I don't know if the title is clear but whenever you visit a website which has a video or audio on the page, the player's sound level is always set to max. I never see it set to a conservative level by default.

It creates this bad experience of sudden loud noise until you can silence it or mute your PC.

Is this not a bad design? I am sure nobody uses max sound levels on their computer. Because if their software was at max level, then people would increase the amplitude on their speakers/receiver and then set the volume on their computer back to a moderate level.

So I don't understand this notion of "let's set the video player sound to max by default".

  • This is more a comment rather than an answer, but I guess it is easier to set the volume to maximum or minimum (i.e. mute) rather than some percentage of the possible values. And if you set it to mute sometimes people will think the video is not playing or something is wrong, which you don't get if it is on full volume.
    – Michael Lai
    May 20, 2016 at 1:31
  • Playing things automatically might be considered a poor default too. I'm still looking for the extension that will stop HTML videos from autoplaying when I visit a site.
    – jiggunjer
    Sep 1, 2017 at 5:25
  • No one thinks that if someone is at night using their computer that this sudden loud volume could be DISTURBING to other people, especially those who need their sleep!
    – Nico
    Jan 29 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


Good question, it has bugged me in the past.

From W3C - Audio Control:Understanding SC 1.4.2, it seems that pages that do not offer sound control, or mute, functionality are not adhering to the criterion. Summarising the link:

1.4.2 Audio Control: If any audio on a Web page plays automatically for more than 3 seconds, either a mechanism is available to pause or stop the audio, or a mechanism is available to control audio volume independently from the overall system volume level.

Intent of this Success Criterion

Individuals who use screen reading software can find it hard to hear the speech output if there is other audio playing at the same time. This difficulty is exacerbated when the screen reader's speech output is software based (as most are today) and is controlled via the same volume control as the sound. Therefore, it is important that the user be able to turn off the background sound. Note: Having control of the volume includes being able to reduce its volume to zero.

Note the the player in youtu.be offers this control, and remembers previous settings.

Note this page on HTML 5 shows that the controls will be present for volume control.

All of the browsers have start/pause controls, progress bars, scrubbers, seconds of play, a volume/mute control and, with the exception of Chrome, also display the total number of seconds in the sound file.

The issue was with earlier HTML 4 (and 3?) embedded (<embed>) audio players, as this code (from 2006) shows

<embed src="mymusic.mp3" 

Source: How do I play embedded sounds at a specific volume?

If DOM is used then unfortunately the default is set to 100%, although this can be overriden by the web page designer (should they choose to do so):

Example values:

1.0 is highest volume (100%. This is default)

0.5 is half volume (50%)

0.0 is silent (same as mute)

So, it appears to come down to which mechanism the web page designer has employed to get sound on to the page.

With respect to audio blasting out, as soon as the page is loaded, that is down to the autoplay tag, which should be considered a no-no... but it is still offered as an option:


<audio src="audio.mp3" controls autoplay></audio>

The Boolean autoplay attribute is one that I don’t recommend using because it specifies that the audio begin playing as soon as the page loads. This is a usability no-no for most scenarios, so exercise restraint in using this attribute. If you do decide to utilize autoplay, please be sure to include the controls attribute (or roll your own custom controls) so that your users can stop the audio or reduce volume.


As someone who listens to music and radio a lot while I work, I have the main volume on my computer set to a level I find comfortable - this control over-rides any embedded sound or video for websites - If the websites adjusted their sound to, for arguments sake, 50% then their volume level would be 50% of my comfortable listening level: comparatively quiet and, perhaps, inaudible.

It is generally assumed (perhaps in error or perhaps not) that you will have set your computer's main volume to a comfortable level. Thus it makes sense for anyone embedding sound or video to replay it at 100% your comfortable listening level.

As a caveat, however, I would add that it is really bad practice to embed sound or sound-enabled-video as an autoplay feature on any webpage - most users hate it as there's no way to know that there may be noise until you hear it! Best practice for embedding videos that run as autoplay is to run them muted by default (as facebook currently does).

  • Additionally, software volume adjustment works by reducing the bitrate of the audio. Adjusting the levels of the audio to fit a typical sonic environment at 100% and let the user override with speaker controls. The in-app volume adjustment should be for when the user wants to adjust your volume outside of its design range relative to other unrelated playing elements. Aug 20, 2015 at 19:46

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