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Maximum volume still too quiet? Make MacBook speakers louder

Maximum volume still too quiet? Make MacBook speakers louder

A common complaint amongst MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro owners is the seemingly low “maximum” volume level of the built-in speakers. It’s frustrating, but there are a few ways to get around it.

Although some may blame Apple’s hardware for the quiet speakers, it’s actually Mac OS X’s fault. Folks running Windows in Boot Camp might notice audio played from there is much louder at full blast than on the Mac side. So the speakers themselves are fine – it’s merely Apple being too conservative with their software. I’m sure they have their reasons (such as power management & damage prevention), but it sure is annoying, isn’t it?

Depending on the type of audio you would like to amplify, there are a few ways to get louder sound out of your quiet Mac laptop speakers. Especially for those times when external speakers are not an option, these are invaluable tips.

iTunes Equalizer

Trying to listen to something in iTunes from across the room or with a bunch of people around? A simple solution is to venture into the iTunes equalizer (Window > Equalizer) and drag the Preamp slider all the way up. Make sure the “On” box is checked too. That should put some more power behind those speakers!

Make Mac laptop speakers louder in iTunes

VLC instead of QuickTime & DVD Player

Watching a video in QuickTime or DVD Player is a common task for Mac users. If the sound is too low, try the free VLC player instead. Using the playback controller you can pump up the volume a bunch more – apparently up to 400%!

Make Mac laptop speakers louder in VLC

Audio Hijack Pro

This is the real system-wide solution. Rogue Amoeba Software’s Audio Hijack Pro is a multi-purpose program that does a heck of a lot more than just make your Mac’s speakers louder. But for the purposes of this article, that’s all that matters. Whether it’s a YouTube video in Safari, a video chat in iChat, or an original composition in GarageBand, this program does the trick. You can download Audio Hijack Pro for free and use it in trial mode for 10 minutes at a time. To unlock full functionality, you must pay $32 – a fair price if you’re going to take advantage of the software often. In any event, this is how you can get the job done in Audio Hijack Pro:

  1. In the lower left corner, click the + button to add a new preset.
  2. Click the Input tab. You can choose a specific application to work with, but I recommend selecting “System Audio” from the Source Type drop-down.
    Make MacBook speakers louder
  3. Install the Soundflower add-on for free within Audio Hijack Pro. This gives the software access to the entire system’s sound.
  4. Set your computer’s regular system volume all the way up in Mac OS X.
  5. Click the Effects tab in Audio Hijack Pro and then drag the Gain slider all the way to the right (238%).
    Make MacBook speakers louder
  6. Click the Hijack button and your volume should get a nice boost! You’ll have to leave Audio Hijack Pro open in order for the louder sound to stay in effect. When you want it to stop, just quit the program.

While nothing will ever beat a good pair of headphones or external speakers, these three methods will definitely make your MacBook’s built-in speakers sound significantly louder than before. Be aware that long periods of unreasonably loud audio can damage tiny speakers. But this is more of a disclaimer to be safe rather than a warning of things to come… you shouldn’t experience any such problems. Have fun!

41 Comments Have Been Posted (Leave Your Response)

I think there’s probably a good reason that MacBook speakers are limited to a certain volume… namely, hardware constraints. Pushing the speakers past their factory volume settings could damage the speakers badly.

Where is the Hijack button?

Kirsten,
The Hijack button is in the top-left corner of Audio Hijack.

lol, took me 5 minutes to find the hijack button too… xD

I consider the poor sound level of macbooks speakers a design flaw.
Having 6 people standing around your machine all being as quite as possible.
to hear the content your playing.

it’s so bad that I often just do demo’s with dell’s or thinkpad’s so people can hear what i’m playing with out having to carry powered speakers with me.

I find that my speakers are sometimes too loud, and this is without any of the above on my macbook.

The Audio Hijack Pro fix is a great solution. Thanks!

I think you guys are crazy… The Mac speakers and volume are the loudest of any laptop available on the market.
sometimes if peops mess about with audio settings it can lower the max volume of the laptop… So before you try every other method to boost the laptops sound try this…

1. Go to your Apps Folder
2. open the UTILITIES Folder
3. Open Audio MIDI Setup
4. Go to WINDOWS (TOP BAR MENU)
5. select – SHOW AUDIO WINDOW
6. Click on the BUILT IN OUTPUT ICON
7. The SOURCE should be INTERNAL SPEAKERS
8. The FORMAT – Select 96000 hz

Then try and play a song and hear how loud your sound is… You will be surprised…
Just make sure your player is NOT set to 400% sound or some other crazy levels like that cause it will likely make you ears bleed or, even worse, damage your speakers.

