Windows, as far back as Vista, has been able to identify multiple audio input and output devices connected to a system. It lets you interdependently manage the volume for these devices and can change volume settings on the fly when a device is connected/disconnected. Windows 10 is no different but if you’re headphones don’t show up in the volume mixer this simply won’t work. Windows 10 will detect the headphones as new hardware and sound will of course be routed through them but to manage them as a separate audio input/output device you need to add them first. Here’s how.
Make sure your sound driver has been installed properly and that you’re running the latest version. To do so, go the Device Manager and check if an update is available for the sound driver. If despite the sound driver being up to date, your headphones aren’t detected in the Volume Mixer there are two ways of dealing with this. One is to use the default Windows Sound settings and the second is to use the sound driver’s own audio control panel. We’re going to discuss how to use both.
Windows Sound Settings
Step 1: Connect your headphones. Right-click the speaker icon in the system tray and select Sounds.
Step 2: In the Playback tab, right-click the one default speaker listed there and select ‘Show Disconnected devices’ and ‘Show Disabled Devices’. The headphones you’ve connected will now appear as a disabled device.
Step 3: Right-click the disabled headphones, and select ‘Enable’.
Step 4: This should enable the headphones. Now you need to set them as the default device. Select them and click the ‘Set Default’ button. Remove the headphones and connect them again. Both speakers and headphones will start appearing as separate devices in the Volume Mixer. You can now manage their volumes independently. Windows will remember the level for each one and when you connect the headphones, it will automatically adjust the volume to the last set for the device.
Sound Driver’s Audio Control Panel
Step 1: Connect your headphones.
Step 2: Open the sound driver’s audio control panel. The system we tested this on came with Bang & Olufsen speakers and we needed to go through the audio control panel for it. For other systems, this control panel might be from a different manufacturer depending on what speakers you have. If there is absolutely nothing there then you will need to go through Windows own sound settings.
Step 3: Connect your speakers. On the audio control panel you need to add the second device. These settings, and where to find them, will differ from control panel to control panel. For the Bang & Olufsen audio panel, we had to go to Advanced Settings and enable multi-streaming playback and recording.
When you add this second device, the speakers and headphones you’ve connected will now show up separately in audio devices when you right-click the speaker icon in the system tray and select the Volume Mixer.
Step 4: With your headphones still connected to your system, make them the default device. Unplug your headphones and plug them in again.
That’s all it takes. Windows 10 will allow you to have more than one default device as shown above. It’s intelligent in that it knows which device is connected and which one isn’t and will effectively route sound accordingly. When the headphones are plugged in, it will play sound through them. When the headphones are removed, the speakers will automatically be used.