How to improve your Mac audio experience with a few simple sound tricks

Posted:
in macOS edited April 17
The volume and overall sound settings in macOS are straightforward and easy to use, but some users may want more control over their Mac's audio. AppleInsider reveals a few tips and tricks that give Mac users more ways to improve their audio experience.

macOS volume control

Turn off the volume pops

Many Mac users will be familiar with the popping sound that is played each time the volume control keys on the keyboard are pressed. This is supposed to give an indicator of how loud or quiet the system audio will be if kept at the just-selected setting, but not everyone wants to hear it.

If you want to turn off the pops permanently, this can be done within the macOS settings menus, by selecting the volume control in the menu bar then the Sound Preferences... option. Alternately, select the Apple logo in the menu bar followed by System Preferences, then Sound.

  • macOS volume control System Preferences
  • macOS volume control System Preferences Sound
  • macOS volume control Sound Preferences


Under the Sound Effects tab, untick the box next to the setting titled Play feedback when volume is changed.

macOS volume control system preferences turn off feedback


There is also a temporary way to silence the pop sound effect, if it is preferred for the audio confirmation to be kept active. Holding down the Shift key while pressing the volume adjustment keys on the keyboard will mute the popping while pressed, with the sounds returning once the key is released.

Finer volume adjustments

When the sound level needs to be adjusted, the volume keys on the keyboard are probably the most-used way to change it. However, this method limits sound output to only 16 different settings (17 if you include silence), and sometimes you want to get to a volume that's somewhere between the two.

The obvious way to do this is to make adjustments to the volume by using the icon in the menu bar, if enabled in the Sound preferences. If it isn't present in the menu, a quick way for granular volume control is to continue using the keyboard volume control keys, but while also holding down Option-Shift.

macOS volume control


Using this key combination makes the volume control keys perform quarter-step adjustments to the volume level, bringing the total count of volume settings to 64, as well as mute. Note that if the volume is set to a quarter-step or half-step, pressing the volume keys without the extra modifier keys will snap the volume to the next available full step.

As a bonus, the same trick can also be used for the brightness controls on the keyboard, with the Option-Shift modifier again cutting down the adjustment into quarter steps.

Audio input selection

If you have the volume icon visible in the menu bar, clicking it may also bring up a selection of audio outputs, if you have multiple sound-producing peripherals and accessories connected to the Mac. While this does allow for users to quickly set a different audio output, such as using a connected monitor's speakers instead of the Mac or MacBook's own, it doesn't do the same for audio inputs.

Holding down Option while clicking the volume icon will remove the volume control slider, and shift the audio output selection to the top. Below the outputs, the menu will instead display all of the active audio inputs for the Mac, as well as highlighting the currently enabled input.

