10 Things - Volume Mixer

10 Things - Volume Mixer

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Our "10 Things You May Not Know About Windows Vista" series continues as we explore one of the least-known features in Windows Vista:  the Volume Mixer.  Although it might not be as well-touted as the Aero interface, you may find it's one of the more useful features available.

I'm sure we've all had the experience of working on one application when another application's sound suddenly blasted out your speakers.  It can be disconcerting anytime, embarrassing when it happens during a meeting and downright painful when using headphones.

Windows XP had a single control for all sounds, and this controlled only the hardware.  If an application's sound was louder or softer than that specified by Windows XP's volume control, you had to constantly adjust the volume.

Windows Vista allows you to choose the right volume for any running application.  It's also very easy to use.  Right-click the speaker icon in the notification area (systray) of your desktop, then click Volume Mixer to open the control.  You'll see a list of programs running.  Then, just use the slider bar to adjust the volume up or down.  (Note:  If some of the sliders have a black background, just move the slider and Windows Vista will re-draw it.  KB article 938308 explains this more.)

You can adjust volume for use with either speakers or headphones simply by selecting the desired output in the device column.  You can also choose to mute individual programs so as to not be interrupted by sounds from other running programs.  If you change the output device, you will need to readjust the volume.

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  • kaceltd
    1 Posts

    1) How can I assign my MSN IM and Internet Radio feeds (Volume out) under Windows Volume Mixer, separately to an external mixer; such that the IM channel feed does not contain Internet Radio steam and vice-versa?

    2) Is it possible to run two Windows Media player Internet Radio streams concurrently?

  • I have a guitarport USB device,I used to play a jam track through media player, and play along through the gutarport and all worked fine in XP. In Vista, not so, if I play the track (mp3 or whatever) the sound in media center (or any player) will mute when I start to play through the guitarport - I haven't found a way to stop the channel muting - This doesn't seem like a 'mixer' to me - Is there a way to control this behavior?

  • Sai
    1 Posts

    Hi , Recently  i have got sony vaio cr24g with vista home premium  . being a visually challenged i use screenreading software jaws to operate a computer , but with vista  voice of jaws [text to speach] is very low , i have checked all the settings from volume mixer it seems  everything is fine , i have set the highest volume for jaws from mixer , and i have pulled all  other volume level on maximum level , for cross checking i have used text to speach provided by microsoft SAPI5 from ease of access , volume level of SAPI5 is much lower than my screenreader . in other cases like mp3 files i am getting exceptable volume  as compare to text to speach . i cant operate my laptop without my screenreader so please help me out , waiting for your reply , thanks in advance .  

  • craigh
    1 Posts

    I like the idea of spliting the old wavetable into programs but why loose the input control? I have a USB soundcard which has an internal Microphone. In XP I could mute the mic in the mixer for recording and monitoring separately but I find that in Vista I can only mute the mic for recording. The mic only shows an an input device not an output device and does not control the output. This makes the soundcard rather useless as an output device in a live situation. I would like to add the input devices as playback devices list so that input monitoring can be controlled.

  • tunaboy
    1 Posts


    I just got a new computer with Vista, and plugged in the 2 front speakers and woofer from my old xp computer (the integrated card couldn't take the rear or center speakers).

    Here's my problem: the lowest setting in the volume mixer is too high.  The upshot: I can either have no sound, or sound that could wake up my 2 year old at night. I'd like the volume to be about half of the lowest setting currently possible.

    Is there any way to fix this?


  • gez
    1 Posts

    Please can you help a complete novice.

    A friend has Windows Vista and his problem is this - he sets the volume sliders for various applications - the problem is that when he is listening through headphones to someone speaking via Microsoft Messenger the slider does not stay put - it goes to the very bottom of the scale and only returns to its previous setting when he or the other party speak - is there a way of disabling any auto settings so that the slider stays put?

    Any help will be appreciated.

  • I am running Vista Home Basic on an Acer Travelmate 2480.  What I want to do is to use the laptop to stream audio to a piece of wireless sound equipment (Roku M1000).  I have been experimenting with Windows Media Encoder and Broadwave, both of which work fine with Stereo Mix as the default recording device.  The problem is with the Volume Mixer.  I cannot mute the speakers without also muting the stream.  Moreover, the speaker volume seems to set the "max" volume for all other sources.  Is there any way to mute just the speakers and not affect any other application or audio source?  This worked perfectly under XP, by the way.

  • Badcam
    2 Posts

    I take it ALL back. I was wrong.

    It's not a Vista bug for me at all. Somehow my Realtek sound driver has been removed and replaced with the standard windows sound driver. How this happened I do not know. All I know is it did. I do know that I didn't remove those drivers myself. I have since re-installed the Realtek drivers and everything is back to normal.

    I still Luffs Ya Vista!

