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How Can I Play the Music on my Computer Through my Stereo?

RCA audio cables can be used to play music from your computer on your stereo.
Sound cards enable the recording and playback of sound.
Many people play their music through their computer.
Soft MP3 players have made it easy and convenient to build ad-hoc playlists for any occasion or mood.
A laptop can be placed close to stereo systems to simplify setup and keep wires out of walkways.
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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2014
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Music files have revolutionized the way people listen to and archive music. Soft MP3 players, or software designed to play music files, have made it easy and convenient to build ad-hoc playlists for any occasion or mood. Although programmable compact disk (CD) players allowed some flexibility to create playlists, the ease of clicking to add tunes to a software interface makes other forms of programming feel downright archaic and restrictive by comparison. It’s no wonder then that people want the option of using soft MP3 players to listen to music files through the main stereo system or entertainment center. Luckily, it’s an easy thing to do, and it can be done wired or wirelessly.

The most common and least expensive way to route music from your computer to your stereo system is to run an RCA audio cable from the sound card on the computer to the stereo receiver. All sound cards are made with at least one Line Out jack, used to power computer speakers. The jack is normally a 3.5mm mini phone plug. An inexpensive adapter that features a 3.5mm stereo jack at one end, and two female RCA jacks at the other will work well here. This will connect to a standard RCA stereo cable. The opposite end of the cable will plug into the stereo or surround sound receiver. Here you’ll need an available Audio Line In RCA port, which may be marked Aux for auxiliary.

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After the connection is made, set the volume down before powering up the receiver. Change the receiver mode to auxiliary (rather than tuner, CD, DVD, TV, etc.), and slowly turn the volume up. You may need to boost the volume control of soft MP3 player as well.

Advanced sound cards might also have other Line Out options, such as Digital Out. The instructions are the same, substituting a digital cable for the RCA cable. The receiver will also need a Digital Audio-In port.

Though wired methods are inexpensive, they have the disadvantage of requiring a physical cable to run from the computer to the stereo system. If the computer is a desktop located in a different room from the stereo or entertainment center, this can be impractical. A laptop provides a good mobile medium for music libraries, as it can be set rather close to the stereo system to simplify things and keep wires out of walkways.

When hard wiring your music connection isn’t practical, another method is to go wireless. In this case a small transmitter is connected to the Line Out port of the sound card, and a matching receiver is connected to the Audio Line In port of the receiver. Music from the computer is silently broadcast via radio waves from the transmitter to the receiver. The receiver interprets the radio signals and translates them back into an audible signal to play through the speakers of the entertainment center.

Wireless stereo transmitters vary in design and pricing and a few models are expressly designed for iTunes music. Others include composite video ports to send not just audio, but video signals between the computer and entertainment center. Cables might be included or sold separately. For more information check your local electronics stores or your favorite online retailers.

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Discuss this Article

anon929295
Post 38

@jimc 093: Try the headphone jack.

HansenScott
Post 37

You have to have a Bluetooth receiver for this purpose. Trust me: the sound quality is better than the other way.

anon327234
Post 35

How do I access my music files on an external USB drive over an ipad? I would like to connect the USB to a receiver's RGB input or optical input via a device (not sure if ther is one). I would then like to access this device on my ipad (please suggest an app) to select and play content.

anon324181
Post 34

I have gone through four earphone jacks in my laptop as I use it to teach school in four different buildings and have to continually plug and unplug smartboards and amps into the earphone jack with 1/8 inch cables. Is there a cordless option where the part connected to my laptop is small enough that I can just leave it in as I transport the computer, hence removing the wear and tear of the earphone jack?

anon314026
Post 33

I have an RCA Lyra wireless transmitter/receiver hooked up to the stereo and it works very well.This is a very easy way to play the mp3's through the stereo and into any speaker zone.

anon289101
Post 32

I don't know if anyone has mentioned this, but your iPhone/iPod Touch has an audio out jack. It's not the headphone jack at the top, but through the 30-pin connector at the bottom. Audio will be significantly quieter through the headphone jack because the signal it carries is designed just to power headphones. When you output the signal to a stereo it sounds weak. There are adapters that you can buy to go from the 30-pin connecter on the bottom to 2x RCA (red/white) that will plug into a stereo system and sound significantly better. The cables, even aftermarket, will run you between $30-40. Otherwise, you could stream wirelessly to the stereo through an Airport Express, but depending on your router it sometimes skips and lags a bit. Perhaps I have set it up wrong and that's my fault, but on occasion it does skip for me. It could also be the horrible router my ISP provided me for FibreOp, which I can't change without jumping through a bunch of hoops. Anyway, I hope this helps anyone else trying to figure these things out.

anon276710
Post 30

I use AirPort express to stream my audio to my home theater. iTunes streams the files (mp3 or any audio of iTunes and DTS files) wirelessy, then the AirPort express send the audio via toslink cable to my home theater. I can even control iTunes with an iPod, or android, wirelessy!

