How to play AC3 files

This article discusses the options to play AC3 files (Dolby Digital audio) in several media players, some of which will be easier than others. It covers adding support for AC3 to more popular players that are based on DirectShow like Windows Media Players, while also showing some simple "download and play immediately" options.

Dolby Digital AC-3

AC3 audio mostly comes directly from DVDs and is often stored in multimedia containers with common video formats. It is important to make sure that your software is capable of playing AC3 regardless of whether you have it as a stand-alone file or not because it is likely you will need to play it eventually anyway.

Easiest Method - VideoLAN Client for Windows, MAC and Linux

With the VLC player, you can enjoy your AC3 audio files quickly. The player directly supports AC3 without the need for DirectShow filters or special codecs to be installed. If you are looking for a quick solution then this is certainly it, but if you want to look at other examples of these players or learn to play with Windows Media Player and store it in your Media Library, then read on.

You can get VLC for Windows from this URL.

Click File and click the Open File option.

Now, click the Browse button next to the first white line at the top of the window with title "Open.." and navigate through your harddrive for the AC3 file you wish to listen to and select it. After you have selected the file, click OK and VLC will start playing the AC3 audio you chose.

For other Operating Systems...



Play in DirectShow players such as Windows Media Player?

It is totally possible to play AC3 files in Windows Media Player and technically any DirectShow-based player. Before we look at Windows Media Player directly, let's take a look at Media Player Classic.

The first thing we need is a DirectShow filter, and there is a perfectly good one available called AC3Filter.

Download it from:

Download Media Player Classic from:

Install AC3Filter

All you need to do is run the AC3Filter installation and you should have support in DirectShow-based players immediately. You can configure the AC3Filter software for optimal performance, or if you have surround sound speakers you can set that up too.

If you are interested in reading more details on setting up and configuring AC3Filter, we have a comprehensive guide for the useful software here.

Can you play AC3 files in Windows Media Player?

Once you have installed the AC3Filter, AC3 audio files should work fine in Windows Media Player, although on your first attempt that playing the files you might be asked to approve the extension for playback, this should not be a problem.

Download Windows Media Player by clicking here.


Hopefully after reading this guide your AC3 files now work flawlessly. If you need extra help, please visit our Discussion Forums for assistance.

Version History

v1.0 - First published by Dela (08/05/2008)
Written by: James Delahunty