How to Hook Up a Monitor Speaker to a Simple Sound System

Written by matt mckay
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Hooking up a monitor speaker to a simple sound system requires the sound mixer to have an auxiliary, line or monitor output. Most mixers of recent vintage will have this type of connection, but if yours does not, there is still a way to do it. Monitors are essential for performers to hear themselves and should be a basic part of every sound system. An active monitor (a speaker with built-in amplifiers) is the simplest and most compact solution, and the wiring hookup is easy.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Standard shielded connection cable with 1/4 inch plugs
  • Mixer with monitor, auxiliary or line output jack
  • Microphone or instrument
  • Powered monitor
  • "Y" cable, single XLR female to dual XLR male
  • 2 standard microphone cords with XLR connectors

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  1. 1

    Plug one end of the connection cable into the mixer's line out, auxiliary or monitor output jack.

  2. 2

    Plug the other end of the connection cord into the monitor's input jack. Plug in microphones or instruments to the mixer as usual.

  3. 3

    Turn the volume controls down on both the monitor and mixer, and turn on power to both units.

  4. 4

    Adjust the volume and tone controls on the mixer until the desired sound and volume level is reached.

  5. 5

    Set the auxiliary send or monitor volume level on the mixer to about halfway. If the line output is used or your mixer does not have these controls, the monitor output level is governed by the master volume on the mixer.

  6. 6

    Speak into the microphone and slowly turn up the volume on the monitor until a suitable volume is reached without producing microphone feedback. Make sure the monitor is placed directly behind the back of the microphone, as close to a 180-degree angle as possible to avoid feedback.

  1. 1

    Plug the microphone cord into the microphone, and plug the other end into the single XLR female connector on the "Y" cable.

  2. 2

    Plug one of the male XLR connectors on the "Y" cord into the XLR female input on the monitor. Powered monitors are equipped with both 1/4-inch and XLR connectors.

  3. 3

    Plug the second microphone cable into the remaining XLR male connector and the remaining microphone cable end into a mixer input channel.

  4. 4

    Turn down the volumes of the mixer and monitor, and turn power on to both units.

  5. 5

    Adjust the mixer volume and tone controls to desired levels, then adjust the monitor volume level. The monitor will only amplify the microphone connected to it, and it will function independently from the mixer.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a powered monitor speaker rather than a nonpowered unit, especially for small, basic systems. A nonpowered unit require a separate monitor amplifier and additional cords to function, and will defeat the purpose of having a simple system.
  • If feedback is a problem that cannot be eliminated by experimenting with monitor placement, you can hook up a graphic equaliser between the monitor and mixer to isolate problem frequencies and fine tune the monitor sound.
  • If using the "Y" cord hookup method and a microphone or instrument with 1/4-inch plugs, you may substitute the XLR "Y" cord for one that contains two female and one male 1/4-inch plugs. Substitute the XLR microphone cords for standard 1/4-inch input cords and connect in the same manner, except use the 1/4-inch inputs on the monitor and mixer instead of the XLR inputs.
  • Never connect a powered monitor to the speaker outputs of the mixer. Damage to one or both components will occur.
  • Avoid connecting nonpowered monitor speakers to the main sound system speakers. This will cause mismatched impedance (ohms) to the amplifier, reduced or uneven sound, and possible amplifier damage.

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