How to turn on Windows Sonic audio in Windows 10

Windows 10 has grown and changed quite a bit over the last few years, adding some big and small tweaks that are nevertheless appreciated. One of the lesser-known features, added in the Creators Update for Windows 10, is Windows Sonic, a surround sound emulator for your headphones.

With Windows Sonic enabled, audio coming through any headphones — we tested on budget and expensive options — seems richer, and more immersive. Want to test it out yourself? Here's how to get everything set up.

How to enable Windows Sonic

To get started with Windows Sonic, you need to enable spatial audio on your Windows 10 PC.

  1. Right-click the Speakers button in your system tray.
  2. Click Spatial sound (Windows Sonic for Headphones).
  3. Click Windows Sonic for Headphones.

That's it! You can now give it a try to see if you notice a difference. Alternatively, you can enable and disable Windows Sonic for other audio options not in use by accessing the Control Panel.

  1. Right-click the Start button.
  2. Click Search.

  1. Type Control Panel and hit Enter on your keyboard.
  2. Click Sound.

  1. Double-click a playback option.
  2. Click Spatial sound.

  1. Click the dropdown arrow below Select the Spatial sound format you want to apply.
  2. Click Windows Sonic for Headphones.

  1. Click Apply.
  2. Click OK.

Testing Windows Sonic sound

To see if Windows Sonic makes a difference, we watched a few movie trailers in the Films & TV app, both without spatial audio enabled and with Windows Sonic turned on. Using a pair of B&O PLAY H9 headphones (opens in new tab) and Surface Headphones (opens in new tab), there was a noticeable difference in the sound when spatial audio was enabled – every track seemed more present, and with a more spacious feel. Even when using a cheap gaming headset, the difference in sound was quite noticeable.

Audiophiles no doubt have their own opinions on whether or not this is an improvement, but the fact remains that there is a difference.

Updated March 18, 2019 This article has been refreshed to ensure you're still getting the proper way to enable and disable Windows Sonic in Windows 10.

