Fix: Dolby Atmos Windows 10 not working / Spatial sound isn’t working

By: Aleksandar Ognjanovic
7 minute read
dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working

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When you think ”sound effects” — you think Dolby. Now, recently they started implementing their surround sound software and hardware in consumer products, like home theaters and smartphones. Also, Windows 10 users which have upgraded to the Fall Creators Update can try out (and later buy) Dolby Atmos supporting software for headphones and home sound systems. However, the problem is that there’s no option to do so or they’re unable to get Dolby Atmos (or Spatial sound in general which includes Windows Sonic as well) to work.

What’s Dolby Atmos and Spatial sound in Windows 10 and how it works? As you might already know, the sound is usually distributed through channels, but this new technology focuses on 3D points and grants 360° sound output. This should improve listeners experience, and even with the cheapest headphones, with the adapted-multimedia content (movies, games, and videos), you should enjoy a dramatically better surround sound. For the time being, it supports only headphones, buds, and earphones in Windows 10, but you can use a Dolby home theater for the best results.

Nonetheless, we need to make it work in the first place. For the sole purpose of helping our readers in distress, we provided the best-suited solutions below. Make sure to check them out and, hopefully, we’ll make Dolby Atmos and Spatial sound work as it’s intended.

How to get Dolby Atmos and Spatial sound working on Windows 10

  1. Update sound drivers
  2. Rollback sound drivers
  3. Run the built-in sound troubleshooter
  4. Enable Exclusive mode options
  5. Run downloadable troubleshooter
  6. Reconfigure Dolby Atmos for your device or try Sonic
  7. Update Windows

1: Update sound drivers

Sound drivers are the primary reason why the things went south for some users. As you might’ve known, there are usually the 2 sound devices with their respective roles and supporting drivers. The onboard sound device and the third-party device.

Windows 10 is well-known for automatically administered driver updates and those are, frequently, making the things worse. Namely, it seems that some iterations of both onboard sound device and the third-party device (Realtek, VIA, ATI) won’t work as intended with Dolby Atmos and Spatial Sound, implemented in Fall Creators Update.

So, the first thing (although it ‘sounds’ rather generic) is to try and update your sound driver and try enabling Dolby Atmos (Spatial sound) later on. If you’re not sure how to do so on your Windows 10, make sure to follow the steps we provided below:

  1. Right-click on the Start menu and open Device Manager.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  2. Expand the ”Sound, video, and game controllers” section.
  3. Right-click both onboard sound device and third-party device and Update drivers.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  4. Restart your PC.
  5. Right-click on the Sound icon in the Notification area and select Spatial Sound (Dolby Atmos for Headphones). If you haven’t configured it already, follow the instructions to do so.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  6. Play supported content and look (listen) for changes.

2: Rollback sound drivers or stick with the Windows-native drivers

If the first step was of no help whatsoever, we recommend a diametrally opposite approach. That’s that issue with drivers we stress every time. The latest driver iteration might not exclusively be the best-suited for the job. A lot of users had a fun time with Dolby Atmos and spatial sound until the Windows Update feature decided to update the sound driver. That’s when the issues started. In order to address this, we offer two solutions.

Firstly, you can try and rollback the driver on all sound devices and look for changes. If that doesn’t hold up, you should completely disable the third-party sound device and stick with the onboard sound device solely. Furthermore, we made sure to show you how to do both in the separate lists of instructions:

  1. Right-click Start and open Device Manager from the Power User menu.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  2. Expand the ”Sound, video, and game controllers” section.
  3. Right-click both devices, respectively, and open Properties.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  4. Under the Driver tab, click Roll Back driver.
  5. If that option isn’t available, get back and right-click on the third-party sound device and uninstall it.
  6. Restart your PC and re-enable Spatial sound.

3: Run the built-in sound troubleshooter

When an ocean of issues flooded Windows 10 after the Anniversary Update, Microsoft decided to offer a helping hand and provided users with the dedicated troubleshooting menu. This took place after the Creators Update and since then, users are rather disappointed with the capabilities of certain troubleshooting tools.

However, since there’s a dedicated sound troubleshooter somewhere in there, we indeed recommend running it. It might help you determine what’s the problem, so you can take a more advanced approach. The ”Playing audio” Windows troubleshooter should resolve some minor issues, especially the ones inflicted by the recent update.

If you’re not sure how to run Windows Sound Troubleshooter, make sure to follow the steps we provided below:

  1. Press Windows key + I to open Settings.
  2. Choose Update & Security.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  3. Select Troubleshoot from the left pane.
  4. Highlight the ”Playing Audio” troubleshooter and click ”Run the troubleshooter”.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  5. Follow the instructions and, after the troubleshooter ends task, restart your PC.
  6. Open Sound icon > Spatial sound and try enabling Dolby Atmos again.

