Using home stereo instread of proper monitors

Is it a bad idea?

Hello people,

Not really having the cash to spend on monitors at the moment, I use my compact stereo system for the job by plugging my Tascam US-224 line out into its phono sockets.

This sounds good enough for my purposes right now, and I am careful to not allow anything to ‘clip’ through the speakers. When planning tracks and recording them piece by piece during composition I play bass through the stereo (always keeping volume fairly low). I also use it when putting together drum parts in Reason, again trying to keep the volume fairly low (usually between 22 and 26 on a control that goes up to 31 – 30 increments and then a ‘MAX’ setting.

I would just like to know if this is likely to harm the stereo in the long term. Can it handle it as long as I avoid clipping or should I re-prioritise and make a point of getting some monitors sooner rather than later?

I don’t understand much of this, but here’s the spec of the stereo for those more knowledgeable:

Stereo system - Sony LBT-XG500

DIN power output (rated) 110 + 110 watts
(6 ohms at 1 kHz, DIN)
Continuous RMS power output (reference)
140 + 140 watts
(6 ohms at 1 kHz, 10% THD)
Music power output (reference)
240 + 240 watts
(6 ohms at 1 kHz, 10% THD)

Speakers – Sony SS-XG500

3-way BUILT IN SW, bass reflex type

Super Woofer / Woofer: 17cm/ 17 cm, cone type
Tweeter : 2.5cm, horn type
Rated impedance : 6 ohms

I copied the spec exactly as printed in the manual, with the exception of things like weight and dimensions that I am pretty sure are irrelevant here.

Any help with my questions on whether or not I will damage the stereo over time will be much appreciated. Now I will really stretch your willingness to help overcome my ignorance… could anyone point me to a glossary or beginners guide that will help me understand some of the terms in the above spec?



Most home speakers and stereo equipment has some amount of sonic coloration designed into it as to make it sound “sweeter” than thier competitors. Kinda like looking at a painting with tinted glasses on.

Studio monitors are (supposed to be) designed to have as flat of a sound as possible, and may not have a sound that appeals to the average consumer. The purpose is to be able to hear the music without coloration. Kinda like looking at a painting with clear glasses on.

That said… Depending on what your goals are, a home stereo may suit your purposes just fine. The tricky part will be when you are trying to do a final mixdown that sounds good on many different systems (boombox, the car, your friend’s house, etc…); achieving this goal will be a bit trickier using a home system for monitoring.

Hope that helps…


what John says.
I have and old Philips Stereo for monitoring. It have only a 3 band equalizer, no surround, no boom box, no one of the modern toys, and found very nice for mix.
If you will use one of this modern stereo the way to get the more “flat” sound is deactivating all the “enhancements” like sourround, EQ’s, bassboosters, etc.
Another thing is that monitors also are called “nearfields”, that means, they are disegned to sound well when you are very near them. Im not sure about stereo equipments in this issue.

Well, luck!

I think monitors, in some cases, are overhyped to justify cost. After all, they are just another “color” of speaker - not magic.

That being said (agree or not), as long as you compare the EQ of your mix to another (commercial) mix I think you should be in the ballpark. Most decent home stereo speakers cover the same frequency range as monitors, albeit maybe not as flat.

If you are concerned about damaging your speakers with uncompressed audio just keep the level down.

As a final word - even WITH monitors it is a good idea to play your final mix in home stereos, boom boxes, etc. After all, THAT is where the end product will be heard.

I’ve monitored my recordings on a lot of different systems in my time, and I’ve come to realize that this in itself is useful…

For years I used my Technics SB-3030 speakers driven by a NAD 3020B amp - my stereo in short - and this has served me well over the years. I’ve also used several small monitor speakers - homebuilt and computer dedicated units. I got a set of Altec-Lansing computer speakers (2 satellites and a sub) I really liked, and used a lot, but eventually I got down to buying a pair of ESI NeAR 05 monitor speakers which I use today.

The Technics speakers still forms the core of my stereo because I like the relaxed, relatively neutral sound they have. The Altec-Lansings are attached to my flat LCD TV set these days…

My key note is: mix and compare on as many systems as possible, from impeccable ones to cheap boom boxes. This makes it easier to point out any weaknesses in the mix before releasing the track to the public.

This is my own experience, YMMV.

regards, Nils

So many replies, and so far nobody has pointed out that the world’s most used nearfield studio monitor for about twenty years, Yamaha NS10, was originally designed as a home stereo speaker.

Another important thing: no monitoring system is accurate or have a flat response or proper stereo imaging if it isn’t installed right in an acoustically treated space. I’d say you’ll get much better monitoring by positioning a set of decent stereo speakers right than by positioning high quality active monitors wrong.

Some of the British musician magazines (like Sound On Sound) run series where the mag editors visit a reader’s home studio to rectify the problem the reader has. Most of cases, they have spend a lot of money for highly regarded brand monitors, then stuck them against a hard wall or, the horror, corners of the room, sitting in a hard tabletop or particle board shelf. If they have a subwoofer, it’s somewhere under the table, again tucked against a wall, possibly in equal distance from the corners, and so on.

