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Stereo Analog Audio – RCA Plug and Cables Explained

Stereo Analog Audio - RCA Plug and Cables Explained


The stereo RCA plug is a popular audio connection. But, when should you use it? Or, is there a better way? Find out in my guide to stereo analog audio cables...

Stereo analog audio connections can be found on most audio-visual devices.

They will use what is known as an RCA plug – also known as a phono connection.

However, just because they are a common connection type, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should use them to connect to your sound system.

In this article, I look at this connection type in more detail and suggest some better alternatives.

What Does an Analog Stereo Audio RCA Connection Look Like?

An analog audio connection for a stereo RCA plug looks like this:

Close up of stereo analog RCA connection

It will usually be labeled as an input or an output.

An output is for sending the audio from this device to another. An input is for receiving the audio from somewhere else.

The RCA connectors are usually colored white for the left channel and red for the right channel.

What Does a Stereo Analog Audio RCA Cable Look Like?

Analog Stereo Audio RCA Cable

Stereo RCA audio cables look like this. They have two RCA connectors at each end. One for the left channel and one for the right channel.

The convention is to color the right channel red and the left channel white. However, this is just to help you wire your equipment together.

It doesn’t matter if you switch this around – just as long as the same color is connected into the left and right inputs at each end.

You may also come across this type of cable that isn’t colored red and white.

That’s OK, they will still be marked left and right and they can still be used for this connection type. Just make sure you connect both ends to the correct left/right jacks on your device.

An RCA plug is also commonly known as a phono plug or connector. So if you hear either term, they mean the same thing.

These cables can also be used for analog multichannel audio.

What Does a Stereo Analog Audio Connection Do?

A stereo analog audio connection is used to send 2-channel analog audio signals between devices.

It supports stereo audio only. It can also be used for mono audio. If so, then just one of the connections is required.

When Should I Use 2-Channel Analog Audio?

An analog stereo audio connection still comes with most audio-visual devices. However, in many cases, you will not need to use it.

If your device has an HDMI port, optical digital audio or coaxial digital audio connections, then these will usually be the best way to send the audio between your devices.

These types of connections support stereo and multi-channel audio.

However, if these are not available, then stereo audio RCA cables are a reliable method of sending the sound between devices.

In many cases, you will find this type of connection paired with a video input/output.

For instance, a composite video signal connection will usually have stereo analog audio connectors next to it. These ports will pass the audio for the video connection.

An example of this is pictured below:

Composite video connection with stereo analog audio outputs

What Else Can You Tell Me About RCA Connectors?

RCA stands for Radio Corporation of America – which developed the connector in the 1940s.

The RCA connector is also used for some other types of AV connections. Like, composite and component video.

Anything else?

Not much. Hey, it’s analog stereo, what more is there to say? An old friend who can always be relied on to give us some sound!

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Stereo Analog Audio Explained

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About Home Cinema Guide

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has worked as 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.

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