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Microsoft rounded sounds, not just corners, when designing Windows 11

Windows 11 Notification Action
Windows 11 Notification Action (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Windows 11 features a new selection of sounds and alerts.
  • These sounds were designed to be rounder and softer, which makes them easier on the ear.
  • A former Microsoft sound designer explains the new sounds in a recent interview.

When you try Windows 11, it's obvious that there are new sounds in the operating system. What may not come off immediately is that the new sounds are inspired by a push to be easier on the ear. Former Microsoft sound designer Matthew Bennett created the sounds of Windows 11 and explained the direction Microsoft went in with its new OS in several interviews with CNBC.

"The new sounds have a much rounder wavelength, making them softer so that they can still alert/notify you, but without being overwhelming," said a Microsoft spokesperson to CNBC. "Just like we rounded UI [user interface] visually, we rounded our soundscape as well to soften the overall feel of the experience."

Bennett echoes the same sentiments to CNBC. The piece includes audio samples comparing the new sounds heard on Windows 11 to their counterparts on Windows 10. Across the board, the Windows 11 sounds are less intrusive while remaining easy to identify. They also sound less harsh and digital.

Hearing the smoother sounds of Windows 11 back-to-back with those from Windows 10 immediately reminded me of another audio change Microsoft made, its read aloud functionality in Microsoft Edge. Microsoft's natural voices on Edge sound smooth and lifelike especially compared to the standard robotic voices in the browser.

Earlier this summer, Microsoft explained that it designed Windows 11 with accessiblity in mind. The operating system's new sounds also help people who are blind identify what is on their screen.

Bennett has since left Microsoft following 12 years with the company, but his insights provide a behind-the-scenes listen to Window 11.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

5 Comments
  • I think the W10 sound design is wonderful, one of the things I actively love about the OS. Improvements by the same people who made the original set of sounds is very welcome.
  • Farewell sensible audio cues. I guess we’ll always have error.wav.
    And that weird IR connection ON sound.
  • Ha, probably just ran the wav files through a filter or equalizer to attenuate the high frequency content. Not much of a change to tout about.
  • Now that you mention it, that's very true. Everything is less harsh sounding. Still not upgrading for at least a year or two. Based on what I saw in the Developer Build and how quickly they want to replace a a final product, I think there are going to be issues.
  • Just played the sounds at the CNBC link. To my ear, all of them are as good or better than the Windows 10 version, with the possible error sound, which isn't quite as obviously an error. However, I think all of these are too musical. Star Trek computer sounds in the 1990s remain more functionally useful without being any more obtrusive. Maybe some of those are a little too harsh, but their meaning is intuitively obvious. You don't need to learn what those sounds indicate. These Windows sounds, while nice and fine, have very little meaning until you learn it (up for connect and down for disconnect is good).