  • Badcam
    2 Posts

    Hi Guys. I too have the same problems as munchkin with the volume levels in played movies etc. Searching the interwebbytubes shows that a LOT of other people are experiencing this problem with Vista. It's not incorrect volume settings, it's not the wrong codecs, it's not that I've forgotten to turn the volume lever up on my laptop. Everything was fine for weeks, but all of a sudden the volume levels for movies in particular have dropped so low I can hardly hear any sound. I hadn't changed any settings, nor installed any new codecs or programs that would affect the sound. In particular this is in relation to headphones (which are the most affected) where previously I had to keep the volume turned down, now I can barely, BARELY hear the audio track. It's on full volume, as is everything else. It too seems to me that this has happened as a result of a Windows Vista Update.

    Can you guys please shed some light on this?

  • To manniongeo:

    Your problem is definitely not common and I am not sure what is goin on. The expectation in your case is that the system sounds should be substantially louder than your WMP playback.

    Where are you enabling this "Loudness Equalization" you mention?

    What audio device and driver is used in each of your 3 systems?

    What types of files are you playing in WMP?

    Have you modified your system sounds in any way?

    Is this on a clean install of Windows Vista with no special/additional software installed?

    When I set the Vista Volume Mixer to the settings you describe on all the machines I have in my office (more than 3 :-)) I hear system sounds loud and clear and WMP is very low.

    Hakon Strande - Microsoft

  • Is it generally the case with Vista that the volume of Windows Media Player 11 completely overpowers the volume of the normal system sounds, like bells and dings from error dialogs?

    I've built three Vista machines over the past few weeks, each with completely different hardware, and am experiencing this same issue with each. I assume that I'm missing something obvious, but can't seem to figure it out on my own.

    Using the Volume Mixer, I have 'Speakers' set to 100%, 'Windows Sounds' set to 100%, and 'Windows Media Player' set to perhaps 5%. With my external powered speakers at full blast, WMP sounds good, but the system sounds are barely audible.

    The only way I have been able to equalize the system and WMP sounds is by enabling the 'Loudness Equalization' enhancement. Unfortunately, this quashes the crescendos of all of my music. I understand that this latter behavior is the intent of Loudness Equalization. I'd like to be able to hear the system sounds without using it, though.

    Is this something I can fix with the Volume Mixer?

  • I love the Volume mixer in the applications that it has been working.  However, windows did its automatic updates and since it did, I no longer get any sound while watching videos in either of my web browsers, IE or Firefox.  Neither program shows up in the volume mixer either. All my other programs for sound work beautifully!  I have tried reinstalling quicktime, Flash, Itunes, with anti-virus and firewalls on and off with no success!

    How do I get these programs to work with sound?  How do I add them to the volume mixer?

    As a side note, since 11/15 my computer has been trying to do an automatic update of KB941649, but always failed.  Spoke with a tech and he was looking into the problem.  In case anyone wants to know, today I downloaded it from the ms website manually and it went right through! (I have Vista Home premium 32 bit)

  • ..why on earth would you create a media driven OS which doesn't suport a stereo in, either by on board sound card OR external.

    A phasing left to right effect from my DJM800 is totally wasted in MONO and more to the point, every single track is being recorded in MONO which totally deadens the track.

    PLEASE tell me there is a fix somewhere for this issue as, I've done my own tests, and its not the mixer, nor is it specific to the USB sound card or on board one; its both!! - Common denominator; VISTA ??

    How can I resolve this issue without switching os or getting a mac?

  • "2. An app could be set to feed into multiple outputs, for example multi-room audio distribution."

    Please, please, I beg you! Implement this in SP1 or earlier. JohnHind is right on target here. At the bare minimum let us output the entire mix to multiple outputs, like we could with XP.

    If this and the monitor-profile-resetting bug were fixed, I would be fairly happy with my computer. As it is I am seriously considering going back to XP, which would be a serious hassle.

  • I found this mixer stuff a little bit complicated, since I don't have the option to change a application from one device to another... So much time wasted when I have to close iTunes and re-open since I was using speakers and want to use headphones... Or unplug headphones and plug back in and the app doesn't work... Microsoft should do something about it in service pack 1 to come!!!

  • Hi JohnHind -

    Thanks for your thoughtful post and great suggestions.  We have considered many of the ideas you suggested, but with Windows Vista, the magnitude of the changes we made was already large for even one major release.  That said, we have a long list of proposed ideas and features we're considering for future releases, and many of those you suggested are on our radar.  

    Thanks again for taking time to notice and offer your feedback.  


    PS - we may address some of the specific ideas you mention in future blog posts as we've already been thinking about them in depth.

  • It's an improvement, but not a big enough one given the time we've been waiting!

    WHAT MICROSOFT SHOULD HAVE DONE: Give each app its own virtual sound card and map the outputs of these to the physical outputs using a software crossbar mixer.

    Advantages of this:

    1. User could change the output being used by an app without having to shut down and restart the app as they have to at present (even with Vista's built-in apps like Media Center and Media Player)- i.e. switch from speakers to headphones while leaving other apps on the speakers.

    2. An app could be set to feed into multiple outputs, for example multi-room audio distribution.

    3. Downmixing could be provided to feed multi-channel audio feeds into stereo or mono outputs.

    4. Outputs from different apps could be positioned on multi-speaker sound stages under user control - for example, PC noises could be positioned to seem to come from the direction of the PC.

