I like hearing most audio over my computer's speakers. I like taking calls using a wired headset.

I have a random HP desktop PC that came pre-installed with Windows 7, 64. It has Realtek Audio and an application called Realtek HD Audio Manager. The help file from the Realtek app is dated 2008 and applies to Vista (and is what comes pre-installed!)

The desktop has a slew of input and output jacks on the rear and microphone in and audio out jack on the front.

Right now, to make a call I plug the headset in, and the audio automatically switches. When the call is over I unplug the headset, and the audio switches back.

But what I would prefer is the exact same setup, but with no need to plug or unplug the headset. VOIP/IM goes to the front headset when plugged in, all other audio goes to the speakers.

The apps I use for phone calls are:

  1. Gmail / Google Talk / Google Voice
  2. Skype
  3. Other various IM programs

How does audio work on Windows 7, that is, is there any standard mechanism that VOIP/IM programs follow so that they direct audio to a plugged in headset on the front port while all the other sounds go to the speakers on the rear ports?

What do you do? What is Windows 7 capable of?

Are there specific applications I can install, or (inexpensive) pieces of hardware I can buy to make this easier?

  • Why would I answer a question without upvoting it? Remedied, better late than never. – stone May 25 '11 at 20:21

You can add a sound card, which will give you two sets of sound devices. Or use a USB headset, which will do the same thing. Then direct your IM programs to use the new device for sound input and output. You can find a soundcard for as low as $2. There are USB sound cards that will help you avoid opening up your PC, if you prefer not to.

The way to configure each VOIP application varies. Standalone applications like Skype have their own settings which let you choose an audio device for the microphone and for the speakers.

For browser-based applications, usually there is an applicable plugin setting. For example, for Google Voice, go into your gmail settings and go to the Chat tab; there, you'll find settings for "Voice and Video chat" with dropdowns to choose a device.

For your other IM clients, google "[IM client program name] choose audio device" or "use different speakers" and you'll probably find directions pointing you to the configuration for that program. If you tell me what clients you use I'd be happy to try them out and let you know if I'm able to get them to use an audio device aside from the default one.

  • Thanks, I appreciate your testing this. And yes, I think some of my issues is that most of what I listen to is browser based. – Jerry Asher May 2 '11 at 23:04
  • Tried this out in Google Voice, which apparently has its own settings for this. Updated my answer accordingly. – stone May 4 '11 at 2:34
  • Hi skypecapes, I apologize that I haven't accepted this as an answer yet. But I do greatly appreciate your answering it and even testing it. One day soon, when I can see my desk again, I will try this out, but I do greatly appreciate your time and help. – Jerry Asher May 28 '11 at 6:59
  • 1
    Forest for the trees... Last night I was going to do and end run around the question of what to do with browser based phone calls by configuring a SIP phone which as a native app I could more easily configure where it's IO comes from (because my realtek drivers support a communications device), and I saw, and skipped, right past the Gmail chat audio settings. Saw them. Played with them. Never clued in. Oops. Thank you, now the SIP phone is nice, but not needed. – Jerry Asher Jun 5 '11 at 22:14
  • @skypecakes Thanks for sharing this basic solution of adding a 2nd soundcard...I need to do the exact same thing as I use Skype with a Headset and speakers for everything else...this will be perfect! AS simple as it is, it;s just something I have never had to do in the past 20 years so didn't know this was possible! Thanks! – JasonDavis Jan 16 '15 at 22:29

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