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What are line output converters?

Answers to 8 common questions about line output converters

Before an LOC

Adding an amplifier to your vehicle's sound system is a great way to add more volume, and more depth and detail to your tunes, especially if you still have the factory stereo. But factory stereos don't have the preamp outputs needed to connect an amp. That's when a line output converter can help.

Q: What is a line output converter? 

A: A line output converter, or LOC for short, converts a speaker-level output signal into an RCA preamp-level signal. This lets you connect the radio to the amplifier. It can also be used to connect a new radio to a car's factory amp (see below).

Q: How can I connect an amplifier to my car stereo that doesn't have RCA preamp outputs?

A: Over the years, we've been asked thousands of times, "How do I install a line output converter?" It's a great question. If your stereo doesn’t have preamp outputs, or not enough of them, a line output converter is a great solution. You connect the stereo’s speaker wires to the LOC’s inputs and use RCA cables to run the signal from the LOC to your amplifier. 

How to install a line output converter

Q: Do factory radios have preamp outputs?

A: It's extremely rare for a factory radio to have preamp outputs, so an LOC provides the connections you need to add an amp. Many folks don't want to replace their factory radio, because of its look in the dash or the fact they have a leased vehicle. However, they can still upgrade the sound in their system by tapping into the speaker wires for the audio signal. A line output converter provides the connectivity needed to do it in most cases.

AudioControl LC2iB 2-channel line output converter

The AudioControl LC2iB is a popular LOC for adding an amp or powered sub to an audio system.

Q: Will I lose the sound from the speakers connected to the wires I'm tapping for the line output converter?

A: Normally you would cut the speaker wires and run them to the LOC, then run new speaker wires from your amp back to the other side of the cut wires (to send signal to your speakers).

But if you’re adding an amp to power additional speakers or a subwoofer, then you’ll just tap into the stereo’s speaker wires to pick up the audio signal needed to feed your amp. As long as you’re only tapping the wires (using wire taps or PosiTaps, for example), then you'll still get audio from those speakers, and the LOC will get the signal it needs for your amp to power the additional speakers.

Q: Why are some line output converters much more expensive than others?

A: Some converters provide more features and power handling than others. So, it's important to know the total power output of the signal going into LOC you choose. We list the maximum RMS wattage that can go into to the line output converters we sell. 

In terms of added features, some converters include higher preamp output voltages, which keeps the audio signal to your amp ultra-clean. Others can include bass restoration circuitry or equalizers on board too. It's all a matter of the power you'll be working with and how much you want to tweak your system.

Q: Are there amps that don't require a line output converter?

A: Yes, definitely. Amplifiers that offer speaker-level inputs don't require a separate line output converter to tap into existing speaker wires to get their signal. Many powered subwoofers offer this feature, too. The speaker-to-line level conversion is done inside the amplifier. Check out our selection of amplifiers with speaker-level inputs.

Speaker level inputs

This amp includes an adapter that lets you connect your speaker wires directly, without needing a line output converter. The adapter plugs into the amp's "high level input" connection.

Q: Would I ever want to use a line output converter over an amp with speaker-level inputs?

A: As mentioned above, some upgraded converters offer additional features that an amplifier you're considering doesn't have, such as on-board equalizers, higher voltages on the preamp outputs, or restoration circuitry that resets the factory system's equalizer to a flat setting. This lets you start from scratch in terms of setting up the sound the way you want it. So, it really depends on what type of system you want to create.

Q: Someone said I need a line output converter to install a new stereo. Why is that?

A: Line output converters are sometimes also needed to install a new stereo in a vehicle with a separate factory amplifier. They’re used in conjunction with vehicle-specific wiring adapters to make the new high-powered stereo work with the factory amp. They often offer gain adjustments that let you balance the output from new radio to the input sensitivity of the factory amp for the best sound. When you use our OutfitMyCar™ application to shop for a new radio, we'll let you know if an LOC is needed.

More questions?

So even if you're working with a radio with no RCA outputs, you can still add some amplification to your speakers or add a subwoofer. If you have additional questions, check with one of our knowledgeable Advisors by email, phone, or online chat. We're here to help.

line output converter installed
  • Charles J Robinson from Buda

    Posted on 6/16/2017

    One more question. How do I test the preamp outputs from a LOC to make sure voltage levels are good, and equal on both channels?

  • Edwardo from Brownsville, texas

    Posted on 6/18/2017

    I want to install an lc8i on my 2016 f150 which comes with a sony factory system. However, i am told i need to use the "summing" jumpers because the factory amp has a built in crossover. So what is the best way to wire the lc8i?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/19/2017

    Eduardo, great question. If you bought your LC8i or your amplifier from Crutchfield, then our Tech Support team will be able to help you figure the best way to get to install that AudioControl piece. Have your invoice on hand when you call because they'll need some information from that. If you bought your gear somewhere else, you can still get ur world-class supporto for only $30.

  • Charles J Robinson from Buda

    Posted on 7/22/2017

    So... no response on testing the outputs for voltage consistancy between channels on a LOC?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/26/2017

    Charles, I checked with Tech Support and they suggested using a Sine wave test tone of appropriate frequency and measure the loaded output of the LOC with an AC meter. Hope that helps! Keep in mind that if you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • Jay G from Allentown

    Posted on 10/26/2017

    Will a 2 channel LOC do the job if I have a factory stereo, 2 door speakers, 2 rear pannel speakers , a subwoofer enclosed along with a 5 channel amp?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/30/2017

    Jay, if you don't mind losing fade control, the 2-channel will work, but you might consider upgrading to a 4-channel. I've passed your question along to an Advisor to help you find the right solution for your system.

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