The average computer user today has hundreds, if not thousands of audio tracks on their computer. Some users simply use this store of songs as a library from which to download playlists to their iPods and mp3 players – most of their listening is then done on portable audio devices.
But what if you’d like to use your desktop or laptop computer with all its storage, organisational and media player convenience as the heart of a home audio system? Well, you’ve basically got three options:
- You can sit at your computer with your headphones plugged into the headphone jack and enjoy a solitary listening experience. This might provide relief while you’re working on a boring Excel spreadsheet, but no one else can share the music and you’re tethered to your PC.
- You can plug a set of purpose-made computer speakers into your machine – generally via the headphone jack. Though high-end computer speaker sets can produce good quality sound, their small speakers, the often basic equalisation capabilities of onboard computer media players, and the limited quality of audio chips, particularly in laptops, means that your music rarely sounds as good through these speaker sets as it does through a proper stereo system.
- Or…you can connect your computer to your stereo and get the quality of sound you were used to before songs became little pieces of magnetic memory.
Connecting Your Computer to a Stereo
Hooking your computer up to a stereo system is actually very easy. All you need is a cable which splits the signal coming out of your computer’s headphone socket to a pair of RCA jacks (the photo below shows an example of such a cable).
You then simply insert the small headphone jack into your computer’s headphone socket and plug the RCA jacks into the Audio In (or Line In or Aux) RCA sockets on the back of your stereo’s amplifier (also known as a receiver on home theatre systems).
Set your stereo’s input selector to the appropriate channel (Audio In), launch the media player on your computer, select the songs you want to listen to and hit Play. The whole process will take you about three minutes and you can now take advantage of your stereo’s superior equalisation and amplification capabilities along with what will almost certainly be it’s higher quality speakers.
A Step Further
But what about those less-than-great onboard audio chips?
Hooking up to a stereo will likely be such an improvement over what you’re used to that the quality of your computer’s audio chip (which converts digital input into the analogue signal coming out of your headphone socket) may not be an issue. However, if you want to go one step further there is simple solution.
You can take your computer’s onboard audio chip out of the loop by using an external digital-to-analogue converter (found in most computer shops). One end of this converter plugs into a USB port on your computer, the other end has a headphone socket.
Manufacturers of these devices claim that the audio chips they contain are superior to those in many computers, and that by converting the signal externally they avoid certain forms of interference that can affect analogue signal conversion inside a computer.
So, what are you waiting for? Buy a cable, connect your PC to your stereo and set those mp3s free! A few minutes is all it takes to dramatically enhance your listening pleasure.
To see a demonstration of how to connect your computer to a sound system check out this video.