My requirementsI have three different audio sources on my computer which need balancing:
- game sounds
- communication (my group uses Skype, I don't see why this won't work for TeamSpeak)
- music (from time to time)
The problemsThere are two problems - both with fairly simple solutions: how to separate the audio streams, and how to re-combine them after the levels have been set.
SeparationFirst, I separated communication. A second sound card solved this problem - Skype can be configured to use any audio output device. Like most gamers, I have a PCIe sound card (Sound Blaster X-Fi for me) which means I have an unused sound card integrated into my motherboard. Re-enable that in the BIOS, point Skype at it and we're away.
For music, I cheated. A while ago I switched the music systems in my house to Sonos - I've written about moving music to a NAS and getting it tagged properly in the past - and this means that it is already a separate stream. The problem with the Sonos output was actually mixing back it into the others so I could listen to music while gaming with headphones.
This leaves my game sounds coming out of the primary sound card in my computer. Three separate audio streams - done.
Re-combiningTo re-combine the audio, and also allow me to fiddle with the levels while in-game, I went for a mixing desk. I chose a Yamaha MG124C which is a bit over the top but I really wanted faders (the sliders) for volume control, not just pots (the twiddly knobs) and this was one of the smallest desks available with that feature. I've also used this desk in a radio station in the past so I know it makes a decent sound, is well made and isn't covered in useless features which are likely to break.
Setting up the desk was straightforward - the stereo output from the main sound card and Sonos go into the main stereo channels and the Skype soundcard goes into one of the secondary stereo channels. Some decent cables are also required; I'm using a variety of Adam Hall cables like this. The different channels are routed through the group fader so I can switch between output to the amp and output to the headphones with ease.
DoneAnd that's it. Now when I'm gaming if I can't hear my team-mates I can simply reach over to the desk and turn up the Skype channel, or turn down the game channel. I can add in music as I choose, or mute it at the touch of a button if things are getting hectic. I can easily make ongoing adjustments to these settings without ever leaving the game.
Hopefully someone will find this useful. The biggest problem I've encountered so far with this setup is how to record game play along with the communication channel. I will cover the solution for that in the next post.