Questions about Computer Sound Problems

Computer sound problems can be very frustrating. The truth is that troubleshooting sound problems is a little different than most other troubleshooting because the usual troubleshooting approach of stripping the PC down to bare essentials often doesn’t apply.

The following questions and answers help highlight what can go wrong and suggest the approaches you can use to diagnose and repair the problem.

Question 1: I only hear sound out of one speaker. What’s happening and what can I do?

Answer: You can troubleshoot this by isolating the problem to the sound card/computer, cable, or speakers. You can test your speakers on an alternate source, such as a Walkman, portable stereo, or other audio source.

If the test works (and you used the same cable), the problem is probably in the computer or sound card setup. If the test fails, try a different cable. If that works, the cable is the problem; otherwise, you might have a problem with the speakers.

Check the cabling between speakers and make sure the balance control is set properly. If your speakers have independent power sources, make sure both are working (don’t forget that batteries fail).

Question 2: Why does the volume control on my speakers not work?

Answer: Your speakers require either an external power supply or batteries to power the amplifier, which is what implements the volume control. Make sure that you have fresh batteries or the appropriate power supply and that the power switch is turned on.

Question 3: Why does the red light on my speakers not turn on when I turn on the power switch?

Answer: Verify that you have fresh batteries or that you’re using a power supply for the speakers and that it’s powered on. If the speakers plug in, make sure there’s power at the wall outlet.

Question 4: Can I use any speakers with any subwoofer?

Answer: Not necessarily, because some speaker/subwoofer combinations have nonstandard connections. What you can do, though, is to cable the speakers as if there are two independent sets of speakers (the speakers themselves and the subwoofer).

You do that by connecting a ‘Y’ adapter to your sound card. Plug the tail of the Y into the computer and speakers into the branches. (Alternatively, some subwoofers work when plugged into the line-out jack on the sound card, eliminating the need to split the speaker-out jack connection.)

Question 5: I need to set up my computer for videoconferencing, but the noise is too distracting to my office mates. What can I do?

Answer: The best answer is the same solution as for noisy speakerphones — get a headset. You can get headsets that plug into your sound card speaker and microphone jacks directly, giving you good sound quality, keeping background noise out of your conversation, and keeping peace in your office.