There are three major contexts for computer-based sound: watching the computer like a TV, using it for video or audio phone, and using the computer as a multi-channel mixing board for a PA system.
The problem is, the designers of Windows (and Linux, and Mac OS somewhat) have chosen to focus on enabling the usage on the right, and ignoring the common uses on the left.
That’s why, unlike a the TV, there is more than one volume control in Windows, and it’s hard to control the volume on a computer.
Phones versus TV
Windows has simplified the complexity by reducing the types of audio devices to “speakers”, “headsets”, and “microphones”. These are further simplified into two broad roles: “communication devices” which are headsets, and “multimedia” which is mainly speakers and microphones.
Unfortunately, it’s not simple enough.
If you plug in a DASAN headset, and you open up the Sound control panel (by right-clicking on the speaker icon in the lower right of the screen, then clicking “Playback devices”) you see:
And the “Recording” tab shows:
This particular headset is a “Communication Device” and it’s treated differently from the speakers and mic. The green circles show that it’s a default, and there’s a little “phone” in the circle.
What happens when you plug in a “communication device” and you watch a video on the web?
The audio doesn’t play in the headphones.
For the average person, this is a problem. For the company’s tech support, it’s a huge problem, because each tech support call costs $$$. And when it’s something as weird as having two volume controls, and setting up the headset to take over for the main speaker, it’s even worse. The headset company might as well throw money into a trash can and set fire to it.*
When you plug in a Plantronics headset, this is what you see in the Sound control panel:
This headset acts like a speaker!
It doesn’t present itself as a “communication device”. It acts like a plain old speaker and microphone.
So when you plug in the Plantronics headset, it takes over the sound. The video you were watching – it now plays through the headset. Just like you expected.
When you unplug the headset, the sound comes out of the computer again!
This is just like the old fashioned earphones that were plugged into transistor radios:
A Fix for the “communications device”
Here’s how to get the same effect for the communications device.
Open up the Sound control panel, and click on the Playback tab. Click on the headset, and then click the “Set Default” button near the bottom.
Do the same for the Recording tab.
Now, when you plug in the headset, it’ll take over all the sound, just like you expect.**
The main problem with MicroSIP’s audio is that it doesn’t adapt well when the headset acting like a “communication device” is unplugged and re-inserted. Basically, you lose the audio. ***
It’s made worse by the fact that, sometimes, out of the blue, a USB headset might reset itself, “unplugging” itself.
The problem is with MicroSIP, which should monitor the sound devices and re-activate the headset automatically.
You can fix this problem by setting up the headset as above, so it takes over as the regular speaker. Then set up MicroSIP to use the “Default” audio device:
With this setup, MicroSIP will just accept whatever Windows considers the speaker and microphone.
If something goes wrong, try quitting MicroSIP by right clicking in the icon in the lower right, and selecting “Exit”. (If you just close the window, MicroSIP doesn’t really quit.)
Then, restart MicroSIP and check the settings.
* In the old days, trash cans were metal, not plastic, so you could burn things in them.
** There’s a glitch in Adobe Flash so it doesn’t work right with Youtube. You will need to reload the page when the audio goes silent.
*** X-Lite doesn’t have this problem.