How about connecting your PC to your home stereo or even to your home theater in order to get a better audio for your games, videos and audio files? In this tutorial we will show you how to make this connection using regular analog connection and also digital connection (both coaxial and optical, also known as SPDIF).

The first thing you need to check is what kind of connection both your PC and receiver support. You can hook your PC to your stereo or home theater system using three kinds of connection:

  • Analog connection: This is the standard connection all PCs have. If your PC and your sound system don’t have digital connection, this is the connection you will use.
  • Digital connection (coaxial): Use a single RCA-RCA cable. Because it is digital, no noise is produced. Not all PCs have this kind of connection.
  • Digital connection (optical): Uses a fiber optic cable. This is the best connection available. Not all PCs have this kind of connection.

To discover what kind of connections your PC supports, take a look at its back and compare it to Figure 1.

How To Connect Your PC to Your Home Stereo or Home TheaterFigure 1: PC connections.

As we mentioned, all PCs have analog audio output. This output is green and labeled line out or speaker out. Digital outputs are optional.

Coaxial digital audio output uses a female RCA connector (usually yellow or orange) and labeled “SPDIF Out” or “Digital Out” or similar. Pay attention because some video cards also have a yellow RCA output that is used by composite video output. Since this video output is available on the video card, it is found besides the video output connector (15-pin female blue connector), on the same metallic plate. As you can see in Figure 1, the yellow female connector is located on a different metallic plate from the video card, so it is digital audio output, not composite video output.

By the way, the other two connectors found on the same I/O bracket where the digital outputs are located in Figure 1 (one is orange and the other is blue) are the center/subwoofer and rear outputs, which are used by analog surround PC speakers. These outputs are not used to connect your PC to your home stereo or home theater system.

Optical digital audio output is the easiest one to find, as it uses a very unique connector, which is black and squared, as you can see in Figure 1.

Some high-end motherboards have on-board digital audio outputs, so in this case the location of the digital audio connectors won’t be on an I/O bracket like the example we are giving in Figure 1, but soldered to the motherboard and next to the keyboard connector.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.