How to Connect a Laptop to RCA Jacks

by Spanner Spencer

Connecting your laptop to a stereo system can be useful for a variety of applications. You may want to play a game or video through your home cinema system or play music stored on your laptop through your stereo's speakers. Although laptops have a headphone output that can connect to your stereo system, this is typically a 3.5 mm jack rather than the RCA phono connectors that are standard for a stereo's input. This difference in connections can be overcome by using conversion cable equipped with a 3.5 mm stereo jack on one end and twin RCA jacks on the other.

Insert the cable's 3.5 mm jack into the laptop's headphone port.

Turn your stereo system off and connect the cable's RCA phono jacks to a spare audio input. Take note of the color coding, ensuring the red RCA jack is in the red RCA connector on the stereo and the white jack is in the white connector.

Click the speaker icon in the taskbar on your laptop's desktop. A volume slider control appears. Reduce the volume setting to approximately half.

Turn your stereo on and select the audio input to which your laptop is connected.

Begin playback of your music, game, video or other multimedia content on your laptop. Its audio is routed through your stereo to your speakers.

Gradually adjust the laptop's volume until the audio is clear and free from distortion. Once the laptop's audio level is correct, increase or decrease the volume using the stereo's controls, rather than the laptop's.

Tips

  • You will not damage your stereo if the RCA phono jacks are the wrong way around, but the stereo signal will be reversed. For example, the right stereo channel will be heard in the left speaker.
  • Jack-to-RCA adapters can also be used to change the connections on an existing cable.
  • Conversion cables are available in different lengths, so ensure you buy one that matches your needs. For example, if the laptop is next to the stereo, a shorter cable will be adequate. If you intend to position the laptop farther from the stereo, buy a longer cable to facilitate this.
  • If your laptop's output volume is too high or too low, distortions or noise will be heard from the stereo's speakers. Setting the laptop's volume to a lower setting initially is recommended to protect the stereo's input.

Items you will need

  • 3.5 mm stereo jack to twin RCA phono jacks cable

About the Author

Spanner Spencer has been writing since 2005 for a variety of print and online publications. Focusing on entertainment, gaming and technology, his work has been published by Eurogamer.net, "The Escapist," "GamesTM," "Retro Gamer," "Empire," "Total PC Gaming" "The Guardian," among others. Spencer is a qualified medical electronics engineer with a Business and Technology Education Council certificate in technical writing from Huddersfield Technical College.

Photo Credits

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