Cale Hunt
Senior Editor, Laptop Reviews

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

  • Will try it out. Thanks
  • Well, also try out Razer's 7.1 software. The key to these things is tuning them to your headset and ears. Unfortunately MS forgot to include that vital functionality so better to use an alternative. Perhaps one day MS will get this feature up to snuff, it is a good thing. Until then, there are other, better options.
  • Very helpful, thanks. Also, bonus points for Archer.
  • It wasn't hard to miss Archer phrasing boom! :)
  • Sonic works only with lower KHz rate (Analog). Dunno about HDMI. I personally feel it is stereo widening on normal 3.5mm headphones. On USB 7.1 headsets, the experience might be different.
  • Bee-boo-bop
  • It's the source that counts, not the destination. Of course, if you feed it stereo all you'll get is a stereo widening cludge. You're supposed to feed it a 7.1 (or 5.1) audio source.
  • My source is 5.1 audio (game and movie).
  • There's pitch changes that make sound seem like its coming from diferent locations around your head. That's likely what this is. 
  • More than likely. It could hardly be anything else. Of course, that's how sound works in general so this is the best way to get 7.1 and, if it could be tuned to fit the headset, would be as good as discreet sound sources. Problem is MS forgot to add the capability to tune it to your kit. Whoops... coming soon then?
  • Cool, but irrelevant cause it doesnt play sound in half the movies I own... Using VLC
  • Still works with VLC though, so what's the issue?
  • Issue is the fact that default app for video payback is not realy working properly...
  • Works for me. It all comes down to codecs, which is why it works for you on VLC. Personally, I'd stick to VLC because codec packs can be a real source of problems. Most of my stuff, recorded off the telly, is encoded so that Windows will play it natively. For random stuff that others have encoded, VLC has me covered but my own stuff is encoded by me and so is tailored to my kit.
  • Thank goodness for VLC.  It is indispensable.
  • I do not have the Option for spatial Sound in the sound menu, my build is 15063.138. What's missing?
  • What's missing is suitable output, I didn't see it on the base speakers but shows up when I plug in my headphones
  • So after disabling our amazing hardware audio and giving us crap virtual sound for years instead of directsound hardware processed effects..they have now enabled it again but are claiming it as their own and forcing their own system.
    Another slap in the face.
    Got to look after your users Microsoft. This is not how you do it.
    At the very least re-enable it properly so we can utilize the very specific feature rich and non generic hardware options on our devices. Even with win10 drivers im still having to use creatives virtual hardware fix instead of being able to use all the bells and whistles on what is a very expensive and capable soundcard. I'm not impressed at all
  • The move away from hardware audio processing was slightly painful, but done for a very good reason. The number of sound card issues has plummeted since that move. Hardware accelerated audio is not needed on modern PCs as software on the PC can do it just as well with negligible impact on resources, and with the bonus that it generally just works. Oh, and they have not 'forced their own system'. Feel free to add any post processing software you like. These are not hardware audio functions, this is software post processing.
  • Thanks, that was my problem! After plugging in my headphones, it showed up.
  • More hidden features. Microsoft are so unbelievably, appallingly bad at marketing and communication. Its just incredible. Zuckerberg says something at a its conference with no actual product and the press report that he has announced the death of smartphones. Microsoft showed an actual, working product doing exactly what he was talking about nearly two years ago and?? Nothing. No consumer product, no mainstream press, nobody in my office of industrial engineers had heard of HoloLens. Unbelievable. Microsoft just doesn't get this era of 'no instruction manual / user guide'. The rules are: 1. Features need to be discoverable. 2. Features need to be delightfully easy to use. 3. You need industry and more importantly domestic evangelists who talk about and disseminate information about new and upcoming features. Microsoft have lost many of these via their mobile withdrawal. 4. You need to brand and get the features out into the market place. You need to make all of your features cool, make them desirable, make them lifestyle enhancing. How hard is it to put a communication team together who can do this??
  • Yep, yep, and some more yep.
  • I'm not going to praise Microsoft's marketing expertise because it often does leave a lot to be desired, but if your office of industrial engineers somehow missed the hype about HoloLens, that is on them. The reveal of the tech and later the release of the first devices was covered pretty much everywhere: tech press, mainstream press, morning shows on the networks, financial press. It was everywhere for months which was amazing for a product that was never going to be released to consumers. I don't disagree with your point, but HoloLens isn't the example to use.
  • Your office is doing something wrong then. A lot of engineering departments are already using hololens all over the world, and with version 2, now also Logistics are taking a very close look to guide their human workers.
  • It reduces frequency and bits of the audio
  • That's a terrible thing.
  • I'm lost - isn't Dolby Atmos a better option ('cause it's Dolby, you know)?
