When you have a complex home theater or hi-fi audio system, there are many times when you need to convert audio from one type to another. One typical example is converting optical audio to RCA stereo analog audio.
For example, you might want to do this when connecting your TV’s audio output to a stereo speaker system – which is a good way of improving your TV’s sound for movies and TV shows.
Most modern TVs only have a single optical audio output – and many stereo amplifiers don’t have digital audio inputs – so how do you convert the optical output to analog stereo audio?
The good news is that this process is simple when you know which equipment you need to buy. Follow these steps to set everything up.
How to Convert Optical Digital Audio to Stereo Analog RCA
Before you begin, you must buy an optical to analog RCA converter box and check that your devices have the correct connections.
This example will show how to connect your TV’s digital audio output to a stereo amplifier. So, in this case, you should ensure your TV has an optical audio output, and your amplifier has an available stereo analog input.
However, you can use an optical-to-stereo analog converter to connect any optical audio output to a stereo analog input.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Step 1: Wire the TV to the Converter Box
Get an optical audio cable and wire it from the optical output of your TV to the optical input of the converter box.
Before buying the cable, consider where you will place the converter box so that you purchase an optical cable of the correct length.
Step 2: Wire the Converter Box to the Amplifier
Connect a stereo RCA interconnect cable from the stereo output of the converter box to a spare stereo input on the amplifier.
The inputs on the amplifier are usually labeled CD, DVD or AUX. It doesn’t matter which one you use. Just make sure that you remember which one you connect the cable to.
Make sure you connect the red output to the red input – and the same with the white connectors. Many stereo RCA interconnects have colored wires to make this easier.
Step 3: Connect the Converter Box to a Power Source
The optical converter will need power. Connect the power cable that came with the converter into the device, then plug the other end into a nearby power source and switch it on.
Some converters will plug directly into a power socket, while others may come with a USB power cable, and you will need to provide your own USB power source.
Step 4: Check the TV’s Audio Menu
Switch on the TV and go to the TV’s audio setup menu.
Many TVs will automatically send digital audio from the optical audio output, so you may not need to do anything here.
However, to be sure, in the TV’s audio settings menu, check if you need to set the audio output of the TV to optical or digital out.
Many TV brands will handle this differently, so you may need to check the manual for your TV model if you are unsure.
Step 5: Turn Off the TV’s Speakers
Use your remote control and turn the sound down on your TV’s speakers. You should do this because you don’t want sound coming simultaneously from the TV’s speakers and the stereo speaker system.
Sometimes, when you enable the optical audio output on the TV, the internal speakers are automatically disabled. In this case, the volume control from your remote will be disabled.
Step 6: Switch on the Amplifier
Power on the amplifier and select the correct input for the TV’s audio.
Ensure that you choose the same input to which you connected the cables on the back. If you’re not sure, check the back of the amplifier to confirm the input label.
Step 7: Test Everything Is Working
If your TV is still on, you should now get sound from the TV on your speakers. If not, make sure that the volume is up on your amplifier.
If you still hear no sound, go back and check the wiring to the converter box and ensure it is switched on.
Finally, double-check that the optical audio output is enabled in the TV’s audio menu.
Estimated Cost: 30 USD
- 1x optical to RCA converter box
- 1x optical digital audio cable
- 1x stereo analog RCA cable
- No tools required
What is an Optical to RCA Stereo Analog Converter?
An optical to RCA converter is a device that receives an optical audio signal, converts it, and then outputs that audio as a stereo analog signal.
It is commonly used to send digital audio from a TV or Blu-ray player to an analog playback device like an amplifier or soundbar.
The main thing is to check that the converter has an optical input – for receiving the digital audio – and a stereo analog RCA output for sending the converted analog audio.
There are several types of converter boxes, so you must buy the correct one for the job.
The optical connection may also be labeled SPDIF or TOSLINK, which is OK, so don’t let that confuse you.
Some converters may also have other digital inputs, like coaxial. This is fine; you just need to use the optical connection.
You can buy a converter box at most online or brick-and-mortar stores that sell audio-visual equipment.
When Else Would You Need to Convert Optical Audio to RCA Stereo?
Connecting the optical output of a TV to a stereo amplifier is probably the most common reason to convert optical audio to RCA, but there are many other situations where you may want to do this.
Here are some other situations where you might want to use a converter:
- TV to soundbar: If your TV has an optical output, but your soundbar only supports a stereo RCA connection, then you could use a converter to wire this together.
- DVD or Blu-ray player to amplifier: In some cases, you might want to connect the audio output of a DVD or Blu-ray player directly to a stereo amplifier. A converter will work if you can’t make a direct optical connection.
- Game console to stereo amplifier: like the Blu-ray player, you might want to wire the audio output of your game console directly into a stereo sound system
A converter box will allow you to wire together an optical output to a stereo RCA input in all of these scenarios.
Optical to RCA Converter Wiring Diagram
When wiring your devices together, having a clear picture of where all the cables need to go can be helpful.
This simple wiring diagram shows an overview of how to wire an optical audio out to a stereo RCA input using a converter:
For a general guide on wiring optical connections, check out how to connect optical cables.
What to Look For in a Digital to RCA Converter?
Digital to RCA converters are relatively simple devices without too many features. However, before you buy a converter, make sure you consider these points:
- Does it have the correct digital inputs? Match the output connection of your source device, so if your TV has an optical audio output, make sure your converter has an optical input. Some converters have dual coaxial and optical inputs; others only have one or the other.
- Check the supported digital audio format. Many converters will only support a PCM digital input from your source device, which is fine unless your device only sends a Dolby Digital or DTS audio signal. In this case, your converter won’t work. Check the audio output format of your device, or make sure that you buy a converter that accepts both PCM and Dolby Digital/DTS audio.
- Some models have 3.5mm output connections for headphones. Look for a converter with this if you think that will be useful.
- Many converters come with all the required cables for connecting everything, but some don’t. So, ensure you have all the cables for wiring things together.
If you think about these issues, you should have no problems getting everything to work.
Where Can You Buy an Optical to Stereo RCA Converter?
Most retailers that sell audio-visual equipment will probably stock one of these converters.
You can find one at all the major online retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Amazon.
This is a popular optical audio-to-analog RCA converter at Amazon:
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick and easy answers to some more common questions.
How to Connect an Optical Audio Cable to RCA?
To connect an optical audio cable to an RCA connection, you need to use a digital audio to stereo analog converter. Wire the optical cable into the converter, and then you can connect the RCA output to your device.
How Do You Connect a Soundbar With RCA Plugs to a TV With an Optical Output?
To connect a soundbar with an RCA input to your TV’s optical output, you must buy an optical to stereo RCA converter. This device will convert your soundbar’s optical output signal to stereo analog audio.
About The Author
Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has been a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment. You can find out more here.