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I find that pretty sporadically something will make a sound, and then mess with the audio settings of another applications.

If I am playing music in Foobar2000, and then plug in an iPod which loads iTunes. The FooBar2000 windows mixer volume will go down to like 10%. This happens pretty reliably.

Today while watching one of the Harvard Food+Science videos in Firefox, whenever I'd get a message on the Steam client that would trigger the new message notification sound, the Mixer volume for "Plugin Container for Firefox" would similarly go down to about 10%.

Does anyone have any idea what causes this, and any sense on how to fix it?

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I'm not sure, but I know there is built in functionality for lower the volume of other things, like if a call is coming in. this could be the same type of thing – soandos Jun 2 '11 at 21:12
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Go to Control Panel -> Sounds -> Communications Tab

In here you can configure if windows should lower sounds when it thinks there's audio communication happening.

Unfortunately, it's a little too twitchy - simply plugging my mobile in to the USB port causes volume to drop on other apps so I disabled this "feature"

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Thanks, it had been a while since I was dealing with this problem, but never resolved it! – Arelius Jan 5 '12 at 0:50
    
Glad I could help :) – Basic Jan 5 '12 at 10:08
    
it happens when I plug my mobile in to the USB port also. Thanks for the simple solution. – positiv Jan 13 '12 at 3:34
1  
Superb, thank you! My sound was getting lowered when turning off my main monitor to watch a movie on the second extended monitor (a projector). So I had to turn the monitor back on to put the volume back up. Repeat. Insanity ensued. – mtone Aug 18 '12 at 3:26

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