Published on 2nd March, 2015 by Cable Chick

HDMI Audio output for Windows and Mac

HDMI Audio output for Windows and Mac

Hooked up the HDMI cable but can't get any sound? Follow our simple how-to guide! Also works for DisplayPort and Thunderbolt.

The Right Cable

The good news is that any HDMI or DisplayPort cable you already have will be perfectly suitable for digital audio output to your TV or home theatre receiver, so a special purchase isn't necessary for sound.

The first step of any connection is to hook the cables up. It doesn't matter which end is plugged in first, so go with what's easiest for you. This guide assumes you can get the video part working fine, so get that going first.

Windows 7 & 8

Windows-based PCs can offer a variety of HDMI, DisplayPort and/or SPDIF Digital Audio output options, especially if you have a separate video card (GPU). Always prioritise the GPU sockets over any built into the motherboard to ensure you're getting the most from your system.

Video Card Output Panel Example
Example of a video card I/O panel.

Step 1. Open the Playback Devices dialog

Start Bar Playback Devices Location
Right-click the speaker icon.

Right-click on your volume control icon and select 'Playback Devices'

Step 2. Browse your available devices

Windows Playback Devices Default
Default Playback Devices Dialog.

Your available devices listing may look different to our example. If you have headphones connected, a USB sound card connected or multiple monitors and TVs, this list may be extensive.

Here, you can see that the Panasonic-TV entry is listed as READY, which means it's connected and selectable. This setting works the same for HDMI audio and DisplayPort audio - it will always be identified by the device rather than the cable being used.

Step 3. Select the appropriate device

Windows Playback Devices Selected
Click on the TV, Monitor or Receiver you want to send audio to.

In this example, we're selecting the TV, but it's equally valid to choose the Optical output if you want to use a TOSLINK cable.

Step 4. Set it as the active Default

Windows Playback Devices HDMI
Set Default. Note the green tick mark has moved.

Done! All your audio will now be piped through to your TV or home theatre receiver as expected. You may unlock additional options for surround sound or Dolby codecs depending on your hardware and software options.


Whether you're connecting via HDMI or Thunderbolt, the configuration for Mac is nicely straight-forward.

Mac Output Selection Menu
Option-click the volume icon.

Simply hold the Option key and click the volume control icon near the system clock. You can then select from a list of connected output options.

If that doesn't give you the control you need, you can try the alternative method below.

Step 1. Open System Preferences

Mac Systen Preference Dock Icon
Find System Preferences on your Dock.

Inside the System Preferences Window, look for the icon named 'Sound' and click it.

Step 2. Select the connected device.

Mac Sound Settings
Selecting the TV sets it as the active audio connection

Your list of audio output devices may look different depending on what hardware you have attached to your system.

Once your TV or Receiver is active, it will take over volume control, and the speaker icon will be greyed-out.

SPDIF Output - Coax & Optical

Instead of using HDMI or DisplayPort for your audio, many PCs and some Macbooks offer Coaxial or Optical SPDIF Digital Audio output. These will be listed separately and may appear even when there is no sound system connected.

It's worth keeping in mind that SPDIF audio tops out at 5.1 channels, so HDMI may be superior if you have a 7.1 or larger speaker system.

Motherboard SPDIF Output Example
SPDIF Outputs

Multiple Simultaneous Audio Outputs

Under both Windows and Mac, you're only allowed to output sound via one device at a time. This prevents problems with unsynchronised playback or audio format mismatching.

Windows, has a few dirty tricks such as stream routing, which can see select applications capable of sending audio to an output different to the system default, but this is an impractical half measure.

There are also some software solutions available which purportedly allow more than one output device to be active at a time, but these are generally retail applications with a hefty price tag.

If you need to connect your computer to two speaker systems at once, consider connecting to an Amp or Receiver with two-zone audio, or investing in either a HDMI splitter and/or a HDMI audio extractor.


Still Silent?

Sometimes there are other configuration problems which can get in the way of a smooth HDMI audio set-up. But, if you contact us, we'll be happy to troubleshoot your issue.

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