Using your Windows PC for music playback?

If you do, you may have been frustrated with how Vista/Win 7 handles audio routing when you have multiple output devices. For example, the built-in audio on my computer’s motherboard has both analog and digital SPDIF outputs. However, I cannot send the output of my Zune player (or anything else) to both devices simultaneously. Since I used to have my computer speakers connected to the analog output and my home theater receiver connected to the digital out, this put a major kink in my plans for whole-house audio.

A few months ago I moved my home office and could no longer connect the digital output to my receiver. So, instead I moved to using Logitech’s Squeezebox devices for whole house audio, which is great because I can control it remotely, have multiple zones playing the same or different music, and so on. I love it, but the problem is it won’t play the DRM protected songs I download through my Zune Pass subscription service.

So, what I’ve been doing is looking for a tool that will allow me to stream the audio being played on my computer through the Squeezebox server. In the process I found a tool that solves all my problems: NTONYX’s Virtual Audio Cable.

While something of a geek’s tool in that it’s not exactly user-friendly, it works great! You can set up virtual audio devices on your computer and set programs (such as the Zune player) to play through that virtual device. Then, in turn, you can set other devices (such as the Squeezbox server, via the WaveInput plug-in) to listen to that virtual audio device just like it was a line-in on your sound card. You can also use their Audio Repeater tool to send the audio to multiple outputs simultanously, such as the analog and digital outputs.

Tip: I found that you don’t always have to use the Audio Repeater, as in Windows for Line-In devices you can tell windows to “Listen to this device” in the device properties.

It could certainly be easier to use, and a bit more automatic for certain things, but so far it’s the only tool I’ve found that solves a number of these audio routing problems. It’s also a bit pricey: $49, but for certain things it’s definitely worth it. The trial is mostly functional with certain limitations – very useful for making sure it will work the way you need it to before you buy.

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