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Jagosaurus
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Audiophile Help - 3.5mm Headphone on Retro Consoles

by Jagosaurus Sun May 12, 2019 5:05 pm

I have a random thought/question....

I recently hooked up headphones to my Xbox 360e (for game audio) that has a built in 3.5mm out port. It got me thinking... can I just use a cable pass-through/adapter to do this with all my consoles that have stereo (red/white) out? As I mention in my Xbox thread, I am using an inline volume controller to adjust sound levels.

Could I do this method, making every retro console I own interface with headphones? This setup seems like it would work:
PS1 red/white stereo audio out >
3.5mm Female to Dual RCA Female Stereo Splitter Cable such as this (image below) >
Male to female 3.5mm >
Inline volume controller >
3.5mm headphones
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Assuming yes, but requesting a sanity check. I guess I just assumed the system was looking for some type of handshake with a receiver or TV... perhaps just overthinking it previously. Per these 2 Amazon reviews... it seems so:

This is a great little cable, the configuration of which is actually hard to find. I actually use a couple of these to connect a Samsung DVDN2000 (NUON) DVD player and PSOne to an older Dell 2407WFP LCD monitor that has composite and component input, but no speakers and no place to plug composite audio (RCA, Red/White) to listen to through a headphone jack. This allows me to connect those (the DVDN2000 via component and the PSOne via composite) to the LCD and then connect the audio through this to listen to through headphones or any set of speaker that use a 3.5mm audio (headphone) jack. The sound quality is good (no static or noise that I can hear) and I couldn't be happier with the purchase, especially considering just how inexpensive this item is.


I have an HD monitor with no way I can see to output the audio. I can't play games like Rock Band on it because the audio is terrible quality using the HD monitor's built-in speakers. Using this audio adapter, I was able to keep my Playstation 3 hooked into the HD monitor using an HDMI cable (to keep the HD video quality), and then I can also have my audio coming out of the component cable (which came with the PS3) from the PS3 to my speakers (which have only a 3.5mm male connector) by plugging the red and white (Right and Left) RCA plugs on the component cable into the other side of this audio adapter. There is a setting on the PS3 to have audio come out of your HDMI or component cable, or both (Settings --> Sound Settings). Now I can have much better quality sound when I want to (Rock Band, etc.), or just leave the speakers off and use the HD monitor audio (for other things playing through my PS3). Very happy with this product!
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Re: Audiophile Help - 3.5mm Headphone on Retro Consoles

by marurun Sun May 12, 2019 6:02 pm

If it isn’t digital (HDMI, fiber optic, etc...) there is no handshake. Honestly, the biggest problem you’re likely to run into is that the volume levels may be completely wrong for headphones.
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Re: Audiophile Help - 3.5mm Headphone on Retro Consoles

by Jagosaurus Sun May 12, 2019 6:20 pm

marurun wrote:If it isn’t digital (HDMI, fiber optic, etc...) there is no handshake. Honestly, the biggest problem you’re likely to run into is that the volume levels may be completely wrong for headphones.


That makes senses. If you didn't gather, my gameroom TV only has digital/SPDIF out for sound or I would just be going directly from TV analog audio out (and controlling volume via TV).

Yeah, I has one level of volume coming off the 360 until I got the inline volume controller shown below/linked above. In the 360 case, it was VERY loud during action, meaning I could turn it down initially. If the source signal is too low to begin with from another console, guess I'm out of luck with this method.

Edit/Add: Awesome BTW! For under $4, I'm going to order this and try it out by console if any1 is interested in seeing results. Hopefully the baseline audio coming off most isn't too low. If high, I can adjust down.

inline volume controller:
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Re: Audiophile Help - 3.5mm Headphone on Retro Consoles

by Ziggy587 Sun May 12, 2019 7:04 pm

The analog audio output via the red and white RCA jacks is a line level signal. Line level is not for headphones. But all you need is a headphones preamp. They're plentiful on Amazon. Just note, you don't want a headphones AMP, you want a PREamp. A headphones preamp can input line level and then spit out a proper headphones signal. See my next post.

Just be sure to get a preamp with as many tubes as possible if you want to be a cool dude.
Last edited by Ziggy587 on Tue May 14, 2019 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Audiophile Help - 3.5mm Headphone on Retro Consoles

by Jagosaurus Sun May 12, 2019 10:16 pm

Ziggy587 wrote:The analog audio output via the red and white RCA jacks is a line level signal. Line level is not for headphones. But all you need is a headphones preamp. They're plentiful on Amazon. Just note, you don't want a headphones AMP, you want a PREamp. A headphones preamp can input line level and then spit out a proper headphones signal.

Just be sure to get a preamp with as many tubes as possible if you want to be a cool dude.


Thanks man. Looking now on amazon. Something like this guy? What exactly is it's function? They look to be popular with DJ and vinyl crowds. If the volume coming off one of my cnosoles happens to be low, will this allow me get more volume out of it?

Seems to be models ranging from $60 to $300. I won't be spending the later. Am I missing out on any type of important functions or just build quality type?
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Re: Audiophile Help - 3.5mm Headphone on Retro Consoles

by Ziggy587 Mon May 13, 2019 8:27 am

OK, I have to apologize. I typed my last post in a hurry. I didn't mean to say "preamp". Rather, you do need a headphone AMP. But you need a specific kind. There are some headphone amps that input a headphone signal and then give you multiple headphones outputs, like this one. In this case, it's amplifying the signal so that it can be split. What you need is something that inputs a line level signal and converts it to a headphones output, like this one. There are also headphone amps that input and output a single headphone signal. This is because there are some really large headphones that require a stronger signal that when some consumer gear outputs. But being that there are three different types of headphone amps will make it a little harder to find the kind you're looking for.

