Your Computer’s Audio Connections

It’s just as it seems. An input is any pathway through which an audio signal can go IN to the computer. Most obvious is microphone IN or Line IN. An input accepts the output signal — an audio-frequency voltage — from an external … The inputs and outputs of a computer sound card work in a similar way”

Audio input: Supplied by a microphone. A microphone connects to the computer’s microphone jack by using a standard audio mini-DIN connector.

People were connecting their computers to their larger general Audio/Video systems long before Netflix and Hulu and all the other online content came streaming into your home over broadband Internet connections. Nowadays there is so much “content” out there to be had it is hard to believe you should have to pay for any of it! But size still matters. Why watch something on that little laptop when I have this big TV?! And once you get the video on the big screen you have to supersize the audio as well. Then again, sometimes you just want to listen to some music. Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, plus a zillion online radio stations? While there is a lot of video on the web, the Music is almost unlimited!

The “In’s and Out’s”:
Home audio amplifiers are pretty standardized as far as input and output levels. This includes “Integrated” Amplifiers (Preamp and power amp combined in a single chassis), as well as Receivers – both stereo and surround sound.

Stereo amplifiers and receivers have two analog RCA jack connectors for input for each device. All of these except the “phonon” inputs are at standard consumer “Line” levels.

Surround sound receivers generally have other types of inputs (digital) and outputs that you normally will not find on stereo receivers/amplifiers. Surround sound amps and receivers have all of their analog inputs and outputs (except phonon) at this same level. You can use any of these: Aux, Tape, Tuner, CD, etc for connecting your computers Line level or Headphone level output. Line level should be the preference if available. You may need to turn down the headphone output level a bit if the audio sounds distorted. Remember to go from output to input.

“Power” Amplifiers are another story. Home audio power amplifiers also have “Line” level inputs, but they have very little in the way of volume and tone controls and switching. They simply amplify the signal. These are not recommended for connecting to your computer.

How to Wire it: Computer OUT to stereo IN
The easiest way to connect the audio output of your computer is to use the “line” output of your sound card. We recommend a stereo 3.5mm mini phone plug to dual RCA cable or mini plug to dual RCA jack adapter with a RCA jack stereo cable to go to the audio input of your sound system, such as the “aux” input. The longer the length of the cable run, the more the quality of the cable will effect sound quality. Specifically, the lower the capacitance per foot of the cable, the less high frequency loss there will be.

Reverse Wired – Stereo OUT to Computer IN:
You can use the same cabling options to go the other way. For instance, if you want to record the radio or music on your records and save it as digital music, such as an mp3, you may want to connect your stereo receiver/tuner/turntable to your computer in order to “record” the music to your computer?s hard drive. You can then edit the audio files and playback music directly from your computer; and, even better, convert the files to wav, lossless or MP3’s with the appropriate software for subsequent transfer to mobile devices.

To accomplish this, you need to connect the audio input of your computer to the audio output of your stereo receiver. We recommend a 3.5mm mini phone plug to Rca jack adapter with a RCA jack stereo cable which plugs into the “line” or “mic” input of your computer?s sound card. If it’s a “mic” input you may have to tweak the levels down, since mics usually have a very low output. You then connect the RCA jack stereo ends to the main audio output of your stereo receiver, if it has one, or to a rout able output such as one of the “tape” output jacks. Many audio systems have tape ins and outs so you can connect up your computer through these to use it as a tape recorder as well as a sound source.