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How to Play MP3 Files on Your Home Stereo Without a Computer (Page 1 of 2)

Ready To Put Your CDs In Storage?

If you are like many music listeners, you have ripped all of your CDs into digital music files, which are probably sitting on your computer and/or a portable MP3 player. Wouldn't it be convenient to play all of those files on your home stereo unit, effectively eliminating the need to use the original CDs? Sure, you could always connect your home computer directly to your TV, but this can be difficult without either purchasing expensive adapters or physically moving your PC next to your stereo. Thankfully, there are many other alternatives.

If you want to play MP3s on your home stereo, there are a couple of simple ways to do so without the need to connect your computer to your stereo system or purchase additional hardware. In order to make this connection, you need to own one of the following devices to play your MP3s:
  • A portable MP3 music player

  • A DVD player capable of MP3 playback
The hookup and operation for each is different. So, we'll cover each separately.

A Portable MP3 Music Player

It doesn't matter which kind of portable music player you use, as long as it has some form of audio output. An audio output can consist of a headphone jack, a line level output, or digital output. If your player has a digital output, you will need to have a receiver capable of accepting digital signals. These are usually called optical or coaxial digital inputs. Check the back of your home stereo to see what kinds of connections yours supports.

Headphone Output / Line Level Output

To connect your digital music player to your home stereo system, you will need a 1/8" stereo plug to Left/Right (L/R) RCA accessory cable. These cables can be purchased from most stores that sell cables and accessories.

To make the connection, plug the 1/8" stereo jack into the headphone or line level output on your digital music player, and the L/R RCA jacks to a L/R stereo input on your home stereo system. These jacks are usually colored red (for right) and white (for left). If you think that you willl make this connection often, use the jacks on the back of the receiver rather than the front. This way, the cable is permanently connected and not in the way in front of your receiver. If you do not have any unused inputs on your receiver, you will need to purchase an audio selector switchbox, or unhook one of your other audio devices.

To play the music on your stereo, switch the receiver to the input in which you made the connection. For example, if you plugged the player into the input labeled CD, then switch the receiver to the CD input. If you have used a headphone output on the portable device, set the volume on the player about 3/4 of the way up. Do not increase the volume to maximum, as it will likely decrease the sound quality and add distortion to the signal. Hit the play button on your portable device and you should hear the song on your stereo. Increase or decrease the volume using the volume control on the receiver, not on the portable device. If you used a line level output (often generically labeled "audio out"), you do not need to adjust the volume on the player prior to playback, since it has no effect on the actual volume of the portable's output.

For a simple step-by-step explanation of this connection, check out Ron Repking's 'How-To' article.

Digital Audio Output

If your device has a digital audio output, and you own a digital capable receiver, choose this option as it provides the best quality connection you can make. Most portables use an optical 1/8" jack, so you'll need to pick up a few accessories to make this work. You'll need a Tos-link digital optical cable, and one Tos-link to 1/8" optical adapter. Some gear has proprietary digital audio connectors, so if it is not a 1/8" optical, contact the manufacturer for the appropriate adapter.

To make the physical connection to the receiver, examine the back of the receiver. Find the section that contains the digital optical audio inputs. In some cases they will be labeled with an input name like "video 1". If this is the case, the digital input is pre-assigned to an input on the receiver. So in this case, you would need to turn the receivers input to "video 1" in order to use that particular audio input. If your receiver is setup this way, try to find a jack that is assigned to an input that is not currently used by another device.

Other receivers have generic labels for their digital inputs, like "opt 1". This means that the digital inputs are universal to the receiver, and can be assigned to work with any input. Once you select an empty optical input, assign its number to an unused input on your receiver. The process to do this is different for every receiver, so refer to your owner's manual for specific instructions about how to assign digital inputs. So, if you don't have anything connected to the "CD" input, assign your digital input to CD. Then, when you select CD on the receiver, you'll be listening to your portable through the digital output.

A digital connection does not require any adjustment of the portables volume control. To adjust the volume of playback you'll use the receiver's volume control.

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