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Audio Output and Controls
Most CD-ROM drives come with convenient features to allow you to use the drive to play and listen to audio CDs. Drives seem to vary drastically in terms of what they provide on their front panels, but you will usually see some combination of the following:
It's important to note that software audio CD programs are readily available (and for the mostpart, totally free--there's one included in Windows 95) and they will let you do basically anything you want (change tracks, see time remaining on the disk, even set up catalogs with the names of the CDs and tracks) with an audio CD from the comfort of your desktop. This software will work regardless of what controls you have on the front of the CD-ROM drive itself. For this reason, the presence of these buttons is a convenience only, and not a necessity (which may be why some drives omit them, I suppose.)
The amplifier included in most CD-ROMs to allow the use of headphones for direct playing is pretty wimpy. The sound quality produced directly from the CD-ROM is adequate; it is digital CD audio quality. Still, though, you will get much better quality (particularly deep bass and high treble response) from feeding CD audio through a soundcard to a home stereo system with a real amplifier.