Windows Software: Tools to change your default audio playback device.

Shortcuts soundI have received many requests from readers asking how to quickly change the default audio device in Windows. This can be useful as many computers now have various audio devices which can be used. For example, you may want to use one playback device which is connected to PC speakers for playing games and Windows sounds, and another playback device which is connected to a sound system for music or movies.

Windows lets you change the device that audio is sent out of, in the Sounds and Audio options within the control panel. While this method works, it can be tedious to navigate to, especially if you want to change your playback device regularly. Many individual programs also let you choose which audio device will be used for playback, but then changing the playback device within the program requires a separate set of preferences to navigate through.

I came across a couple of tools that make switching the default playback device much easier, and that offer much more control over your audio devices. These tools are System Tray Audio Device Switcher (STADS), and Quick Sound Switch (QSS). Both are great utilities, but they do things slightly differently, and both offer slightly different features.

In this article, I will run through what they both do so that you can decide which one is best for your needs.

StadsSystem Tray Audio Device Switcher (STADS):

STADS sits in the task tray. It lets you change both the default recording and output devices quickly from its extremely easy to use interface.

When launched, it shows you the playback devices available on your system, but you can change to recording devices by clicking on Show Recording Devices.

There is not much extra to this program. It is just very simple to use.

STADS is 2MB in size, and it requires installation.

SoundswitchQuick Sound Switch (QSS):

QSS can be used the same as STADS, but it also offers a whole bunch of extra options that I can see as being very handy.

QSS offers a tool to make shortcuts to change the default playback device. You can even make shortcuts to individual programs, which will select the playback device that the program will use. Using this method, you can easily have one programs sound come out of one playback device, and have another programs audio use a different playback device.

Another feature that may interest you is hot keys. You can setup hot keys that will change the default device. These use the ctrl+? format.

It is tiny at only 108kb, and it does not require installation.

Which tool is right for you?:

As you can see, QSS has a lot more features than STADS, but some of these extra options may get in the way with day to day use. There is no reason why both of them can’t be used side by side.

I am going to use STADS to change the default device for Windows, and then use QSS to change the output of particular programs, through shortcuts.

Finishing up:

The only thing that these programs can’t do is switch the audio output while sound is coming out. It will not crash the system, but the audio will remain coming out from the same device. This is because most programs decide which default device will be used on launch. Because of this, most programs will need to be restarted for the selected device to take effect. This is the same for the inbuilt Windows options.

System Tray Audio Device Switcher is available for free from here.

Quick Sound Switch is available for free (donations welcome) from here.

I hope you have found this article useful. Please stick around and check out some other useful utilities at Inspect My Gadget.


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22 Comments so far »
 

  1. Tech said, on July 9, 2008 @ 1:12 am

    what usb audio codec ???

  2. Chris Duckworth said, on July 9, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

    Tech, this can be the name of sound devices attached via USB. I have seen docking stations come up with this title, but I assume there are external soundcards that come up the same.

  3. Rick said, on August 19, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

    Chris, thank you for a heroic attempt to inform what appear to a great many audio-switch-challenged Vista users.

    However, my own testing and the respective developers’ websites, all indicate that neither System Tray Audio Device Switcher (STADS) nor Quick Sound Switch (QSS) are Vista compatible. XP yes, but Vista no.

    As of this writing, Aug 2008, there appears to be no lack of people still searching for a solution to the Dastardly Vista Default Audio Device Switching Dilema (DVDADSD).

    So far, no solutions are in sight and nobody even appears to know who to blame (except Microsoft of course, they likely get blamed even when they are innocent). What an embarrasing mess this is for Windows Media Center!

  4. ALTuna said, on October 31, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

    Just to follow up on Rick’s DVDADSD – indeed these applets have no right being listed under windows but this does:

    Vista Audio Changer (http://vachanger.sourceforge.net/)
    Best tool I’ve found – simple right click and select in the systray. Even implements hotkeys but can’t get it to work for me. ^_^

  5. Chris Duckworth said, on November 1, 2008 @ 10:45 am

    Altuna, I had a play with vachanger and it looked like i was going to do the trick. I had very limited success, hence why I didn’t add it ino the article. It worked some of the time, bu more times than not it failed. It seems to emulate the clicks you would normally do to change the default audio device, rather than changing anything in the system through the registry. I hope they get it going because it is the most promising option for Vista users I have seen.

