How To Connect Your Speakers To Your Audio Equipment

Hooking up audio equipment such as mixers, amplifiers, DJ controllers and even smartphones to your speakers looks deceivingly simple. But why does speaker A only come with a ‘SpeakON’ connector while speaker B is packed with numerous, exciting connection options? And which cable is the right one? RCA, XLR, TRS? In this blog, we’ll show you a number of different setups and explain exactly how to get it all working properly. We’ll start small and work our way up to more complex setups.

Table of Contents

First Things First: Active versus Passive Speakers

First things first, let’s start off by explaining the difference between active and passive speakers. Active speakers are equipped with a built-in amplifier, while passive speakers require an external amplifier to produce sound. That’s why it’s impossible to connect your mixer, smartphone, computer or other sound source directly to a passive speaker. Next to a built-in amp, active speakers often offer various inputs, which makes them a convenient, all-in-one solution and a great choice for most beginners.

Connecting An Amplifier To Passive Speakers

Like we said, passive speakers always require an amplifier. This can be the built-in amp of an active speaker or a separate one. There are active subwoofers available with an output for passive speakers, as well as active full-range speakers with a similar output. In either case, it’s likely that this is specifically highlighted and you might want to opt for one active speaker and one passive model, because it’s a good way to save yourself a little money. The sound produced by such a set-up does stem from a mono signal, but if you’re performing live, that doesn’t have to be an issue. Always make sure the passive speaker’s power capacity and impedance match the amplifier it’s connected to, though. If you’re looking to hook up multiple sound sources to your amp, you’re most likely going to need a mixer, since amplifiers usually only offer a handful of inputs.
Connecting An Amplifier To Passive Speakers

How do you connect it?

Always use special speaker cables instead of regular signal cables, since the latter aren’t designed to handle the kind of electrical current involved. Depending on the connectors on the speakers and amp, you can use either speaker cables with jack connectors (circular input on the device), lockable speaker connectors (two rings in one; the well-known brand Neutrik calls these ‘SpeakON’) or a jack-to-lockable speaker connector adapter. If the cable isn’t fitted with a connector, sometimes you’re forced to use wire clamps on one or both ends. You’ll have to strip the end of the speaker cable to expose the copper wires and insert these into the wire clamps (usually recognisably coloured in red and black). Find more information on the right cable thickness in our blog here.

Connecting a sound source directly to an active speaker

Since active speakers don’t require external amplification, you can directly connect your sound source. If you want to have multiple sound sources plugged in at the same time, carefully check the type and the amount of connectors featured on your speaker. In the case of multiple sources, a mixer can prove extremely useful. The next section contains a bunch of different types of cables and connectors.
Connecting a sound source directly to an active speaker

Connecting an MP3-player to Active Speaker

Whether you’re at a party or at home, it’s always fun to grab the nearest portable Bluetooth speaker with a mini-jack input, a larger-sized mobile battery-powered speaker or, if wireless connectivity isn’t top priority, a regular active speaker.

How do you connect it?

You can use a TRS mini-jack cable to connect your mp3-player to your speaker. If the speaker only has RCA inputs (usually coloured red and white), use a mini-jack-to-RCA cable. In rare cases, you’ll need a mini-jack-to-jack cable (3.5 mm vs. 6.3 mm jacks) or an XLR cable. The only time you won’t be able to hook up your mp3-player to a speaker is when you’ve got a single speaker with a single XLR or mono jack input, since a cable can’t convert the stereo signal into a mono one. In this case, you’ll need a small mixer. Generally speaking, the left output on a mixer can be used as a mono output. Insert a jack or XLR cable to connect the mixer with your speaker and voila!

Connecting a smartphone to a speaker

Okay, so an mp3-player might be a little old-fashioned, since most of us carry our music with us on a smartphone or tablet these days. To directly connect your smartphone to your speaker, you’re again going to need an active speaker, just like the ones we mentioned a moment ago in the mp3-player section above.

How do you connect it?

If Bluetooth is unavailable or not an option for whatever kind of reason, you can follow the same steps explained in the mp3-player section above.

