How to Connect Stereos to Computers With USB Adapters

by David Lipscomb

Computers are increasingly becoming media hubs, offering access your entire iTunes collection along with your other audio files. Modern computers have multiple audio outputs for connecting to a stereo, all of which might be occupied. Alternately, you may have a computer that lacks an internal sound card, necessitating an external adapter to add audio outputs. A solution is to use a USB adapter, featuring dedicated audio outputs for connection to a stereo or a pair of headphones.

Stereo Connections

Most stereos, whether home theater or two-channel audio oriented, use conventional RCA audio jacks that take a standard 3.5 millimeter-to-RCA audio cable. USB sound card adapters are designed with this in mind. Look for a spare set of red and white audio jacks on the back of your stereo labeled "CD," "AUX" or "VIDEO." Avoid jacks labeled "PHONO," since heavy distortion results if anything other than a turntable is connected to these inputs.

USB Adapter

Now that you've identified the jacks you'll use on your stereo, you need to find an adapter that fits that requirement. USB adapters typically use a 3.5mm jack for headphone or stereo audio output, sometimes paired with a microphone input (which you can ignore for now). The adapter generally appears as a small dongle, with a USB connector at one end and the 3.5mm jacks at the other.

Setting it Up

Turn on your computer and insert the USB adapter. Allow a few seconds for the computer to recognize the device and load the drivers. Install the included setup software if the device's instructions direct you to do so, following the on-screen prompts. Connect the audio cable's 3.5mm plug into the USB adapter's audio jack (signified with the image of a pair of headphones). Connect the audio cable's RCA plugs to the RCA jacks on your stereo. To test your connection, turn on your stereo and begin playback of a music file on your PC. Adjust the volume of the adapter (if applicable) and stereo until you have reached a comfortable listening level.

Tips and Warnings

If you're running audio to a speaker and still require headphones, you can use a 3.5mm splitter for audio to both. If the adapter you use has volume controls, you might be able to turn it up all the way, using the volume control on your keyboard or stereo for fine-tuning. Always remember to keep your stereo turned off while working on audio connections of any type. Small short circuits may otherwise damage or disable inputs on the stereo itself. If you do not hear anything from the computer, check that the audio from the adapter is not muted. This is signified by a small icon in your system tray featuring a speaker with a red line through it. Tap the "MUTE" button on the adapter if this is the case. Make sure you do not have a flashing "MUTE" or "TAPE" icon on your stereo's display. If either icon is displayed, turn the receiver's volume down first, then tap the "MUTE" or "TAPE MONITOR" button on your receiver.

About the Author

David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images