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Are Your Studio Monitors Too Quiet? Here’s What to Do

I had one of my colleagues come to me one day and tell me that his new studio monitors were pretty quiet and asked me if they were supposed to be that quiet? We decided to investigate the possible causes of why studio monitors can be quiet.

The various reasons why studio monitors are too quiet can be that there are issues relating to the cabling (such as TS and TRS cables), the audio interface, or the bus’s channels on your mixer or inside your DAW. It could also be due to the studio monitors being defective.

Contrary to what you think, we are going to be diving into a lot of detail about why your monitors could be quiet and how to remedy that problem. By the end of this article, you’ll never have to wonder about how the volume of your studio monitors could be affected by certain factors ever again.

Why would your studio monitors be to quiet?

We are going to go through the order of factors in terms of the most common to the least common problems that could be causing your studio monitors to be quiet. Here they are:

Cabling issues

Studio monitors will come with multiple inputs. These will include XLR (balanced inputs) or TRS (jack inputs, which are also balanced). Most people don’t realize this when starting, but a 1/4 inch jack cable comes in two versions, which are a TS (unbalanced) version and then a TRS (balanced) version.

Surprisingly these are very different from one another, and they can have an impact on your volume if you decide to use this form of cable connection to your studio monitors.

If you are using XLR balanced cables to connect your studio monitors to your audio interface, then the problem of your studio monitors being quite, more than likely, does not lay with a cabling issue.

It is most likely a result of one or more of the other issues that we will take a look at further on in this article.

Lets first take a look at TS and TRS jack cables and how they would affect the volume and quality of your monitors.

TS cables

TS cables are those cables that musicians and engineers usually refer to as guitar or bass cables. These cables are generally used for mono purposes, like connecting your guitar to your pedalboard and to your amplifier, etc.

TS cables are made with two contact points, which are separated by an insulator ring, referred to as the tip and sleeve (hence the name TS). The signal that is sent through the cable will go over the tip while the sleeve is the ground.

So can we use TS cables for studio monitors or when and for what do we use them?

You can use TS cables to connect studio monitors but note that studio monitors have a TRS connection (which will discuss next). When we use a TS cable to connect studio monitors, however, it will result in the monitors having a lower volume.

This could be the cause of your studio monitors being too soft, so check if you are using TS cables instead of TRS cables.

TS cables are good for connecting guitars to equipment such as pedalboards, amplifiers, audio interfaces, and mixing desks. The same goes for bass, keyboards, and any other instruments that are primarily suited for mono play and recording.

TRS cables

The letters TRS stand for tip, ring, and sleeve. These parts of the cables are the conductors and are situated on the jack plug. Just like a TS cable, except in its mono form, it is a balanced cable.

A balanced cable sends signals in the form of a positive, a negative, and a ground signal.

TRS, used for its main purpose, send unbalanced stereo signals.

Audio interfaces will usually have your TRS connection. So, as we said, if you use a TS cable instead of a TRS, your volume may probably be lower, and your studio monitors may be quiet. TRS cables are used for studio monitors, so they can use the full capacity and volume fo the studio monitors.

TRRS Cable

We won’t dive too deeply into the aspects of a TRRS cable (or input rather).

The extra ringed off section is so that a microphone signal can be sent along the same cable.

These connections are usually used for mobile devices and PC’s or laptops. Hence, you won’t be getting a TRRS 1/4 inch converter. So there is no need to ask if they will affect the volume of your monitors. You will more than likely not be using them.

Watch Pete Johns explain the difference between a TS, TRS and TRRS cables.

Audio interface issues

Some technical issues resulting from your audio interface could cause your studio monitors to be quiet as well. All audio interfaces are more or less the same when it comes to a standard model.

However, some interfaces will have the volume levels for the monitors on the interface, and these could be labeled with some other name that you are not aware of. Always check that your volume levels on your audio interfaces are turned up to the appropriate level; otherwise, your monitors may appear to be quiet.

Watch recording revolution go through various studio audio interfaces and help you decide which is the best for you.

Monitor level

Active monitors, as we know, come with built-in amplifiers, and on amplifiers, you will get volume control. More likely than not, if you are using powered monitors, there will definitely be a volume knob at the back of each monitor.

DAW issues

Depending on how new you are to home studio recording, then you may not be able to or know how to use your DAW properly and have knowledge of where everything is setup. I’m referring specifically to where the channel and master volume slides would be on your DAW application.

DAW volume levels

Check to see if all your current and master bus channels are set to 0db. This is the max level you should be tracking, mixing, and mastering at—nothing above this ever, but more on that in another article.

If some channels are set to different volume levels, then perhaps that has something to do with your mix, and you may not want to adjust that. However, if your volume for your studio monitors is too soft, then you will have to look at your initial tracking or your home setup.

Monitor issues

Without a doubt, sometimes you have done everything right, but your studio monitors are still soft. You have checked your cabling, your audio interface, and your DAW application, and everything is spik and span and working correctly.

There is usually one other area we can look at why your studio monitors are quiet. Although this problem does happen, be sure to check this option last because it is not usually that common.

Defective monitors

Once in a while, you may find yourself with a pair of defective studio monitors. This is not common, but it has been know to happen. Various things could be and go wrong with your monitor.

Also, remember that just because the studio monitors are working perfectly well when you get them. Some parts may be defective and then will perish over a shorter period, causing the studio monitors to be quiet or not to work correctly.

Troubleshooting quite studio monitors

Here is a simple step-by-step guide that will quickly help you sort out any issues you may have that cause your audio monitors to be quiet or go soft.

  • Check your cabling. Make sure you are using the correct cable with the correct input connection.
  • Check your audio interface. Sometimes the volume knobs or switches for the channels are turned down.
  • Check the volume settings on each of your monitors.
  • Check your DAW application. Sometimes the channel busses and main bus volume channels will be turned down for some other reason. Make sure they are set to 0db.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we can see that there are various reasons why your studio monitors could be very quiet or very soft. Surprisingly, there are a couple of reasons that you were pretty surprised to find out.

Some of these reasons include different cabling issues and various settings that could be found on your audio interface, DAW, and studio monitors. We covered all these possible causes and went into them in some detail.

Finally, we gave you a checklist that you could use to troubleshoot any time you were having problems with your studio monitors being too quiet.

Devlon Jarrod Horne

I am passionate about everything I undertake with music being my first love! I started playing guitar and singing at the age of 13 and have toured extensively throughout the UK, SA, and the UAE, playing and recording in original bands, cover bands, theatres, shows, and productions. I graduated top of my class at Damelin College of Music in South Africa and have his graded classical theory and composition from the Royal Schools Of Music in London. I have taught privately, for schools, companies, and online since 2006, and have founded Master Music Talent Academy where I employ and share my love of music with some of the top pro players, performers, and teachers in the South African music industry.

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