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I have a Windows 7 (32 bit, service pack 1) on my laptop and, whenever I launch my sound editor (Ableton Live 8), all other programs (Firefox, Chrome, Skype etc) stop outputting any sounds. Even when I try switching the order of steps (opening Ableton first and then launching a browser, for example) it doesn't work.

In Control Panel > Sound, I have the laptop speakers as the default output and, as soon as I close Ableton, all other programs are able to make noise again.

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What audio devices do you use, and with what driver? You bet it's quite intentional that programs other than your DAW aren't granted access, so there won't be any conflicts over e.g. sample rate. — There are specialised frameworks for bringing the audio from different programs together, perhaps most notably ReWire. You won't be able to use this with programs that aren't professional audio applications, though. –  leftaroundabout Oct 20 '12 at 18:42
    
My speakers are the default sound outup - Realtek high definition audio. To clarify my point, all I want is to be able to have both Ableton and Chrome open and watch tutorials on Youtube and practice the lessons on Ableton (switching from time to time without losing the ability to hear sounds on any of them). –  noobeana Oct 20 '12 at 18:53
    
Again, what kind of driver does Ableton use? There are a couple of possibilities, like DirectSound or ASIO4All, which work quite differently in such regards. –  leftaroundabout Oct 20 '12 at 19:44
    
Driver type ASIO Audio device ASIO4ALL v2 –  noobeana Oct 20 '12 at 20:13
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Driver type ASIO Audio device ASIO4ALL v2

Aha, there we go. ASIO is designed to give only one program at a time access to the audio hardware. As I said, this is in principle a good thing, because it ensures the DAW can run trouble-free and without overly long latency or crippled sound introduced when the OS tries to combine the audio from different programs so some composite that's then usable for even the worse hardware that can be assumed. However, for just testing out the program, learning features etc. none of this is really a concern, so you might as well use one of the non-professional alternatives. Microsoft DirectSound should always work.

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Yes, it works! I changed Driver Type to MME/Direct X and mapped Audio Output Device to my speakers. Thanks leftaroundabout –  noobeana Oct 20 '12 at 21:53
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