Sunday, September 18, 2005

Kick Ass Sound From Your Computer Easily Done For Less Than 20 bucks!

Tech Tip: Plugging your computer into your stereo (Plus a rant!)

I think that most of us, by now, have discovered that there is a world of free, legal music available on the Internet. Right now I am listening to a nice collection of music I downloaded following links from our friends at The Liberal Avenger. When I work my way through that I will probably tune into KEXP. (Thanks go to Alex and Ellen for introducing me that very listenable station.) I usually fall asleep at night to the sounds of hip-hop from WKNC, a station at the University of North Carolina.

I realised a couple of years back that while I had a pretty good set of computer speakers, those little things could never sound as good as my stereo does.

A trip to Radio Shack* and about $20 later I was feeding the sound out of my computer into my stereo, and it made a huge difference in the quality of the sound. It's easy and should take less than 10 minutes.

Here's what a takes:
  • A stereo cable with "phono plugs" (see the photo above) long enough to run from the back of your computer to the back of your stereo (when figuring out the length, remember that a cable too long is a lot easier to deal with than one too short.
  • A small "Y" adaptor with two female "phono jacks" into one male "1/8th " stereo plug".
  • An unused set of audio inputs on the back of your stereo - most of us have them, look for a set marked "aux" or any other kind of input except phono. You cannot use the phono input.
Here's what to do:

  • Locate the existing plug from your computer speakers at the back of the computer (its usually green. If you need to, just trace it back from the computer speakers). Remove that existing plug and replace it with the 1/8" plug on the "Y" adaptor.
  • Plug one end of the stereo cable into the jacks on the "Y" adaptor. Plug the other end of the stereo cables into the open audio input on the back of the stereo.
  • Use the controls on the stereo to choose the input that you plugged the cables into. ie: If you plugged the cables into the "Video 3" input, then choose "Video 3" on the stereo's control.
  • Play music as you normally would with the computer. Adjust the stereo volume to taste. Enjoy!

*(Warning: Rant) It irks me to no end that I had to type "Radio Shack" instead of "local electronics store", but the reality is that, with our help, Radio Shack has pushed almost every local electronic shop into oblivion. I can remember when every town had an owner operated electronics store.

There was a real advantage to that, in that each store did its own ordering and stocking depending on local demand and the owner's particular interest. If one store didn't stock the item that you were looking for, then it was quite likely that another one would.

But then along came Radio Shack and their plan for domination of the industry. They followed the familier pattern used by many chain stores. They would open a store in a community and stock it with the most popular items. Mom and Pop couldn't compete against a giant chain which was able to realise massive savings by purchasing in box car loads - hell, train loads, compared to M&P's buying by the case. If the little locals managed to hang on, the big chains would lower their price in the stores in that particular area. To the chain it didn't matter if one or a handful of stores was selling goods at a loss. Heck they were making good profits from their hundreds and hundreds of other stores. They could afford to take a loss from a few to insure that they would have no competition in the future. And you and I helped. We went running over to the chain store with our cash in hand. Didn't make any sense to pay more to Mom and Pop when we could get it at the chain cheaper, did it? Well, not in the short run. The long run is something else again.

These days with Radio Shack, or any other chain, being the only game in town, if they don't have what you need, then you are S.O.L. Either make do with an item they do stock or go through the hassle of ordering on the web and waiting for the item to be shipped to you.

It's too late to save the mom and pop electronics stores. It is not yet too late to save the hardware stores and all the various other retailers which Wal Mart and Home Depot have lined up in their sights. BOYCOTT THEM, PEOPLE - DO YOURSELVES A FAVOR. You may save a little bit by shopping at those places now, but you will be kicking yourselves in the butt when they end up being the only game in town.


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