eXtensions- Thursday 13 October 2016

System Preferences in macOS, Sierra: Sound

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By Graham K. Rogers

Some of the System Preferences in the recent update to macOS, Sierra, have seen little change. The preferences pane for Sound appears the same as it has since OS X 10.7. Sound provides settings for effects used by macOS and for control of input and output devices.

The Sound preferences panel is in three sections: Sound Effects, Output and Input. These appear identical to what had been available in earlier versions of OS X.

Sound Effects

The Sound Effects panel is in two main parts. The main purpose is to select system sounds, particularly the alert sound that is made when the computer or a specific application needs attention.

At the top of the panel is a list of 14 sounds available as in previous versions of OS X. To the left is the name of each effect. These sounds are shown (to the right) as "Built-in". Some of the sounds have been used on Macs for several years and were available pre-OS X. As a sound is highlighted, it is played.

Sound Effects

A button below the panel selects which speaker is used for the sound output. By default it is marked Selected sound output device and will list any options available, with Intermal Speakers always shown. This is the default.

sound Attaching external speakers or headphones will change the device name as OS X identifies the type of output. Turning on Bluetooth speakers will add these immediately to the list.

Below the button is a slider to adjust the volume of the alert when played. This is independent of the Output volume (for example of music) which is controlled by a separate slider near the bottom of all panes in Sound preferences. Between the two sliders are checkboxes for

  • Play user interface sound effects;
  • Play feedback when volume is changed (a separate alert sound is used).

Alongside the Output volume slider is a box that can be checked to Mute all sounds (including alerts). Pressing the F10 key (or Fn + F10) will also mute the sounds. When that key is pressed, the Mute box is also checked.

Sound At the bottom of the panel is a checkbox marked, "Show volume in menu bar." This shows as a small speaker icon in the menu bar which indicates speaker output volume by the number of bars. Pressing the icon reveals a slider which is used to adjust the volume. In previous versions of OS X, the slider has been displayed vertically; it is now horizontal. Also in the panel revealed are a list of any available speakers and a link to the Sound preferences.

The alert sound files are contained in a Sounds folder inside the System > Library folder of the disk. They are in AIFF format with sample rates of 44,100 or 22,050 and time duration of a second (or less). Dropping a suitable file into the folder, then restarting System Preferences, will make the new sound available in the list as "Built-in".


The second pane in Sound preferences is marked Output. By default, the built-in, or Internal Speakers are shown in the main panel here. Attaching headphones will change this. Some types of speakers that connect via the headphone port may also be identified as "headphones". Below is a Balance slider: to adjust left or right output levels.


Adjusting the Balance slider also makes the same system alert sound as the volume adjuster (also displayed in this panel) to show that changes are being made. When additional output devices are added, the panel changes to show these.


The input pane normally shows the internal microphone. Line in may be available on Macs with a separate port for attachment of input devices, although this needs a device attached to the port before there is any sound.


Below these items are an Input volume slider and Input level indicators which light up as the volume increases. There is also a check box marked "Use ambient noise reduction". This may not be available for all devices. With the built-in microphone this is available. However, with my G-Track USB microphone, this check box is not shown. The input volume slider is also missing.

As with the other panels, the volume slider and its menu-bar check box are shown on the Input pane.


See Also:

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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