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Connecting your computer to your stereo

Learn your options for getting sound from your computer

Steve Silberman from AudioQuest visited Crutchfield to share some techniques for hooking our computers up to our stereos and getting better sound.

Connecting your computer to your stereo | Video Transcript

Analog connection
There's a number of great ways you can connect your computer to your stereo. The simplest way to do it is just using an analog cable. Pretty much every computer out there today has a headphone jack so you can take advantage of that. You can simply just plug a mini 3.5mm cable into your computer, and if you have one that has stereo RCAs on the other end you're connected and you're up and running and you've got computer audio.

Optical digital connection
If you want to do something that's a little bit more sophisticated , let's say that you have a surround sound receiver that has available digital inputs on it or you just purchased a new DAC (digital to audio converter). With an Apple computer, they typically have a Toslink out. So you can get one of these optical cables. It plugs into the same port as the headphone, overrides the headphone and now you've got digital out so you can send all the data that's stored either in your computer or on the external hard drive. You can send that digitally across to the receiver, or to the DAC, and have it decoded there and that will give you significantly higher resolution than just using the analog output.

HDMI connection
A lot of computers also come now with an HDMI connection. HDMI is pretty much the standard for audio/video connections in the home theater world. If you have an HDMI connection on your computer you could simply take advantage of that. You could use an HDMI cable to go from the computer to the stereo. I would say this would give you equal performance to the Toslink , not better, not worse, but pretty much equal.

USB connection
The trend though is moving towards USB cables. There's a number of products coming out that have digital USB inputs on them. And with the USB, you simply connect to one of the USB ports and you bring that to a DAC and now you've got a transmission line between the computer and the DAC. These tend to offer the highest performance of all your different options.

So beyond the different connections that are available, there's different quality cables. This is a pretty generic cable. It uses insulation or a dielectric that will have some interference. It also uses stranded wire which has some interesting distortions and interactions.

What we like to do at AudioQuest is we'll use wire that is solid core metal so there's less distortion there, and we use a dielectric or an insulation that has very little interference. The other thing we'll do is we'll pay attention to the actual pins. How we plate the pins, whether they're plated with gold or they're plated with silver will have a direct consequence on how good the cable sounds.

  • Gus from Worcester

    Posted on 2/11/2019

    Everytime I connect via phone jack (PC) to analog input ( receiver) it sounds much more natural than through USB. I don't know why. If anyone has a reason, please let me know.

  • Aldo Celeste from Little Egg Harbor

    Posted on 4/12/2018

    I have a LAN home setup. Can I use ethernet connections from computer to A/V receiver (ONKYO TX-NR656 purchased from Crutchfield), with or without a router?

  • Bob H from New York

    Posted on 4/9/2017

    How would I be able to stream pc (windows10) system audio to a stereo with wifi capability? The pc and the stereo are too far apart to make a physical connection practical.

  • Douglas Gapinski from Hillsdale

    Posted on 1/12/2017

    It's nice to see honesty, coupled with integrity. Keep doing what you're doing!! Thank you.

  • Nick from Las Vegas

    Posted on 8/22/2016

    This sounds good - but the question is where to you plug the cables in - I've tried it all the steps and nothing works. The receiver will not accept the computer connection - there is only a black screen as soon as the computer comes on. And, no sound.