Connecting a DJ controller to a speaker set

At some point after you’ve bagged a bit of experience using your DJ controller, there’s going to come a moment when you’re tired of those old PC speakers you’ve been using and want something bigger and more exciting. Let’s take a look at the type of outputs that can be found on a controller/mixer. RCA outputs are the ones most commonly found on a mixer, with XLR sockets in second place and jack connectors following closely behind. Be aware that all of these outputs are stereo outputs and have separate connectors for the left and right speaker. This is also the point where we arrive at our first hurdle: are you the bedroom-kind-of-DJ kind or the live-performing kind? If you identify with the first option, you’re best off with a set of active studio/DJ monitors, but if you regularly perform live, a PA speaker set is definitely your best bet.
Connecting a DJ controller to a speaker set

How do you connect it?
It’s best to use the most robust, interference-free type of connection, and that means using two XLR cables to directly connect your DJ controller to your speaker. If XLR is not an option, go for two TS or TRS jack cables (this is also the preferred option if the connections are ‘balanced’ according the user manual). RCA cables are unbalanced and therefore not the best option if you’re using longer cables, not to mention the fact that RCAs are usually not available in the form of two separate cables. In case of the latter, and if you’re dealing with a double RCA cable, carefully pull it apart to be able to reach both of your speakers. The easiest option, again, is to use a mixer so there are decent XLR or jack connectors available. In rare cases, you may find that you only have a mini-jack input at your disposal. In such a case, use the same connection instructions as detailed for mp3-players above.

Connecting a DJ/PA Mixer to your speakers

As you can tell, we’re steadily taking it up a notch. We’ve covered DJ controllers and now it’s time for mixing desks and DJ mixers. No matter how many sliders or advanced technological features your mixer is equipped with, the type of outputs generally remain the same: RCA, XLR and jack. It’s not hard to imagine that the larger the surface, the larger the outputs. Really small and compact mixers occasionally come with nothing but a mini-jack connector, while the big dogs offer various different outputs. The only exception to this rule is the powered mixer; a mixer with a built-in amplifier that’s able to power a set of passive speakers on its own. Check back with the amplifier section at the top of this blog for more information about amp connectors.
Connecting a DJ/PA Mixer to your speakers

How do you connect it?

Connecting a PA or DJ mixer to your speaker set is similar to connecting a DJ controller. Please refer back to the DJ controller section above!

If we’ve left anything unclear, feel free to reach out to us or a leave a comment with your question below!

See also

» Speakers
» Audio Cables
» Mixers
» Amplifiers

» Blog – How To Connect Studio Monitors
» Blog – Cable Thickness And Working Out What You Need
» Blog – Recording And Amplifying Vocals For Beginners
» Blog – Turning A Speaker Set Into A Fully-Fledged PA
» Buyer’s Guide – What Is The Best Mixer For Me?
» Buyer’s Guide – What Is The Best Studio Monitor For Me?

36 responses
  1. Lorenzo says:

    Hi there,
    on the section “Connecting an MP3 player to your speaker” it is said that “The only time you won’t be able to hook up your mp3-player to a speaker is when you’ve got a single speaker with a single XLR or mono jack input, since a cable can’t convert the mono signal into a stereo one.”

    I’m getting a little confused here. Wouldn’t this work if I’m coming from the mp3 player to the speaker with a TRS 1/8 jack to 1/4 TS mono jack converting the stereo signal into mono? Thanks in advance.


    • Hi Lorenzo,

      Thanks for your comment. First of all, the article should actually say “since a cable can’t convert the stereo signal into a mono one.”

      The thing is, it will probably not sound right and it can cause damage to your equipment. Outputs aren’t meant to be directly connected to each other.

      Marnix | Bax Music

  2. Sascha says:

    Hi! I have a single Harbinger HA60 and a single HA60 amp, I’m assuming it’s passive. They’re both 60W. I currently have a cheap MP3 player from Amazon that I’m trying to hook up to the amp. The music plays, but it’s way too quiet since I need these speakers to be loud enough for an outdoor gathering. Is this a problem with the factory settings in the MP3? (U don’t know how to fix that). Or is it the speakers? What should I do?

    • Eelco | Bax Music says:

      Hi Sascha,

      The audio is to quiet because the output on the MP3-player is on headphone level, which is quieter dan line level audio and the mixer probably requires line level inputs. You can fix this by using a DI-box with a minijack input, like the Devine DI-001. You can connect the MP3-player to the DI-box and connect the outputs of the DI-box to the line or aux inputs of the Harbinger.

