Speakers vs Stereo Mix

With the release of Windows Vista, some significant changes have been made to the sound controls. The popular Stereo Mix feature has become obsolete and is no longer recommended. Let me remind you that this feature allows you to record sound coming from any application to your speakers. Support for this feature now depends on the hardware manufacturer. How do you record streaming audio now? To do this, Microsoft has introduced a new standard feature that allows you to record from the "Speakers" input. What's the difference between the two?

Stereo Mix is a feature of the sound card driver. It mixes audio streams at the hardware level.

  • It has its own gain control, which can be important when recording 16-bit audio.
  • Supported by all audio software. In reality, programs just switch the available mixer inputs without knowing anything about their purpose.
  • Disabled or absent in Windows Vista/7/8/10

Speakers is a Windows feature. It mixes audio streams at the software level before they get to the sound card.

  • It exists on all computers starting with Windows Vista, regardless of the sound card installed.
  • It has no gain control. The 32-bit floating-point sample format easily circumvents this problem.
  • Does not work with DRM protected content. For law-abiding users this is not a disadvantage, but the DRM support wastes computer resources.

In light of the above, the situation has changed for the better. Now you don't need to look for a suitable audio driver or change your sound card. All you need is a modern recorder that allows you to use the innovations in Windows.