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Switching between speakers and headphones without having to unplug anything?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

My current audio setup is a little less than ideal and I was hoping that could change with my new build. Right now, my computer has an HT Omega Striker soundcard with a T-amp for my Cambridge Audio S30 bookshelf speakers (+ BIC F12 sub) and a Schiit Asgard (original) for my Sennheiser HD580s. I have one 3.5mm to RCA cable that stays in the soundcard and goes to the T-amp or Asgard. As of current, I basically don't use my headphones at all because switching is a pain; the plugs are very snug and I imagine frequent switching will put unnecessary strain on the jacks.

My new machine will be mITX, so no expansion room for a card. That said, onboard audio will be ALC1150, so hopefully sound quality will suffice. I'll have front panel audio this time around, though. My plan was to put the Schiit up front and get another cable for the speakers in back (or vice versa, doesn't matter). Would this allow me to use either the speakers OR my headphones, without having to unplug anything or make any software/control panel changes?

Another slightly unrelated question. Say I wanted an external DAC, more than likely a Modi. I'd probably sell my current Asgard (thing gets HOT) and get a Magni or Vali to go with it; smaller footprint and all. Could I route the speakers and headphones through the DAC and each to their respective amps? Would the cabling situation be similar to the above (assuming the above worked)? Would I need something like the Schiit SYS Passive Preamp for this? Is the SYS (or similar) the solution I am looking for in general?

Your thoughts and comments are much appreciated!

- fusedpro

post #2 of 10

First off, the SYS preamp is jsut a straight preamp - it's not like a fullsize preamp that can take multiple inputs much less multiple outputs. One analog stereo signal goes in, one preamped (volume controlled) analog signal goes out.

 

Second, the easiest way to do all these I think would be to still unplug something - namely the headphones. You can get a DAC-HPamp like a number of AudioGD prodcuts that has an analog output from its DAC section, this way when you unplug the headphones from it, the sound goes out to the amp for the speakers. 

 

Lastly, if you use a cheaper, no-frills DAC that feeds the headphone amp, that means you'll have to hook up the speakers to the onboard sound, which in turn means that you have manually switch between both (although you don't physically unplug anything); personally unplugging a headphone seems more convenient than fussing around with Windows.

 

If anything, in case you plan on playing games through the headphone, make sure your motherboard has SPDIF digital output and whichever type of DAC you get must also have the same kind of SPDIF input. AFAIK, surround simulation processing doesn't go through USB digital audio (unless you're sending the audio into a USB sound card with surround processing, like the Xonar U7).

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

I guess I'm confused as to how the SYS preamp works as I saw two RCA line-ins and went from there. My original thought was to have my T-amp/speakers go to In 1, Asgard/headphones to In 2, and then the Out to my onboard audio. I have trouble wrapping my head around the cabling/line in/line out phrasing, but I'm guessing this is not possible? Then I threw the DAC in and got more confused... Could use some education here, I guess?

 

I'd be fine unplugging the actual headphones from something, but I dislike unplugging the RCA cables and swapping between my T-amp and Asgard. Either my 3.5mm -> RCA cable is wonky or the jacks on the back of my equipment are, but it takes quite a bit of force to do anything back there.

post #4 of 10

This is a terrible idea. First I will tell you why. Then I will tell you how to do it anyways. 

 

The reason that this is a terrible idea is that at some time, the user set the system to play headphones, expect to hear speakers, and turn the headphones WAY WAY up before figuring out what is going on. Depending on your lack of luck this could be really bad. It is also quite common that the speakers and the headphones need different levels from the source. Without careful level matching (with yet another atenuator...) it is suprizingly easy to switch from one to the other and blast yourself.

 

Now, how to do it.  

Get something like this:

 

http://www.showmecables.com/product/2-way-audio-video-input-selector-switch.aspx?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cse&utm_campaign=47-200-008&zmam=49733141&zmac=5&zmas=1&zmap=47-200-008&gclid=CJjq9tC28r4CFXQOOgodjUQA-w

 

or this:

 

http://www.vetco.net/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=10996

 

and install it with the "source" on the "output" and the speakers and hedphones on the "inputs". 

post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by fusedpro View Post
 

Hi all,

My current audio setup is a little less than ideal and I was hoping that could change with my new build. Right now, my computer has an HT Omega Striker soundcard with a T-amp for my Cambridge Audio S30 bookshelf speakers (+ BIC F12 sub) and a Schiit Asgard (original) for my Sennheiser HD580s. I have one 3.5mm to RCA cable that stays in the soundcard and goes to the T-amp or Asgard. As of current, I basically don't use my headphones at all because switching is a pain; the plugs are very snug and I imagine frequent switching will put unnecessary strain on the jacks.
 

