RCA surround sound connections can be a good way to connect to your home theater speakers if you don't have digital HDMI or optical options.
They take the basic connection type of our old friend the analog stereo connection, but use it to power 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound.
Here we look at this type of connection in detail and try to understand when we would use them.
RCA surround sound connectors on the back of your device will look something like this. This would be typical on something like a Blu-ray or DVD player - although not all players will have these.
There are six RCA jacks for each of the 5.1 surround sound connections.
Front left/right, centre, surround left/right and subwoofer.
On some devices you may find more connections than this, and this would be for 6.1/7.1 configurations.
In the example here, there are two extra connections on the right for a separate stereo audio output.
You don't really need a special cable for connecting to a device with an analog multichannel output. You just use standard analog RCA to RCA cables.
For instance, you could use three stereo RCA interconnect cables to make the connections - or six individual ones.
Just make sure you connect the same jacks together between the player (output) and the amplifier (input) - front right output to front right input, centre output to centre input, front left output to front left input etc.
Otherwise you'll get yourself in a right mess.
It is used for transmitting multichannel analog audio signals. For example a surround soundtrack on a DVD or Blu-ray.
It does not support digital audio signals.
In most cases, if you wanted to send multichannel audio to an AV receiver or amplifier, you would use a digital audio connection such as an HDMI connector, optical digital audio or coaxial digital audio.
However, it may be that your DVD/Blu-ray or your amplifier doesn't have any digital audio connections. In this case, you could still hear surround sound in your room if your player and amplifier both had analog multichannel jacks.
Also, in some circumstances, you may need to use analog multichannel outputs from a DVD/Blu-ray player in order to hear some types of multichannel audio such as SACD, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
With more devices having digital audio connections, it is becoming less common to find audio-visual components with an analog multichannel output.
However, the presence of this type of connection can lengthen the lifespan of older devices by removing the reliance on digital connections.
Whilst a digital audio connection has many good things going for it, the copy-protection that is present in some of these digital audio signals isn't one of them! Which is where analog multichannel devices can come into their own.
As long as your DVD/Blu-ray player can decode the digital audio
on-board, you can then hear this audio from the analog outputs without
worrying about having a compatible digital amplifier. You just make an analog connection using the ports shown above.
This can enable you to hear SACD, DVD-A, DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks without spending extra money upgrading all your equipment.
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.