macOS volume control change audio input


Just as for changing the outputs, clicking a different input in this menu will switch over to that specific device.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 427member
    Pressing Shift will also temporarily enable the sounds pops if they are silenced. 
    lorin schultzfrantisek
  • Reply 2 of 21
    Still wishing I could use iSub with late-2006 iMac. I've mused on retrying it with graphite iMac DV, but I seem to recall OSX breaking functionality, leading to my initial gnashing of teeth. Plus the hard drive is so loud it would overpower most music. (It's always been factory-level loud. A fan isn't the only noise-maker, Apple.)
  • Reply 3 of 21
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 427member
    Still wishing I could use iSub with late-2006 iMac. I've mused on retrying it with graphite iMac DV, but I seem to recall OSX breaking functionality, leading to my initial gnashing of teeth. Plus the hard drive is so loud it would overpower most music. (It's always been factory-level loud. A fan isn't the only noise-maker, Apple.)
    Oh man, speaking of sound on an iMac, I played with an iMac Pro this week, pulled up the Logic demo song and it sounded really great, esp. compared to my tired old iMac. 
    king editor the gratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 21
    netlingnetling Posts: 33member
    Here is another handy tip, if you press the option key and hit the sound, keyboard brightness, mission control or screen brightness, etc.  on the keyboard, system preferences will automatically open up to the corresponding keypress. 
    willcropointfrantisek
  • Reply 5 of 21
    Still wishing I could use iSub with late-2006 iMac. I've mused on retrying it with graphite iMac DV, but I seem to recall OSX breaking functionality, leading to my initial gnashing of teeth. Plus the hard drive is so loud it would overpower most music. (It's always been factory-level loud. A fan isn't the only noise-maker, Apple.)
    The Harman Kardon iSub worked with Mac OS 9 through Mac OS X Tiger (10.4.11 PPC).  Some special KEXT hacks were needed to get it to work with Mac OS X Leopard 10.5 under PowerPC.  No one was able to get it to work on an Intel Mac, even running Tiger or Leopard for Intel.  The iSub was only used in combination with the Harman Kardon-made Apple Pro Speakers.  This is not to be confused with the similar looking sub that was included with the Harman Kardon SoundSticks product, which works with PowerPC and Intel Macs, including the original USB-only SoundSticks.
  • Reply 6 of 21
    Still wishing I could use iSub with late-2006 iMac. I've mused on retrying it with graphite iMac DV, but I seem to recall OSX breaking functionality, leading to my initial gnashing of teeth. Plus the hard drive is so loud it would overpower most music. (It's always been factory-level loud. A fan isn't the only noise-maker, Apple.)
    The Harman Kardon iSub worked with Mac OS 9 through Mac OS X Tiger (10.4.11 PPC).  Some special KEXT hacks were needed to get it to work with Mac OS X Leopard 10.5 under PowerPC.  No one was able to get it to work on an Intel Mac, even running Tiger or Leopard for Intel.  The iSub was only used in combination with the Harman Kardon-made Apple Pro Speakers.  This is not to be confused with the similar looking sub that was included with the Harman Kardon SoundSticks product, which works with PowerPC and Intel Macs, including the original USB-only SoundSticks.
    I think I knew most of that. However, I bought it as standalone and used it with iMac DV speakers. Sounded amazing! Bleating about it in the comments strengthened my resolve to just sell the blasted thing on eBay and cash out.
  • Reply 7 of 21
    Every time I read one of these Tips articles I come away with something I didn't know before. Every other supplier I deal with supplies MANUALS that tell me what the equipment can do.
    baconstangjasenj1
  • Reply 8 of 21
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,759member
    Every time I read one of these Tips articles I come away with something I didn't know before. Every other supplier I deal with supplies MANUALS that tell me what the equipment can do.
    Yea, I've used Macs for decades and I still discover this 'hidden' stuff from time to time.

    I've been using the option-speaker thing for years, as it is really handy to switch inputs. But, an even better solution is Rogue Amoeba's SoundSource which puts a fancy interface and more options on it (and no option-key holding). If you're doing stuff like web-cams, Skype, podcasting, etc. it is a real productivity tool.

