Vista Audio Device Management: Sucky?

By | December 4, 2006

Please will someone tell me, is there a way to set multiple playback devices as ‘default’ in Windows Vista?  The way it seems to me, I can set one and only one device as the default device, and all programs will output sound to this device.

The way I worked in XP, I would have sound running to both my speakers and my headphones at the same time.  This was good, because if I want to play a game quietly, I can just turn off my speakers and throw my headphones on.  I didn’t have to ferret around for cables or software settings.

Under Vista (see the image below), I have to decide on one default device.  If I’m playing some Battlefield 2142 and want to switch from speakers to headphones, I have to exit the program altogether, change default audio devices, then start the game again.  Total insanity.

Vista Audio Devices

[tags]windows, vista, audio[/tags]

99 thoughts on “Vista Audio Device Management: Sucky?

  1. Jon B

    Me too – I have SPDIF for my home theatre but i want system sounds to play through my stereo computer speakers. I want this to be automatic – like some global ‘program control’ so I can specify where audio from each app should be sent.

    Let me know if you find anything.

    :)

    Reply
  2. Dru

    Same here; if you find out how to fix this, please post it. This is crazy. MS should have some sort of global mixer to allow multiple device stream playback.

    Reply
  3. Chris S

    I’m in the same boat. I’ve been checking for answers for 2 weeks to no avail. If I find a cure, I will gladly come back and share.

    Reply
  4. Shawn

    Yep same issue here! I want sound on my Spdif, computer speakers and headphones at the SAME TIME. WTF was M$ thinking this time!?!?!?!

    Reply
  5. Vigoras

    Ditto here, this totally sucks.

    Still looking for a solution…

    Regards,

    Vigoras

    Reply
  6. Ralph

    I am starting to regret to having switched to Vista because its so impossible to do a lot in the media section. I have upgraded and now I dont have sound because its telling me that I have not installed Audio Device….I have broused the net the whole day and read just about anything in that regard and am still stuck with sound.
    If anyone is so brilliant with this nonsense in Vista please come to my rescue..they should have just let us remain in XP atleast we were able to do whatever we wanted. In my opinion Vista is not ready for use at the moment…it has even slowed down my PC

    Reply
  7. eyeinsane

    i just talked to a hp tech sup. and after bout half an hour she told me it is the way Vista is designed. i use nice pc speakers and the SPDIF for my surround sound. she said since it how they designed it there is no way to fix this problem. i like vista my games run better and media center looks better. if u want to be able to use both a certain times try dual boot if u still have ur xp. its a pain but hey i use both xp and vista for their strongpoint . which means i dont use vista much (hahaha).

    Reply
  8. Nathan Johnson

    There’s got to be a software fix. I can run one program and get a sound from my speakers. I can then change the default device and open another program and get 2 different sounds from 2 devices simultaneously. So this can’t be a hardware issue. It would seem easier to get the same sound from 2 devices. Please let me know if you come up with something.
    Thanks, Nathan

    Reply
  9. DingleJohn

    I believe you are so right Nathan Johnson! It cant be a hardware problem since it worked for me ind xp. There must be a software fix or someone shuld make it!

    Reply
  10. Tomten

    It is up to each application to determine which audio device to use. Most applications use The default device, but some, better applications such as for example Skype you can select your device manually and make the sound go to which ever set of speakers or headset you want no matter which is the default. Works the same in both Vista and XP.

    Reply
  11. campo

    Hey guys,

    If there is no way to get around it. Then what if someone made a sidebar gadget that

    displayed your audio devices so that switching from one to the other wouldn’t be so

    monotonous?

    Reply
  12. campo

    Hey guys,

    If there is no way to get around it. Then what if someone made a sidebar gadget that

    displayed your audio devices so that switching from one to the other wouldn’t be so

    monotonous?

    Reply
  13. Orbmu2k

    @campo:
    Thats the next big problem on vista, the new sound core API of vista does not have any public API to change the default sound device of windows by code. So its impossible to build a tool or gadget like this.

