Audio switch between headphones and quad speakers

Posted on 2005-04-02
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2009-12-16
According to the nice people at my local electronics/computer shop, a lot of people have asked for this but no one anywhere sells it.  Maybe someone here can help.

I (like many, many people) have my computer audio going to a setup with speakers in front and back.  My sound card has two outputs, a stereo output for the front speakers and one for the rear speakers.  What I want is a device with a knob or button; when I turn this knob, I select between headphones disabled and all four speakers active, or headphones active and all four speakers disabled.

Regular switches will not work (i.e., don't put this link in your answer http://www.radioshack.com/product.asp?catalog_name=CTLG&category_name=CTLG_004_002_007_000&product_id=26-204).  Every single headphones switch I have seen will only acccept ONE (1) line from the computer.  As I described, I've got a line for the front speakers and a second one for the rear.  Ideally, when the speakers are disabled I'd like to have a mix of front and rear sent to the headphones, but I'd be happy enough if only the front went to the phones and the rear got lost.

I'll accept either of two answers to this question:
 1 - a link to a product page where I can buy it
 2 - a schematic for a circuit to build it, but only from a design that has actually been built and used

Note: if you've got the schematic, you may want to start a small home business.  www.unicornelex.com will place an order for a bunch of them, I'm certain.
Question by:AntonioP
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Assisted Solution

DabRain earned 800 total points
ID: 13689226
Sorry no circuit available, but get yourself a 4pole 2position rotary switch, socket to suit your headphones (6.5mm or 3.5mm ), 2 3.5mm sockets for your speakers out and 1 cable with 3.5mm male plugs, and a project box to put it in. Next the wiring, all earths are connected together as commons, and follow the rough diagram below,

                                                                ___________ Front right
                                       Right    _______/  
                                                                ___________Headphone right

            Front stereo in                               ____________Front left
                                        Left     _______/
                                                                ____________Headphone Left

                                                                ___________ Rear right
                                       Right    _______/  
                                                                ___________Headphone right (or not connected)

             Rear stereo in                               ____________Raer left
                                        Left     _______/
                                                                ____________Headphone Left (or not connected)

I know that this is not exactly what you wanted but it will work
LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 13689479

A normal closed-circuit stereo headphone jack will do what you want for two speakers (the left and right front speakers), but would not cut off the speakers other than the main left and right speakers (by the way, I am assuming that you are driving the speakers with line-outs, and that the speakers have internal power amps).

Suggestion -- you won't like this now, but it do it you will love it later -- Get a new sound card, a Soundblaster Audigy Platinum with the "live drive".  These have a headphone jack that does exaclty what you want built into the live drive.  But the live drive has a LOT more -- it has Toslink optical digital inputs and outptus, mic inputs, headhphone jack (that cuts off the speakers) with a real knob volume control, Line inputs and outputs, SPDIF digital inputs and outputs, IR remote control, midi inputs and outputs and a firewire input and output.  All in a very sexy looking control panel that mounts on the front of your computer in a 5.25" drive bay.  This is the ultimate in sound cards.  You can get this in an Audigy, Audigy 2 or Audigy 2 ZS, list price is $199, but you can find the Audigy 2's for about $50 to $70, in fact the factory sells refurbs on E-Bay with a factory warranty (search for "Audigy Platinum").

Author Comment

ID: 13689717
DabRain, doesn't attaching all the grounds together lead to crosstalk between the channels?  If there is such a thing as an 8-pole, 2 position switch, that would do it, right?  If i need to build this, I'd actually rather not deal with circuitry and ICs and relays, and this sounds promising...

Watzman, that live drive is awesome... just a little too rich for my wallet at this time.  It won't work with my Live! soundcard, so I'd need to get both.
LVL 13

Accepted Solution

Watzman earned 400 total points
ID: 13689761

No, attaching all the grounds together is fine.  They are connected together already anyway.  If you were going to do this with a switch, you only need a 4-pole switch (because you don't have to switch the grounds).  However, there is an implicit assumption here that the same signal is suitable for driving the headphones and the speakers, and that's not automatically the case.

As to the live drive, yes, you would have to get a whole new sound system (the livedrives are not even interchangeable between the different Audigy boards -- an Audigy livedrive won't work with an Audigy 2, although they LOOK superficially identical.  However, you can buy a complete used or refurb Audgy system -- sound card, live drive, remote, cables, the whole works -- for about $50 to $70 on E-Bay.

Author Comment

ID: 13694985
All right, I think I've got a plan.  This seems pretty easy to build: I just need the switch, three stereo jacks (to speakers and headphones), and three stereo plugs (to pull off the sound card).  I can even run the headphone jack and switch inside the case to a blank drive bay and make it look swanky like the live drive. I can machine an expansion port cover like the one here to connect to the sound card...

The whole thing should cost about 15 dollars, plus be a lot of fun!

Thanks for the help!


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