How to Connect a PC to an Audio Amplifier

by J.T. Barett

    Though many home computers have good speakers for personal music listening, it is not "room-filling" sound for entertaining; for that, you need to connect your PC to an audio amplifier. The amplifier provides added power to drive larger speakers while keeping the sound free from distortion. A traditional stereo has RCA connectors that accept input from your PC; newer stereos have USB inputs. USB audio eliminates the mild buzzing the computer's components generate. Either way, the connection is easy to do and takes only a few minutes, even for the technically challenged.

    RCA Adapter Cable

    Step 1

    Turn the amplifier and computer off.

    Step 2

    Locate the PC's audio connectors. These are round, color-coded jacks on the back of the computer --t he amplifier output jack is lime-green. Insert the 3.5mm stereo mini plug into the jack.

    Step 3

    Locate the RCA audio connectors on the back of the amplifier. These are grouped in pairs, with one connector in each pair colored red. Each set is marked according to function; look for a pair labeled "auxiliary," "aux," or "line in." Connect the red RCA plug on the adapter cable to the red RCA socket, then connect the remaining RCA plug to the other socket in the pair.

    Step 4

    Turn the amplifier on. Set the amplifier's input selector switch to "aux" or "line in."

    Step 5

    Turn the computer on. Click the speaker icon in your computer's system tray. Click the slider controls for "Applications" and "Device" and set each to about midway.

    Step 6

    Play a music selection through your favorite media program. You should hear the sound coming from your amplifier's speakers. Adjust the volume control on the stereo if the sound is too loud or soft.

    USB Cable

    Step 1

    Turn the amplifier and computer off.

    Step 2

    Connect the rectangular, flat end of the USB cable to a USB socket on your PC.

    Step 3

    Locate the USB connector on the back of your amplifier. The socket should be labeled "USB." It will have a different shape than the one on your computer: standard USB has a square shape and a mini-USB is rectangular but much smaller than the socket for the computer. Plug the USB connector into the socket on your amplifier.

    Step 4

    Turn the amplifier and computer on.

    Step 5

    Right-click the speaker icon in your computer's system tray, located at the bottom right side of the screen. Windows displays a menu of items from which to choose. Click "Playback devices." This brings up a tabbed window containing a list of playback devices; your amplifier should be one of them. Click the amplifier in the list to select it.

    Step 6

    Click the speaker icon. Click the slider controls for "Applications" and "Device" and set each to about midway.

    Step 7

    Play a music selection through your favorite media program. You should hear the sound coming from your amplifier's speakers. Adjust the volume control on the stereo if the sound is too loud or soft.

    Tips

    • If you hear music coming from only one speaker -- the left or the right, double-check the RCA connectors in back of the stereo. You may have one of the RCA plugs on the adapter cable plugged into the wrong socket. Simply unplug the misconnected RCA connector and plug it into the "aux" socket where it belongs.
    • If the music coming from the speakers is too loud and "mushy-sounding," you may have plugged the RCA connectors into the "phono" or "turntable" inputs by mistake. Your computer is overloading these inputs. Unplug the RCA connectors and plug them into the "aux" input sockets.
    • Distorted sound may also result from excessive signal coming from your computer. Click the speaker icon in the system tray and reduce the volume settings if necessary.

    Warnings

    • Before you turn the computer on, turn the volume control on the amplifier down to its lowest setting. Turn it up to a moderate level when Windows is ready. This prevents loud pops and clunks from the amplifier that can potentially damage your speakers.

    Required Items

    • Adapter cable (3.5mm stereo mini to dual RCA male plugs)
    • USB cable

    About the Author

    Chicago native J.T. Barett has a Bachelor of Science in physics from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing since 1991. He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute. He also contributed to the book, "Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance."