"Broadcast" Media From PC To Stereo and TV

Wirelessly Transmit Streaming Media
Through Your House—On the Cheap!

Problem: Your PC is in one room and the entertainment center in another. Your aging stereo receiver isn't Internet-ready and your budget doesn't include a replacement any time soon. For the same reason, purchasing a dedicated hardware component is out of the question, even if there is room in the entertainment center for another box.

And yet you would really like to be able to stream Internet radio, rockumentaries, and other media sources from your PC to your entertainment center.

Solution: Several companies offer an inexpensive transmitter/receiver package that can "broadcast" both video and a stereo audio signal between rooms. These are easy to install and generally work very well—easily pushing the signal through walls. Although there are several from which to choose, one such system is the AVS-5811 from RF Link (pictured), which is under $120. Savvy eBayers might pay much less.

Such transmitter/receiver sets deliver the A/V signals using radio frequencies (RF differs from infrared, the latter requiring an unobstructed line of site and offering limited distance). The RF Link AVS-5811 operates in the 5.8 GHz range, where wireless phones and microwave ovens won't cause interference. It also has four channels from which to select in the event that something else in your home causes interference. (Whichever channel you use, make sure that both the transmitter and receiver are set to the same one.) And although a clear line-of-site is not required, the RF Link AVS-5811 boasts a 300 foot transmission distance in such installations.

Audio: You'll need to purchase of some inexpensive adapters to hook up the transmitter to your PC. The red and white audio leads require a single female stereo RCA-to-male 1/8" mini-plug adapter, about $2. Connect the male end to the audio out jack on your PC's sound card, usually located at the rear of the PC chasis and color-coded light green on recent-vintage computers. Match up the red and white female RCA leads of the adapter with the corresponding male cables on the RF transmitter.

Now connect the red and white male RCA leads from the RF receiver to an unused set of RCA inputs on the back of your stereo receiver (except those marked Turntable). The inputs marked Tape 2 Record would be a good choice.

To listen to Internet radio, first access the audio source on your PC. You'll want to control the final volume level from your stereo receiver, not your PC, so set the PC volume to be sufficiently loud. Now select the Tape 2 Monitor input source (often labeled "Mode") on your stereo receiver. You should now be hearing your Internet audio source and, if this is all you want to do, you're all set. See the summary below.

Video: Transmitting video from your PC to TV is a bit more involved. First, it's best if your TV is of recent vintage and includes auxiliary inputs either on the front or rear of the set. These provide a better quality picture. If your TV is not so-equipped, purchase a simple RCA-to-coax adapter for a few dollars. It is to be connected between the yellow video cable of the RF receiver and the coax antenna input on the TV. (The picture quality may or may not be to your liking in this scenario.)

On the PC side of this setup, we're going to assume your PC video subsystem doesn't presently offer an S-video output on the rear of the computer chasis (if it does, skip to the next paragraph). If this assumption is true, the least expensive way to convert your PC video is to replace the present video subsystem with an adapter card that includes an S-video port. There are many, but a quick Internet search turned up a PNY GeForce FX 5200 256MB VGA card for under $50.

A few more dollars gets you a male S-video to female RCA adapter, which you'll need to connect the RF transmitter's yellow cable to the PC's S-video output. On the RF receiver side, simply plug its yellow composite video cable into the matching colored RCA receptacle on your TV. Here you will most likely have to select a video input mode on the TV, similar to when you watch a DVD or VHS video tape.

Summary: None of this is rocket science, with the possible exception of replacing your PC video subsystem. Get a knowledgeable friend to help. Beyond this portion of the project, your local electronics retailer (Radio Shack, Best Buy, et al.) can help you. Cables To Go is also an excellent source for online chat help as well as for purchasing most of the requisite adapters.

Streaming media aside, we should also mention that RF transmitter/receiver sets such as the RF Link AVS-5811 can be used for other applications when not being used to transmit streaming media. A common example is in the simultaneous viewing of video programs on a second TV/monitor without use of any wires. Another is the ability to relay any indoor audio source to a set of self-amplified speakers positioned outdoors.