How to set up surround sound in Windows 10

Surround sound can transform your movie or video game experience. While most people use game consoles or lounge TVs to enjoy surround sound, Windows 10 also has strong support for it. However, it requires some preparation to make it work correctly.

Let’s learn the process of setting up surround sound on Windows 10.

If you need to set up arch hardware

Before you can do the software setup of surround sound on Windows 10, you need to get your hardware in order. For help with that, you may want to read How to Set Up a Surround Sound System before reading this guide.

Remember to keep your drivers and software up to date

The surround sound on your Windows computer depends on the drivers for the audio device and the additional software utilities that came with that hardware. Download the latest version of the driver software from your audio device manufacturer’s site.

Choose the right audio device

Your computer may have multiple audio devices, and not all of them may support surround sound. The surround output will appear as a separate audio device from your regular stereo speaker or headphone output with some sound cards.

For example, the digital output of your sound card with a surround sound receiver would be another audio device.

Set up and test surround sound

Once that’s done, it’s time to make sure you’ve set your surround device as the currently selected audio device. We will then select the appropriate speaker configuration and then test it.

  1. Left click on speaker icon in the notification area on the Windows taskbar.
  2. Select the name of the currently active audio device above the volume slider.
  3. From the list that pops up, choose your surround sound device.

The surround sound device is now the active audio output for your computer. Any app will now play its sound through that device.

Choose your speaker configuration

Next, you need to tell your computer which speaker setup you have.

  1. Right click on speaker icon in your notification area.
  1. Option Sound.
  1. Switch to Replay navigation.
  1. Move to surround sound equipment and select it.
  1. Choose Configuration button.
  1. Use the Speaker setup wizard to tell Windows:
    • Set up the speakers you have.
    • Make sure all speakers are working.
  1. Under Audio Channels, select the option that corresponds to your actual speaker setup. If you see the correct configuration, select it here. If you don’t, it’s fine. For example, if you have a 5.1 setup but only see the 7.1 option, you can fix that in Step 11 below.
  1. To the right of the Audio channel selection box (in the image above), note the presentation of your speaker setup.
  1. Click on any speaker to see if the actual speaker is playing sound.
    • If not, double check that you’ve wired your speakers correctly.
    • You can use Test to run through all the speakers in sequence quickly.
  1. Option Next.
  1. Now you can Customize your speaker setup. If your actual speaker setup doesn’t have any speakers listed, uncheck them in the list below. If you don’t have a subwoofer, you should remove it from this list.
  1. Option Next.
  1. Specify who your speaker is full range or satellite.
    • Full range speaker bass, mid and treble sound reproduction.
    • Satellite speakers produces mids and trebles, relying on the subwoofer to fill the rest.
  1. If Windows confuses full-range speakers with satellites, you won’t get the most out of those speakers.
    • If only your left and right front stereo speakers are enough range, check the first box.
    • If all your speakers (apart from the subwoofer, obviously) are full range, check both boxes.
  1. Option Next.
  1. Option End, and you’re done!

Enable virtual surround sound with Windows Sonic

Whether or not you can select surround sound channels depends on whether your device supports them or not. For example, in this tutorial we used a pair of USB surround sound gaming headset. Although it doesn’t physically have seven speakers, the integrated sound card reports to Windows that it has a 7.1 channel audio and then converts it to virtualized surround sound in the headset.

What if you only had a basic set of stereo headphones? Windows has a built-in surround virtualization feature called Windows Sonic.

To enable it, make sure your stereo headphones are selected as the active audio device:

  1. Right click on speaker icon.
  1. Option Windows Sonic for headphones. Your headphones will now provide simulated surround sound.
  1. To enable other options, such as Dolby or DTS, you will need to pay a licensing fee in the Windows Store.

For more detailed information about Windows Sonic, see How to Set Up Windows Sonic for Headsets on Windows 10.

Hopefully you can now enjoy immersive surround sound on your Windows 10 computer. If you’re looking for surround sound advice for a home theater setup, head to the ultimate Smart Home Theater System: How to Set it up.

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