    Reply
  14. Orbmu2k

    @campo:
    Thats the next big problem on vista, the new sound core API of vista does not have any public API to change the default sound device of windows by code. So its impossible to build a tool or gadget like this.

    Reply
  15. John

    I should have never switched to Vista. I hate Microsoft!!!

    Reply
  16. Ben Post author

    @Tomten: if that is the case, then tell me why when I boot to XP I get sound from both the front and rear panel at the same time, but under Vista it only comes out of the “Default” device (usually rear panel)?

    Reply
  17. av

    I posed this question to person in the know as it would seem something that shouldn’t be so difficult with the new audio stack, with any luck he’ll come and reply here. I wouldn’t be expecting a fix before Vista SP2 though as the SP1 is almost in beta.

    Reply
  18. Dave

    Possible Solution:
    I have some usb speakers and found out when I unplug them the regular speakers work again (set as default) when I plug the usb back in they also work. I was using windows media player and that continued throught the headphone jack while new applications used the usb.

    Reply
  19. Dave

    Possible Solution:
    I have some usb speakers and found out when I unplug them the regular speakers work again (set as default) when I plug the usb back in they also work. I was using windows media player and that continued throught the headphone jack while new applications used the usb.

    Reply
  20. Cristian from Italy

    I had burn all my salary to buy a retail copy of Vista Ultimate Retail and now it do less than XP… M$ where’s the solution?!?!?, if there’s…

    Reply
  21. Hibbs

    MS screwed Vista’s audio architecture up completely. It’s a violation of the Vista logo program for an audio device mfg to enable multiple simultaneous audio outs (athough it is perfectly doable). Go figure.

    Reply
  22. Cristian from Italy

    I had install the patch Windows6.0-KB938194-x86.msu but I still have same issue.

    Reply
  23. mstevens

    Installed both patches, and it’s still one device or the other.

    Reply
  24. Wayt

    Yeah, the patches didn’t solve the issue for me either. Bummer!

    VAIO RC-210G

    Reply
  25. Cristian from Italy

    That page goes to the single manufater support pages, to dowload updated drivers, but here many users have same problem with different hardware, this solution doesn’t solve the issue to all. Thanks anyway but this not help me.

    Reply
  26. Anonymous

    I got speakers which themselves have jacks for headphone..so when I plug in my microphone, speakers are automatically muted. But then I can’t keep my microphone attached all the time which is another PITA.

    Reply
  27. gandoron

    I have both patches already installed. I still only get sound out of one device…worse, vista won’t automatically switch between devices. If I unplug my headphones, I have to go back to the playback window and disable the device before it will switch to my speakers. the “test” will always send sound to the speakers, but directsound won’t switch the playback device…

    I’m also having problems getting my mic to work. It will work, then stop…requiring a reboot to work again.

    Unfortunately, vista sucks…

    Reply
  28. Bob Penn

    I found a workaround. Say you want to hear sound through the spdif interface. Switch the default playback device to spdif. Then launch the application. Then switch the default playback to speakers. The application seems to stick with what was defaulted at the time of launch. Right now I am listen to music on my stereo via spdif and still have sound coming out of the desktop computer speakers. Didn’t think it could be done, but apparently the programs “stick” with the default device present during launch.

    Not a perfect solution, but a workaround of sorts.

    Reply
  29. Yuval Laor

    Actually that feature of programs sticking to the device which was default when it opened is horrible. When i move my music or lecture from my office to my kitchen, i have to stop the file, and reset it to where it was… of course in XP i had no problem.
    is there a way to get rid of this “stickiness”?

    Reply
  30. Zyron

    Tnx Jiten rama!

    Your success story solved my problem.

    went to asus, downloaded audio drivers for my motherboard, and voila!

    what was once headphone and speakers, now became one device with the proper driver installed – and not default vista drivers.

    I can still change volume seperately.

    Reply
  31. Zyron

    Tnx Jiten rama!

    Your success story solved my problem.

    went to asus, downloaded audio drivers for my motherboard, and voila!

    what was once headphone and speakers, now became one device with the proper driver installed – and not default vista drivers.

    I can still change volume seperately.

