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How to Send Audio to Your Speakers and Headphones at the Same Time

As we get older, our hearing changes. We may not want to think about it, but it is a fact. If you have older parents, you may have run into this issue. One person can’t hear the TV while the other person can’t stand to turn it up any louder. The obvious solution is to have the person with a hard time hearing wear headphones. But how? How can you send audio to speakers and headphones at the same time? We’ve got one of the answers.

There are likely lots of solutions to this problem. Many of these will be device dependent. By that, we mean that some combinations of devices can be used to create a solution that will only work with those specific (or a small number) of devices. If you have such a solution, share it below. It doesn’t have to involve headphones. With this article, we are identifying a solution that will work with a large number of devices. Let’s begin.

Get Yourself Some Bluetooth Headphones

The easiest solution begins with acquiring some Bluetooth headphones. These will allow you to connect wirelessly. We are assuming there are some people that will not need headphones but one that will. There are lots of Bluetooth headphones on the market. You are going to want to get some that advertise “Low Latency” or “Game” modes. This will reduce the chance you’ll run into lip sync issues. If your headphones are equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 or greater, low latency is built in. But don’t assume that just because the headphones are 5.0 equipped they also support low latency. They should, but they might not.

You’ll Need a Bluetooth Audio Adapter

Next, you’ll need some sort of Bluetooth audio adapter. This will allow you to send the audio to your headphones and speakers at the same time. You’ll again want to look for one that has low latency modes. Also again, just because they have Bluetooth 5.0 doesn’t mean they have a low latency mode available. Low latency modes often deplete the battery faster. Not every headphone supports low latency.

You’ll also need to ensure your adapter can accept an RCA input. Why? Read on!

Check the Back of Your AV Receiver

If you are sending audio to your headphones and speakers at the same time, we have to assume that you have an AV receiver. You must find one of two things on the back of your receiver – pre-outs for your main left/right speakers or pre-outs for a separate zone (usually zone 2 but it really doesn’t matter).

Connect It All Up

Step one will be to connect your adapter to your AV receiver. If you are using pre-outs, you are pretty much done. If you are using a separate zone, you’ll want to go into your receiver’s settings and make sure that the zone is outputting the correct audio. Some AV receivers will allow you to set your separate zone to mirror the main zone. Others will have to be switched manually. With pre-outs, you’ll always get the same information that is sent to the front left and right speakers.

The pre-outs you are looking for are on the top left

If you are using a zone output, you can set the volume for the zone and leave it. This allows you to control the volume with the headphones. If you are using the pre-outs, the volume control for the AV receiver will also control the volume going to the adaptor. This may cause some issues. Test the volume out carefully before you make any drastic volume changes.

Lastly, you’ll need to connect your Bluetooth headphones to the adaptor. This should be fairly straightforward and described by the manuals for the devices.

Potential Problems

At this point, you should have audio coming from your speakers and sent to your headphones at the same time. You may run into latency issues which would manifest in the lip sync being off. Hopefully not. But there are other potential issues.

We’ve already described cascading volume controls if you are using pre-outs. You may also find that you need to run all of your sources in stereo. You’ll know if this is the case if the headphone user isn’t hearing voices (pre-out connection) or isn’t hearing anything (zone-out connection). If you have a less capable AV receiver, it may not be capable of taking an HDMI input and sending the audio out the zone RCA outputs. In that case, you’ll have to check your manual and see what types of outputs can be sent through the zone pre-outs.

Take Away

If this sounds a little complicated and fraught with potential pitfalls…it is. Sending audio to your speakers and a pair of headphones at the same time isn’t something that is done often. It is certainly not a capability that is baked into our AV receivers and TVs at this time. As our population ages, and more people express an interest in this capability, we may see more devices offering better (and less cumbersome) solutions. Only time will tell.

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