 

Hmm... you don't necessarily need to switch the cable in your current setup (if you don't want to). There are few solutions for that ... here's one:

 

Get another 3,5mm jack to RCA cable.

 

HT Omega Striker Channels Front L/R --> Schiit Asgard (original) --> Sennheiser HD580s

HT Omega Striker Channels Rear L/R --> T-Amp --> Cambridge Audio S30

 

Set the output for 4 speakers, no DSP. If needed, you can control the path through setting the system for either 2 channel or 4 channel audio ... or manually through T-Amp/Asgard power switches/volume knobs.


Edited by jiiteepee - 6/11/14 at 1:58pm
post #6 of 10
I agree with everyone else. The Sys preamp is designed for two inputs and one output, not the other way around. Here are some other suggestions:

1) Get an Audio-GD DAC/headphone amp/pre-amp.
2) Get RCA splitters and split the output and send it to both your headphone amp and speakers. As long as only one is turned on, I wouldn't think it would affect the signal provided by the DAC. Pretty cheap option to try and find out.
3) Get a switch box. I have a Niles AXP-1 which works very well. And because it doesn't have a pre-amp (like the Sys), you can use it for either up to five inputs and one output OR five outputs and one input.
post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by fusedpro View Post
 

I guess I'm confused as to how the SYS preamp works as I saw two RCA line-ins and went from there. My original thought was to have my T-amp/speakers go to In 1, Asgard/headphones to In 2, and then the Out to my onboard audio. I have trouble wrapping my head around the cabling/line in/line out phrasing, but I'm guessing this is not possible? Then I threw the DAC in and got more confused... Could use some education here, I guess?

 

I must have seen some older pre-release photo; just checked, yesit does have two inputs.

 

Still, for what you need it to do, I still wouldn't use the SYS, for the simple reason that you'll end up with two volume controls on both the headphone and speaker signal chains. Using a DAC with a headphone amp as well as a fixed level analog output means you can use a single digital signal into the DAC, then it sends the signal into either its own headphone amp, or out the back right out of its analog output stage.

 

If there's any reason why it's acceptable to have two levels volume control on the same chain, it's only for when you're using active speakers, particularly with professional models, because these have independent controls behind each monitor, in which case you just have to set the proper gain level, leave them as is, and use the one on the preamp (whether it's built into a DAC or headphone amp) as the master control.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fusedpro View Post

 

I'd be fine unplugging the actual headphones from something, but I dislike unplugging the RCA cables and swapping between my T-amp and Asgard. Either my 3.5mm -> RCA cable is wonky or the jacks on the back of my equipment are, but it takes quite a bit of force to do anything back there.

 

 

If you have for example the AudioGD NFB12, you hook up one digital output into it (USB, coax, optical) from the motherboard. You then use your headphones straight from its headphone amplifier (using the 6.3mm output in front), then you hook up the amplifier of your speakers to its fixed analog output in the rear. So basically the signal chain flows like this:
 

 

                                                                                              > speaker amplifier

motherboard  >>digital audio>>  DAC  >>analog output stage>

                                                                                              > built-in headphone amp

 

All you need to do is plug or unplug the headphones (and switch on/off the speaker amp when necessary).

post #8 of 10

That Niles switch box would work for you, or this (probably higher quality) one from Decware: http://www.decware.com/newsite/ZSB.html 

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by JerseyD View Post

That Niles switch box would work for you, or this (probably higher quality) one from Decware: http://www.decware.com/newsite/ZSB.html 

The Niles is definitely higher build quality than the cheaper plastic AV switch boxes available online. It's an all metal heavy case. Also, different type of switching mechanism with the rotary dial vs. the push button switches on the cheaper AV switch boxes. Of course, that might not make any difference in SQ (hard to know).
post #10 of 10

Sorry for the bump here but I'm doing essentially what the OP is asking for in my setup.

 

I have my computer going to a Modi DAC, T-Amp, and Vali. I looked into switchers and preamps (with A/B speaker outputs) but in the end found out that it's not likely there will be any benefit to an expensive preamp vs a simple RCA splitter like what Cel4145 suggested. It has worked perfectly and I cannot tell a single difference from having a cable directly plugged in.

 

I use a splitter very much like this 

http://www.parts-express.com/gold-rca-y-(1)-male-to-(2)-right-angle-female-black--091-515?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=pla

 

My line goes like this

 

computer ___ DAC (splitter) _____  Vali _____ Headphones

                                          \______ T-amp_____ Speakers

 

I have heard someone state that there may be a SLIGHT impedance change on the input of both the Vali and T-amp but it shouldn't make any difference and I certainly can't hear any. You simply power up what you wanna listen to and avoid any cable changes.

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