An update released today for SteamVR brings major improvements to one of the most frustrating parts of the platform: audio not always going to your headset on the first try.

Update (November 5th, 2019): Previously available in beta, SteamVR 1.8.19 has been publicly released and should download automatically next time the SteamVR app updates in your Steam library. The update brings an overhaul to the platform’s audio system which should greatly improve the reliability of audio being sent to a connected VR headset and then returned to your PC when existing SteamVR.

The update also brings a host of changes and fixes from recent beta releases, including improvements to the SteamVR screenshot system, dashboard, Input system, Motion Smoothing for AMD GPUs, base station 2.0, and more. You can see the full changelog here.

The original article below offers more detail on the audio changes from when they were first introduced in a beta update.

Original Article (October 4th, 2019): Next to your headset simply not working at all, one of the most frustrating things that can happen when putting on a VR headset is finding out that the audio isn’t working correctly, because it means you have to remove your headset, set down your controllers, and start troubleshooting on your PC before putting it all back on.

While Oculus’ VR software has been quite good over the years about making sure audio always works on the first try, audio changing on SteamVR has remained an all too frequent annoyance.

Clearly targeted at tidying up audio issues, we hope the upcoming update (1.8.7, currently available in beta) will drastically reduce instances of audio not getting routed to your headset (and back to your PC when you’re done) on the first try. Here’s a look at the audio changes:

Update (November 5th, 2019): This is Audio portion of the changelog per the 1.8.19 public release.

  • By default, SteamVR will select the appropriate audio input and output devices that belong to the active VR HMD.
  • Default audio selection currently works for Index, Vive, Vive Pro, Rift, and Rift S. Audio for Windows Mixed Reality HMDs is managed by the Mixed Reality portal, but is compatible with this update. In the near future OpenVR HMD drivers will be able to tell SteamVR about associated audio devices for default support.
  • Audio input and output devices can still be overridden in settings. The settings UI has been updated to reflect these changes.
  • Fixed multiple causes of audio settings being forgotten after driver updates.
  • Audio input and output settings are saved per HMD type. Switching between multiple HMDs will preserve the audio settings from each HMD, and using a new HMD for the first time will default to using the appropriate audio devices for that HMD.
  • Audio mirroring can be directed to the Default computer device or any specific output device. When mirroring is enabled and Default is selected, sound from the VR headset will also play on whatever audio output was default when SteamVR launched.
  • Fixed some bugs that would prevent audio mirroring from functioning when the default device was changed unexpectedly, or would require the mirror device to be re-selected.
  • In Windows, the default communication device is changed along with the default device, so voice chat programs that use the default communication device will work in VR without changing extra OS settings.
  • On exit, SteamVR restores audio settings their prior state. There is no longer a requirement to select “exit” devices in settings.
  • The Vive HDMI gain reduction setting is hidden for all other HMDs.
  • When Index HMDs are used for the first time, or after an audio driver update, the volume level defaults to 40% instead of 100%.
  • Fixed audio related crashes.

Alongside the audio overhaul, 1.8.7 also brings some changes and fixes to SteamVR and Motion Smoothing. You can see the complete changelist here.

Audio settings in SteamVR 1.8.7 have been simplified

After some time in beta, the 1.8.7 update will get deployed to all SteamVR users automatically. If you want to test it today, you can activate the beta by right-clicking SteamVR in Steam, then going to the ‘Betas’ tab and selecting ‘beta – SteamVR Beta Update’ from the drop down list.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Jarilo

    The last update where it routes the source to the headset instead of the name of the source helped a lot already. It was mainly an issue for people like me who use SteamVr with multiple headsets, swapping from Index to Vive SteamVR wouldn’t remember which headset’s audio to route.

  • Wait wait wait… all the audio problems I’ve had since I first got the Vive right through to the Index… have all been shoddy programming on Valve’s part? I assumed it was because I was using an Alienware laptop with a graphics amplifier, an uncommon setup that was confusing Steam. To find out after all these years it was a known issue that Valve never fixed is… both relieving and disgusting. Does Valve actually have any programmers? Do they have anyone who actually works on their software, or do they just sit around counting money? How could this not have been fixed way back in 2016 if it was a known problem???

    • RealTalk

      This entitled idiot. It has always been working for the majority of the people. Now they did a new development to support your shoddy setup and all you have to say is “why couldn’t they do this sooner!?!??”. GTFO

      • brandon9271

        I’ve never had this problem even once… So yeah it probably was due to uncommon set up

        • Brian Brown

          I’ve never had this problem with my Index, but a couple of years back I had my TV producing audio instead of my Vive audio. This only happened twice though.

      • Lukas Salomon

        I know this might be hard to grasp, but if you purchase a product from a company, with the claim that it delivers a certain experience, you are in fact entitled to that experience. That’s not being an “entitled idiot”, that’s asking the company to deliver what they said they were delivering on launch. Hence why this isn’t an update or added feature, but a fix. It’s a repair to a broken chain. Not a bonus. Thousands of the user demographic use Alienware computers and deserve the slice of cake they paid for, too.

