Hidden features for controlling the audio on your Mac

You might think that adjusting the audio volume on the Mac is straightforward, but there are a couple of hidden features that you might not be aware of and they can make life easier. They take just a few seconds to learn.

The audio settings are in System Preferences, so go to the Apple menu in the top left corner, select System Preferences and then click the Sound icon. The Sound properties window is displayed.

On the Sound Effects tab is a list of all the alert sounds. These are heard when certain events occur, like notifications, warnings, message boxes and so on. If you want to hear what each sound is like, just select it in the list.

OS X sound preferences

There is a tick box at the bottom to display or hide the volume control (speaker icon) in the menu bar. Tick it. Notice that there are two volume controls and the top one is for system alert sounds, and the bottom one is the audio volume for everything else.

You have probably discovered that clicking the speaker icon in the menu bar shows a volume control, but which one? In fact, it is the same as the Output volume in System Preferences.

OS X sound control

What about the other audio control, the alert sounds? To access this volume control from the menu bar, hold down the Shift key and click the speaker icon. If you have both volumes set the same, such as at maximum, they both look the same, but try clicking and dragging one slider to change the volume, then click or Shift+click to see the other one and you will see that it hasn’t changed.

OS X sound control

In Sound in System Preferences are Output and Input tabs. The Output tab is for selecting from devices like the internal speakers, earphones, Apple TV and whatever output devices you have. The Input tab is for selecting the microphone and input volume. This is a live display, so you can speak to your Mac and see the input level. Adjust the input volume slider so that the input level is mid way while you speak normally.

OS X sound preferences

Using these controls is fairly obvious, but what you may not know is that you can access the input and output devices list from the menu bar. Hold down the Option key as you click the speaker icon in the menu bar to see a menu from which you can select the input source and output device.

OS X sound controls

Are you annoyed by the Mac’s startup sound? Turn off the volume before you shut down and you will not hear it. The easiest way is with the keyboard hotkey. This is not the same key on all Macs, so look for the speaker symbols on the function keys on the top row.




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