Connecting a smartphone to your stereo can be done in many different ways, depending on your device and the way your car’s audio system works. Some devices use a 3.5 mm or RCA cable to connect, while others feature Bluetooth wireless. Other devices, such as a digital optical adapter, can connect to a receiver or amplifier using Wi-Fi.
1. 3.5 mm-to-RCA cables
The most common and easiest way to connect a phone to a stereo is via a 3.5 mm-to-RCA cable. This cable plugs directly into the headphone jack on your smartphone or tablet and then plugs into an input port on a stereo speaker, receiver, or amplifier. Make sure to match the color of the RCA connectors with the input ports on your device and stereo.
2. AUX or USB-C connections
If your car’s stereo doesn’t have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity, the next most popular method to connect a smartphone to a stereo is through an auxiliary or USB-C connection. Some newer cars and vehicles may have an AUX or USB-C input built into the stereo, while others will require an adapter or set of cords. This will vary from vehicle to vehicle, so it’s important to check the owner’s manual to find out what options are available on your specific vehicle and which will be most convenient for you.
3. Bluetooth pairing
Bluetooth is a wireless technology that allows you to stream music from your smartphone to your stereo, usually using the phone’s built-in speakers. The process of connecting a Bluetooth-enabled device to your car’s stereo is relatively straightforward and should be easy enough for anyone to accomplish.
4. FM radio transmitters
Another popular way to connect a smartphone to a stereo uses an FM radio transmitter. This option is particularly useful if your car’s stereo doesn’t have an FM radio, or if you live in an area with no AM/FM stations.
5. DI Box (audio converter)
To convert a smartphone’s audio output to the line-level signal used by a mixer, a device called a DI box is necessary. A DI box converts the phone’s audio to a balanced line-level signal that can be used by a mixer.
6. XLR cables and mic-level connections
If you plan on recording through your mixer with your phone’s built-in microphones, you’ll need to connect the headphone jack from your phone to the mic inputs of the mixer using a pair of XLR cables. This will reduce the signal to line-level and allow you to hear the mic in full.
7. Adding effects to your mix
You can add a wide variety of effects to your stereo image, including panning, leveling, and EQing. These effects can make a difference when mixing, tracking, or mastering your tracks.
8. Sound source localization
One of the most powerful aspects of stereo systems is their ability to create what is known as sound source localization, which is the impression that sounds are coming from two different directions. This illusion is achieved by panning a single signal from both the left and right speakers, so that you perceive it to come from two separate sources panned out to the sides.