  • Different things.
  • You can choose Dolby Atmos instead if you like, but you will need to pay Dolby for that option beyond the 30 day trial period.
  • It works on my Siberia headphones. It is very subtle but it does make an improvement. Music is enhanced. Game play particularly is more immersive with separation of individual noises giving better spatial awareness. I like.
  • It's really quite precise, if you're listening to a 5.1 or 7.1 audio drama you can hear the position of every voice in the 'room' very well. The source needs to be recorded in 7.1 to get the best results (5.1 is pretty good though), of course. Otherwise it'll be a bit of a cludge.
  • Anyway andy who told you that dolby atmos aound support by vlc ....because i tried to play over from last 3 month..i had a lot of movies encoded in dolby atmos
  • If you mean me, then remember that 'Dolby Atmos' is simply an encoding format. I'm not saying VLC 'supports' Dolby Atmos, but it can simply pass it through. Then either your external decoder, or your sound card's decoder, or a third party decoder like the Windows built in one can decode the DA raw audio stream. Note that the Windows system has a drop down menu to select an alternative system, the only alternative listed right now being Dolby Atmos. Click that and you will be directed to download the Dolby app from the store. It is a 30 day trial though, pay up for more. Then the sound output from VLC will be sent to the DA system. Make sure you set VLC to pass through the raw audio stream.
  • Dolby Atmos over HDMI is free. You'll only have to pay for the Dolby Atmos for Headphones.
  • Nope. Dolby Atmos over HDMI is raw. It gets decoded by your equipment (ie. amp or TV) at the other end of the wire. So you have to pay for the licence and decoder in the price of your amp. Your headphones don't decode Dolby Atmos (in general) so you need to pay for a decoder to run on your PC. There's no such thing as a free lunch mate.
  • Yay stereo widening now with a fancy name, even my n97 had this
  • I think you'll find this is 3D positional audio, not simple 'stereo widening'. Note the 7.1 in the title? Have you tried playing back a properly encoded 7.1 sound source through this? You can hear each of the actors voice's actual position in the virtual room. I think you've tried a basic stereo source, which can only result in a cludgy widening effect. I think you're doing it wrong.
  • you think wrong then
  • Let me rephrase, I have tested the Windows audio 7.1 system and they are not lying (which would be odd if you think about it). I get a full 3D sound stage. If you don't then either something is wrong with your system (suspect screwed up codec pack or some such) or you're not feeding a true 7.1 (or 5.1) sound source into the system. I can confirm 100% through testing that this is not simple stereo widening, unless you feed it a stereo source. Then what do you expect? You're most likely doing it wrong.
  • He is not. Saying that, i prefer good stereo over any widened or fake 7.1 over headphones.
  • Just tried it with my Grado SR325 headphones on my SP4. I cant hear a difference on or off. I thought I noticed a slight difference on some acoustic guitar music, like the instrument was in a different place, but I cant really say if its better or not. Its either not working, or its very, very subtle.
  • You need a 7.1 or 5.1 audio source. Feeding it a simple stereo track is not going to impress.
  • And here I thought Windows Sonic was a Sonic the Hedgehog themed version of Windows. I'm so let down now.
  • Probably the last thing you want to enable if mastering or editing anything sound related.
  • good feature but sadly its only for headphone.  Main speaker is made avaiable for speaker and headphone.  output audio is more important than headphone. Also, I search overall the web, could not find any source explain difference detween windows sonic and dolby atom for headphone.
  • One is from supplier A, one is from supplier B. Dolby Atmos worked a bit better with my Sennheisers, Windows Sonic with my Jabra Headset. However, good stereo beats fake 7.1 by far. Exception is shooters, where you can get some info where the bullet was coming from.
  • Thanks for the tip that wasn't to hard....phrasing boom! :)
  • Not all of us can use it.
  • Dolby Atmos is way better! I just tried it with the free trial.
  • Windows Spatial Sound support is good but I find Dolby Atmos more better but their app demo mode is cringe. No support for headphones. 
  • Then the weak sounding surround will be down to tuning it for your headset/ears which is important. Unfortunately MS have not (yet?) included this vital feature so unless you luck out it's not going to be ideal. Try Razer's 7.1 surround software as this is fully adjustable. Hoping MS get there eventually. I can assure you that, with the right headset, MS's effort can place voices in a virtual room very well. Of course, trying different headsets until you get one that matches up with MS's default configuration is not practical, so hurry up and finish the feature MS!
  • Just as an FYI,  There is no need to click Apply before Clicking OK.  Here is what they each do.  Clicking Apply will Apply the changes that you make and keep the current dialog box open (in case you want to make more changes).  Clicking OK, will also apply the changes that you make but will close the current dialog box and take you to the next step (i.e. rebooting or just continuing on about your day).
  • Thanks! I always wondered about that one for some silly reason :P
  • I have now tried Windows Sonic, and I prefer that one. Even with very poor headphones it is better than naught, which is great in my humble opinion :)