4: Enable Exclusive mode options

Some third-party applications for audio playing and reproduction tend to take the matters under their own control, rather than to rely on system resources. Windows Sonic is a built-in part of the Windows platform, while Dolby Atmos is (for the time being) a tool acquired from the 3rd-party source.

Therefore, make sure that the Exclusive mode, which grants access to third-party tools, is enabled. These options should be enabled by default, but it’s worth to check it out before moving to additional steps.

Follow these instructions to enable Exclusive mode sound features in Windows 10:

  1. Right-click on the Sound icon in the Notification area and open Playback devices.
  2. Right-click on your default Playback device and open Properties.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  3. Firstly, select the ”Spatial sound” tab and make sure Dolby Atmos for headphones is enabled.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  4. Now, select the ”Advanced” tab.
  5. Under the ”Exclusive mode” enable both ”Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device” and ”Give exclusive application priority” by checking their respective boxes.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  6. Confirm changes and check whether Spatial sound features are available now/ working.

5: Run downloadable troubleshooter

If the aforementioned built-in troubleshooter wasn’t efficient in resolving the issue at hand, we recommend using a downloadable troubleshooter which might be a better-suited for the job. There’s a whole line of ”Easy Fix” troubleshooting tools provided by Microsoft. They are, in a general sense, similar to the integrated troubleshooting tools. However, since we’re fairly limited in regards to available solutions concerning Dolby Atmos and Spatial sound, it found its way into our list.

In order to run the downloadable Sound troubleshooter for Windows 10, follow the instructions we provided below:

  1. Navigate here to download the ”Easy Fix” Sound troubleshooter.
  2. Run the troubleshooter and wait until it resolves (hopefully) sound issues.
  3. Restart your PC and give Dolby Atmos/Spatial Sound another go.

6: Reconfigure Dolby Atmos for your device or try Sonic

Windows Sonic is a built-in feature, introduced with the Fall Creators Update. You can’t reinstall it and, if you’re having issues, the problem is probably to be found somewhere within the system. However, Dolby Atmos is a third-party service acquired through Microsoft Store. So, you can try and reconfigure it (reinstall the Dolby Atmos for headphones or home theater) and give it another try. Also, make sure that you’re playing optimized content which supports this technology. Also, have in mind that the software is dominantly better performing on the Dolby Atmos supported hardware.

This shouldn’t take too much of your time, and, if you have Fall Creators Update installed,  these instructions should show you how to do it in a few simple steps:

  1. Plug in your headphones, buds, or earphones. On the other hand, if you’re configuring a home theatre, plug it in also.
  2. Right-click on the Sound icon in the Notification area and open Playback device.
  3. Right-click on your default playback device and open Properties.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  4. Select the ”Spatial sound” tab.
  5. Choose Dolby Atmos from the drop-down menu and you should be immediately redirected to Microsoft Store.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  6. Install Dolby Access application and launch it.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  7. Choose whether to configure headphones or home theatre.
  8. Click on Begin setup.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  9. Choose Configure PC settings and select Atmos for Headphones from the drop-down menu.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  10. Try playing demos and listen for differences in the sound output.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working

If you’re unable to use Dolby Atmos, maybe the Windows’ alternative for spatial sound, Windows Sonic, will serve you justice. At least, if you’re headphone aficionado. Here’s how to enable it:

  1. Right-click on the Sound icon in the Notification area and open Playback device.
  2. Right-click on your default playback device and open Properties.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  3. Select the ”Spatial sound” tab.
  4. Choose Windows Sonic for headphones from the drop-down menu and confirm changes.

7: Update Windows

Finally, if none of the previous steps helped you address the issue with Dolby Atmos/Spatial sound, we can only recommend to check for updates and be patient. As the case has shown, on some previous occasions, everything was resolved after an update after Microsoft received numerous complaints regarding the sound issues. This is a quite new addition to the Windows 10 platform, and we all know that the Redmond Giant works in slow and mysterious but nonetheless effective ways. Eventually.

As you already know, users get updates automatically on Windows 10. But, just in case, you can try and look for available updates manually. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Press Windows key + I to open Settings.
  2. Choose Update & Security.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working
  3. Under the Windows Update, click on the ”Check for updates” button.dolby atmos windows 10 not working spatial sound isn't working

That should do it. In case you’re still unable to fix the issue at hand, we recommend sending a report ticket to Microsoft and Dolby, respectively. In case you have questions or alternative solutions for the ”Dolby Atmos/Spatial sound” issues, make sure to post them in the comments section below.

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