Over lunch this past weekend a friend of mine mentioned he was going to buy some high end computer speakers because “I want better and louder sound from my computer like I get on my home stereo.”
“Have you tried connecting your computer to your stereo?” I asked.
“Can I do that?”
“Yes, you can. You can go wired or wireless.”
Today, I’ll discuss wired connections; tomorrow, wireless.
The first and least expensive way to connect your PC to your home stereo is with wires you can buy at Radio Shack. Wires work best in all situations, but distance between the computer and the stereo is usually the decision maker.
First, measure where you would run a wire from your computer to your stereo. If the distance is about 20 feet you can get the following items for $18 to $34 depending upon the lengths and options you need:
- A 1/8″ extension: Available in 6, 8, 16, and 20 foot lengths. ($8.99 to $12.99). (You might not need this for your iPod since the stereo Y-cable below comes in a 3 foot length. It may be long enough if you’re leaving your iPod next to the stereo.)
- A 1/8″ to RCA Stereo Y-Cable ($7.49)
- An optional 1/8″ audio splitter (up to $10.99): Get this if you have speakers connected to your computer that you would like to continue using. You won’t need this if you’re connecting your iPod to your stereo.
Here are links to the above items at Radio Shack’s web site. If you’re an “audiophile” you might look for high-end cables and connectors from Monster® Cable.
|1/8″ to RCA
|1/8″ Extension: 8, 16,
and 20 foot lengths
($8.99 to 12.99)
|1/8″ audio splitter
(up to $10.99)
Setup: What to Look For
If your computer is already setup with desktop speakers follow the cable from the speakers to the back of your computer. You’ll find they connect to a single lime green colored ‘jack’ or ‘port’. If you don’t have speakers on your PC, just look for the single lime green colored connection on the back of your computer. This is the “line out connection, and its opening is about the size of a pencil point. You might even see a symbol such as a circle with an arrow extending out of it next to the connection. Some computer makers may even label it “line out”.
If you want to connect your iPod to your home stereo you can connect the 1/8 inch connector to the headphone connection on your iPod. The RCA stero Y-cable will connect to your stereo. (Alternately, you can buy an iPod to stereo adapter at any home electronics store, but this method works fine and may bge less expensive.)
On the back of your home stereo look for an unused “Line In” or “Audio In” connection such as the “Auxiliary” input, or the “Tape In” input. On a stereo this will be a matched pair of connectors; one for the right speaker, the other for the left speaker. Typically the right (R) is red, and the left (L) is white. You might even see that they are labeled “R” and “L” respectively. (Using the Tape In connection also gives you the option of recording sound from your computer). Some stereos may have spare connections on the front of the system. Whatever you do, do not connect to any connection labeled “out”.
The 1/8″ to RCA stereo cable will run from the line out connection on the PC to the line in or audio in connection on your stereo. The single thin pin connects to the computer, and the two circular plugs and pins (RCA connections) will connect to your stereo.
Make sure your computer and stereo are turned off before connecting the cables. If you leave either of them on you may get a buzz of ‘feedback’ the instant you plug in the cables. This feedback could damage your PC sound system or your home stereo. Play it safe and turn off both your computer and stereo.
Also, make sure the cable that will run from your PC to your stereo is out of the way so no one will step on or trip over it. You wouldn’t want the wire to wear out from being stepped on, and you wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt tripping on the wires. Wear and tear on the cables could cause harmful feedback to develop.
If you’re using the optional audio splitter, start at step 2. If you aren’t using the audio splitter, start at step 1 then skip to step 5.
If you’re connecting an iPod to your stereo connect the pin of the 1/8″ extension or the stereo Y-Cable to the headphone connection on your iPod, then skip to step 6.
- If you decided not to use an audio splitter, disconnect the PC speakers from the lime green line out connection on the back of the computer, and plug the pin end of the 1/8″ extension into the line out connection on the computer. Skip to step 5.
- If you opted to get the audio splitter, unplug your computer speakers from the lime green “line out” connection on the computer, and plug the pin of the audio splitter into the line out connection.
- Take the pin from your PC speakers and connect it to one of the connections on the audio splitter. It doesn’t matter which one you connect to it.
- Connect the 1/8″ extension to the other connection on the audio splitter
- Connect the pin of the 1/8″ to RCA jack stereo Y-cable to the other end of the extension.
- At the back of your stereo, connect the red end of the cable to the red connection of an unused Audio In connection (Either Audio In, Line In, Auxiliary, or Tape In will do), then connect the white plug of the cable to the white connection on the stereo.
Now you can turn on your PC or iPod and stereo. Make sure the volume on the stereo is turned down low, and check that the stereo selector is set to the input you used for your computer (or iPod) connection. Then you can turn up the volume.
If you’ve connected an iPod to your stereo, the volume control on the iPod can also be used.
If you get any feedback, turn off the stereo, and make sure your cable connections are proper and correct.
I’ll discuss wireless connections in tomorrow’s post.
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