    Reply
  32. marissa brueshaber

    i am wondering how do you discover what type of motherboard you have so that you can get new audio drivers….I am having sound problems like all of you talked about in vista also

    Reply
  33. Jordan

    I’m having the problem of using my bluetooth headphones. I start a program playing sound then I grab my headphones, turn them on and then I can’t transfer that sound that is coming out of my laptop speakers to the headphones. I can’t figure out how to do so without shutting down the program and starting over. :( Any ideas anyone?

    Reply
  34. Joshua

    SP1 hasn’t fixed the problem for me. Anything you could have done bigdave? Other type of updates?

    Reply
  35. Justin

    Well I’m in the same boat… I want to play my Call of Duty 4 through my monitor’s built-in speakers, my SPDIF surround sound, my front and rear audio jacks, and to top it all off I want to play it through my headphones as well. I know its asking allot but I would also like to be able to input through three different microphones. I believe if Microsoft would stop over thinking everything and over complicating everything that they could make a descent OS. In my personal opinion it would make allot more since if it just assumed that if you took the time to plug the speakers in that you would like there to be sound coming through them. Not to mention that there would be a hell of allot less coding to do… I think that the software developers the hire just do things like that so…

    A. They get paid more because it takes it longer for them to finish &
    B. They get paid more because they have to fix it when people start to complain.

    ok thats just my 2 cent.

    Reply
  36. Anonymous

    I kindof like that you can choose where to send your audio. Sometimes I want to hear a game through headphones while playing a movie/show to my TV with that sound going to some speakers. Then other people can watch the show without hearing the game, and vice versa. I would find it annoying if all audio went to every device and I had no way to control it.

    I would, however, like the option of sending audio from each app to an arbitrary number of devices. By default I think it should go to all of them. I think the average user would just want to plug a device in and get their sound out, and doesn’t want to (know how to) muck around with settings and drivers.

    Reply
  37. Pingback: Audio Device Management - Vista - Hardware Canucks

  38. Mark

    http://software.muzychenko.net/eng/vac.html

    This is viable and I have tested, with HDMI through my ATI 2400 XT, as well as the SPDIF out on my motherboard, but I’m only able to get 2 Channel Stereo to work so far. I’ve emailed the author to see if I’m missing something in the setup.

    This is the best solution I’ve seen so far in terms of splitting the Audio signal accross multiple physical audio devices in Vista.

    We shouldn’t have to find/buy a 3rd party solution for this, but if you really need something, it appears to be a working solution. Especially if I can get 5.1 passthrough to work.

    Mark

    Reply
  39. Mark

    http://software.muzychenko.net/eng/vac.html

    This is viable and I have tested, with HDMI through my ATI 2400 XT, as well as the SPDIF out on my motherboard, but I’m only able to get 2 Channel Stereo to work so far. I’ve emailed the author to see if I’m missing something in the setup.

    This is the best solution I’ve seen so far in terms of splitting the Audio signal accross multiple physical audio devices in Vista.

    We shouldn’t have to find/buy a 3rd party solution for this, but if you really need something, it appears to be a working solution. Especially if I can get 5.1 passthrough to work.

    Mark

    Reply
  40. cata81

    I’ve downlaod VAC, can you explain simply the trick you used to make the output from both spdif and hearphones?

    Thanks

    Reply
  41. day1118

    Hi, i have also managed to get it to work using vac, as well as written a simple program to automatically configure everything each time I start my computer. It does create a slight delay, but its hardly noticeable, and the size of it can be changed in the settings. If you cant get it to work, or need help, email me at day1118@gmail.com and i will explain how i got it to work!

    Reply
  42. James P

    Is the delay significant enough where it’d look odd when watching video? I have a bluetooth headset that was really bad.

