Napkin Diagrams

Engineering, Technology, and DIY

2 Computers, 1… Speaker Set

Venn Diagram of Mac intersecting Windows with speakers
Computers and laptops have become cheaper and cheaper over the years. It has reached a point where it is not uncommon for a person to have more than one. Whatever the specific situation may be, the audio hardware setup will get a bit tricky. Computer speaker sets have only one input; unless one wants to shell out for multiple sets or a nice receiver system, the only solution is to continuously move the plug. For some, the access to all ports is easy enough that such a simple solution is sufficient. Most of the time, it would become irritating very quickly, especially if one has to alternate back and forth frequently. What is a man to do?

Well, if there’s a Mac involved, it’s really simple to use it as a hub. There’s three main components involved, one hardware and two software from Rogue Amoeba (second one is really optional).

First, connect the Mac’s input audio jack to the other computer’s output audio jack with the 1/8″ plug M/M cable. Connect the speakers to the Mac’s audio output.

Next, install and run LineIn. A window will appear that looks like:
Screenshot of LineIn
Choose Built-In Input: Line in for input and Built-In Output: Headphones for output. Hit “Pass Thru” and the first one or two bars in the blue level meter should come on and possibly flicker a little. Try playing some audio from each computer to test that everything is getting sent to the speakers properly. edit: Try to get the input volume so that the level meter never tops out (or there will be static).

Now, one could stop here, but there are some limitations. There’s a general lack of settings and customizability. The output volume, for example, of both the Mac and the passed through audio are only controlled by the single system volume slider, so a bit of playing will be necessary on both systems. This is where SoundSource comes in.
SoundSource screen shot
As stated on their site, “SoundSource is a tiny application for Mac OS X enabling you to switch your audio input and output sources with a single click, and even adjust their volume settings”. This app lives up in the menu bar at the top, out of the way. edit: You can then use Default System Input and Default System Output in LineIn.

There you have it. Quick, painless audio. One can even get music playing on one and a game going on the other with the audio being properly mixed and sent to output together automatically. If there’s more than two computers involved, a F/F to M Y audio connector could be used to have multiple inputs to the Mac, although individual volume would have to be configured on each of the other computers manually (since SoundSource would only control the input as a whole).

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4 responses to “2 Computers, 1… Speaker Set

  1. Julie January 4, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    What is a man to do? Hey I didn’t realize this blog was directed exclusively at men. Well, I guess I have no business reading it.

  2. Robin January 6, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Oh god this title.

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