Hooking up speaker system to laptop w/o receiver

Discussion in 'Loudspeakers' started by Shudder, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. Shudder Audiophyte

    Shudder
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    Hiyo all,

    After trawling the web for info about desktop speaker setups and ran across a thread asking about desktop system comparisons. In it, BoredSysAdmin nudged the OP away from pre-made desktop setups towards picking out their own satellites and subs -they suggested 2x Behringer B1030A's and a BIC PL-200.

    This is my first time venturing outside of pre-made systems, so I was hoping to get some confirmation that things'll work before I buy anything.

    I was hoping to use this setup to play music/movies/some games through my macbook pro. My understanding was that most regular speakers will need to go through an amp to work with a laptop. However, all of these speakers have internal amps. Does this mean that, assuming I can blend them, I would just need to wire the satellites to the sub and use a unbalanced male RCA/male 3.5" y-splitter to connect the sub to my laptop?

    It seems like blending the speakers would be doable (all have variable crossover dials). Are there any other issues that I'll be running in to? Will my soundcard be ok (Intel HD Audio) if I I'm trying to plug the 2.1 system directly into my laptop? Would it be possible to control the system through something beyond the dial at the back of the sub? In the past, most systems I've used have had a built-in wired remote. Is there any way of adding something like that to the system?

    So, in short: To make this work, I would just need the 2 satellites, the sub, two male-male unbalanced RCA connectors, and one unbalanced male RCA/male 3.5" y-splitter? Would any of the cables be likely to be included with the speakers?

    Anyhow, sorry to dump a bunch of questions. If there would be a better place to ask for help about this, could you point me in the right direction?

    Thanks a lot!
    Jack
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2012
  2. Adam Audioholic Jedi

    Adam
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    Welcome to the forum, Jack!

    If I understand what you want to do correctly (connect a MacBook Pro to a BIC PL-200 sub using a 3.5mm-to-stereo-RCA cable, then connect the PL-200 to two Behringer B1030A satellite speakers), it won't work quite like how you've described it. The BIC PL-200 does not have any line-level (RCA) outputs to connect to those satellite speakers. We can get you set up, but it won't work like that (at least, not based on the pictures that I've seen of that hardware).

    We can get you set up, but I have a question - would you be willing to also get an external soundcard (such as a USB one)?

    In regards to controlling the system other than using the back panel of the sub, you can control the volume of the system using your MB. With the analog connection that you're planning, the MB will treat the 3.5mm output jack as a headphone jack, and you can control the volume using the MB. That should also be true if you get an external USB soundcard.

    Regarding blending the speakers, those Behringers don't have a crossover dial, but they allow you to tailor the low frequency to some extent with the switches on the back panel. So, I agree, you can probably get a decent blending of things.
    Adam,
  3. Shudder Audiophyte

    Shudder
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    Thanks for the quick response, Adam!

    That's correct, yes. What does a 'line-level output' mean?

    Depending on the price, yes. I'm already pretty far beyond my target budget, so sub 40-50 would probably fly. Would something like the Berhinger UCA222 work for this? I don't really understand what it does, but the manual for the satellites mentioned that.

    Sounds good. Would that mean that I'd just be losing an aux output jack and the ability to adjust the levels without going through software?

    Is there any guide to doing this that you'd recommend? I found one, but it was talking a lot about tailoring stuff to receivers, which I'd like to stay clear of.


    Thanks for the advice :)
  4. Adam Audioholic Jedi

    Adam
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    Happy to help!

    Those are the RCA jacks. "Line-level" refers to the relatively low power of those signals, versus the speaker-level connections that are amplified and that you'd hook speaker wires up to. The PL-200 has speaker-level inputs and outputs, but it doesn't have any outputs for RCA jacks.

    Nope, but something like this would. It's well under $40, and the top review is from someone that said it worked perfectly with a MacBook Pro. There are others out there, for sure. I just happen to come across that one.

    It would require a USB port (and you can get a hub if you run out of those), but you should still be able to control the volume using the MB - you definitely can still do that if you get the one that I provided a link for.

    I'd say trust your ears. You're the one listening to it. :) I'd read the manual and specs for the speakers to see where they begin to roll off at lower frequencies to get a good starting point for where to set the crossover on the sub. After that, you can probably hear if it sounds off in certain frequencies. You can also get a sound pressure level (SPL) meter and run a series of frequencies (which you can download online) to check how flat the response is, but like I said - if it sounds good, then I think you're set.
    Adam,
  5. Shudder Audiophyte

    Shudder
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    Awesome! That one looks great and should be within my price range. I might need to come back for help with balancing, but it sounds manageable. Should be fun to tweak it like that :)

    Is there a place that you'd recommend me buy cables? No big tech stores nearby, maybe a radioshack. I assume that I would just want the cheapest possible, or are there any features that would be meaningful for home use?
  6. bikemig Audioholic Chief

    bikemig
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    You don't need fancy cables. Radio shack is fine or you can get them cheap from monoprice online and amazon has some decent prices as well. For the price of the BIC PL 200, you can pick up a sub that has RCA input and outputs and simply connect the sub directly to the computer via the headphone out. This is one sub that has RCA inputs and outputs which runs around the same price as the BIC: Audioengine S8 (AS8) - Premium Powered Subwoofer.
  7. Adam Audioholic Jedi

    Adam
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    Dang - I just noticed that is a "virtual" 7.1 system. Sorry! That's no better than the headphone jack on your MB. Let me see if I can find one that will do what you want.

    As for cables: Radio Shack cables will work, but you're right - you don't need to spend much money.

    Monoprice.com is well liked around here. I've purchased cables from them and have been very happy. The only cables that I haven't really liked from them were their lower end RCA cables. You're going to be using 3.5mm-to-RCA cables, though. Those shouldn't cost more than maybe $3-$4.

    EDIT: bikemig answered your question - nice to see that we agree. :D If you're willing to look at different subs, that's definitely another option. After all, if you're looking to spend $20-$40 on a sound card, you could up your sub budget a bit and avoid the need to get one.
    Adam,
  8. Shudder Audiophyte

    Shudder
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    What do y'all think about the Velodyne VX-11 sub? It looks to have the right outputs and is a little cheaper. I'll check out monoprice and Amazon, thanks :)

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