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How to manage left/right channels for Bluetooth headphones on Windows 10

Speakers come in pairs unless you have a Bluetooth speaker that’s a ‘pill’ design. Headphones too generally come in pairs. With most audio devices that have a left and right speaker, you can independently change the volume for the left and the right one. On Windows 10, you’ll find that as far as Bluetooth headphones go, the left and right buds cannot have different volume levels. When you change the volume level for one side, it also changes automatically for the other. Here’s how you can change the default functionality and independently manage left/right channels for Bluetooth headphones.

Left/right channels for Bluetooth headphones

In order to manage the left/right channels for Bluetooth headphones, you will have to edit the Windows registry which means you need admin rights for this trick.

Use the Win+R keyboard shortcut to open the run box and enter ‘regedit’ in it. Tap Enter.

With the registry editor open, go to the following location;

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Bluetooth\Audio\AVRCP\CT

Here, there will be a value called ‘DisableAbsoluteVolume’. It’s unlikely that the key will be absent but if it is, right-click the CT key and select New>DWORD (32-bit) value. Give it the following name;

DisableAbsoluteVolume

Double-click the value and set its value to 1. Restart your system.

Bluetooth left/right channels

Make sure your Bluetooth headphones are connected to your system. Right-click the speaker icon in the system tray and select ‘Open Sound Settings’. Click ‘Manage device settings’.

You will see the same controls as you usually do on this screen but this time when you change the volume level for one side/speaker, the other one will not change with it.

Troubleshooting Bluetooth connectivity

It’s possible that after making this change to the registry, your Bluetooth headphones fail to connect to your system. This is a fairly easy problem to fix in this case, assuming everything worked fine before.

Open the Settings app and go to the Devices group of settings. Select the Bluetooth tab, select your headphones, and remove them. Once removed, pair the headphones again, and connect them. This time around, it should connect.

Make sure the device is selected as the input/output device. You can change the device by clicking the speaker icon. Open the Settings app only after you’ve changed the device. The app doesn’t work well with changes made to the system and will often not reflect them unless it’s closed and re-opened. In most cases, it will just crash.

While this works for Bluetooth headphones which have both a right and left ear bud, it may not work for Bluetooth speakers. In rare cases, a pair of Bluetooth headphones may have locked down the ability to change the left/right channels independently in which case, there’s nothing to be done.

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