FIX: Cannot Adjust Volume on a Mac OS X with External Devices

There are hot keys on a typical Mac Keyboard which can be used to control the volume level. But some users have reported that when they connect their external headphones or speakers to their Mac, they are unable to control the volume through their keyboards or through the sound control on Mac. This is also reported by users who are using Spotify or other song/media/audio related softwares where they are only able to control the volume through the software’s interface. When they press the Volume Up/Down keys, they would get the usual Speaker icon which will have no effect and the same result when they try to adjust volume via the mac’s speaker icon.

The scenario may differ from user to user. In rare cases, it can also happen out of the blue when you are just doing your routine stuff on your Mac.

mac volume control

What happens is that a Mac OS X blocks system’s volume control functionality because it is usually taken over by the external device (speaker/headphone) or third party software. So one can see why it can be a problem if the external device has no function control volume. Even if it has, controlling the volume through the keyboard can still be very desirable by users such as myself. In this guide, i will walk you through the steps to address this issue.

Method 1: Kill The coreaudiod Process

Go to Finder -> Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal. Click and Open the Terminal Utility.

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In the Terminal console, type the follow command, and then your password.

sudo killall coreaudiod

The password prompt will be blank, and when you type the password it will still be blank, so without thinking HIT Enter after typing in your password.

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Once done, test again to see if the Volume Control works.

The Workaround

This work around may not be as helpful but just for your knowledge, you can also adjust the volume via Terminal.

by typing the command below. The number 5 indicates the volume level which you can change/adjust.

sudo osascript -e “set Volume 5”

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Method 2: Disconnect/Reconnect Audio Device

If this issue occurs when you don’t have an external audio device such as headphones connected to the Mac, then what you can do is simply take a pair of headphones or external speakers and plug them into your Mac and then unplug them.

Method 3: Select the Correct Audio Output

To understand the issue more clearly, we’ll see how it actually works. Let’s assume you have a Sharp TV connected to your Mac OS X via HDMI Cable and the sound is not adjustable from the volume control keys, and you’re getting the non-functioning speaker icon when you try to adjust the volume. Click the Apple icon from the top bar (left) and choose System Preferences -> Sound -> Output

sound output mac

Now since the sound output is the SHARP LCD, connected via HDMI cable – if i adjust the volume from the Mac it won’t work, but if i adjust the volume via the LCD then it will work. However, if Internal Speakers are selected as the sound output, then the volume control on the mac will work.

Method 4: If your External Device does not support Volume Control

SoundFlower is free utility which passes audio between different applications. It allows you, for example, to send live audio from applications such as Traktor or Ableton Live into the Mixlr app. Download and install SoundFlower from here.

Open Audio MIDI Setup by going to Applications -> Utilities -> and choosing “Audio Midi Setup

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Click the + (Plus Sign) at the bottom left of the screen and Select Create Multi Output Device from the pop up menu.

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In the right pane place a check next to SoundFlower (2ch) and the external device you have currently attached or your Internal Speakers if no such device is attached.

Then,Right click or CTRL + CLICK on Create Multi Output Device and click Use this device for sound output from the pop up menu.

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Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

Expert Tip

FIX: Cannot Adjust Volume on a Mac OS X with External Devices

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