Quarter Life Crisis

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MacBook Sound 2

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I wrote a round-up about the MacBook’s sound earlier this month, but came across an extra phenomenon now that I quite like. Essentially it is that each sound output seems to remember its specific volume. I.e. both the built-in speakers and your headphones remember their volume level and restore it when you plug-in or unplug the headphones.

Just observe it by launching the Sound control panel.

The quickest way to do that is to hold the option key and press one of the volume keys on your keyboard, btw. In fact, I consider this to be a handy way to open System Preferences in general when I don’t happen to have my hand on the mouse.

Sound Control Panel: Speakers

And thus, coming from the situation where music is played at a low volume through the speakers I come to a situation where it’s played through a cable at full volume. All that just by plugging something into the computer and without needing to press any keys.

Sound Control Panel: Line Out

I suppose this is more a software than a hardware thing to be honest. But I’ve only observed it very recently and thus can’t tell when it appeared and which hardware or software versions you need to see it.

And while I appreciate this feature, it’s probably still worth discussing whether having it is a good idea. Or whether it’s more reasonably to assume that the volume level shouldn’t change when headphones are unplugged. After all I didn’t tell the computer that I want a volume change, so it better shouldn’t try to be clever. In particular as the computer is too dumb to tell whether I’m plugging in my Sony headphones, my iPod headphones or my stereo – each of which have a different preference for the volume setting.

So it may be a bad thing after all… but I still like it.

July 22, 2006, 1:23

Tagged as Mac OS X.

Comments

Comment by Tobias: User icon

I dunno about the MacBook, but my old iMac cannot switch between output devices in software, which is very annoying. Plugging in a fiber optic cable will invariably disable the internal speakers. PowerMacs don’t.

July 22, 2006, 11:27

Comment by ssp: User icon

None of the portables I have seen (Powerbook G3, G4, iBook, MacBook) can do this switch in software, it seems to be hard-wired.

That said, since the iBook G4, I’ve been observing a slight delay in the switching of the sound ouput to the headphones on inserting their plug. That made me think what’s going on there may not be ‘mechanical’ but some kind of software after all.

July 22, 2006, 23:52

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