    Reply
  43. Tristan

    Hi guys,

    Ive also had the same problems with my Vaio VGN-FE790G laptop. It came installed with XP and I had no problems in swapping automatically between my speakers and headphones (when they were plugged in they would take over the from the speakers with sound output). I got a free offer with the laptop to upgrade to vista home premium which I decided to try. After upgrading I was presented with the annoyance of sticking sound devices as described here. (If I was using my speakers initially with an application and decided I wanted to swap to my headset I would have to exit the application and start it again with the headphones plugged in. I took the advice of one of the posters on this thread to update my sound card driver (I only had the default Vista HD audio device driver installed). The laptop uses the SIGMATEL audio chip. So I downloaded and installed the Official Sigmatel Vista driver and low and behold the sound output now automatically swaps between headset and speakers without restarting the application. For anyone that is having problems with sound output not automatically swapping between speakers and headset and you are using the default Vista sound driver, I would recommend finding out what Audio chip you Motherboard has and download the proper driver.

    Ways to find out what audio chip you have:-

    If you have a purchased name branded system (for example Dell, HP, Compaq etc…) enquire with the manufacturer. Check there website for Drivers for your model number.
    If you have a Clone build system, find out what motherboard (for onboard sound) or what sound card you have installed. (Check any documentation you got with your system or failing that enquire at the place you purchased the system for tech specs of motherboard or sound card. Failing this you could open up the system and look for manufacturer name and/or model number printed on either the motherboard or sound card).

    Reply
  44. MactoMS

    I have a notebook that has HDMI and I have to do the same to switch from TV to headphones….are these people asleep that design this. And why can't you make a permanent shortcut to switch them without x>y>z>q>p>f>o?

    Reply
  45. Walter Johnson

    All MSFT would have to do is design their sounds system the same way you do it physically, Sound from each source going via a virtual mixer to one or all speakers or phones and switchable on the fly. It would just require the starting of multiple instances of something like the current Sound in the background, one time for each source and each with its respective default setup. All that is necessary is to pipe sound though its own Sound instance then redirect the sound to outputs as directed by that instance and by default not allow any one instance take control of a sound output device unless desired by the user. Windows already alows more than one sound source playing through whatever speakers are playing. Each instance of Sound when visible would be titled something like this – Media Player Sound Manager, Brouser Sound Manager (They ever hear of internet radio at MSFT?), USB Source 1 Sound Manager, etc. Same thing in the reverse direction for various mic sources, like headphones, installed mics, bluetooth mic/headsets, etc. All of this is not rocket science in spite of what MSFT would like you to believe. They just need an actual user somewhere in the sound department of MSFT to tell them what a user might ultimately need in the way of functionality. Then put the geeks in the dept to work making it happen. They get paid big bucks to do cheap stuff like this. MSFT get off your a… and do it. This should have been handled when MSDOS was young.

    Reply
  46. Ryan

    I've had multiple Vista installs and never had a problem with this – I've reinstalled Vista and am now stuck with this horrible setup between headphones and SPDIF Out. It is a driver issue – previously I just launched the Realteck Control Panel and changed an option so that the audio always went out of both interfaces at the same time. I have the newest audio drivers but the option is gone, since the CP looks a little different – I guess I'll have to dig through my HDD to see if I still have older ones that work. nVidia n790i Ultra mobo here.

    Reply
  47. nobody

    It was working fine for me when Vista was fresh installed. About a two months it is not working anymore…
    I mean before when I plugget in my headphones, it becomes active automaticaly. Now I have to switch it manually…. So if it was working in the past there must be a way how to make it working again!

    Reply
  48. modenotready

    Same here. But in my case, i upgraded my system from vista business to vista ultimate. Now it wont switch automatically like it was before. During a song playback (with a headset) it stops when i pulled the headset out when it suppose to play continually with the speaker (i'm using vaio laptop anyway). And same thing vice-versa, speaker to headset. I tried installing different drivers but still nothing happens. Please advice, anyone out there.

    Reply
  49. Jon

    Vista have to my surprise a very good audio management system. It is true, you cannot play audio into more then one audio device because that is how the OS is designed. Same thing applies with XP and Linux unless you do serious hacking up of ALSA. If your using SPDIF, HDMI, or standard Audio Out on a stereo mini-jack you shouldn’t need to output through another media for the same content since you should only *need* to use one device since one device can do surround, it is a waste of resources. I used to have to audio cards in my desktop and used one that was hooked up to my stereo for WMP and everything else on my headset.

    Reply

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