  3. Steve says:

    are mains out to active speakers on a behringer 1204 mono stereo balanced unbalanced

  4. Boris says:

    Hi,i have a djm 600 and powered monitors hooked up via rca-xlr cables and i was wondering if i could hook them up with xlr-xlr from a master output with microfone cables. Are microfone xlr-xlr cables ok for this?

    • Eelco | Bax Music says:

      Dear Boris,

      You may use regular XLR-microphone cables to connect the Master Output with your monitors without issue.

  5. Steven Elston says:

    I recently brought a pioneer dj400 and a vonex vna1500 amplifier with passive speakers, I am having problems connecting the mixer to the amplifier. I am directly running a rca inputs from the mixer to the amp, and cannot get an sound from hew speakers. Any suggestions on what is causing this particular problem, as it says I can use a mixer with this amp?

    • Eelco | Bax Music says:

      Dear Steven,

      The connection between the DDJ-400 and the VXA-1500 (I presume you meant the VXA, not VNA?) should work just fine as is. Do other audio sources work well with the VXA-1500? In other words, do you know if your passive speakers actually work with the Vonyx amplifier?

  6. Tim says:

    Hey there!

    I got some huge, old passive speakers secondhand and I’m struggling to figure out how to connect them. Each speaker has two quarter inch inputs, as well as a speakON input. My current setup has an amplifier that takes four male banana cables. Without knowing much about the speakers (as I didn’t get a manual or anything), would I be correct to assume I’d need a 2 male banana to 2 male quarter inch cable for one speaker, as well as another for the other speaker? Would I need to use the speakON input as well to get the speakers to work, or is that solely to connect additional speakers?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Eelco | Bax Music says:

      Dear Tim,

      I don’t recommend connecting passive speakers to an amplifier without knowing the specifications for the speakers. There is a very thin line you have to ride between an amplifier and passive speakers and you can’t just connect these willy nilly. If the speakers have a way higher power draw then the amplifier can put out, you risk damaging your amplifier. If the amplifier delivers way more then the speakers can handle, you risk damaging your speakers.

      Always check the RMS and peak power handling capacity of the speakers (at a certain impedance) and the power output of the amplifier (at the same impedance) and see if they match up. We always recommend using an amplifier that can deliver 150% of the RMS power handling capacity of the passive speaker.

  7. BENJAMIN says:

    Hi. I am trying to connect my smartphone to a Samson Auro D208 which has an 1/4″ Input Connector. The manual says it can be used for connecting balanced microphone or balanced and unbalanced line level inputs.
    I connected them using a 3.5mm to 3.5mm (with 1/4″ adaptor) cable. But the sound came out very weak. Can I know what’s wrong?

    • Hi Benjamin,

      I think the sound is weak because you are trying to connect an unbalanced stereo signal to a balanced mono input. A simple, yet not perfect solution is to use a 3.5 mm TRS to 2 x 6.3 mm TS cable and connect only one of the 6.3 mm plugs to your speaker. You will now only hear the left or right channel. As long as you are not listening to any tracks where elements are only present on one side of the stereo image it should sound fine.
      A better solution is to use a small mixer, like the Devine MixPad 1002. You can use the cable I mentioned earlier to connect your phone to channels 1 and 2 of the mixer and leave the pan knobs in the center position. Then you connect either the left or the right main output (doesn’t matter which one) to your speaker.

  8. reyhan says:

    thanks alot of information

  9. scott says:

    Gotta be a better way to do the Replies. No matter how many times you click reply on a comment, no box opens and you just need to go back and start over like submitting a new comment. So no idea how you guys connect the thread! 😉 Anyway, Stefan , I suppose it is true that I can just use the interface for the direct from PC sound as well even when not otherwise using or needing the interface. Just seemed like an unnecessary added “interface”, no pun intended, and just another piece of equipment I need to turn on just to hear PC sound, and adds wear and tear on interface when I am not really using it. But I guess that’s my only option if I don’t want to keep plugging and unplugging connections. And actually,, for some odd reason, tonight when I was listening through the amp and speakers directly Line In and Out (not the Interface), I was getting a ground problem-like buzz, which is new!!No idea where that came from…but not getting it through the interface/XLRs. So I guess that answers that!!!! Thanks for all the input and quick replies!! sdh

    • And thank you Scott, for going through all this trouble to reply to my post. We will look in to it. As for the buzz: this can have many causes. Maybe the amp has reached the end of its lifespan, maybe you connected a new device (fridge, washing machine etc) that’s causing the buzz.

