Connecting Your iPod to a Home Stereo - dummies

Connecting Your iPod to a Home Stereo

By Tony Bove, Cheryl Rhodes

Home stereo systems come in many shapes and sizes, from an audiophile’s monster component racks to a kid’s itty-bitty boom box. We’re not talking about alarm-clock radios, but stereos with speakers that allow you to add another input device, such as a portable CD player.

Component-style stereo systems typically include a receiver (which offers a preamp/amplifier with a volume control, and a tuner to receive FM radio). Some separate these functions into separate components — such as a preamp, an amplifier, and a tuner. To find a place to connect your iPod or computer to a home stereo, look for RCA-type connections that are marked AUX IN (for auxiliary input), CD IN (for connecting a CD player), or TAPE IN (for tape deck input). All-in-one stereos and boom boxes that are all one piece typically don’t have connections for audio input, although there are exceptions — look at the back and sides of the unit for any RCA-type connections.

You can connect a CD or tape player to most stereos with RCA-type cables — one (typically red or black) for the right channel, and one (typically white if the other is black, or white or black if the other is red) for the left channel. All you need is a cable with a stereo mini-plug on one end, and RCA-type connectors on the other, as shown in Figure 1. Stereo mini-plugs have two black bands on the plug, but a mono mini-plug has only one black band.

Figure 1: RCA-type connectors (left) and a stereo mini-plug (right).

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Connect the stereo mini-plug to the iPod dock headphone/line-out connection, or to the headphone/line-out connection on the top of the iPod. Connect the left and right connectors to the stereo system’s audio input — whatever connections are available, such as AUX IN (for auxiliary input); TAPE IN (for tape deck input); or CD IN (for CD player input).

Don’t use the PHONO IN connection (for phonograph input) on most stereos. These connections are for phonographs (turntables) and aren’t properly matched for other kinds of input devices. If you do this, you might get a loud buzzing sound that could damage your speakers.

You can control the volume from the iPod by using the scroll wheel, or from an iPod shuffle by using the volume control. This controls the volume of the signal from the iPod. Stereo systems typically have their own volume control to raise or lower the volume of the amplified speakers. For optimal sound quality when using a home stereo, set the iPod volume at less than half the maximum output and adjust your listening volume by using your stereo controls. By doing this, you prevent over-amplification, which can cause distortion and reduce audio quality.