In recent years, spatial audio software has taken significant leaps. Thanks to advances in technology, it’s now possible to accurately emulate a surround sound speaker experience with a regular pair of headphones. Microsoft’s effort in this regard is Windows Sonic, a free tool built into Windows to enhance the audio experience.

What is Windows Sonic for headphones?

So, what is Windows Sonic, and how does it work? To answer this we first need to talk a bit about what spatial sound is. Spatial sound lets a listener more accurately determine where a sound is coming from. With it, you can hear not just the side an audio cue is coming from, but precise angle and elevation. As you can imagine, then, Windows Sonic for Headphones can be great for gaming.

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Windows Sonic vs Dolby Atmos

The best way to experience spatial audio is usually with a pair of 7.1 surround sound speakers and something like Dolby Atmos. But those are expensive and can be disruptive to others. Windows Sonic, thankfully, also works with any pair of headphones – and a good pair of stereo headphones can sound surprisingly realistic.

Windows Sonic tricks your brain into thinking sound is coming from multiple directions by creating a virtual audio stage that imitates the physics of real sound. Loudness, distortion, echo, pitch, and more all contribute to this. Windows Sonic works best with games and movies that already support spatial audio as a result, but it can also “upscale” regular audio for a better experience.

With that lengthy explanation over, let’s jump into how you can enable Windows Sonic for Headphones or Speakers in Windows 10.

How to Turn on Windows Sonic for Headphones using the Speakers button

The fastest way to enable Windows Sonic is through the little speaker icon on your Windows 10 taskbar. All told, this only takes a few seconds.

  1. Open the Spatial sound flyout


    Right-click the speaker icon on the right-hand side of your taskbar and hover over “Spatial sound (Off)”.

  2. Turn on Windows Sonic for Headphones


    In the fly-out menu, click Windows Sonic for Headphones. You can perform a headphones surround sound test by watching this Dolby Atmos video.

How to enable Windows Sonic for Headphones in Control Panel

Those who don’t like their audio icon on their taskbar can enable Windows Sonic through the legacy Control Panel.

  1. Open Control Panel


    Press Start and type “Control Panel”, clicking the top result.

  2. Switch your Control Panel to ‘Small icons’


    You’ll find the toggle by pressing the “Category” button next to “View by:” in the top-right.

  3. Click ‘Sound’


  4. Switch to the ‘Playback’ tab and double-click your headphones


  5. Turn on Sonic in your Windows 10 sound settings


    In your speaker or headphone properties, switch to Windows 10’s “Spatial sound” tab and change the dropdown from “Off” to “Windows Sonic for Headphones”.

With that, you should have the tools to significantly level up your audio experience. Whether you want to turn spatial sound on or off will likely depend on what you’re listening to, but it’s a useful choice to have.

If you want to level up your audio experience further, you may want to read our guide on a free Windows 10 equalizer or boost your microphone volume.

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