Using One Headset with Two Computers
Like many of you, I’ve got two computers on my desk when I’m at work. I was getting frustrated that I repeatedly needed to unplug my headset from one computer to hear the audio from the other. Who wants to stop listening to The Mighty Mighty Bosstones on their Mac Mini just so that they can hear part of a tutorial video on their laptop?
I fully realize this is a first-world problem, but I still wanted a better solution. I got a small mixer, hooked it up, and now I can hear the audio from both machines in a single headset. Here’s how I did it.
I bought a Behringer Xenyx 302USB mixer. (disclaimer: I work for Sweetwater, but I don’t benefit from use of these links) It is a relatively inexpensive mixer, and I was able to get one used on Gear Exchange for even less.
The Xenyx has a USB connection and can serve as both a USB input and USB output device. I originally intended to use the USB connection to one computer and send the headphone output from the other computer into the mixer’s second channel. One thing I ran into right away is that USB audio degrades quickly when running through a USB hub. I had to change my setup so the mixer plugs directly into the laptop.
To go from the headphone output into the mixer, I needed an adapter to go from an 3.5mm headphone plug to RCA. The audio seemed better using the RCA connection. So, I got a second breakout cable. I have both computers configured to send the audio output to the headphones, which routes it to the mixer. I use the USB connection, but just to make the mixer a microphone for one of the computers.
I want to point out two caveats. First, the microphone only goes into one of the computers, so I can only really do Zoom calls on one of the machines. This is the behavior I wanted. I just want to make that limitation clear. Second, I already had a headset, the Sennheiser GSP 302, that had the input and output broken out separately. This setup wouldn’t work with a USB headset.
So far, I’m loving this setup. If I need to watch a video on either computer, I can hear it in the same headset. If I want to, I can listen to audio from both computers at once. This could come in handy if I want to add Chumbawumba as the background music to a video tutorial. And I’ve got additional physical volume controls for the headphones and my microphone.
In theory, I could mix audio output from either computer with my mic input and out to a Zoom call, but I don’t see myself doing that. And if I wanted to, I could upgrade my setup to use an XLR mic instead of a headset mic.
It’s been a nice, functional upgrade to my office desk setup. It is a small change that makes my workflow just a little be faster every day.
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My name is Eric Potter. I have an amazing wife and 5 wonderful children. I am a Microsoft MVP for Developer Tools and Technologies, the Director of Technical Education for Sweetwater in Ft. Wayne Indiana, and an adjunct professor for Indiana Tech. I am a humble toolsmith.