How to Hook up a Sound Card to a PC Speaker System

by Jeff Grundy Google

    Gone are the days when people used PCs primarily for typing letters and crunching numbers in spreadsheets. Today, the PC is not only a productivity tool; it's also an entertainment appliance. Games, media player applications and online music and videos allow you play and relax in addition to getting your work done. However, before you can immerse yourself in 3D games or zone out to your favorite tunes, you must connect speakers to your computer's sound card. Whether simple two-piece systems or more elaborate 5.1 or 7.1 surround-sound setups, modern computer speaker systems often produce sound that rivals many home stereo systems and hooking up and configuring them is something you can do in a matter of minutes.

    Connect Two-Piece Speaker System

    Step 1

    Power off the computer. Plug the AC adapter into the speaker with the power connector port -- it's usually the one with the volume control and power button. Plug the power cord into an available electrical outlet.

    Step 2

    Plug the connector cable from the second speaker into the rear of the speaker with the power button. Connect the 3.5mm connector from the speaker set into the "Audio In" or "Audio" jack on the rear of the computer. If connecting the speaker set to a laptop, plug the speaker connector into the headphone jack on the side of the notebook. In most cases, the "Audio," "Audio In" or "Headphone" jack has a thin green ring around the port opening so you can identify it easily.

    Step 3

    Position the two speakers on either side of the computer monitor. Adjust the volume control so that its indicator notch or dial is in the middle or at about 50 percent.

    Step 4

    Power on the computer and log in to Windows with your username and password if prompted.

    Step 5

    Launch Windows Media Player or another media application. Open an audio or music file and play it normally. Adjust the volume on the speakers as needed.

    Connect 5.1 Speaker and Subwoofer Set

    Step 1

    Power off the computer.

    Step 2

    Position the speakers around your computer or the room. 5.1 speaker sets consist of five satellite speakers and one subwoofer. Position the subwoofer underneath your desk near your computer tower. Place the two speakers labeled "Left-Front" and "Right-Front" on either side of the monitor. Position the "Center" speaker on top of the monitor or slightly behind it. Position the "Right-Rear" and "Left-Rear" speakers behind your chair so that they face your computer monitor from your rear while sitting. When you position the speakers, ensure that you do not place them too far from the subwoofer, as the cables may not be long enough to reach them if you do.

    Step 3

    Connect speaker wires to the five satellite speakers. Connect the solid-colored wires to the black terminals and the wires with a thin colored strip along them to the red terminals. With some speaker systems, the speaker cables may have labels and RCA plugs on the end. If this is the case, match the labels on the wires to the ones on the rear of each satellite speaker. Plug the RCA plug from each wire into the satellite speaker with the matching label.

    Step 4

    Connect the opposite ends of the speaker wires to the matching-labeled ports on the rear of the subwoofer. For example, ensure that you connect the wire from the speaker labeled "Center" to the port with the same name of the back of the subwoofer. Connect all cables from satellite speakers to the corresponding ports on the subwoofer.

    Step 5

    Locate the three cables with 3.5mm mini-stereo-plug connectors that lead from the rear of the subwoofer. Each cable with a 3.5mm connector should have a colored ring or plug cover that matches with one of the audio ports on the rear of the PC. Match the colors on the audio cable from the subwoofer with the ports on the computer, and then connect each cable to the corresponding audio port on the PC. If the cables from the subwoofer do not use color coding, but instead have labels, connect the cable labeled "Front" or "Line 1" to the green jack on the computer. Connect the cable with the "Rear" or "Line 2" label to the black or grey audio port on the computer. Plug the connector labeled "Center/Subwoofer" or "Line 3" to the orange audio port on the back of the computer.

    Step 6

    Plug the AC adapter into the rear of the subwoofer and an electrical outlet.

    Step 7

    Power on the speakers first, then the computer. Log in to Windows and start a music player or audio application. Select an audio file and play it as you normally would. Adjust the volume on the subwoofer to control sound levels for all of the speakers simultaneously. Alternatively, adjust the sound levels for the subwoofer and each satellite speaker individually if the unit has multiple volume controls.


    • If setting up a 6.1 speaker system, connections to the computer are the same as those for a 5.1 system. The only difference between the two types being that a 6.1 speaker system includes an extra port on the subwoofer for a "Rear-Center" channel. The subwoofer outputs signals from the "Center" or orange port on the sound card to both the "Center" and "Rear-Center" Speakers.
    • 7.1 speaker systems use a different type of "Rear" or "Line 2" cable than 5.1 or 6.1 sets. The "Rear" channel -- or the one with the grey or black color-coding -- has one 3.5mm connector on one end and two connectors on the other. Connect the single 3.5mm connector to the matching-colored port on the sound card and then connect the two connectors on the other end of the cable to the ports on the subwoofer labeled "Rear" and "Side."
    • If the subwoofer has a SPDIF optical connection and the sound card has a matching SPDIF port, you can connect the entire system to the computer with a single cable. Nevertheless, you must still connect each satellite speaker to the subwoofer individually.


    • Do not turn the volume on the speakers up to maximum unless you are sure the drivers inside the cabinets can handle the sound levels. Turning the volume up too loud could damage the speakers.

    About the Author

    Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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