    USB audio adapters are now so cheep that it is really tempting to use one for headphones, another for workstation monitor built-in speakers and leave the main output for 5-1 or 7-1 cinema use. But it is still a pain to work a system like this in Vista software.

  • It's petty cool when are listenig music and another aplicacion like de msn stard to pest off you with de sound and nuge just simpli you can turn down or even mute

  • deft
    1 Posts

    Hey there. It's very interesting the new Vista volume mixer... But I`m having some trouble with it. I use VLC (VideoLAN) to stream some mp3 sets I've created, and when I try to stream from a DEVICE, Vista shows Rear MIC, Front MIC, Line IN and Microphone instead of showing up the DEVICES, like Sigmatel High Definition Card. Why this happens? In Windows XP only the real device cards shows up. It's a Vista problem? Either other streaming programs didn't show up devices, just MICs and LINE IN. (Using Vista Ultimate 64.).


  • I suppose it's cute to have volume sliders for each app now, but all I want is one or two keystrokes to get the line-in level adjustment and the mute button for line-in.  How do I get line-in to appear in the mixer without going through a ridiculous number of steps which basically leads me into the control panel?

  • brand
    4 Posts

    so useful that it doesn't even control the bass or treble tones anymore.  how fantastic.

    Now if someone can supply a rundll32 like line that opens the "speakers properties" window directly, that'd be nice.

  • thanks, but my problem is not that the volume is too LOUD, it's that for many programs, I can't hear the sound very well. I have checked volume mixer and everything is all the way to the top (100%), and I promise I am not going deaf, some things are LOUD and others, I can barely hear. Is there a fix for this?


    Jessica from It's Not About Your Stuff

  • Nick White
    1204 Posts

    Hey Roy99999999999:  you can turn on the audio icon in the systray by right-clicking the task bar, selecting Properties | Notification Area, then selecting the Volume icon.

  • But how do you get the speaker icon in the systray in the first place? My PC has a 'realtek' speaker without this option. I had a look at help and it showed you a link to open the mixer from a help page, but not how to add the speaker icon.

  • I am using this feature since the day I installed Vista :)...I really like this feature...

  • someone
    156 Posts

    While the improvements are nice, especially per app volume, some of the functionality from the old mixer has again been dropped. For instance, advanced settings e.g.microphone boost, bass and treble adjustments and making quick adjustments to only certain volumes such as the MIDI/Synthesizer line (not the MIDI playback app), line in and there are recording-level (gain) indicators earlier.

  • Brytown
    32 Posts

    OMG im so glad u did somthing on this i love it soooooo much shows every program and volume level. It ajust alot of my programs fine and it is great being able to mute what u want. Two things I notice that would make my experince even better and some others may notice theese?

    A problem i do find though is with internet explorer?? Where with each new tab launched the "Internet Explorer volume" in the mixer isnt saved but reset. (By reset i mean matches the MAXIMUM or main volume setting of the first slider.) It seems other programs keep the settings like windows media player ect. Is there a way to fix this?? I even tried ctrl + close in one tab but didnt save. Si im Watching youtube got 2 or 3 things open go to a next tab BLARING. That embaresing thing u were talking about (;--___--) Im always in the mixer or touching my speakers or hitting mute button on kb to sort it out before (now that im trained on it) I love the feature and the ability to do it but it should be a set and forget deal.

    The Second MINOR problem i find is ME MAYBE and inconsistancy with the intervals of some programs?? Take media player for instance. (example in steps for refrence i dunno)

    Main system volume takes 20 steps to get to max. You set Windows Media Player half of that at 10 or so. Ofcours now it takes a shorter distance for windows media player on the slider that is to get to maximum volume 10 steps up, but sometimes it feels like 5?? or less, there will be times where i set it lower not too low and ill literaly turn it up a hair and itll blare... but next time it wont?? Now now now I know theres alot to consider. Videos and audio files are recoreded at diferent volumes. What volume are my physical speakers at ect. ect. So it could just be me but then again ive noticed it more than enough times. Could be me though :)

    Good Stuff either way. Me = Love Mixer.

  • betamod
    9 Posts

    This feature of Vista is a genuine improvement to my user experience.

  • john
    673 Posts

    Also, michaelper22, Volume Mixer allows you to control sound effects given off by running programs.

    So you can dutifully work on that presentaton with HALO 3 running silently in the background whenever bossman comes around.

  • Nick White
    1204 Posts

    Hey michaelper22:  this is certainly true, but part of the point of the Volume Mixer is that it gives the user control of all running apps with audio output in a single place.

  • Volume mixer is awesome. Without the ugly black border it will be godlike.

    PD: Ahh.. and double click to open the mixer too!

  • carusen
    23 Posts

    Volume Mixer is pretty cool. I use it quite a lot. It comes in handy when you want to watch a movie and you want to quickly mute all other running applications.

    You can find a similar tutorial here:


    This one also has pictures.

  • This is a useful feature in many instances, but a good portion of the programs that output sound have their own volume control (like Windows Media Player, and Pinnacle Studio, both of which I used on Windows Vista).