  10. scott harrington says:

    Hi StefAN,,, i Am trying to reply to your Q on my 8/19 post about the Tascam amp and interface, but it does not seem to open a box directly on your comment when i hit reply , so i need to go back and start a new one!! But not sure you’ll find a manual, lol… its a Vintage amp,,, Tascam PA-20B . Makes no sense to me that it would not put out sound when the Interface is selected as the in and out source unless I unplug the RCA’s which go direct into the PC,,, but when I select the Line in speakers and Device to get the sound from the PC directly, I don’t need to unplug the XLRs. Seems like if one was cancelling the other, it would be the case in either direction. Totally stumped, and a pain to have to unplug the RCAs when using the interface???!

    • Hi Scott,

      You’re right. i wasn’t able to find a manual. Your Tascam amp is a fairly simple device. As far as I can see the volume knob and the mode switch are the only controls that are accessible for end users. Unless you are willing to grab a soldering kit and do some heavy modding, I’m afraid you’ll have to accept this is how the amp behaves. I don’t really understand why you are still using the line out of your computer, can’t you just use your audio interface for all of the audio coming from your computer? If you really want to keep using both the line out of your interface and the line out of your PC you could consider buying a small mixer. Connect both sound sources to the mixer and connect the mixer output to the XLR inputs of the amp. This way you no longer need the RCA input.

  11. scott says:

    Hey Ben, So I just hooked up an Audio interface to my PC. PC already had passive monitors connected via a small Tascam power amp. The amp has an option for RCA ins and XLR ins The PC is connected to the RCAs via a 3.5 to Split RCA cable. Before the interface, the XLRs were just unused. On the PC, I choose Speakers as the playback for sound from the PC. So Now I’ve added an interface for recording. I used the Line OUT 1/4″ on the back of the interface to the XLR ins still open on the amp (using 1/4 to XLR male to male cables). And I now of course have the added device playback option on the PC of the interface. But when I select the interface for Playback, I get no sound out of the monitors UNLESS I unplug the RCA jacks from the back of the amp that are used when the source is just speakers for the PC. They are basically acting like a monitor cancelling headphone jack! Why would this be the case when I have changed the source on the PC to the Interface??? Why wouldn’t it just now pick up the sound coming into the XLRs from the interface and disregard the RCA ins ?? I get everything out of the headphones on the interface, just not the monitors,,, again, unless I unplug the RCAs from the amp. The weird thing is that it does not behave that way in reverse. In other words, if I switch the source on the PC back to speakers, then I still get the sound from the PC on the monitors without having to unplug the XLR ins coming from the Interface. What the heck ?????? Any ideas ??? THX! Scott

  12. Benjamin | Bax Music says:


    The speakon connection is used to link both speakers together. So the powered speaker will be connected to the passive speaker first.

    To then connect your Behringer mixer to the speakers you’ll need XLR to 6.3 mm jack cables, RCA cables or two 6.3 mm jack cables. I suggest you purchase these cables to make a proper, noise-free connection:

    All the best,

  13. Justin LaVeck says:

    Hello, I have a pair of Proreck Party 12 1000w pa speakers, one is active and the other is passive, the active one has speakon output and the passive has speakon as well. How do I connect them to a Behringer Xenyx Q1202USB Mixer for a wedding event I’m djing? I need to connect the speakers to the mixer then to my pc but I’m unsure how to do it with these new speakers, seeing as they connect to each other. I’d normally use passives and amplifier mixer but I just got the Prorecks and they sound incredible. Thank you for your help!

  14. james bennett says:

    I have a Numark mixer with rca out to my powered speakers and I have available a Berigher mixer with 1/4 inch output. Is the Berigher an upgrade? I currently have rca/xlr adapters to around 20 ft of cable run to my Mackies. Thanks for any comment.

    • Eelco | Bax Music says:

      Hi James,

      This can of course differ per individual product. In general, both Numark and Behringer have budget options in their range. Furthermore, an RCA or a 1/4 inch connection does not necessarily matter in terms of quality. RCA is always unbalanced, which means that if you run cables over longer distances, there can be more rapid signal loss/interference/noise in the sound. 1/4 inch connectors may be balanced, but that is not always the case. This depends purely on the individual product and the type of connection.