        • Thanks, Lukas, I couldn’t have said it better myself… except for the “hard to grasp” part. I’d call that “so easy to grasp a three year old could get it.” ;) What was I thinking? Expecting Valve to fix a known bug sooner than three years later… I clearly deserved to have some incredibly brave, anonymous internet warrior call me names for that. Asking for bugs to be fixed is SO entitled.

          Wait wait wait… RealTalk is a front name for Randy Pitchford, isn’t it? You almost had me there, Randy! Good one!

      • gruguir

        “It has always been working for the majority of the people” oh ok then :(

      • Trankonia

        What a stupid statement. Just because things work for you fine does NOT mean it works for others. This new FIX has been nothing short of a major headache for me. Valve cannot figure it out but on the Index ONLY (not my Vive) the sound will cut out in the middle of a game and crash the game. Before you say something about a SHODDY system I am a retired computer professional with over 35 years in the industry so you need to STFU.

    • Jetson

      How how how mister… I’ve got an Alienware laptop with a graphics amplifier and although you find it an uncommon setup it has been performing just amazing in VR both professionally as for games. It never confused Steam and I never had audio issues with the Vive. Just check each time before you start something in VR if audio is set to the Vive and that’s it. Moaner.

      • You’ve “Never had audio issues with the Vive.” and “Just check each time before you start something in VR if audio is set to the Vive and that’s it.” So which one is it? You contradict yourself within the space of two sentences… Your lack of self-awareness is genius.

    • DjArcas

      Because Valve have virtually no commercial pressure to get them to fix things.

  • Immersive_Computing

    No word on the Nvidia audio driver issue that has caused many Index owners to experience low sound even at 100% volume.

    It turns out the Nvidia driver applies -6 at pre amplification. I’ve successfully used Equaliser APO to reset this to positive value, which allows similar (or louder) performance to other headsets.

    • Jarilo

      That’s what I’ve done, I use the EQ APO, it confirms the driver at -6 db.

  • Gooooooood

  • dextrovix

    I have a lot of different audio outputs, two sounds cards, a Cambridge Audio Stream Magic and several USB ones too. And both a Vive and Rift. I welcome this because it has been a ball ache up until now, almost without exception the headset is not selected and I’ve had to visit Control Panel to switch. I never thought it would be fixed because I thought I was very much in the minority…

    • Careful, or RealTalk up there will call you an entitled idiot for having problems and daring wanting them fixed… :b

      • dextrovix

        Yes I’ve since read that comment- oh well, doesn’t change the fact that it’ll be resolved. Maybe RealTalk is feeling hurt that something else they wanted fixed hasn’t happened yet, or perhaps can’t afford a headset. Who knows- comments area, it generally goes toxic…!

  • Definitely happy that Rift audio is working well on SteamVR again now! For ages I’d just set the default PC audio source to the Rift every time I used SteamVR, but I can confirm this beta changes that! Just swaps em now!

  • I wonder if this will stop No Man’s Sky from using my TV’s audio, instead of the headset? I know there’s a little program to fix that, but I usually just turn off the TV audio output from the audio devices menu. It’d be awful nice if the game just handled the VR audio correctly on it’s own.

  • psuedonymous

    This still doesn’t tackle the core issue: that SteamVR futzes about with the Windows default audio device in the first place. Leave that the hell alone, and pass the current VR audio device for the application to output to directly. This has been working since day 1 for OVR, after 3 years this awful hack should no longer be in place.

  • Jarilo

    That’s right, while I haven’t tried my own speakers/headphones ( I love the off-ear solution ) my sound was too quiet in most applications with an exception of a few. Uninstalling the Nvidia driver made them run on the windows driver and were loud again but it only worked once the first time and then on re-start of the headset I would lose sound forever until I installed the Nvidia driver again. The EQ APO fixed it though and they are amazing.

  • Jarilo

    “The Vive HDMI gain reduction setting is hidden for all other HMDs.”

    Where is it now ?

    • benz145

      I take it this would be visible in the usual place if a Vive is connected.

  • GunnyNinja

    Too bad I got tired of this and sent my Index back. Never should have taken 5 minutes of fiddling to get audio to my HMD.

  • Trenix

    My valve index is having the same audio issues even after this update.

    • Immersive Computing

      I had nothing but trouble with steamVR yesterday after noticing the latest update downloading. 3 system crashes in a row (whilst in headset), eventually it settled down although I had problems with applications not opening.

      Used same PC with same Index headset and same applications, the day before (prior to update) with no problems.

      Everytime I see a steam update I think, “Oh no, here we go again…” It’s a lottery whether it’s going to work, it’s always been a frustrating part of steamVR.

  • Niklas Fritzell

    Now if the could only fix so that my 2070 super does not get random micro freezes in dirt rally 1 with 1.0 supersampling and low settings. Bought the game on oculus home and have had no issues. It worked a year ago….

  • Oh man, I tried this yesterday and it fixes everything! Sooo nice not to have to set up audio sources every time! Steam VR now works better and smoother in every way than it ever has before! This should help ease of use for new users, too…

  • uisconfruzed

    This would have been nice to know as I’m selling a $95K VR training unit and the volume drops out 50% of the time when doing demos.