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How to change default sound devices in Windows 10 (playback and recording)

One of the many creative options built into Windows is the ability to record and play multimedia files of all kinds. Windows 10 makes it simple to select a default device for audio recording and playback. However, what if you would prefer that another device be used from your devices with similar capabilities? For example, you may have a webcam and a microphone on your computer, and you want the microphone to be the default recording device. Or, you may have both headphones and speakers available, and you want the headphones to be the default audio playback device. Let’s take a look at how to change the default audio devices in Windows 10:

What do you want to achieve?

Before we make any changes, it is important to know what we’re dealing with. For example, some Windows PCs have a large monitor with built-in speakers (which usually are of poor quality) and also external speakers which are connected to the PC. You may want to use the external speakers instead of the built-in ones for playing audio.

We record audio using microphones, for example and play them through speakers. We can also record sounds from devices inside the computer, like the optical drive, and playback through headphones. Many people have more than one audio device attached (like the microphone included in a webcam plus a standalone microphone plus a microphone built into a headset), and it is important to pick a default so that the sound is recorded and played back with the highest fidelity.

Different sound recording devices that we used on PCs

You do not want your voice to sound like you’re in an empty hallway because your default is the webcam microphone three feet away from you instead of the microphone in your headset or on your desk.

Therefore, before moving forward with this tutorial, you must be clear on what you want to achieve: which audio devices do you want to use for each task?

How to select the default playback device in Windows 10, using the Sound flyout

The simplest way to change your playback device in Windows 10 is to select it from the Sound flyout. Click or tap on the sound volume icon from the system tray, and then click/tap on the current playback device.

The Sound flyout from the Windows 10 system tray

The Sound flyout then shows you all the playback audio devices that are available for you to use. All you have to do is to select the one you prefer from the list.

Choosing the default playback device in the Sound flyout

How to select the default playback device in Windows 10, using the Settings app

Similarly, you can also choose what audio device you prefer to use for playback, from the Settings app. However, this method involves a few more steps. Start by opening the Settings app: a fast way is to click or tap on its button from the Start Menu.

In the Settings app, navigate to System, and then to Sound. On the right side of the window, click or tap on the currently selected playback device under “Choose your output device.”

The Choose your output device list from the Settings Sound section

The Settings app should show you a list of all the audio playback devices available on your system. Select the one you prefer.

Choosing the default playback device

NOTE: There are also slightly faster ways to get to the Sound section from the Settings app. For instance, you can use the search, or you can right-click or tap and hold on the sound volume icon from the system tray, and then click or tap on “Open Sound settings.”

A faster way to open the Sound settings in Windows 10

How to select the default playback device in Windows 10, using the Sound settings from the Control Panel

You can also use the classic Sound window to change the default playback device on your Windows 10 system. However, getting to it is a bit more cumbersome than it used to be in the past. Open the Control Panel, navigate to Hardware and Sound, and click or tap on Sound.

The Sound link from the Hardware and Sound section in the Control Panel

This action opens the Sound window, where you set your default audio devices.

The Sound window from Windows 10

In the Playback tab, you are shown all the playback devices that are available on your Windows computer. Each system is different, and what you see reflects that. You can also see which devices are actually available. Some devices might not be plugged in, so they are greyed out. A green checkmark indicates the current default device.

To choose another audio device as your default playback device, click or tap on it, and then the Set Default button.

Choosing the default playback device in the Sound window

The selected device is now your default playback device in Windows. All playback audio is now routed through that device.

How to select the default recording device in Windows 10, using the Settings app

In the Settings app, navigate to System, and then to Sound. On the right side of the window, click or tap on the currently selected recording device under “Choose your input device.”

The Choose your input device list from the Sound section in the Settings app

The Settings app should show you a list of all the input devices available on your system. Just select the one you prefer from the list.

Choose your input device in the Settings app

The choice is immediately applied, as soon as you select the recording device you prefer.

How to select the default recording device in Windows 10, using the Sound settings from the Control Panel

Alternatively, you can also go to the Sound window: “Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound -> Sound.”

Click Sound in Hardware and Sound section of the Control Panel

In the Sound window, click or tap the Recording tab. Here you see the devices you have available to record sound. Again, your current default device is indicated by a green checkmark. Choose your preferred device and click or tap Set Default.

Setting the default recording device in the Sound window

TIP: You can see if the sound recording device is working by watching for movement in the bar beside each device when you talk as if you are trying to record sound.

How to set a different communications device in Windows 10

The Sound window also lets you set different default devices for communications. Note that this is the only place in Windows 10 where you can do this change, as it has not yet been added to the Settings app also.

For example, you may want to use a headset or the speakers that are built into your monitor for Skype and your external speakers for everything else. To set this, first, select the device you want to use, and then click or tap on the down-arrow on the Set Default button. You can then assign a device to communications (Default Communication Device) or general playback (Default Device).

Setting a default communication device in Windows 10

You can see that the default communication device has a different green icon from the default playback audio device.

The default communication device is marked with a phone icon

When you are done setting your default playback communication devices, click OK or repeat the same process for setting your default input devices for communications.

Troubleshooting: Why can’t I see my preferred audio device listed?

What if the audio device that you want to use for recording isn’t listed? We talked about this problem in Troubleshooting Common Speech Recognition Problems. Remember, speech recognition devices are also configured through the Sound window. By default, Windows does not show you devices that are disabled or disconnected or those without their correct drivers installed. If your device is not listed, right-click or press and hold anywhere in the blank space in the Sound window. You can then choose to see the devices that would otherwise be invisible, by clicking or tapping “Show disabled devices.”

Show disabled and disconnected devices in the Sound window

The same goes for showing disabled audio playback devices in the Playback tab of the Sound window.

Did you manage to change your default sound devices in Windows 10?

As you can see, setting the default audio devices for playback and recording is a quick and easy process in Windows 10, and you can adjust the settings from multiple places. You can change them anytime you need to, to make the best of Windows 10’s recording and playback capabilities. Have you had a good or bad experience with recording or playback defaults? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below.


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