    They really should have a manual with some of this kind of stuff, for sure. Option plus many of the menu-bar stuff does things. That should be common knowledge, but it isn't.
  • Reply 9 of 21
    hexclock said:
    Still wishing I could use iSub with late-2006 iMac. I've mused on retrying it with graphite iMac DV, but I seem to recall OSX breaking functionality, leading to my initial gnashing of teeth. Plus the hard drive is so loud it would overpower most music. (It's always been factory-level loud. A fan isn't the only noise-maker, Apple.)
    Oh man, speaking of sound on an iMac, I played with an iMac Pro this week, pulled up the Logic demo song and it sounded really great, esp. compared to my tired old iMac. 
    How about moving your iMac to a SSD & cleaning the fans.
    I have Done this to my late 2008 unibody MacBook
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 21
    Here's how I set the volume to a minimum: set the volume to zero by pressing volume down multiple times then press mute. This is quieter than what you can do with option-shift volume up/down.
  • Reply 11 of 21
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,674member
    gluebyte said:
    Here's how I set the volume to a minimum: set the volume to zero by pressing volume down multiple times then press mute. This is quieter than what you can do with option-shift volume up/down.
    What are you trying to achieve? For silence, just hitting mute without anything else will do it... ???
  • Reply 12 of 21
    spheric said:
    gluebyte said:
    Here's how I set the volume to a minimum: set the volume to zero by pressing volume down multiple times then press mute. This is quieter than what you can do with option-shift volume up/down.
    What are you trying to achieve? For silence, just hitting mute without anything else will do it... ???
    I meant the non-mute minimum volume that you can still hear the sound.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 21
    fred1fred1 Posts: 280member
    What I’d like is to be able to permanently disable the startup sound. I find it annoying and completely useless. Is there any easy way to do this? 
  • Reply 14 of 21
    Having connected my Mac mini to my DAC, I would never use the volume control on the system level or in Apple Music/iTunes. That would mean digital volume control = less bit resolution = inferior sound quality. No, run the Mac system and iTunes to max, and use the hifi rig to control volume.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 15 of 21
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,719administrator
    fred1 said:
    What I’d like is to be able to permanently disable the startup sound. I find it annoying and completely useless. Is there any easy way to do this? 
    Buying a new Mac will do it. It's completely gone in the 2016 MacBook Pro and newer. I miss it. It is a good troubleshooting tool.
    randominternetpersoncgWerks
  • Reply 16 of 21
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,778member
    fred1 said:
    What I’d like is to be able to permanently disable the startup sound. I find it annoying and completely useless. Is there any easy way to do this? 
    Buying a new Mac will do it. It's completely gone in the 2016 MacBook Pro and newer. I miss it. It is a good troubleshooting tool.
    Mike, love all these little how to articles.  You should expound on the Finder's hidden functions sometime (apologies if you have and I missed it).  I have lost count of the people I come across that tear their hair out with the Finder's View/Sort menu option as 'it just doesn't seem to work'.  They are unaware of the non obvious secondary sort option that's accessed with the option key or by opening the sort dialog. The Finder is riddled with hidden functions new users probably never discover.
    roundaboutnowwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 21
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,778member

    fred1 said:
    What I’d like is to be able to permanently disable the startup sound. I find it annoying and completely useless. Is there any easy way to do this? 
    Buying a new Mac will do it. It's completely gone in the 2016 MacBook Pro and newer. I miss it. It is a good troubleshooting tool.
    OMG ... Gone?  I agree with you it is essential for troubleshooting such as a good PRAM zapping. Not to mention changing boot drives when working on multiple Macs, as in knowing when to switch attention to the Mac involved and pressing the option key before it's too late.  

    Is it not even restorable with a hidden command?   They certainly could have a function key to mute on boot up and maybe a semi permanent System setting if desired, as starting a Mac at 2 a.m. with a sleeping spouse next to you can be problematic ... but It's cruelty in IMHO to devoice a Mac completely! 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 21
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,719administrator
    MacPro said:

    fred1 said:
    What I’d like is to be able to permanently disable the startup sound. I find it annoying and completely useless. Is there any easy way to do this? 
    Buying a new Mac will do it. It's completely gone in the 2016 MacBook Pro and newer. I miss it. It is a good troubleshooting tool.
    OMG ... Gone?  I agree with you it is essential for troubleshooting such as a good PRAM zapping. Not to mention changing boot drives when working on multiple Macs, as in knowing when to switch attention to the Mac involved and pressing the option key before it's too late.  

    Is it not even restorable with a hidden command?   They certainly could have a function key to mute on boot up and maybe a semi permanent System setting if desired, as starting a Mac at 2 a.m. with a sleeping spouse next to you can be problematic ... but It's cruelty in IMHO to devoice a Mac completely! 
    It used to be restorable. It isn't anymore.

    Finder tips are on the list.
    edited April 17 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 21
    fred1fred1 Posts: 280member
    fred1 said:
    What I’d like is to be able to permanently disable the startup sound. I find it annoying and completely useless. Is there any easy way to do this? 
    Buying a new Mac will do it. It's completely gone in the 2016 MacBook Pro and newer. I miss it. It is a good troubleshooting tool.
    Thanks. Something to look forward to when I replace my 2014 model. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 21
    I assume most, but not all, MacBook Pro users have discovered that the touchbar has two ways to control volume. The obvious way is to tap the volume "button" and then use the slider that appear.  However, it turns out you can combine these into one action: simple touch and drag the volume icon to raise or lower the volume. 

    Oddly enough, the opt-shift tip in this article doesn't appear to work with the touchbar, however.  Holding the option key does nothing except disable the input from the touchbar volume control (seems like a bug).
    watto_cobra
Sign In or Register to comment.