Multiple analog audio ports

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Multiple analog audio ports

Postby Arancaytar » Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:50 pm UTC

I'm currently planning to build a new desktop, and thinking of several possible improvements over my current computer beyond just newer hardware. One thing that has always been inconvenient is the location of the USB ports at the back of the case, so I'll probably include some kind of multi-function front panel (audio, USB, card reader, etc).

However, the ideal position for the audio jack socket varies depending on what is plugged in. I have an old stereo amplifier connected to a couple of large speaker boxes, and the cable to that is best threaded behind the desk to the back of the computer case. On the other hand, when I want to be quiet, the earphone cable is a bit too short to reach there comfortably. Ideally, I'd like a set-up where the front socket "overrides" the rear one, much like plugging earphones into a laptop will disable the speakers.

I don't know that much about electrical engineering, or how that even works in a laptop. Since it's apparently OS-independent, I assume it's passive and accomplished through some trick in the wiring, or possibly a switch in the socket?
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Re: Multiple analog audio ports

Postby Dream » Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:04 pm UTC

Arancaytar wrote:I assume it's passive and accomplished through some trick in the wiring, or possibly a switch in the socket?

It's a switch. The impedance and signal level for the headphone jack and the speakers are very different, and are very unlikely to be physically connected so that a wiring trick does it. It's a switch in every laptop I've ever seen break, and I've seen a few. However, if you have two different components, one for headphones on the front of the case, and one for line level to your amp on the back, you're unlikely to have this functionality. Check the manufacturer's specs, but I doubt it.

What about a USB external soundcard on your desk, with line level outs on the back and headphones on the front, or even a PCI version with a headphone extention cable up to the desk? You'd be switching levels in software, probably, but you'd get the convenience you're after. I've never used a PCI soundcard, but I'd bet my house there's a reasonably priced model with a stereo output and a separate headphone jack, and a driver with a speaker-out mute switch.
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Re: Multiple analog audio ports

Postby AvatarIII » Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:23 pm UTC

if you want to be really snazzy you could set up bluetooth and get some bluetooth headphones, that way you woundn't need 2 audio outputs :D and wireless, wireless is cool.

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Re: Multiple analog audio ports

Postby Endless Mike » Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:53 pm UTC

For what it's worth, my computer speakers, connected to the motherboard's on-board audio, go silent when I connect headphones to the headphone built into my case and connected to an audio port on the motherboard. I'm not sure this would be the case if you are getting a discrete soundcard, however.

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Re: Multiple analog audio ports

Postby naschilling » Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:58 pm UTC

Nearly all motherboards have connectors for front audio connectors. Many, if not most, of those will automatically disable the rear connector when the front one is in use. For more details, RTFM.
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