Select Audio In and Out From Your Mac's Menu Bar

Changing audio inputs and outputs is just an option-click away

Young woman with pink hair listening to music via laptop at home

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Using System Preferences > Sound is the standard method of selecting an audio input or output, but it's cumbersome. Instead, use this simple trick to change audio preferences quickly.

The information here was verified in macOS 10.15 (Catalina), but it should apply to older versions of macOS and OS X as well.

Using the Option Key

Clicking the volume icon in the menu bar along the top of your screen shows the volume bar, available output devices, and a link to Sound Preferences. The icon looks like a small speaker.

macOS sound button in menu bar

To see the same choices plus available inputs, hold option while selecting the volume icon in the menu bar.

macOS volume button + option key

This is just one example of the many additional functions and features you can access in macOS using a special modifier key.

Depending on your Mac model and setup, you might have several sources for audio in, in addition to your computer's internal microphone. Audio output choices might include headphones, Apple TVs, external speakers, and more, in addition to your internal speakers. These options also show up in the Sound preference pane.

If You Don't See the Volume Control in the Menu Bar

To display a missing volume control icon in your menu bar:

  1. Select System Preferences in the dock, from the Apple menu, or in the Finder at Applications > System Preferences.

    Screenshot of selecting Mac System Preferences from the Apple menu
  2. Click System Preferences > Sound.

    macOS System Preferences
  3. In Output, tick the box next to Show volume in menu bar.

    macOS Sound preferences pane