Windows has great features where audio is concerned. Windows 7 makes it easy to change audio settings so that you get the best possible sound and so that you can get rid of some of the most annoying aspects of the sound mixing done on modern movies and, sometimes, albums. Speakers The first thing you want to do is set up your Windows audio so that it is optimized for the type of speakers that you have. You can do this by going to the Start button, clicking on Control Panel and then clicking on Hardware and Sound. Click on Sound next. You will see a Playback tab. Select Configure. You’ll see a list of speakers underneath the Audio Channels listing. This will give you the option of selecting Mono, Stereo, Quadraphonic or 5.1 surround. Choose the option that best fits your setup. After you selected, click the Test button and you’ll hear a tone make a round through all of your speakers. After you have this set up, you can click the Button to customize the audio further. Be aware that you may have an audio driver on your computer that gives you access to these types of settings, as well. Most of the time, you can find this in the System Tray – located right next to the clock – and you will click on an icon in the System Tray to gain access to the controls that come with your driver. Above, you can see an image of a Realtek HD Audio Manager interface that offers many of the same features. Be sure to check your audio setup to make certain that you don’t have access to a control panel like this, as it will often offer you even more options than Windows will itself. Get Rid of Annoyances Here’s a scenario you may have found yourself in. You’re listening to a movie and, while the characters are talking, you can barely hear a thing. Suddenly, something dramatic happens on the screen and, five minutes later, your neighbors are banging on your door to see if everybody’s all right because of the cacophony of noise that came out of your speakers unexpectedly. Volume spikes tend to occur a lot for people who are watching movies that have surround sound on them but who are not using a surround sound system. Windows has a great fix for this and, if you want to make watching movies and television more fun on your computer, you should definitely take advantage of it. Go down to your System Tray and right-click on the speaker icon. One of the options that pops up will be Playback Devices. Click on that. Right click on any of the entries in the playback devices listed and click on Properties. From there, click on the tab that says Enhancements. You will see a dialog box that looks something like the one below, though you’ll have to scroll down to see the Loudness Equalization entry, in all likelihood. Option, click Apply and then click OK. This will balance out your sound so that the spikes in volume during loud parts of the movie aren’t quite as dramatic and so that the quiet parts are easier to hear. After you have this running for a few minutes, be extremely glad you found it. Double Outputs Many Windows computers are equipped with double audio outputs. Most of the time, to configure this correctly, you will have to use the included audio driver software that came with your computer or your sound card. Generally speaking, the outputs in the rear of your computer go to your main speaker system and the output on the front of your computer is designed to output to your headphones. You can set these up to have the same output, but most people prefer to separate them so that they can use two different listening devices. If you have trouble figuring out how to get both to work separately, go to your Sounds settings as you did earlier and look for the name of your sound card’s manufacturer. Do a Google search for that manufacturer’s drivers and instructions on separating audio outputs. This should give you the instructions you need specific to your own set up.