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Everything You Need to Know About the SPDIF Connection


SPDIF on Computers

The availability of ready-to-use SPDIF connectors will depend on the motherboard or laptop model. Looking at the rear panel of your computer, you can easily see if your computer has optical and/or coaxial SPDIF connectors. The motherboard shown in Figure 13 comes with an optical SPDIF connector, while the motherboard shown in Figure 14 comes with both optical and coaxial SPDIF connectors.

Optical SPDIF OutputFigure 13: Optical SPDIF output

Coaxial and Optical SPDIF OutputFigure 14: Coaxial and optical SPDIF outputs

On laptops, the presence of an SPDIF output is more difficult to detect, because it is usually combined with the headphone jack, supporting the 3.5 mm optical connector (see previous page). Therefore, most users think that they don’t have an SPDIF output on their laptops, while this feature may be available. You have to take a look around the headphone jack to see if the word “SPDIF” is written near it, as it is the case with the laptop portrayed in Figure 15. Several laptop models, however, won’t bring any indication that they have an SPDIF output. You will have to check on the product specifications page to see if SPDIF is listed. If it is, then the headphone jack is also an SPDIF output.

Laptop Optical SPDIF OutputFigure 15: Laptop with optical SPDIF output (3.5 mm)

There are other tricks to detect the support for SPDIF. You can try using your computer in the dark and playing a song with it to see if you can see a red light coming out of the headphone jack, indicating that there is an SPDIF interface inside. (Don’t look directly at the source of the light; it can damage your eyes.) Another trick is to see the color of the jack. If it is just green, probably the jack doesn’t have SPDIF function, but if it is black, like the jack shown in Figure 15, it probably does. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers follow this scheme.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.