Wednesday, August 9, 2006

How to hook up a laptop to digital speakers

If you have been keeping up with my blog, you know that I have had my Alienware Area 51-M laptop for a while now, since my desktop computer went the way of the buffalo. 

The problem is this: how to connect the 1/8" mini-jack SPDIF output on my Alienware 51-M laptop to the 9-pin mini-DIN input on my Cambridge Soundworks FPS2000 speakers?

The thing that really aggravated me over this particular problem is that I knew there should be a way to connect the two, but the solution wasn't the easiest to track down.

On the side of my laptop there is only one output jack, but the label says "headphones / SPDIF" on what looks like your typical 1/8" jack. now, the SPDIF part tells me that there is digital output capabilities.

Another factor in prolonging the situation is that for a laptop, my Alienware 51-M has decent enough sound output. The two speakers directly under the screen, and another pair on the front edge of the base do a decent job of 4-point positional surround. But they are only laptop speakers, so volume and bass are not exactly sufficient if I want to turn up some tunes to enjoy from the other side of the room.

My speakers from my old desktop system are another matter. My Sound Blaster Live! card in my desktop was connected to Cambridge Soundworks FPS2000 4.1 surround speakers, meaning two front satellites, two rear satellites and a subwoofer performed amazing feats. Of course, my speakers have a 9-pin SPDIF connector, more commonly called Digital DIN or mini-DIN.

I spent 3 hours last night trying to find a bridge between the two. A cable, even a converter box of some kind that would take the output from one, and interface the input of the other. This was so aggravating to stike out again and again. The closest I got was a forum post that referenced an old offer from Creative Labs that would send the necessary cable to customers who bought newer sound cards that no longer had the 9-pin SPDIF output. And the link in the forum post was broken.

So what did I do? I went to the resident AV god at work, Jimmy. And he found The Solution. On Creative Labs website, he found the 1/8 inch to Mini Din and RCA Adapter.

So I ordered the thing. 

We'll see what happens when it gets here.

If it doesn't work, I may be selling both the laptop and speakers on E-bay out of complete frustration. Hah.

1 comment:

  1. Note: it didn't work. As far as I can tell, it won't work without some sort of intermediary device to translate the Alienware proprietary digital-out signal to the standard SPDIF format.