Saturday, October 19, 2013

[Rant] How do you connect speakers and a headset to your PC at the same time?

It seems like a simple question, right? But the issue is that there is usually only one speaker out port on the audio card I/O panel. Unless you have a high-end audio card, you won't find a dedicated headset port in there. There isn't one on the on-board audio solution of my Maximus VI Hero motherboard; not even on the X-Fi Titanium PCI-E card that I don't use anymore. What?!
Only the high-end audio cards have a dedicated headset port. Not only they come with the dedicated port, but the port is usually amped. Well, you don't really need an amped headphone port unless the headset has a high impedance.
The headset I bought recently, the AudioTechnica AD500X, doesn't need one. It's so loud even with the system volume set to about 20%. Getting an audio card just for the dedicated headphone port doesn't sound like the best way to spend the bucks. Besides, the audio cards that support dedicated headset ports are pretty expensive too. And, an audio card would block the airflow to the video card from the back intake fan. (Of course it will still be fed with cool air from the bottom intake fans.)
Anyways, so if you don't have an audio card that has a dedicated headset port, how do you plug your headset and the speakers at the same time? Well, you could simply plug the headset to the front audio ports and speakers to the back. That would work just fine. In fact, that's how most onboard solutions or low-end (<$100) sound cards are designed to be used as. The issue is that when you have a long cable on the headset, it gets in the way. And it kills the looks of your setup depending on how you care about aesthetics.
It makes you wonder if there isn't a better way to do it. Perhaps there are connectors that plug to the front audio on the sound card, that installs to the back of the case. Just like the cables that connect to the motherboard USB headers. That would actually fix my issue.
Or, you could simply use a 3.5mm cable splitter and plug in both the speakers and the headset at the same time. That's what I used to do when I had my Roccat Kaves because I definitely didn't want to plug in the speakers to the front audio ports. The Kaves were true 5.1, meaning they only could be plugged to the back of the motherboard. It is a cheap way to fix the issue but that would cause audio quality deterioration and even damage to equipment.
Or, you can buy a USB audio card. I don't know how good they sound but that would be like making my AD500X's like the G430. It's not bad but I don't think a good USB audio card would be cheap. Creative makes a lot of them, some priced at $100; some even carrying the X-Fi or Recon3D moniker. I guess I need to read some reviews and see if they are any better. If I'm to buy one, it has to be better than the onboard audio on my motherboard.
However, if you have a supported Realtek onboard audio card, it might let you configure different ports for different purposes. It’s called Jack Retasking. For example, you might be able to configure the mic in port as headphone out port. You can do this via the Realtek Audio Manager that's running in the system tray. It might popup a dialog box asking which type of device you plugged in when you plug in a device. That way, if you don't want a headphone amp, you should be able to get away with what you have.
connector retasking
Unfortunately the audio solution on my Maximus VI Hero doesn't fully support this feature. It only pops up this message when I plug something to the front audio ports or the green port (main speaker port) at the back. That sucks! The audio control panel software Asus ships with this board is dumbed down it seems, even though the audio quality is unarguably better.
Right now, this is how I have connected the headset - using the front audio panel. The good thing about it is that I can easily unplug the headset when I am not using it. There is no real reason to do so however. It's not as if I'm carrying it from place to place. That's hard work considering the way I have routed the cable. But I can at least hide the headphone cable like in the pic.
IMG_0156 IMG_0154 

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