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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting CD-ROM Drives | Audio Issues ]

When I try to play audio CDs, I can't hear the music on the speakers connected to my sound card

Explanation: You are not able to hear music played by audio CDs on your sound card, even though the sound card works (because you are able to hear sounds being generated by programs).

Diagnosis: All CD-ROM drives have the ability to play audio CDs, when the correct program is loaded that knows how to access them. Most also have a headphone jack on the front to let you listen to CD music directly. However, in order to be able to have CD audio play on your sound card, they need to be connected directly to it. Most CD-ROM drives come with a thin, three-wire cable to enable this. If the cable is not connected, or is connected improperly, the CD-ROM drive and sound card will be isolated.

Note: You may find this confusing because you may notice that a piece of music, say stored as a WAV file on a CD, will still play even though music CDs don't. The reason is that the music is being played in a totally different way. In the first case, the WAV file is a computer file like any other, being played on the sound card by a computer program. In the second, the CD-ROM itself is playing the disk and converting it directly to an analog audio stream. It is this information that requires the direct connection. The distinction here is the difference between music in audio CD format and music in CD-ROM data format. See this section of the Reference Guide on CD formats.


  • Double-check that the CD in the drive is an audio disk and is working properly by connecting headphones directly to the headphone jack on the front of the drive.
  • In Windows 95, double-click the yellow speaker icon in the system tray. Make sure that the CD Audio volume is turned up enough and that the Mute box is not checked. If the settings are incorrect then fix them (this mute capability is responsible for a lot of frustration in the area of sound under Windows 95...)
  • Make sure that the CD-ROM and sound card are connected with the cable mentioned above. In addition, make sure that you are using the right connector on the sound card. Due to several different manufacturers having different standards for their drives, most sound cards now have more than one jack for the CD audio cable, and they may not be all different physically, so they can be confused for one another. Usually the connectors on the sound card are labeled with common brand names for CD-ROMs such as "Sony", "Matsushita" (Panasonic) and "Mitsumi". If your CD-ROM is not one of the brands indicated, consult your documentation for which connector to use. If you can't find the information you need, try one and then the others.
  • Be sure that you have the right physical cable. You should use the cable that came with your CD-ROM drive.

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