Ask LH: How Can I Connect My 20-Year Old Speakers To My New Monitor?

Ask LH: How Can I Connect My 20-Year Old Speakers To My New Monitor?

Dear Lifehacker, I have recently purchased a monitor off of Kogan for my PC, Xbox and soon my PS4. My main issue is that my speakers (which are 20 years old) only support a 3.5mm inlet. I was wondering if you knew of a device that could take optical signals and convert it so that my speakers would be compatible? Conversion Confused

Speaker picture from Shutterstock

Dear CC,

The chief issue here is that your speakers use an analogue input which won’t play nice with digital signals. An optical-to-3.5mm cable will connect everything together, but it wont actually play any sound.

What you need is a digital to analogue conversion box — these take the optical signal from your monitor and convert it to analogue stereo which makes them perfect for older AV receivers, sound bars, speakers and the like. These products are quite easy to find online and can cost as little as $14. Just be aware that you may take a hit in sound quality — especially if you aim for the bottom of the barrel.

Alternatively, you could put your geriatric equipment out to pasture and buy yourself a sound bar instead. The sound quality of these things has improved in leaps and bounds over the past few years and they are also quite affordable.

That said, it’s been a very long time since I’ve even thought about analogue audio equipment — if any audiophiles have a better solution please let CC know in the comments section below.

See also: How To Build Your First Home Theatre System | How To Be An Audiophile On The Cheap | What The Next Generation Of Consoles Means For Your Home Theatre


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  • On the back of Kogan tv’s are a coaxial output, so any cheap a/v receiver will be able to handle that as an input and link up to the speakers.

  • If they “only support a 3.5mm inlet” it means they were crappy speakers to start with.. They can’t be any better after 20 years of wear and tear. So buy the cheapest Digital to analogue converter you can find, or save your money, dump the speakers and buy something with Optical input.

  • It depends on what’s sitting behind that 3.5mm plug. It could be some sort of amplifier then the speaker, or it could be just the speaker. It could be a large solid well designed speaker box, and speaker, or a tiny little computer speaker.

    There’s really not enough info provided by the OP to give appropriate advice on what to do.

  • Just a thought, but if OP is using 20 year old speakers, I’m guessing they’re already at the bottom of the barrel in terms of audio quality.

  • What? Why does OP need any converters? Xbox/PC/PS4 connect to ‘monitor’ via HDMI. Then you have two options.
    1) Use a headphone cable and plug speakers into the headphone port, if there is one.
    2) If no headphone port (what kinda new monitor is this??), what other sound outputs does the monitor have? Coax? Buy a L/R coax to 3.5mm cable, away you go.
    3) Optical out only? That’s damn weird for a monitor. Looks like you’ll need a receiver, since I don’t see monitors with 2x HDMI + DVI connectors often.

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