yesshop
Post 26

Wirelessly moving music from gadgets to the stereo; downloaded would really sound much better coming through my impressively large speakers, and you don't even need a Wi-Fi network, just some music you want to play loudly.

anon201901
Post 23

Anon6656: The reason your computer and IPod play at substantially lower volume on your stereo has to do, likely, with the compression format/MP3 etc. Those formats will play at low volumes because the song is highly compressed. I've run into that problem before; different audio sources IE CD v MP3etc play at different volumes. There's no fix.

anon163168
Post 22

I would like to listen to Pandora music through my stereo receiver/house speakers in a different room from my computer. I have a unused telephone port and wire that is in the other room, near the stereo receiver. Can I use a jack to go from my computer sound card to the current telephone wall port then end up at my stereo receiver?

The house is already hard wired for a telephone. Can I then purchase an adapter to go from the telephone jack/end in other room and connect to my stereo receiver? Make any sense? Thanks.

anon154048
Post 21

I have been doing this exact wired connection for years from my computer to my stereo and a few months ago it just stopped working. Any troubleshooting suggestions would be appreciated?

anon147576
Post 20

Do any of you know how i can wirelessly play music through my home theatre system from my MacBook Pro?

I know there are transmitters out there i just don't know what will be compatible with what i have and if it will be able to transmit iTunes as well as Pandora internet radio. My receiver is a Yamaha AV htr 5960. Thanks.

bodryn
Post 19

I use a quick and easy solution to pipe computer audio to stereo receivers: I have a CCrane FM transmitter plugged in to the computer's green audio 3.5mm output jack. The transmitter runs on 110v or batteries and you can tune it to any frequency you wish. Any FM stereo or radio in your home can receive it like an ordinary radio station. You may have to tweak the receiver antennas though, for best results.

anon142994
Post 17

I recently bought a wireless audio extender and although it works fine with the music from Internet, it does not work with I-tunes. Is there something I am missing?

Thanks for your help!

anon141869
Post 16

the answer to all your problems is solved with a AUX cord. as long as both media players have a headphone jack, then it should work. cheers.

anon113299
Post 15

does anyone know how to play music from a laptop utilizing pandora radio to a home stereo unit? I need your help. Please. thank you.

ikke1495
Post 14

I want to play music from my computer using my mobile phone speakers (Nokia E75) because my computer speakers are broken. Any idea how to do that? Anyone?

anon82982
Post 12

Best Buy has a cable with the 1/8" stereo tip for the line out on one end and two male RCA plugs on the other end to plug into the stereo AUX input.

Model: DX-AD104 | SKU: 9222352

anon72012
Post 10

Not sure if i am on the right site to ask. I would like to play my mp3 through my home stereo. My stereo is a technics separate, not sure of actual model. any help please? oh i don't have usb connection on the back of the stereo. Thank you.

anon61020
Post 9

I connected a RCA Audio cable from my sound card of my PC to my new Dennon Receiver. I can get the music but I also get a loud "HUMM" like a grounding problem. If I connect my laptop the same way, i get no "HUMM". But I use the headphone jack on my laptop and the sound card from my PC.

Any ideas how I can eliminate the "HUMM"?

anon57764
Post 8

My solution is to get a cheap computer and set it up with my stereo equipment. A netbook would also work really well. I run an old Toshiba laptop with wireless connection.

I installed iTunes and then setup home sharing with all my computers in the house that have music. The computer is connected to stereo with mini-stereo jack for computer side and RCA for amp side. Works beautifully.

I also use this for piping through internet radio and a great classical service called Naxos Web Radio. All in all I barely use my CDs anymore, sad to say. My kids can't believe it! :-)

roseapple
Post 7

I have Windows Vista Home Premium 64 Bit.When I create a slideshow in PSE6 it will not play my MP3 music file, I have to convert it to WAV. Why?

Rocksterr
Post 5

To anon6656, Try connecting to a different set of inputs on your receiver. Typically, turntable inputs are more sensitive than auxiliaries.

anon6656
Post 3

Anyone know why my computer and iPod play at a substantially lower volume on my stereo receiver (than, say, over-the-air radio)? I've maxed all computer and iTunes volume controls. Anyone know how to fix it?

anon3683
Post 2

I just bought a ROKU Soundbridge M1001.

Wired or wireless from network router to the M1001, which plugs into a stereo device input jack.

Manage my Rhapsody account with a remote, sound through the stereo. Songs are buffered so no dropout in my signal of about 50 feet from router to stereo. Now I want to get wireless speakers, to shorten my outdoor wire runs.

jimc0923
Post 1

I ran a digital audio cable from the sound card on my pc to my surround receiver ... but still have no access to the music stored in computer files. What have I missed?

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