Earphones or loudspeakers?

Praat for Beginners:
Choosing between earphones and loudspeakers

  • This question has three aspects – why, how and social
    • Loudspeakers are useful when several people are listening, earphones are better when discriminating finer detail in sound
    • Every extra peripheral device means more cables and boxes to be connected and taken care of around the computer
    • Earphones are more friendly in public places.
  • Praat does not have controls for speakers and earphones in Windows. How you switch between loudspeakers and earphones will depend on how your sound equipment happens to be connected to the computer, for example:
    • Standard sound systems usually have one combined connection for earphones and loudspeakers: the line out socket, which is usually round the back of the computer and difficult to get at. Switching between phones and speakers means swapping plugs in the socket, which can be simplified by bringing an extension cable round to the front. Volume is set from the Windows Volume control program. The line out socket does not have sufficient power to drive loudspeakers and so an amplifier is needed. Loudspeakers intended for computer use usually have built-in amplifiers and volume control, sometimes also a separate earphone socket.
    • Some computers have the sound sockets at the front, which is more convenient.
    • External sound systems often have separate earphone sockets with volume control.
    • Some computer screens come with loudspeakers, that you connect to the line out socket.
    • There are also various sound devices for earphones or loudspeakers using USB connections. Again, the USB sockets are usually at the back, but you can get USB panels for the front, or external USB hubs.
    • A more ambitious solution is to connect an amplifier to the line out socket and do all your listening from there, switching between phones and speakers at will. Depending on its specifications it might give anything up to hi-fi quality, more power, and connections for other sound sources like radio and recorders (so that it can be used as a distribution point for other sound devices).
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©Sidney Wood and SWPhonetics, 1994-2012
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