Most home stereos use RCA plugs for connecting components. In order to connect your computer's sound card output to a home stereo's input, therefore, you need two things:
• A set of free inputs on the home stereo. Note that a phono input is unsuitable for this task. Acceptable inputs might be labeled tape, cassette, aux, TV, or various other things, but never phono. The phono input is designed for a turntable, which has different electrical properties than all other inputs on the stereo system.
• A cable with a 1/8-inch stereo jack on one end and a pair of RCA plugs on the other. You can obtain such cables at an electronics supply store. Some sound cards ship with such cables.
Connecting the two components is a matter of plugging the cable in place. You can then use the front-panel controls on the stereo to listen to the computer's input, whatever it happens to be called.
If your stereo doesn't have enough inputs, you can purchase a switch of one sort or another. A simple switch box lets you select between two inputs. A more complex switch box can let you connect several devices with both inputs and outputs, and direct any given device's output to any other device's input. Figure 11.9 shows such a device, which has 16 RCA plugs on its back—two inputs and two outputs for each of the three devices and another stereo input/output pair for the monitor (the stereo receiver).
An audio switch box can let you connect your computer to an already maxed-out stereo system.
When you've connected your computer's audio output to your stereo, you must turn on the stereo whenever you want to hear sounds from your computer. You can then use both your Linux mixer, as described in Chapter 16, "Parallel and Serial Ports," and your stereo's volume control knob to adjust the volume of sound you hear. Depending upon the capabilities of your stereo, you might be able to tape record sounds coming from your computer or direct your computer's sound to speakers in another room.
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