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Troubleshooting Audio Problems with External Speakers, Headphones, and HDMI Sound Devices

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This document pertains to HP Notebook PCs with Windows Vista and Windows 7.
This document addresses sound problems with external sound devices when there is sound from the built-in speakers. You should disconnect all external devices and then perform a simple test of the Windows sound system to be sure that sound is audible from the built-in speakers before troubleshooting external sound devices.

Sound issues not covered in this document

If there is no sound from the built-in speakers or if there is an error message, select a symptom from the list below to view another HP support document addressing that issue.

Two quick tests

If you suddenly have no sound, there are two settings to check are easily overlooked:
  • Verify the sound is not muted.
  • Verify the correct sound output device is selected.
Windows outputs sound to only one device at a time. You can select which device to use by setting the default. Windows then automatically switches to the headphones, when connected or to the HDMI output when a HDMI cable is attached.
  1. Click Start , Control Panel , and then click Hardware and Sound .
  2. Click Sound and then select Speakers and Headphones .
  3. Click Set Default and then click OK .
Figure 1: Sound Playback tab
Sound Playback tab with Speakers and Headphones selected
NOTE:Depending on the Operating System installed and the type of sound chip being used, the images of the sound controls displayed in this document may differ from what you observe.
Windows should switch automatically from Speakers and Headphones to another external device, like HDMI, when the cables are connected to the computer. If this switch does not occur within a few seconds automatically, manually select the desired output device from the sound device Playback window shown above.

Troubleshooting issues with external sound devices

If the internal speakers are functioning correctly and you still have an issue with the external devices, continue with the following troubleshooting procedures.
It is important to know the type of speakers that are compatible with your computer. Most computers that were manufactured after the year 2000 require powered speakers. When using non-powered speakers with a line-out connector on the computer, the volume is much lower/softer than usual.
Powered speakers use a power adapter or batteries to amplify the volume. They can connect into a line-out connector on the computer.
Figure 2: Powered speakers (your speakers may look slightly different)
Powered speakers
When using external speakers or headphones, verify that the sound cables are properly connected from the speaker to the computer. Cable connectors and plug assignments are normally color-coded to aid with connections.
To check the headphone and the external speaker connections, follow the steps below.
  1. Disconnect the speaker cable from the computer.
  2. Insert the headphone jack directly into the “speaker out” connector on the computer. The connector is marked with either a speaker icon or a headphone icon.
  3. To test the sound on the computer, follow the steps below.
    NOTE:The steps below assume you are not in the Classic View of the Control Panel.
    • Click Start , Control Panel , and then Hardware and Sound .
    • Click Change system sounds under Sound to open the Sound window.
    • From the Sounds tab, select any option under Program that has the sound icon next to it, such as Asterisk , click Test , and then OK .
  4. Determine if sound is audible through the headphones.
    • If sound is audible through the headphones, the sound hardware on the computer is working and the issue is most likely related to the speakers or the speaker cables. Go to step 5 .
    • If sound is not audible through the headphones, go to step 6 .
  5. Disconnect the headphones, reconnect the speakers, and then test for sound again. If sound is still not audible, replace the speaker cable or perform the test again with different speakers.
  6. Be sure that you connect the headphones into the correct connector and try again. If sound is still not audible, continue to another test in this document.
If the speakers are properly connected, and sound is not audible through the built-in speakers, verify that the proper sound and device drivers are installed and configured by following the steps below.
  1. Click Start , Control Panel , and then Hardware and Sound .
  2. Click Manage audio devices under Sound to open the Sound window.
  3. From the Playback tab on the Sound window, click the Speakers icon to enable the Configure button, and then click Configure to open the Speaker Setup window.
    Figure 3: Speaker Setup
    Speaker Setup with Test selected
  4. Select the option that represents your speaker setup from the Audio channels field, and then click Test .
  5. If sound is audible from each speaker, or if the configuration type was changed, click Next to continue with the speaker setup, and then follow the on-screen instructions to complete the speaker setup.
    Figure 4: Speaker Setup Front left and right
    Speaker Setup with Front left and right selected
  6. If sound is:
    • audible from each speaker - you are finished.
    • not audible and problems persist - check the headphone and the external speaker connections to continue troubleshooting sound problems.
If you are using an HDMI video connection with an HDMI monitor that has speakers, the HDMI cable is capable of sending audio to the monitor speakers only when HDMI audio output is selected. The sound can be sent to only one device at a time; either to the Speakers and Headphones , or the HDMI Output device.
Instead of selecting Speakers as the default device from the Playback tab, select HDMI Audio , and then click the Set Default button.
Figure 5: Sound
Sound with ATI HDMI Output selected
You may want to right-click ATI HDMI Output , and select Show Disconnected Devices option. The HDMI cable must be connected when it is configured.
Some computers will not switch back to internal speakers when the HDMI interface cable is disconnected. You can manually switch back to the Speakers and Headphones . See Resolving HDMI Display and Sound Issues for additional information.