Stereo Analog Audio
- RCA Plug and Cables Explained

Stereo Analog Audio - RCA Plug and Cables Explained

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, that doesn't necessarily mean you should use them to connect to your sound system. Here we look at this connection type in more detail.

What Does an RCA Connector Look Like?

Close up of stereo analog rca connections

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

It will usually be labelled 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 coloured white for the left channel and red for the right channel.

What Does an RCA Cable Look Like?

Stereo RCA Plug

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 colour the right channel red and the left channel white - but this is just to help you wiring your equipment together.

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

You may also come across this type of cable that isn't coloured 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.

What Does an RCA 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, and in this case then just one of the connections is required.

It can also be used for analog multichannel audio.

When Should I Use an RCA Plug?

An analog stereo audio connection, and a cable with a stereo RCA plug, 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. For instance, an input for a composite video signal on a TV will usually have an analog stereo audio input next to it for hearing the sound from the video source.

What Else Can You Tell Me About RCA Connectors ?

RCA stands for Radio Corporation of America - who developed the connector in the 1940's.

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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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.

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