Sound Mixing in Windows 8 :(

So I upgraded to 8 and see this move, largely, as a great step forward by Microsoft. I'm not going to detail likes/dislikes in depth, but the overall experience is definitely a positive one.

However, one area that I feel represents a solid step backwards is the way sound mixing is handled in the new OS. One of the features I loved about 7 was the ability to change the relative volume of any running program. That meant I could have zune quietly shuffling in the background while I play a game at higher volume. Or mute IE while leaving other programs at full volume. Or any number of usage scenarios. In fact, my Mac friends were regularly envious of this ability, and I never realized how often I relied on this feature until I upgraded to Windows 8.

Now to be clear, that ability still exists in Windows 8... but it only applies to desktop programs. It seems that Metro applications cannot be independently managed in the volume mixer, and are inexorably tied to the main system volume.

What does that mean? I have a dual monitor setup, and my second screen runs the xbox music app about 70% of the time. And unlike the zune app that used to occupy that screen, I can't independently adjust the volume of my music anymore, which is turning out to be an unanticipated hindrance. (Sure, I know I could still run the zune app, but replying on abandonware isn't really a future-proof strategy.)


Ideally, there would be a separate Metro/RT/Whatever channel that is adjustable in the same way that all concurrent desktop programs are. This would improve the synergy between these two UI paradigms that look to be the future of all Microsoft platforms.