Personally, I’ve used a hifi set for monitoring for years: two Mordaunt-Short MS25Ti speakers, a Denon PMA-707 amplifier. At least some of my mixes have received a lot of compliments, especially if I’m not singing :p

ive been a million miles around da monitor bush’’’‘driven moi bonkers’’’‘aint found a good solushun yet’’’‘throwin gobs o quids at it no solushun’’‘dats wot i found anyways’’’’’ :D :D

Quote (Mwah @ Mar. 16 2005,02:25)
Another important thing: no monitoring system is accurate or have a flat response or proper stereo imaging if it isn't installed right in an acoustically treated space. I'd say you'll get much better monitoring by positioning a set of decent stereo speakers right than by positioning high quality active monitors wrong.

This I've found is the biggest probelm and the hardest for amateurs like me to understand and solve.

Tom, a few guidelines:

The equilateral triangle. The distance between your ears (at your customary listening position) and the speakers should be the same as the distance between the speakers. Turn the speakers so that their front panels aim directly at you.

Height. The tweeters should be about ear height.

Position. It’s better to have the speakers upright so there’s less phase problems with the signals coming from tweeters and woofers. Human ears are much more sensitive to horizontal than vertical positioning. THat said, most of the studios seem to have their NS10’s at their sides, but that’s more about convenience and unobstructed view to behind the glass than sound.

Symmetry. Both speakers should be positioned similarly, ie. same height, same distance from the nearby walls etc.

Walls. It’s better to have the speakers at least 15 to 30 cm from the wall, if possible. Especially if they have rear firing bass ports.

Decoupling. You should have something under the speakers so they don’t pass vibrations to the surface under them.

So here’s a picture of my current setup:

Not ideal, but pretty good. The speakers are upside down to get the tweeters to ear level. The black thing visible between the speakers and behind the guitars is foam, same stuff that’s under the speakers but covered with loudspeaker carpet. The bookselves are actually pretty good diffusors. There’s about 40 cm airspace between the left speaker and the bookshelf. The writing test is my studio’s only piece of real vintage, a 1921 Billnäs. :p

One good test for the monitoring system is to put some music on and wander around the room listening if the the frequency content changes. In this sense, mine is a pretty good setup being quite even.

Mark, here’s the thing: get the best speakers you can afford, and don’t worry too much over brand because most major brands make a fine product. Get the biggest speakers you can afford, and which will fit your space, because you just can’t beat actual moving air for sound. Then listen to them - a lot! Listen to your favorite CDs, listen to your favorite radio station, listen to your parent’s old cassettes, listen to your television if you can hook it into the system. The more you know how other people’s work sounds on your new system, the better you will know how your stuff sounds.

But if you can possibly afford it, get one or two small PA speakers, and use them when tracking, particularly when you are playing your bass. Even the best monitors are not designed to handle the transients in live low frequency signals, and can easily be stretched out of shape, while PA speakers are built to handle the super low tones without being damaged. An alternative is a really good set of headphones, or a several sets of really cheap headphones - you can throw them away when they go south! :laugh:

Good luck!

'til next time;
Tony W

Nice post Mwah.


Get the biggest speakers you can afford

Im ignorant partially about the topic, but is that true? Very Big speakers are suitable for Nearfield?


Once again the quantity and quality of replies on this board is staggering. Thankyou all very much.

I will re-read everything and have a think about what I will do… although I expect my first move right now will be to stick with my stereo but move my desk to the centre of one side of the room so I can get with the triangle thing.

I will see if I can get a before and after picture and then write up the differences I notice in the progression of the sound as I move about.

Thanks again.

ps. Mwah… your advice is wonderful, but I am not sure I can every truly be grateful to a man with a Rickenbacker until I get one. :;): On the other hand… I own a much larger djembe than the one in your photo. :D

One thing I’d like to add - the original poster said he was plugging into the phono jacks on the stereo. This would not be ideal for a couple of reasons:

1) Phono signals are quite low so there will likely be more gain on those inputs than you will need coming from your soundcard.
2) Phono inputs generally feed an RIAA preamp which is designed to add all the rumbly bass/low mid sounds that can’t be scribed into a vinyl record.

…so, if there is another input available (usually aux) use that, or get a switch or y adapter to share a different input (like the cd input). At the very least be aware the side affects of using the phono inputs (possibly more noise from the gain and lots of colouration in the low end).

Tony makes sense here - I just want to draw more attention to his advice (not that the others are bad).

Go with what you can afford (be it stereo then so be it).

Listen to CD’s that’s already made in the style/sound you want.

Get to learn what it sounds like over your system.
Then you’ll have a reference.
Even swap back and forth between your own work and the cd if you have to.

But 1st do what the other guys said and put those speakers (whatever they will be / are) in the position and room where they will sound their best.

Then listen to Tony…


Most “pro audio” sources suggest isolating your nearfields to prevent resonances with your desk or console or whatever. Actually, most suggest using speaker stands with isolating “feet” for nearfields versus sitting them on a desk or console.


MoPads… they work.