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I have a 5.1 headset that I mostly use for gaming and watching movies. It is connected using 3 jacks to the rear panel of my motherboard (plus one for the microphone). I also have some small 2.1 speakers that I sometimes use to listen to music or to share a video/movie with someone.

For now, what I do is crawl under my desk, and switch the cables. As my motherboard has 7.1 capabilities, I am wondering if there could be a way of having all 4 jack cables always plugged in, and switching on which device to output the sound programmatically.

Has anybody had a similar problem, and how did you solve it ?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's not the most straightfoward solution, but it works, and it's the best I can think of.

Head over to newegg and grab the cheapest PCI soundcard you like and install it.

Get it installed, and make sure the Windows volume control is in your task bar. Then switching is a matter of right clicking the icon, going to "Adjust Audio Properties", and navigating to the Audio Tab. Select the device you want to output and input from on that screen. At least in my experience, you will have to restart any current applications to use the new settings.

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Thanks, this may be the easiest way indeed ! – Wookai Jul 29 '09 at 10:21

I think the easiest solution would be to plug a stereo splitter into the green speaker jack on the back of your computer, then plug both the 2.1 speakers and the Front Right/Front Left headset cable into the stereo splitter.

Audio will be transmitted to both the headset and the speakers all the time, so all you have to do is turn off the speakers when you want to use the headset, and optionally turn down the headset volume (assuming you have an inline volume control) when you want to use the speakers.

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Well, on Linux, you could configure that with ALSA's dmix plugin's "bindings" options, at least the docs seem to say so. Connect the speakers to rear, duplicate from to rear, and then you have the output on the speakers. Use the mixer levels to turn up/down rear as needed. (Or just turn off the speakers). On Linux you could even have different apps going to the headset and the speakers; that documentation page has an example of using a 7.1 setup as three different stereo pairs.

On some sound cards (mine have it at least) there is an option to duplicate the front channels to surround or rear; connecting your speakers to rear and turning it on would enable the speakers (and leave the headset enabled, but that probably isn't a problem)

On pretty much anything, you could use a stereo/audio A/B switch box (a piece of hardware).

You may be able to use a simple stereo headphone splitter (a piece of hardware) if the sound card output has enough power and you're willing to turn off the speakers when not in use.

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Thank you for your answer. I'm actually under Vista, but the hardware solutions still apply. The speakers are the crappy type without any remote or on/off switch, so turning them on is not a solution as it implies crawling under the desk to turn the volume down on the subwoofer or unplugging it. – Wookai Jul 28 '09 at 7:55

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