Better sound device management on OSX?
December 15, 2005 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Is there a widget or other worthwhile utility out there that can give me slightly easier, and better, control of the "Sound" settings on my Mac?

Right now I have "System Settings" in my dashboard, and I click that and then to the "Sound" window. Which isn't bad, but... getting to the same point on my PC at work requires only double-clicking the cheesy speaker icon in the taskbar (well, okay, I also have to to go "Properties...").

On my iMac G5, I use Skype with a USB headset with a microphone (input and output device), GarageBand with an iMic USB adapter from Griffin (input device, sometimes output as well if I plug in a headset to the iMic), iSight for chatting (built-in mic audio in), iTunes for music (built-in audio out)... and may even periodically plug something into the 1/8" line-in jack on the back.

Suffice it to say, switching between these applications is complicated a bit more by having to also go to the "Sound" page of "System Settings" to change input and output device settings. Basically, I'd be happy with some way to get straight there from my desktop.

Of course, never satisifed with a simple solution, I'm also curious if there's a utility that can "remember" or automatically adjust my sound device settings depending on what application is launched and/or what hardware I just plugged in. For example, GarageBand will always cause the system to cutover to "iMic USB Audio In," or plugging in my cheap Logitech USB headset with mic would prompt the system to switch to it for both input and output.

I imagine this is not a particularly vexing problem, but if there's anything Mac folks do well, it's coming up with elegant ways to solve problems, even some you didn't know you have!
posted by pzarquon to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
 
There's a free utility called Detour that lets you set a different output device and volume setting on a per-application basis. It also adds a drop-down menu on your menubar that lets you change the current Default Input, Default Output and System Output with one click.

It used to be $12 to buy, but they've now released it for free on the basis that it's unsupported, and that some apps these days route their audio in a way that Detour can't manage. But I find it very useful nonetheless.
posted by chrismear at 11:15 AM on December 15, 2005


Detour
posted by cillit bang at 11:15 AM on December 15, 2005


As an aside, have you tried Quicksilver? It lets you launch applications (and do a whole lot more) just by hitting a command key and then typing a few letters from the name of the thing you want to run.

For instance, you could open your Sound preference pane by typing:

Ctrl+Space sound Enter

It sounds like a lot of work when you write it out like that, but once you've got that 'Ctrl+Space' into your muscle memory it's almost instant, and certainly faster than navigating to System Preferences using your mouse.
posted by chrismear at 11:22 AM on December 15, 2005


Whoops, I linked to the old paid-for version of Detour. Use cillit bang's link instead.
posted by chrismear at 11:23 AM on December 15, 2005


Rogue Amoeba have some good stuff. I use Sound Source.
posted by i_cola at 11:26 AM on December 15, 2005


Detour will handle output, but it sounds like you'd still have to go to prefs for input. So you've saved practically no effort that way.

Go to System/Library/PreferencePanes. There you'll find a file called Sound.prefPane. Drag this file to the "documents" area of your dock (between the divider and the Trash). Voila -- one-click access to your sound prefs.
posted by jjg at 12:46 PM on December 15, 2005


"getting to the same point on my PC at work requires only double-clicking the cheesy speaker icon in the taskbar"

By the way, I'm pretty sure either a command-click or an option-click of the cheesy speaker icon in the OS X menu bar will also take you right to the Sound prefs. I can't remember which one it is, and I'm at my PC at work, so you'll have to try it yourself.

That might be a good interim timesaver until you try out Detour or something.
posted by bcwinters at 12:54 PM on December 15, 2005


i second Sound Source. It's free, easy and available from every application.
posted by schwa at 3:08 PM on December 15, 2005


Sounds like everyone has covered the software base ... this is a desktop right? I'm not an audiophile, but couldn't you buy an inexpensive 4 port sound board? This could eliminate clicking altogether. I believe this would satisfy your needs, although not free. Perhaps I'm missing the point of an all software solution.
posted by AllesKlar at 6:20 PM on December 15, 2005


Go to System/Library/PreferencePanes. There you'll find a file called Sound.prefPane. Drag this file to the "documents" area of your dock (between the divider and the Trash). Voila -- one-click access to your sound prefs.

This is very much the kind of quick shortcut I was looking for. Thanks!

By the way, I'm pretty sure either a command-click or an option-click of the cheesy speaker icon in the OS X menu bar will also take you right to the Sound prefs.

I would have thought this would function this way, but as far as I can tell, it doesn't.

I'm not an audiophile, but couldn't you buy an inexpensive 4 port sound board? This could eliminate clicking altogether.

Would such a board take USB devices? I have a lot of audio hardware on my desk (as I'm a podcaster), but ultimately they all feed into "traditional" audio inputs, and if those were all I used, I suppose I'd be set. But there's the Skype headset, the iMic USB, and a variety of other plugs involved. Or maybe I don't know what a sound board is in this case!

Thanks for the SoundSource and Detour recommendations. The former seems simple and elegant. The latter sounds very much like what I was looking for, but a solution that'll become increasingly incompatible kind of scares me.
posted by pzarquon at 9:27 PM on December 15, 2005


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