  15. adam says:

    hello, i have a pair of KRK Rokit active monitors connected to a Pioneer DJM-600 mixer, via XLR cables. I have a pair of technic 1200 MKII’s connected to the Pioneer mixer as well. When I turn on the speakers, and mixer, I get a lot of hummimg/freedback. I tried a pair XLR to RCA cables, and connected them to the master out RCA ports on the mixer, to see if that could eliminate the feedback in the speakers, no luck. The turntables have been professionally upgraded with internal grounding (no exposed ground wires). Any ideas on what I can do to eliminate the feedback in the speakers? Do i need to run the speakers into a preamp, and connect the preamp to the mixer? help!!!!

    • Eelco | Bax Music says:

      Hi Adam,

      It could be a ground loop that is caused by using two or more power sockets that have different phases. This difference can be heard in the form of a buzzing or humming sound. When it’s possible, we recommend using a single power socket with a high quality power distributor.

      You could also use a DI Box with a ‘ground lift’ function, or a ground loop isolator to eliminate possible ground loop issues.

      I’d also try to connect a different device to your monitors to see if the problem still exists. If no devices are connected to the monitors and the monitors still humm, than the issue lies with the monitor or power net that the monitors are connected to.

      Please read our Buzz, Hum and How to Get Rid of it blog for more information on the subject!

  16. Gabriela says:

    Hi I have a pair Genelec monitors connected to Dj 900 nexux mixer one of the monitor doesnt have signalon both sides ,the other work perfectly? Dont know what happened???

    • Eelco | Bax Music says:

      Hi Gabriela,

      If one of your monitors doesn’t have audio, no matter which output you connect it to, then that monitor is probably defective. The fault isn’t in the mixer if that’s the case.

      It could also be a faulty cable. Is it possible to switch cables with the working monitor or use another cable to see if the problem lies with the monitor or with the cable?

  17. Kev says:


    I have two PLX1000 turntables & Mackie CR8 – XBT monitor speakers, (active).

    I don’t know how to connect them up. Do I need to wait for my mixer to come I order to successfully connect it all?

    I tried to connect 1 turntable to the active speaker to test, it’s was very quiet and hummed.


    • Eelco | Bax Music says:

      Hi Kev,

      If you wish to use the turntables without the mixer, you will need a phono preamp to amplify the phono signal to the expected line signal. Without a preamp the sound will be barely audible.

  18. Matt Sherwood says:

    Hi, I have a DDJ-400 controller which only has RCA outputs. However, I want to use the VQ1500D sub and a stacked loudspeaker which only have XLR inputs. Could you recommend a mixer that allows me to connect to both the loudspeaker and the sub using xlr cables? thanks!

    • Eelco | Bax Music says:

      Hi Matt,

      Few mixers have a separate output just for subwoofers. It is common practice to connect the Main Output for analogue mixers to an active subwoofer, which usually has an internal crossover and outputs for (stacked) fullrange speakers. These fullrange speakers are then connected to the outputs on the subwoofer and not to the mixer.

      In short, you could just use an RCA-XLR adapter cable like the Devine VA4013 if you don’t need to cover more distance then 6 meters. If you need more cable length, then I would advise using a analogue mixer or similar device with balanced XLR outputs (and RCA inputs for the controller!)

  19. Charlie Brown says:

    For PA speakers, you may find a master of a different style. Mostly these speakers are connected with XLR ports. These ports are much larger and diverse than the ports for other speakers. Most people find it a difficult job however, the connectivity of this type of speaker is also easy.

  20. Tom says:

    Hi Guys,

    So I have been using my DDJ-RXs for a while now on some smaller Logitech speakers. I have recently bought some much largers Ibiza soundcube 1100s, but am struggling to get the sub to work. I am currently using my RCA wires but the sub doesn’t work when connecting to the decks, however the tops do. Is this a case of just buying a TRA wire to connect instead?


    • Eelco | Bax Music says:

      Hi Tom,

      With theses sets, you usually have to connect the sound source straight to the sub and the top speakers to the sub. The top speakers don’t have a subwoofer output, but an active subwoofer has an internal crossover and top speaker outputs.

      In short, connecting the DDJ-RX Master Output straight to the subwoofer inputs and connecting the top speakers to the subwoofer outputs should do the trick!

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