Hope this helps…

i did what matsher suggested and wala what a difference
thanks mat

I tried MatSher’s suggestion but the audio on the MacBook Air is still too low – had to use Audio Hijack.

The ITunes Equilizer help A LOT!!!!!! =)

my problem with mbp speakers is not so much the volume as the QUALITY of the sound.. it’s not good at all.. for one thing there’s no base whatsoever… if you’re listening with a program that’s not iTunes you don’t have access to an equalizer.. (like listening on Rhapsody, Pandora, AOL radio, etc..)

WOWWWW!!!
Thanks, MatSher, it really kicked it in!!!

Thanks, MatSher.
I have searched a lot but haven’t got good idea before finding your guide. And your solution fixes it. Your suggest is wonderful.

Boom works quite well too. Seems simpler than HiJack (also MUCH cheaper– I think 8.99 and a 7 day free trial for Mac).

http://www.globaldelight.com/boom/

I’d like to change the format to 96000hz, as Matsher said, but it keeps going back to 44100,0 hz.

Anybody Any suggestions?
Thanks in advance!

Matsher just saved me the cost and inconvenience of external speakers. If you have this volume ( or lack of it) issue with your laptop… just follow the instructions he lays out. Works like a charm… plenty of volume now. Thanks Matsher.

I did what Matsher said and it didn’t make a difference at all…><

It’s interesting how different Macs react differently to these suggestions. I changed the settings per Matsher and then was able to open options, change Hz, change output on Soundflower (free download) to 96k which allowed boosting audio to 100%. This is a sad reflection on Apple’s burying increased sound output in layers of obscurity. Good that there are people like Matsher and others who have taken the time to plunder the system. I also have Audio Hijack Pro which, in combination with the other changes, creates much nicer, crisper — and louder — sound, still clean. AHP has much more going for it than just volume boost, including a full equalizer. Have a look and a trial download.

but what about you tube videos? how to make them louder which cannot be played in vlc etc

nada…nothing….nil…
but thanks for trying

Hi, I followed MatSher’s advice but I can’t change anything as the source says internal microphone. My sound was always pretty good on the MacBook but just recently it is absolutely awful. Could it be to do with a software update?

Thanks

I’m positive Apple designed the sound output this way to protect the MPB’s speakers from damaging volumes. My complaint has to do with watching video, such as netflix shows and movies in Safari. Much of the dialogue is simply too quiet to hear without so much effort and concentration that it spoils the viewing experience altogether and triggers irritation instead. Scenes with explosions and screaming are often times too loud at maximum volume settings, which proves the MBP can handle louder volumes. However, the same video may also have much softer sounds that only reach a percentage of the mixed audio signal as those LOUD explosions and screaming were reaching. So even with netflix and the MBP at the highest output settings, those softer sounds and dialogues are simply not loud enough.

A solution would be a compressor/limiter plug-in that the user may adjust to their liking. Limiters are common in audio production, such as music recordings, sound for video, and radio broadcasts. For instance, have you noticed when listening to FM radio songs that there may be a quiet part that actually plays on your system at a high volume, but then the whole band kicks in really hard and, when the CD version would have gotten an overall louder volume at that part, the radio version basically squished the overall volume so that both quiet and loud parts of the song output at the same volume. This has to do with dynamics.

Ultimately, Apple ought to allow users to implement a limiter so we may enjoy constant volumes (less dynamic) where quiet parts are not actually output at lower volume. It’s ridiculous that I can’t hear netflix dialogue over my air conditioning, or if I scratch my head (lol) the sound of my fingernail to my scalp actually drowns out the words in the movie I’m watching…

Sure, external speakers would have more amplification and avoid this concern, but for on-the-go and away-from-home uses, external speakers just aren’t practical. The MPB ought to be capable of standing alone!!!

I’m streaming my music by a Logitec Bluetooth unit to my stereo. The output volume is a lot lower… I’ve uses MatSher solution by tweaking the output audio to the bluetooth unit.

