When you are using external speakers for audio playback on a Windows Vista or Windows 7 computer, you generally have no problems with the sound volume. This is because almost all PC speakers these days are powered or amplified speakers, so you just turn up the volume on the speakers itself.

But for headsets and built-in laptop speakers, the sound volume during audio playback can certainly be insufficient. So optimizing the sound settings in Windows is important to maximize the audio volume. Before changing any setting though, make sure to check if the audio drivers are up to date, as outdated or worse, incorrect audio drivers can limit the capabilities of the audio device.

Once the audio drivers are up to date, go to the Control Panel, and select the Sound option.

Windows audio playback devices

In the Playback tab, you will see all devices that are available for audio playback, with the default device marked with a green checkmark.

Select the Speakers option, and click the Properties button to change the settings for the audio playback through the speakers. In the first screen of the speaker properties, you will see the controller information, jack information and the device usage, which should be set to Use this device (enable).

Windows speaker properties

Using the Properties button, you can see the details for the audio controller (a Realtek High Definition Audio device in this example), and you can check the audio driver version. In this General tab, we do not need to make any changes.

So select the Custom tab, and make sure that the Limited Output checkbox is cleared.

Then select the Levels tab and set the audio playback level to a high level. Depending on the speaker quality, you might not want to set it to the maximum, as chances are the audio will be distorted.

Audio playback volume levels

Also make sure the audio is not muted, as shown in the screenshot, where the red sign in the speaker button indicates it is muted. The button should show the speaker icon with the curved lines to the right of it (as shown in the PC Beep example).

The next tab is the Enhancements tab, which also has some options that can be used to maximize the playback volume.

Windows audio enhancements

In this tab, you want to disable the options called Disable all sound effects and Immediate mode.

In some cases te Loudness Equalization setting can be enabled to improve the audio playback volume, but first try it without this setting enabled.

Settings in the Advanced tab do not need to be changed, the default values should be good.

Click OK, or Apply to let the changes to the sound settings take effect, and then try playing your audio again.

Further possibilities…

In some cases, particularly with laptop speakers, the increased speaker volume might still not be sufficient. For those situations you can also consider third party solutions, consisting of software that will further boost the PC audio. Good solutions that can be experimented with are SRS Audio Essentials and DFX audio enhancer.

Update audio drivers
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