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How to Connect the Computer to the Hi-Fi Amplifier on the Sound System

A typical home PC is capable of producing high quality sound, but this is usually kiboshed by having those little pipsqueak speakers. Previously I have explained how to replace the computer speakers with big hi-fi speakers and this produces better sound, but sometimes it's important to produce sound which is louder as well as high quality. This is possible by plugging the computer sound output into the hi-fi amplifier on the sound system.

The computer outputs sound usually through a 3.5mm stereo jackplug, so the thing to do is to make a cable with that on one end. On the other end of the cable you need something that goes into the LINE IN on the amplifier. On some sound systems this is labelled AUX. Hi-Fi amplifiers vary considerably, and on some there are phono sockets, on some 5-pin din plugs, and there are also some with a stereo jack socket.

Sometimes it's possible to buy a cable that's exactly right. That's good, and will save you having to make a cable. See Cables and Leads

If you can't buy a cable to connect the computer sound output to the amplifier, you can make a cable by getting the right plugs and wiring them up. Stereo sound has a left channel (usually white), a right channel (usually red), and a ground connector which is shared between both and is the braid of the outer.

On the amplifier there are sometimes various inputs such as tuner, phono, aux, tape, mic, etc. Even though none of these is labelled "computer" you can still connect a computer up, as the amplifier is unaware it's not a tuner, or even a phono.

Where the amplifier has only MIC as input, it's much more sensitive than line-in, so the sound from the computer must be made much quieter before putting it into the amplifier. You can do this with a potentiometer, or by turning the sound down on the computer. The potentiometer is best, because the other way there is a risk of noise from radio interference.

Even if you can't solder and you can't get a cable, you can still connect the computer to the hi-fi amp by cutting plugs off other things. Think carefully before cutting them off, and leave plenty of wire. The wiring then consists of connecting everything's ground/earth connection together and connecting the computer's left/right outputs to the hi-fi's left/right inputs.

Something I've found works quite well is to connect up a mixing desk so that various inputs can all go into the amplifier and be controlled separately. This also helps in that the mixing desk is a pre-amp.

To use a computer as a recording studio, it's possible to separate the computer inputs and computer outputs by using two mixing desks and this then makes it possible to have proper FOLDBACK so you can hear the backing tracks on the headphones without it getting back into the recording channel.

If you want to get your computer to output via an FM radio set, you can do this by a different method. See FM Transmitter Shop