Both channel 1 and 2 have been set to maximum and it’s working like a charm. Now I don’t have to set my Macbook to maximum volume when switching from headphones to my stereo.

BOOM is definitely the way to go. It is $6.99 in the app store. It is WAY more user friendly than Audio Hijack. You can leave it on all the time and forget about it:) Very cool product. It has a 7 day free trial on their website if you want to test it out.

BOOM works well with my mid-2009 MBP and Mountain Lion. Thanks for the tip!

Thanks for Matsher’s Tip also just bought Boom it in sale for $3.99 until Jan 1 and the combo working well. Just first few days with new MBP so appreciated the advice.

i love this program

I tried Matsher’s tip and the volume on my YouTube videos went to nil.

They only play at 441000 Hz. Is there something I’m doing wrong, or don’t know? :)

Would appreciate the help.

Thanks!

Matsher, under Utilities I cannot find Audio MIDI Setup, nor any of the other options. What am I doing wrong?

i can’t find the soundflower add on. where is this located?

I laughed at Joey’s long comment, which I think was trying to sound technical, but really wasn’t.

What you are referring to IS and equalizer, which increases/decreases the threshold for various waves. Apple does this when converting your song to store on your iPod, they do this for several reasons, but mainly so that you don’t have to change the volume when listening to different songs, from different artists/albums.

The main reason why we have limited control over our laptop speaker is to prevent them from being damaged and then becoming useless or annoying (that loud sound you hear when leaking occurs). There are ways around this, to an extent, but it’s generally a lot of effort. Also, there are limitations as to how much voltage we can get to the speakers, so it’s not just software, there are also hardware restrictions.

I can’t figure out how ANYONE can be satisfied w/ the output with a MacBook’s audio levels.

They are barely audible and so incredibly soft that, even with silence in the background, the sound is barefuly audible.

Add any kind of background noise, one can nary listen to a word.

I appreciate MatSher’s internal Apple solution – didn’t work for me, but it seems like it worked for others.

The idea that Apple is worried about people blowing out the internal speakers, with what I’ve heard with two different MacBook’s is beyond laughable.

If that was/is the case, then some serious design modifications would be merited.

Apple laptops, generally, the last 6/7 years have all had the same issues(it’s not just MacBooks)…it’s really only the main complaint I have so not whining too loudly but it’s a drag nonetheless.

Excellent ideas. I’m a recent MacBook Pro owner, and have to say, the volume on my 9-year-old PowerBook G4 was much, much better. Only disappointment with my new machine.

1) Audio Hijack is a great app. However, when I tried to use it to enhance video playback sound, it delays it, and the audio is no longer synched to the video.

2) Equalizer seems to help

3) the Sound Enhancer function also helps some.

With #2 and #3, it brings it up almost to a satisfactory level, but much better than before.

Still, very disappointing for something that’s supposed to be a state-of-the-art machine. And I’m an avid Apple-aholic, and own some Apple stock, have never before had anything negative to say about them

I would highly recommend BOOM. You can get it for $2.00 off by using BOOMEDU as a coupon code.

Hijack works pretty well. Thanks!

I just got Boom, recommended from a teacher at the Apple Store, and it’s fabulous! Totally solves the problem. Warning: You have to keep Boom down on a lower level, because I was told if it was pushed all the way up, it would blow the speakers and the warranty. But it’s fabulous, and I don’t even have to think about the volume anymore — problem solved.

excuse me guys. but matsher’s tip doesn’t make any sense. i don’t care if you believe that you have seen any difference in the sound output. it doesnt make sense! changing sample rate DOES NOT affect the overall sound volume. Even changing bit resolution doesnt affect it .
excuse me, but someone should say it.

MatSher’s tip didn’t work for me. Boom was EASY (and I’m extremely technologically challenged) and worked GREAT. I’ve been searching for a solution to this problem off and on for months. SO HAPPY to have found this discussion and the link to Boom!

What’s the link to boom? I need help

Here’s a FREE option that worked for me.
Nothing to download

Just

1. Go to your Apps Folder
2. open the UTILITIES Folder
3. Open Audio MIDI Setup
4. Go to WINDOWS (TOP BAR MENU)
5. select – SHOW AUDIO WINDOW
6. Click on the BUILT IN OUTPUT ICON
7. The SOURCE should be INTERNAL SPEAKERS
8. The FORMAT – Select 96000 hz

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