How To Play Sound on Headphones And Speakers At The Same Time In Windows 10.
Ever wondered if you can play the same sounds through your computer speakers and a pair of headphones? How about playing two different audio streams simultaneously through headphones and speakers?
Both of these scenarios are possible on Windows 10, and it’s easier than you might think. But why would you do this first?
Play audio through headphones and speakers at the same time
There are actually several different use cases for playing the same or different audio streams at the same time on two or more different playback devices. This might make more sense if you just think of it as controlling playback on multiple outputs. Not necessarily just headphones and speakers, but any audio output device that the computer has access to. Here are some interesting uses for this technique.
- You are a DJ and want to control the music on your headphones that plays through your speakers.
- You want to play something on the TV connected to your computer for someone else, but you also want to continue to use the computer and possibly listen to music through headphones while you work.
- You want to play music through a Bluetooth speaker or speakers in another room, but you want to continue using your computer.
Our readers are a bunch of creative people, and you probably already have some interesting use cases for your own needs. Feel free to share them in the comments!
Understanding the organs of sound
Before we get into the intricacies of how to achieve simultaneous audio playback through headphones and speakers, it’s worth briefly explaining how audio devices work in Windows 10.
Each audio device is registered with Windows 10 as a separate target for audio. You might think that only a sound card really counts as a sound device, but in Windows there is no difference between the sound output of a sound card and Bluetooth headphones.
HDMI devices like your GPU are also audio devices as HDMI can carry audio data as well as video. Sometimes the sound doesn’t work because Windows selects the HDMI output on the graphics card as the audio device, but most computer monitors don’t have speakers!
Audio devices are dynamic too. When you plug in USB headphones, the new audio device will be registered with Windows within a few seconds. This sound doesn’t go through your sound card at all. In fact, a small sound card (“DAC” or digital-to-analog converter) is built into the headphones.
This means that if your computer has extra CPU power, you can send audio streams to each of these devices independently. At least in theory. For this to work, you also need to take advantage of a feature added in Windows 10.
Assigning apps to specific audio devices in Windows 10
This feature allows you to assign specific applications to specific audio outputs. This way, you can force one application to play audio through the headphones and the other through the speakers.
It’s pretty easy too! Here’s how to do it:
- Right-click the speaker icon in the notification area and select Open Sound Settings.
- Select application volume and device settings.
- Next to each application you want to route, select the output drop-down menu, and select the audio output from which you want to play the sound of that application.
You should be able to hear the sound of this app through your desired speaker set. You may need to stop and resume playback for this to take effect. Also, if you do not see the application you want to route in the list, you need to start playing audio in it first. For example, we needed to launch a YouTube video in Google Chrome before it appeared on the list.
Once all of your apps are assigned correctly, you can close the window. If you want to cancel all routing, simply click the Reset button to return to the default values.
Play audio on headphones and speakers using the program’s settings
Now you know how to make different apps play sound through each set of speakers or headphones, but what if you want the same sound to play through your speakers and headphones at the same time? This is the type of setup that a studio engineer or performer on stage can use to make sure the stereo mix going to the speakers is correct.
This is also pretty easy to do on Windows 10:
1. Right-click the speaker icon in the notification bar and select Sounds.
2. Select the recording tab
3. Find Stereo Mix, right click it and select Enable if not already done.
4. Right-click on Stereo Mix again and select properties
5. Select the “Listening” tab
6. Check the “Listen to this device”
7. Select the headphones from the Playback drop-down list.
8. Select “OK”
Now everything that is played through the speakers will also be played through the headphones. Just keep in mind that depending on your hardware, there may be a slight delay between the two audio streams.
Using a hardware solution
All of the above involves some purely technical tinkering with software settings and devices, but what if you just want to use both speakers and headphones at the same time, playing the same sound 100% reliably and not messing with the software? The answer is very simple. All you need is a headphone splitter!
These are exactly the same splitters that you would use to connect two headphones to one audio jack. People use them all the time when, for example, two people want to watch the same movie on an airplane.
The only difference here is that you plug the speaker set into one jack on the splitter and the headphones to the other. Instead of two pairs of headphones.
If you want to use headphones, simply turn the volume knob on the speakers to zero and put on the headphones. If your headphones have built-in volume controls, you can do the same there. This is probably the easiest way to duplicate a sound source. Especially on a laptop with one headphone output.
Music to my ears, or anywhere else
You can now have complete control over where your sound goes when you play any sound on your computer. Today’s computers have so much horsepower that can be saved from normal use that you can just as well do something interesting with them.
This is also useful if you have a home entertainment computer connected to both remote Bluetooth and local wired audio sources. Enjoy the new sound possibilities!