Jagosaurus wrote:Something like this guy?


No, that looks like it inputs and outputs a line level signal and does not have a proper headphones output.

Jagosaurus wrote:What exactly is it's function? They look to be popular with DJ and vinyl crowds. If the volume coming off one of my cnosoles happens to be low, will this allow me get more volume out of it?


Line Level - This is the signal level that you'll find on most consumer AV. Usually on red and white RCA cables or a 3.5 mm cable. Like from a DVD player, game console, et cetera. These signal can be plugged into anything that inputs a line level signal. Like the inputs on the back of a TV, the inputs on a stereo receiver or amplifier, et cetera. When listening to line level audio, it ALWAYS has to be amplified in some way. Your TV has a small amp to go to it's internal speakers. A receiver has an amp that outputs to speakers. Even headphones outputs are amplified somewhat.

Headphones output - The line level signal isn't enough to drive headphones, and that's why your signal is weak. Line level needs to be amplified somewhat for headphones, although not nearly as much as speaker outputs. This is why you can't use headphones on line level outputs, and why you could use headphones outputs as line level outputs (although you'll be driving the input hard). That is, unless you convert the signal first.

This is why if you use the headphone output on a model 1 Genesis for stereo audio to your TV, you don't want to have the volume slider at 10 (I find about 7 is OK). Because the headphones output is hotter than line level. Not only will you drive the input too hard (which is usually safe - I haven't fried anything yet) but you'll get some distortion. That's why people have come up with a mod to get stereo audio before the headphones stage.

Phono Preamp - The reason why turntables need a PREamp is because the signal is weaker than line level. The signal needs to be boosted to line level first before it can be amplified. That's why receivers have dedicated phono inputs rather than using a line level input. Receivers that do not have phono inputs require a phono preamp, and they're plentiful on Amazon right now. They may or may not include a tube.

Tube Preamp - There are lots of tube preamps out there right now that input and output a line level signal. The point is to pass the signal through some tubes first to make it sound better before going to the amp (this is based on the belief that tubes sound better).

Headphone Amp - Like I said, there's several different types of headphone amps out there. You need one that inputs a line level signal and outputs a headphones signal. The more common type is one that inputs a headphone signal and splits to multiple headphone outputs. And yet another type of headphone amp is one that input and outputs a single headphone signal, they strengthen the signal for larger headphones that require it (although some people use these amps just to pass the signal through some tubes).

Techmoan Headphone Tube Amp video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22kx0q5j-JA




One suggestion is that maybe you can just use a cheap 2 channel mixer. It'll be about the same price as the cheaper headphone amps, but you'll get more bang for your buck.

https://www.amazon.com/Behringer-502-Pr ... ef=sr_1_15?

Don't let the "5 inputs" in the title fool you, it's really a 3 channel mixer. But for your purposes, it has RCA inputs which will work great for game consoles, and it has a headphones output so no need for an additional amp. It also has volume level control for the phones output, so no need for an in-line control. You can even pass the console audio through the mixer, then back out to your TV or receiver or whatever. Then keep the mixer next to where you sit, you can switch between headphones and speakers on the fly.




edit: Typos, grammar.
Last edited by Ziggy587 on Wed May 15, 2019 8:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Audiophile Help - 3.5mm Headphone on Retro Consoles

by marurun Mon May 13, 2019 9:31 pm

A better solution might be to get one of those cheap mini amps. You can get one of those with a couple inputs and a headphone jack. Something like this:

https://www.amazon.com/Home-Audio-Power ... 003NVOWJS/
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Re: Audiophile Help - 3.5mm Headphone on Retro Consoles

by Ziggy587 Tue May 14, 2019 8:02 am

Or get a USB mixer like this one: https://www.amazon.com/Pyle-2-Channel-A ... ef=sr_1_14?

You would get the same benefits of RCA input/output and a headphones output with volume control, but this one is a computer audio interface as well. It's powered by USB, and if you plug it into your PC or Mac it'll also work as a sound card. That means you can rip audio from games to digital music files. Or, just power it with a USB wall charger.

Or, I just found this little guy: https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... -amplifier

It has an XLR/TRS combo input, which means you can use this kind of adapter to input stereo RCA. It simply turns the source input to a headphones output with volume control. The only downside is that it's battery powered (it's meant to be portable). 12 hours on 2 AAA.
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Re: Audiophile Help - 3.5mm Headphone on Retro Consoles

by Ziggy587 Wed May 15, 2019 8:38 am

I just cleaned up my above post to fix a bunch of typos and bad grammar. Sorry, I was typing these posts up in a hurry while at work. Sorry if I came off sounding condescending at all. Also, I remembered that Techmoan had posted a video on headphone tube amps so I posted a link to that. Personally, I would recommend staying away from anything with tubes if possible.
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Re: Audiophile Help - 3.5mm Headphone on Retro Consoles

by Jagosaurus Wed May 15, 2019 9:54 am

Some awesome info guys. Thanks. Will look at those products in links.

Essentially, these devices will make the signal fit for headphones, correct? Also, giving me some more control over gain, volume, etc?

Will likely have additional questions after digging into the links further.

My Y cable adapter, stereo to 3.5mm, came in. Going to test it with a couple consoles today .
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