  6. Grox said, on November 19, 2008 @ 8:44 am

    Thank you. Quite enough to resolve my goal, and with short and nice review.

  7. Joe Parker said, on March 5, 2009 @ 6:56 am

    Vista considerations aside, I’d love to find either: A) A way from Visual Basic to play audio files on either of 2 devices, selected from within the VB program,(My.Computer.Audio.Play doesn’t seem to have this option) or B) A way (again, from a VB Program) to change the default audio device, and then play the audio file as usual….

    Anybody got any ideas how this might be done?

    Thanks!!

  8. rupchikyo said, on April 28, 2009 @ 11:59 pm

    awesome dude. perfect tool :-)

  9. Ferret said, on August 23, 2009 @ 3:55 am

    I so wish it would become standard for anything that outputs audio to have the ability to swap devices. It’s amazingly silly that even most media players can’t do this (Winamp? What else are you supposed to be good at besides outputting audio?), yet World of Warcraft can…

  10. Ferret said, on August 23, 2009 @ 3:56 am

    I so wish it would become standard for anything that outputs audio to have the ability to swap devices. It’s amazingly silly that even most media players can’t do this (Winamp? What else are you supposed to be good at besides outputting audio?), yet World of Warcraft can…

    Please delete my previous comment…forgot to tell it to notify of followups.

  11. Chris Duckworth said, on September 2, 2009 @ 12:07 am

    Hi Ferret, In winamp you can change the output using the default output plugins. I used to do a bit of recording of bands and I would send the signal to whichever audio output I wanted. It is annoying that none of it can be done on the fly.

    On a side not, BeOS had a great utility to swap audio devices while they were playing. Oh how I hope BeOS has a worthwhile release soon. It’s been a long time.

  12. dsilver.us said, on September 7, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

    You can also switch sound devices by using the AutoHotKey utility and a script. I did this on my XP machine; took some fiddling with the script but now works very quickly and easily via a shortcut. See http://www.autohotkey.com/forum/topic2436.html

  13. Chris Duckworth said, on September 9, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

    Great tip. I have played with autohotkey to do some stuff at work and it seems to work quite well. I might try this when I cable everything up on the weekend after moving house.

  14. George Stein said, on November 13, 2009 @ 6:47 am

    Both programs work well in switching between my two sound cards, but once I install my USB headphones (in addition to the two sound cards), I cannot switch back to either sound card after the USB headphones have been chosen. A fix to this problem would be great.
    Regards,
    George

  15. Anony Mouse said, on July 29, 2010 @ 4:44 am

    STADS and QSS don’t work with Vista x64. The best solution I’ve found so far is to put the command:
    control.exe mmsys.cpl,,0
    into a batch file. This launches the sound control panel open to the playback devices tab. You can put the batchfile in Quick Launch or pin it to the Start Menu to get to it quickly.
    If you want to open the recording tab quickly, change the 0 to a 1. The Sounds tab can be set to open automatically by changing the 0 to a 2.
    This will work with all versions of vista.

  16. Kevin Still said, on November 15, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

    I created an app that will load in your system tray and let you change the default device. Its FREE :)

    http://dss.site50.net if your interested.

  17. kiran said, on January 5, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    i think this software might help

    http://hotfile.com/dl/93761638/29be06c/win7audiochanger.rar.html

    its also a script made exe file

  18. ALTuna said, on January 8, 2011 @ 7:27 pm

    @Kiran
    Thank you so much for that link (is it your code?) it’s both flawless and instantaneous.
    Now if only this could be applied to swapping the default monitor instead of:
    ‘Display Setting > Tab > up/down arrow > alt-t > return’…

  19. Robert said, on January 16, 2011 @ 3:51 am

    This tool i was searching for, but now i need tool that can easy switch between my monitors. I would like the switch that one or two monitors are connected, are there tool available how can arranges that?

  20. Colin said, on December 11, 2011 @ 9:34 am

    link to Quick Sound Switch FAILED, HERE IS THE NEW ONE http://www.quicksoundswitch.toflo.de/

  21. Dude said, on February 18, 2012 @ 7:29 am

    I wrote a small tool that handles playback devices in a professional way, it also looks sexy and portable, check my page out..
    http://heilnizar.deviantart.com





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