In this article, you’ll learn how to play a single Avantone MixCube Speaker in Mono when connected to an audio interface.
I purchased the Active MixCube version so I didn’t need to buy a separate amp (comes included).
The audio interface used in this video is BOTH an audio interface and monitor controller combined (Mackie Big Knob Studio), which is a great all-in-one solution.. (however you can purchase an audio interface and a monitor controller separately, too!)
Summing to mono for a single speaker caused me confusion because I wanted to plug both the LEFT and RIGHT channels into a single MixCube so that the mono summing was done via the cable itself..
However.. I discovered this is a big no-no if a resistor is not inline of each OUTPUT by manual solder (making your own Y cable).
(The reason we sum to mono is to hear “phase cancellation” when the LEFT and RIGHT audio channels of our song are combined.. which happens when equipment only has one speaker, such as a clock radio, for example.. or speakers in a mall!)
Referencing in mono not only confirms compatibility, it is also a very powerful mixing technique to make sure of clarity in your mix (even if it may be boring to mix in 😁).
The Purpose of an Avantone MixCube
These mono speakers are intended for critical mixing in the mid-range, and are used as a “secondary monitor” to your main reference monitors.
They are very helpful to listen to our music on “bass-challenged systems” (clock radios, and TVs..). Also, this single speaker has no “crossover” like you’d get on a 2-way or 3-way speaker!! This crossover happens when there’s more than one speaker.
On a speaker with a tweeter and a woofer (2-way speaker), the tweeter plays the high frequencies, and the woofer plays the mid-to-low frequencies.. (but there’s a slight spillover of frequencies, which can cause “build-up” between the two speakers, if not designed properly).
If you had a 3-way speaker (a tweeter [highs], a mid-woofer [mids], and a big woofer [low frequencies]) your speaker would have 2 crossovers! These 3-way speakers start in the more expensive category because the 3 speakers are designed to shine in their own frequency spectrum, but again, this “crossover” can overlap a little bit and spill frequencies into each speaker (which you get used to over time as you get used to the speakers).
A single mono speaker, like this Avantone MixCube, allows you to hear the audio in a critical way, focusing on the mid-range, with no crossover. (It’s a great reference tool to save yourself from back and forth car testing 🙂)..
Should You Buy One or Two MixCube Mono Speakers?
There’s two ways you can approach using the MixCube.
You can purchase a single mono speaker (the approach I took), or you can buy two MixCubes and push them together for a “mono” sound (which will give you a bit more volume/loudness).
To keep costs down, and act as if I were on a true mono speaker (like a cellphone), I decided just to select one MixCube, which I’ve been happy with the single speaker!
Active or Passive MixCube?
Avantone offers passive and active MixCube options.
Active is the easiest solution because it has an amplifier built into the speaker, and it comes with a power adapter to drive it. (All-in-one solution when you buy it).
Passive is more involved, as you need to purchase your own amplifier, in addition to the speaker, and special speaker cables. (More for audio purists.. I didn’t have a speaker amplifier, so I went active 🙂).
What Brand of “Horrortones” to buy?
These single mono speakers are known as “horrortones” within the industry. There’s MANY competitors, and if you’re like me, you’ll spend HOURS comparing back and forth..
These original “horrortones” started from the Aurotones brand (different from “Avantone”), however it seems like from reviews, the newer Aurotones edition isn’t the same experience. (I cannot say for myself!)
After reading Mike Senior’s advice on grabbing the Avantone MixCube, that’s what I decided to go with personally, to play it safe. (Thanks, Mike 😎).
Popular Mono Speaker Brands (Similar Horrortone Speakers):
- Avantone MixCube
- Aurotone 5C
- Reftone LD-3B (a product I wanted, but couldn’t find in Canada at the time..)
- Behringer “Behritone”
I’d definitely read Mike Senor’s “Supplementary Monitors” page, as well as Mike’s review of the Behringer Behritone (leaning towards the Avantone MixCube).
How to Enable Mono on Your Mono Speaker
Okay, so here’s a quick summary from the video for actually connecting the Mono Speaker to our audio system/computer 🙂
The short answer is to use a “monitor controller” that has a “mono button”, and only connect ONE OUTPUT to the mono speaker (MixCube).
But, there’s three ways you can approach this mono speaker connection:
- Select “MONO” in your DAW.. (SLOW and cumbersome)
- Select “MONO” on your “Monitor Controller” (a good alternative if you have the equipment)
- Solder a Balanced TRS Cable with resistors for mono summing (what I REALLY wanted, but involved..)
I will quickly cover the last two options (Monitor Controller and Mono Summing Audio Cable via Manual Soldering).
Monitor Controller: Connect MixCube in Mono
Monitor controllers can be “passive” or “active”.
Since I already was using the Mackie Big Knob Studio audio interface, which has a monitor controller and MONO button built in.. all I had to do was plug one audio cable into the MixCube, select the speaker source, and enable MONO on the monitor controller.. (it’s been a great workflow!)
A monitor controller allows you to switch between sets of speakers at fair volume comparison to hear mix translation quickly. In the case of a “mono speaker”, you have to enable MONO, otherwise you’re only hearing one audio channel in the mono speaker!!!
DON’T Connect a Y-Cable to a Mono Speaker (Unless You’ve Added Resistors)
As mentioned, I really wanted to have one audio cable contain both the LEFT and RIGHT audio channels to be summed via the audio cable itself.
However, I quickly read it’s very bad to your audio equipment, without a resistor on the LEFT and RIGHT channels!
Here’s why you can’t connect a Y-Cable from an audio interface’s LEFT and RIGHT OUTPUT channels to a single input WITHOUT putting a resistor in between each LEFT and RIGHT OUTPUT cable (creating a manual cable you have to solder).
The circuit is very simple. The resistors are needed so the output of one channel does not drive current into the output circuit of the other channel. Outputs should never be connected together without some isolation. In this case, low value resistors are used.Lotus 7 – Gearspace.com Forum Member
Here is a picture that Lotus 7 posted showing the resistor connections to make a cable supposedly safe to plug in both LEFT and RIGHT and summed into a single connection for your MixCube by Avantone:
After finding this mono summing audio cable diagram, I definitely considered soldering my own cable so I didn’t have to press the “mono button” each time I switched to the MixCube, and all summing would be done within the audio cable itself..
But it was more involved than what I wanted to get into.. so I just used the Mackie Big Knob Studio I already owned and will just press “Mono”.
It’s funny, even though I was an electrician for 10 years, they never taught us soldering in school or on the job site….
Final Expert Advice from SoundonSound.com
Closing out.. I also wanted to share what I found this from the experts over at SoundonSound.com
(As purchasing a small speaker like the Avantone MixCube, and having it summed to mono, is highly recommended in Mix Senior’s book [Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio], which Mike explains on his website!)
Note, I have not read the book.. just repeating what I have read online..
If you select the “monitor controller” option, here’s what Hugh Robjohns says:
All you need to do is wire the left output of the monitor controller or interface to the single mono speaker using a balanced cable. If you don’t press the mono button you’ll only get the left channel. If you do press the mono button you’ll get a mono sum of both channels. Simples.Hugh Robjohns (Technical Editor for Sound On Sound)
Summary: How to Connect Avantone MixCube to Your Audio Interface in Mono
The easiest way is to get a monitor controller, plug in one audio cable to the Active MixCube, enable the MONO button, and you’re good to go!
You can look at the soldered audio cable approach with resistors.. maybe one day I’ll do this for convenience, and allowing summing to happen in the cable itself.
I hope this clarified how to connect your single MixCube, play it in mono, and help with product research.