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Digital Or Analog Monitors?

PocketOperator

Active Member
Hi, I'm looking to buy some studio monitors to hook up to my Line 6 Toneport UX2 external soundcard/recording interface on my PC. I will mainly be using them to listen to music/mixing of recorded music I've made (as well as normal MP3's and CD's etc) and to play games. They will be to replace my current Creative Inspire 5.1 speakers of which I am only using a 2.1 set up because the UX2 has only 2 analog outputs for the left and right channels.

Anyway, my Line 6 also has an S/PDIF digital out and I was wondering if it's better to use this for my monitors rather than the two analog outs (which are 6.35mm jacks)?

My budget is £100 and I've been looking at these: M-Audio Studiophile Av40 - Home Studio Monitor Speakers: Amazon.co.uk: Musical Instruments and Behringer MS20 Digital Monitor Speakers at Gear4Music.com

The M-Audio MS40's have analog inputs and the Behringer MS20's have digital inputs but I'm not sure which to go for.

Thanks for your help.
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
Ok, I don't know the products well enough to tell you what's best, but hopefully you'll have a better idea. Here's the thought process you need to go through.

Your Toneport is taking digital audio to and from the PC, and I assume applying some digital processing too.
You need to end up with an analogue signal to be given to the amplifiers and speakers.
So you need to pass the signal through a DAC at some point.
Quality of DAC does make quite a difference to the overall quality of a system.
Your Toneport has a DAC built-in (analogue outputs), and also gives you the option of using an external DAC (digital output).
You need to decide whether the Toneport's DAC is likely to be better or worse than the DAC in any monitors you might find at your price-point.

Is the toneport known for its quality or features? Is it likely to have a good DAC?
Based on the price of the monitors you're looking at, I can't see their DACs being fantastic. (you don't get many hi-fi grade standalone DACs under £200, and that's only a DAC).

One other consideration, is your decision could swing towards digital connection if there's a lot of electrical noise around where your cabling will go.
 

PocketOperator

Active Member
Well I can't find any specific information about the Toneport's DAC but some information in the Gearbox manual suggests that S/PDIF is better than using the Analog outs. My Toneport is located between my monitor (as in the screen) and my tower PC and there are quite a few cables around that area so presumably there would be some electrical interference.

I suppose I could go for the Behringer's as they provide both digital and analog inputs so I will have the option of both then.
 

MaturityDodger

Well-known Member
Gearbox manual suggests that S/PDIF is better than using the Analog outs.
This is entirely dependent on the DAC you're connecting to being better than the Toneport's DAC. The signal path is:

1) PC link
2) Digital processing
3) DAC
4) Amplification
5) Speaker

In using an analogue connection, you're using 1-3 in the Toneport, and 4-5 in the monitors.
In using the digital connection, you're using 1-2 in the Toneport, and 3-5 in the monitors.

With monitors of this budget range, I don't think that the DAC will make much difference (i.e. if you get the Behringers, I'm not sure you'll hear the difference between the two connections).
Your overall sound quality could come down more to the quality of the amplifiers and speakers themselves.
The M-audio looks better than the Behringer for that.

Something in active monitors that gives you a huge boost in sound quality is an active crossover then separate amplifiers for LF and HF, instead of one amplifier and a passive crossover.
But they don't start until around the £170 mark.
 
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