Connecting Your Mac to Your Stereo

How do I connect my Mac to my stereo? I want to record audio (like LPs and tapes) and also want my Mac’s sound to come through my stereo system’s speakers.

Connecting your Mac to your stereo is a great way to improve sound quality tenfold. Most Macs have only one speaker, and it’s usually a poor sounding speaker at that. Luckily, most Macs (save a few PowerBook Duos) have a headphone jack. You can use this port to connect your Mac not only headphones, but to a stereo system as well.

Mac to Stereo: You need a 1/8″ stereo jack adapter or cable that from the port on the back of your computer to a dual-phono RCA connection. It looks like a headphone connection that converts to the connection for audio ports that most receivers have (RCA connectors are usually red and white or black and white). Turn off your computer and plug in the connection that looks like a headphone connector. On the back of your receiver or stereo you should see two RCA connections that match the end of your cable. There should be a connection labeled AUX – you can use this. If AUX is taken by something you can use CD or DVD or anything else really except PHONO or the connection for a turntable.

Make sure you do not connect the cable from your Mac into any yellow RCA looking jacks. These are called composite jacks and are used for video only.

Once you have connected this cable from your Mac to your receiver or amplifier, you will no longer hear sound from the internal speaker. This connection will allow you to amplify your computer’s sound significantly, as well as let you record any audio coming from your Mac (MP3s, games, movies, etc.) onto tape, Mini Disc, DAT, or any other recording device you have connected to your stereo.

Stereo to Mac: To connect your computer so you can record audio from your stereo onto your Mac, you can use the same cable listed above – unless your Mac has RCA connections on the back (like the 660av, 840av, 7100av, 8100av, 7500, 7600, 8500, 8600, 9600, and some Beige G3s). If you have a Mac with RCA audio connections on the back, you can use a straight RCA to RCA cable. Otherwise you will need to get the 1/8″ stereo jack adapter or cable that goes to a dual-phono RCA connection.

Turn off your computer and connect the 1/8″ stereo jack into the microphone port on your Mac. If you cannot find it, it may not be there. A lot of older PowerBooks do not have microphone ports, nor do new models made by Apple (they only allow analog audio in through a special USB adapter). The RCA connectors on the other end of the 1/8″ jack go into your receiver’s tape out connector – some receivers have a connection simply labeled AUDIO OUT or just OUT. Remember not to connect any cables to any yellow RCA connectors on your receiver, if they exist.

Once you have connected the cables, you should be able to record audio on your Mac from your receiver. You may need to change some settings in your Sound control panel in order to record audio. It may be set to use your internal mic or your CD drive for audio input. To record your audio, you can use any number of programs, including SimpleText (go to the “Sound” menu then select “Record…”).

If you want to hear both CDs or LPs playing and your Mac’s audio, you can connect your Mac to a small mixer and send the mixer’s combined audio to your receiver. You can go the opposite direction as well: If you wish, you can send audio from your tape deck and CD player time to your Mac at the same.

If your intention is to record LPs, you will need to make sure that you connect your turntable to the PHONO RCA jacks on the back of your receiver or amplifier. Do not connect the turntable’s RCA jacks directly to your Mac – the audio levels are way too low. The sound from records needs to be “RIAA equalized,” and the receiver usually has a place to connect the grounding wire (the Mac does not). The PHONO jack is designed specifically to boost and equalize the turntable’s input.

There are endless uses for recording audio from your Mac, as well as recording audio to your Mac. The Macintosh was designed to be a multimedia tool, and these steps will help you experience some of the great things you can do with your Mac.

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