What Is an Audio Port on a Computer?

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Headset ready to be plugged into computer.
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A computer's audio ports link the computer's sound hardware with your speakers, microphone, headsets or other audio equipment. Every computer motherboard has at least a few basic audio ports built in, allowing you to connect stereo speakers and a microphone. Higher-end motherboards and computers with discrete audio cards include additional ports for connecting surround-sound speakers or external sound systems.


Analog Audio Ports

The basic audio port, usually labeled the "audio out," "line out" or "headphone" port supports up to two speakers plus a subwoofer. To connect a pair of stereo speakers or headphones, plug the audio cable into the green audio out port. If you have a mic, either standalone or built into a headset, connect its cable to the pink microphone port. If your audio ports don't have color coding, look for engraved icons of a microphone and pair of headphones to tell the two apart. Surround-sound speakers add additional color-coded cables that match up with the black and orange audio ports on some computers.


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Digital Audio Ports

Some computers have one or two types of digital audio outputs, collectively known as S/PDIF, short for Sony/Philips Digital Interface. One type of digital port, rarely seen on computers, uses an RCA-style connector similar to the composite cables used with a DVD player. The more common digital audio port, Toslink -- Toshiba Link -- looks like a glowing red light. This light transmits audio data over a fiber-optic cable. Neither type of digital audio port can connect directly to a pair of speakers: Digital audio outputs are designed for hooking up an external amplifier, sound system or a digital-to-analog converter.




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