Enable HDMI Audio & Toggle Sound Output in Mac OS Quickly

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If you’ve ever connected a Mac to something else like a TV via HDMI, you’ve probably noticed that, unlike the video source, the sound output doesn’t automatically change to the newly connected hardware. This is intentional, but many users misunderstand that as a problem with their HDMI adapter or cable, or even their Mac’s output capabilities, when in fact it’s almost always a matter of tweaking the OS X audio. output settings.

The default approach is to go to Sound Settings through System Preferences and change the output, but there is actually a much faster way to adjust where the sound output is sent, and it can be done from anywhere without going into preferences.

Quickly enable audio output on Mac

This works in almost any version of OS X and reveals all audio sources:

  • Hold down the Option key and click the Sound icon
  • Locate the desired audio output destination under “Output Device” and select it from the drop-down menu

Switch audio output sources in Mac OS X to HDMI sound, speakers, etc.

The change is immediate and the set audio output destination has a check box next to its name. Play a sound effect or some other form of audio to confirm it works. While we’re focusing on HDMI here, this also applies to all other ways to export audio, including apps like WavTap that capture all of the sound.

Of course, it’s still possible to use the other method of going through System Preferences> Output to take care of this, but given that it can all be done from anywhere without opening the settings, there’s little reason to go that way.

Switching back to the default audio source (usually the internal speakers or sound port) can be done again by Option + clicking the sound menu icon and then choosing “Internal Speakers” from the drop-down list.

This menu goes the other way trick also lets you change the input sources, making it easy to switch input from an external microphone, another audio source or back to the standard internal microphone as well.

Why is the Sound Menu icon gray?

You will notice that after an HDMI audio output source (and many other output options) is selected, the Sound Menu icon turns gray:

The gray volume menu icon on the Mac indicates that the audio volume needs to be changed through the device instead of OS X

This doesn’t mean that sound export isn’t working, it just means that the sound volume has to be controlled through the hardware the Mac is now broadcasting to via HDMI, which is usually a TV or presentation shooter, such as the internal sliders for adjusting the volume and the keyboard buttons will not work anymore.

HDMI audio output still not working? Check the Mac for HDMI sound support

Almost all new Macs support audio over HDMI, and practically anything newer than a 2010 model year will have native support. However, if this doesn’t work, the HDMI output source is not visible in the menu options or the Sound Output preferences, and you are absolutely sure that there is nothing wrong with the HDMI cables and adapters, you may want to check again whether the Mac supports HDMI audio output.

  • Hold the Option key, click the  Apple menu and choose ‘System Information’
  • Select “Audio” from the Hardware menu
  • Click on the triangles to open each audio channel option and look for “HDMI Out”, “HDMI / DisplayPort Out” or similar

How to    know if a Mac supports HDMI audio output

If you don’t see anything about HDMI output in the hardware audio menus, your Mac doesn’t support exporting audio over HDMI. If the Mac is brand new and thus has to support HDMI sound, there could also be a hardware issue with the adapter itself (this is a common problem with the super cheap adapters that are bought online, buy a reliable brand like Monoprice and pay a few dollars more), or, in less common cases, it could be a problem with the Mac itself, and you may want to contact AppleCare to make a decision.

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Enable HDMI Audio & Toggle Sound Output from Mac OS X Quickly: FAQ

Tutorial Summary: Enable HDMI Audio & Toggle Sound Output from Mac OS X Quickly


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The time to complete the Enable HDMI Audio & Toggle Sound Output from Mac OS X Quickly tutorial is 10+ minutes.

What are the supported Device?


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mac OS



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