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I want to have two sound output sources from my laptop. I can either use two sound cards, or have one with multiple outputs.

How can I test if my sound card supports it already?

Then it seems that I need special software to separate the outputs … ?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Short answer: If your laptop only has a stereo jack, you'll only have one output. There's no way you could get another output as a laptop normally doesn't have a dedicated sound card and the only output available is the stereo jack.

Only PC sound cards with multiple stereo jacks will be able to deliver more than one output, of course, but you need software to drive it. Think of 5.1 output where a Dolby Digital input signal is sent to 6 different speakers on 3 jacks. The problem here is that in many cases the driver of such a sound card "hides" the outputs from Windows, which will only see one output. There also exist audio interfaces for recording that offer even more than two outputs but they are expensive.

Then again, it's not too easy to map your audio signal to different outputs at all. Few programs support that. You need to specify what you want to do exactly.

  • Windows doesn't do it by default. (Edit: @BloodPhilia suggests it can be done, haven't seen it myself yet though)
  • In OS X, because of Core Audio, you can choose which output is going to be used (e.g. you can have Logic output to an external sound card and let OS X still play sounds over the Mac's speakers)

Solutions:

  • Get an external sound card with more than one output (but make sure you know what your use case is and which programs it can support)
  • Use a stereo jack to two mono jack connector (but this will only give you two mono signals to work with)
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I can use my laptop (and the default Windows Audio Driver) to direct different outputs from different sources to my HDMI audio output, jack output and SP/DIF output... So it seems Windows (7) CAN do it by default... –  BloodPhilia Apr 18 '11 at 19:55
    
thanks, so an external soundcard should do it (i have Vista). And could VLC do the job? Have two instances of VLC running directed to different outputs? –  Vass Apr 18 '11 at 21:33
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@Vass I believe it's the only way, yes. For VLC I think It's in: VLC -> Preferences -> Audio -> Waveout -> Output Device. Have a look in the VLC Help or Forums if you encounter some problems. I can't promise you it works because I'm on OS X here. –  slhck Apr 19 '11 at 7:11
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