Look at this Tangle of Thorns

Sound Source gives you competent audio controls (and more) from your menu bar

Any fool can make something complicated

Like many of us, I now spend an interminable amount of time on video calls. In an attempt to adapt to This New Reality ™ I bought a webcam, an external display, and a proper headset. And while these worldly purchases did indeed bring quality of life improvements to the workday, they also created new complexities.

We use the following meeting tools at my workplace: Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Amazon Chime, Hangouts/Meet/Chat/Whatever-the-fuck-its-called-now, and sometimes FaceTime. Each of these has its own audio controls, as does Spotify, Chrome, and a myriad of apps. Where once I only used my Mac’s built-in speakers and mic, I now have the options of using 4 outputs and 3 inputs. This means lots of trips to various preference panes and the nagging fear of accidentally deafening myself whenever I switch apps.

Certainly there has to a better way. Unsurprisingly Rogue Amoeba, a company known for its software audio prowess, has a solution for this.

Sound Source is a neat little volume mixer

You can read more about what you can do with Sound Source on their product page, but here’s a quick version.

  • You can adjust the volume of specific apps
  • You can change the input and output device on a per-app basis. For example, you can use a USB headset for Zoom and AirPods for Spotify
  • You can apply effects to a specific app
  • If you connect your Mac to an HDMI display there’s a good chance that you can’t adjust the volume with your keyboard. Sound Source fixes this.
Here’s what Sound Source looks like

The first two bullet points are what initially drew me to Sound Source. These features work just as you’d expect: click the SoundSource icon, change the audio device or volume for an app, then move on with your day. I highly recommend assigning a hotkey to this action, which you can do from the Sound Source preferences window.

Adding Audio Effects

At first I didn’t understand why I’d want to apply effects, and I just ignored this option. At some point I stumbled across this article on Rogue Amoebas blog: Enhancing What you Hear on Voice Calls

AUHipass: A high pass filter can help remove unnecessary pops and rumble. Try setting this plugin to 80 Hz, and see how it sounds.

Rogue Amoeba Post

Sweet. I added an AUHipass filter to a Microsoft Teams call. To my pleasant surprise the normal hum was much less pronounced. While not a panacea it certainly is a nice tool to have at your disposal.

Speaking of niceties , Rogue Amoeba recently added headphone specific equalizers for a whole host of different headphones. If like me you’re not an audio engineer, this is a great way to noticeably improve the sound coming from your headphones.

Throw money at the problem

Sound Source costs $39 and is available for purchase at rogueamoeba.com/soundsource. Note: I’m not affiliated with Rogue Amoeba and I don’t make a commission from sales or anything like that.

They do offer a trial – but it’s a strange system. You can use all the features of the app, but only for 20 minutes before the audio quality degrades.

If you find the volume controls in macOS wanting, you should get this app. $40 seemed steep to me at first, but after two months I can’t imagine working without it. Plus supporting great Mac software developers always makes me happy.