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How to change audio input/output on macOS

A Mac, whether it’s an iMac or a MacBook, supports multiple audio input and output devices. These devices can be connected to the system through various ports, and users can switch between them whenever they like. There’s also a stock MIDI app that allows users to create an aggregate audio device and output audio to multiple devices at once.

Change audio input/output on macOS

Connecting audio input and output devices to a Mac is simple; it supports connections through HDMI or Thunderbolt ports, the audio jack, and Bluetooth. You can have more than one audio device connected to the system and change them on the fly.

1. System Preferences – Sound

To change the audio input/output device on macOS from System Preferences;

  1. Make sure the device is connected to your Mac.
  2. Open System Preferences.
  3. Go to the Sound preference.
  4. Select the Output tab and select the device you want to use.
  5. Go to the Input tab, and select the device you want to use.

2. Menu bar icon

For a much easier way to change the audio input and/or output device, you can add a sound control to the Menu bar and change the devices from it.

  1. Make sure the audio devices you want to use are connected to the Mac.
  2. Open System Preferences and go to Sound.
  3. At the bottom of the Sound preference panel, enable the ‘Show volume in menu bar’ option.
  4. Hold down the Option key, and click the speaker icon.
  5. Select an audio input and an output device to use, and macOS will switch to it.

3. Ears – Third-party solution

If you want to change the audio input and/or output device via the keyboard, you can use a third-party app called Ears. Ears is not free; it costs $1.99 for a lifetime license, but it has a demo/trial version that you can use to see if it suits your needs.

  1. Download and install Ears.
  2. Run the app, and go to its preferences.
  3. Set up a keyboard shortcut to activate the app.
  4. Use the keyboard shortcut to open the app’s audio device selection window.
  5. Use the up/down arrow keys to select an audio device, and use the left/right arrow keys to switch between the list of audio input and output devices.


macOS can switch between audio devices on the fly. Regardless of which method you use to switch between audio devices, the change will be made instantly however, there may be some exceptions with apps. If you’ve changed an audio input or output device, and an app isn’t detecting the change, quit and launch it again.

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