How to run 20 feet of 3.5mm to RCA cabling?
August 14, 2012 9:00 AM   Subscribe

What's the cheapest/simplest way for me to run sound from my iPod/laptop (3.5mm jack) to a stereo (RCA) about 20 feet away? If it were a shorter distance I'd just get a standard audio cable, but I'm worried that something like this will lose a lot of signal/fidelity.

My stereo does incorporate a (good) amp, if it's relevant, though I don't know if it's fully activated on the "Aux" setting.
posted by Marquis to Technology (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've got this set up exactly the way you describe (20' via 3.5 to RCA) and I haven't noticed any signal degradation.
posted by griphus at 9:02 AM on August 14, 2012

Happen to have an Airport Express wireless router*? Airplay is a great solution to this.

(*Or some other Airplay device)
posted by General Malaise at 9:05 AM on August 14, 2012

The only problem I've had with that style of cable of that length is that it picks up radio signals and hum. There's an old question somewhere with recommendations for shielded cables that work well.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:07 AM on August 14, 2012

Also have that setup (over 12'), no signal loss.
posted by lalochezia at 9:07 AM on August 14, 2012

Also, before you try anything else, it will cost you about less than ten dollars to try it out. Just try your best to keep it away from other electrical wiring and you should be good.
posted by griphus at 9:09 AM on August 14, 2012

I'll second the Airplay suggestion. I use an Airport Express connected to my stereo and AirFoil on my MBP (there's a Windows version as well) and it works pretty well. It's not perfect, occasionally music drops for a few seconds while it's playing, and it's not as cheap as just a cable, but it also means I've got no extra cables snaking around my living room and I can choose to stream audio just from one specific application (like Spotify) to the stereo while everything else comes out my laptop's speakers. There's nothing like trying to deafen yourself when a new IM sound comes roaring out your stereo to make you appreciate that last one...
posted by MrBear at 9:14 AM on August 14, 2012

if you have problems with noise or signal degradation consider getting a direct box, which converts unbalanced audio to balanced. It's more money than an rca cable and depending on your amp inputs may require some unbalancing at the end, but it would help reduce noise/interference along the way from your computer/ipod to the amp.

posted by maximum sensing at 9:14 AM on August 14, 2012

2nd the monoprice cabled that griphus linked.

As for Airport express, it doesn't work with an iPod. Also there is latency- if you watch a video, it will be out of sync.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:16 AM on August 14, 2012

The iPod definitely works with Airport Express. Though if you're going to pony up for that, I'd just go ahead and get an AppleTV for the same price, which will also play video over Airplay under the new iOS. The only reason to get an AE is if you need a new router.
posted by mkultra at 9:26 AM on August 14, 2012

Response by poster: Hi all! Thanks for the answers. I'm not interested in the Airport Express. As others have said, it doesn't work with an iPod.

I'm really just looking for reliable evidence (anecdotal or not) that a 25-ft cable won't be lossy. I work in music and the sound quality is important.
posted by Marquis at 9:33 AM on August 14, 2012

The fairly low impedance output from the ipod/laptom should be able to drive a cable that distance without too much trouble. Cables, however, occasionally are really cheaply and defectively made, and can be a factor.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:45 AM on August 14, 2012

I've run 20 ft. of RCA Cable with no noticeable loss in audio quality. You might be able to buy some from a place like radio shack and return it if it doesn't work out.
posted by drezdn at 10:34 AM on August 14, 2012

Careful with Radio Shack, they mark up their cables like it's going out of style. 25ft. of just plain RCA cable is going to cost you $25.
posted by griphus at 10:37 AM on August 14, 2012

Maybe something a little nicer like the Blue Jeans MSA-1 Audio Cable? Twenty feet with a 1/8" to RCA runs $62.75.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 12:41 PM on August 14, 2012

Best answer: The potential problem with long runs of unbalanced cable is (as bonobothegreat and griphus point out) that these cables are more susceptible to picking up noise and interference from RF (radio frequency) sources and environmental electromagnetic fields.

Losing "signal/fidelity"? Pffft - you'll be fine.

Honestly, man, you're doing more damage to your "fidelity" by using the audio output circuitry inherent in the 3.5mm jack of your iPod or laptop than any cable could possibly do.

Go for griphus' monoprice suggestion or even your super-cheap Amazon choice. If you wind up with some noise, you could try a more expensive cable with better shielding. Like a $20 cable. If you've still got noise problems, no sixty-three dollar cable is gonna fix that. Nor will it make a damn bit of difference in your fidelity.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:40 PM on August 14, 2012

« Older What paint can I use on my textured desktop?   |   Star Wars: Is episode I a good start? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.