get a 3.5" HDD to talk to a 2.5" controller by cutting ribbon cables and splicing together the data lines from the 2.5" controller to the 3.5" drive and merging in power from elsewhere (which was present on the 2.5" ribbon but not supported by the 3.5" spec).

Ran a BBS (remember them?!) on that setup for a while as well. Fear is the enemy. If you have specs, you have a solution even if you need a little guidance to get there :-)
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby The Elf » Sat Nov 02, 2019 9:08 am

You're going to use this interface for years - worth a 60 quid cable, I'd say.

I'd take an RME option over any other interface. TotalMix alone is worth the entry price.
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Sat Nov 02, 2019 12:25 pm

I'm with the Elf on this one - the price delta between the official cable versus the parts + shipping costs + plus time / effort to make up your own cables just for this purpose will amount to much less than just the cost of the official cable alone. What would you really save in the end up?

Also, as he says - Totalmix, it's brilliant! For the longest time I thought it was "just" a superior software control panel (and it is that), but as happens often in this crazy world of music production I encountered a problem that it solved for me.

Like the OP, I was just using VSTs etc, no need at all for audio inputs, or monitor mixes . . . any of that. Lo and behold I suddenly found I needed to route audio between Traktor and Ableton Live - no worries, I'll just use ReWire! Nuh-uh . .! ReWire precluded the use of VST plugins in Ableton, which was the whole point of the endeavour to begin with.

So I thought to myself . . . wait a minute - might my fancy RME Totalmix gubbins be capable of this? Why yes, yes it was! And a damn sight cleaner than installing and messing about with something like JACK for Windows.

To the OP - James' suggestion of the Babyface Pro is well worth your consideration too. At worst you'd be giving up 2ms of latency performance versus the PCIe hardware. If all you're doing is using VSTis, you won't notice this at all - you'll still be running under 5ms IME.
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby forumuser792318 » Sat Nov 02, 2019 4:22 pm

Thank you all for your advice - I have the RME card and its attendant breakout cable on order, and should receive them in the next few days!
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Nov 02, 2019 5:29 pm

:thumbup: :D A wise decision I think. Installation is very straightforward and it will work perfectly well with the default settings in TotalMix.... but it's well worthwhile getting your head around what TM can do for you when you get the chance.

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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby The Elf » Sat Nov 02, 2019 7:07 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote: it's well worthwhile getting your head around what TM can do for you when you get the chance.
TotalMix is very clever, very powerful software, but it terrifies the unwary and it can be confusing until the penny drops and you realise how it works and just how much easier it can make your life.

If you get stuck just some back and ask questions - I've trodden this path many times!
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Re: Moving from Passive to active monitors

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Sun Nov 03, 2019 12:31 am

Hah! Don't terrify the poor OP fellas - anticipation not trepidation! :D

While you wait for your new shiny, perhaps spend some time with these video tutorials;

https://www.rme-audio.de/totalmix-fx.html

Pay particular attention to this one, as the Free / Submix modes are probably the biggest "gotcha" lying in wait for the unwary;

https://www.rme-audio.de/totalmix-fx-free-submix.html
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