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   Guide : CD-ROM RCA Audio Outputs »  


CD-ROM RCA Audio Outputs
 Date  : Dec 2nd, 2000
 Category  : Audio
 Manufacturer   : N/A
 Author  : Jin-Wei Tioh
Chanced upon this idea during the MP3 project. The idea was to take an old CD-ROM drive with "Play" and "Stop/Eject" buttons, a suitably small PSU, and some sort of a housing to make a CD player out of it. I could have used a 1/8 to RCA converter cable, but that would only degrade sound quality. Then it hit me. Doesn't the standard CD-ROM audio cable (the thin 4-wired cable connecting your CD-ROM to your sound card) sound suspiciously similar to specs of RCA jacks? Each channel (left and right) has a signal wire ("positive") and a ground wire ("negative"). Moreover, in terms of aesthetics, having a cable dangling in front doesn't exactly lend a professional look to the whole setup.

Necessity (vanity?) is the mother of invention. So I took the liberty of making a RCA output for the CD-ROM drive. Here is a quick list of what's needed :

  • Standard CD-ROM audio cable
  • RCA jack board
  • Printer/Parallel port slot cover


Standard electronics project stuff. Soldering gun, wire stripper / scissors, pliers, electrician tape, the works.

CD-ROM Audio Cable

Click To Enlarge

This is your standard issue analog CD-ROM audio cable. As mentioned earlier, it has four wires, which line up with the socket at the back of a CD-ROM drive labeled "RGGL".

Red  : Right channel signal
Black (x2)  : Right & Left channel ground
White  : Left channel signal

RCA Jack Board

These are pre-made strips of plastics with mounted RCA jacks. The number of jacks can vary, but the usual type are those with just 2 jacks, ie. one for each audio channel.

Printer Port Slot Plate

You won't really encounter these in modern systems, since the printer port is now built-in on most modern motherboards. Where can you get them? Any old/discarded system, doesn't matter whether they're rusty or not. Personally, I pulled one out of an old XT and painted it. Unfortunately, I was out of black spray paint, so I had to settle for grey :(

Alright, that takes care of the checklist. Now let's get it on!

Step 1  :  If the slot cover is rusty, sandpaper it and spray it with the color of your preference. While it is drying off, you can proceed to finishing the other parts of the project.

Step 2  :  Cut the CD-ROM cable in half and strip some insulation off each wire. You'll only need to use half of it.

Step 3  : 

Thread the exposed end of the red wire through the center pole of the red jack. Then thread the ground cable (the white cable directly adjacent to the red one) through the outer pole. Then solder both the connections. That takes care of the right channel, now repeat this for the left channel. The only difference is, replace the red wire with the black wire.

Note : You might want to insulate each individual pole with electrician tape to prevent any shorting.

Step 4  :  By now, your printer slot cover should be dry. Depending on the RCA jack board you are using, it might or might not line up perfectly with the screwholes. Now just bolt the jack board onto the inner side of the printer slot cover, and you're done! Professional looking, eh?

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