SoundBunny: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Independent Volume Control for Each Mac App: It's About Time

SoundBunny
Courtesy of Prosoft Engineering

Have you ever turned up the sound on your Mac for a video you were watching or cranked the volume past 10 to rock the house with your favorite tune?

Did you regret that decision when Mail’s message sound suddenly blared out and scared the bejeebers out of you?

The Mac’s built-in sound support system is pretty impressive, but there's one very important feature it lacks: the ability to set volume levels on an application-by-application basis.

That’s where SoundBunny from Prosoft Engineering comes in.

SoundBunny's sole purpose is to allow you to set the volume your Mac will use independently for each application. That means you can turn down those deafening Mail notifications while turning up iTunes to enjoy your music.

Pros

  • Modern interface with sliders for setting volume by app.
  • A piece of cake to use. No manual needed for this app.
  • Can be used to mute specific apps, which is great for those app notifications you wish you could turn off.

Cons

  • Doesn't work with USB-based speakers.
  • Can't control all apps or services.
  • Sound slider movement can be jerky.

SoundBunny has been around for a while, but it’s the version that added OS X Yosemite compatibility that grabbed my attention. Not just because it now works with Yosemite, but also because the 1.1 update fixed an issue with working with many sandboxed applications.

Ever since OS X Lion and the Mac App Store, Apple has required most apps to support sandboxing, a special framework that keeps apps walled off from the operating system as well as other apps.

Sandboxing is great when an app crashes; because of sandboxing, the crash only affects the individual app; the rest of the system, and any apps you're using, continue on their merry way.

SoundBunny has found ways to work around the sandboxing requirements and has gotten much better at being able to control even sandboxed apps.

I found this out right away when I tested its ability to control the Mail app's sound levels. In earlier versions, I couldn't set Mail sound levels, but SoundBunny now works very well with Mail. I no longer need to worry about the Mail notification sound blasting out of my speakers when I'm listening to tunes.

Even better, it works with Safari, Say goodbye to all those websites that auto-run sound; they won't interrupt your reading anymore.

Installing and Uninstalling SoundBunny

Installing SoundBunny is easy enough; just double-click the installer and SoundBunny will take care of the rest. In order to work with various apps, SoundBunny installs two files; one in the system library and one in the user's library. The first is a SoundBunny.plugin file that's installed as an audio unit that allows SoundBunny to capture audio streams and control the volume. The second file is the SoundBunnyHelper.app, which is a startup item that ensures SoundBunny will be active whenever you start up your Mac.

Once the installation is complete, you'll be prompted to restart your Mac.

I mention the installation of the two files because if you decide to uninstall SoundBunny, you should use the included uninstaller, to ensure that these two additional files are properly removed.

You'll find the Uninstall option under the SoundBunny menu when the app is in use.

Using SoundBunny

Once your Mac restarts, SoundBunny will be active; you should be able to find SoundBunny in your Dock as well as in the Mac’s menu bar. Opening SoundBunny will display a single window that lists all of the currently active apps and services that SoundBunny can control. Occasionally, an app may not show up in the SoundBunny list, at least for the first time you wish to set its volume. If an app isn’t listed, try launching the app to ensure that it's active.

Each app listed in the SoundBunny window has a slider, which is used to set the volume level.

You can drag the slider to blast the app's sound at the highest setting or bring it down to a gentle whisper. You can also completely mute the app by clicking on the app's speaker icon.

Once you set a volume level for an app, the app will remember the level, even after it's closed. The next time you open that app, the volume will remain at whatever setting you applied in SoundBunny.

Besides controlling individual app volumes, SoundBunny also creates a special Sound Effects item. This is a combination of all system sound effects and alerts, and lets you set a general level that covers all of these sounds.

You may notice some items with unusual names that don't look like any app you may have installed. These are likely special services provided by OS X or by individual apps. For instance, my SoundBunny list includes AirPlayUIAgent, com.apple.speech, and CoreServices UIAgent. All of these are services that OS X makes use of, and which have an audio component that SoundBunny can control.

Setting the sound level on one of these services may affect multiple apps. For instance, multiple apps may make use of com.apple.speech in order to be able to speak selected text. Setting the volume for that service will cause all apps to use the same volume level.

Ignore List

Depending on how many apps you have installed, the SoundBunny list could become overwhelming. Thankfully, SoundBunny includes an Ignore list in its preferences. The Ignore list includes apps and services that SoundBunny includes as defaults; there's a user-defined list for adding your own entries.

Apps and services in the Ignore list won't appear in SoundBunny, nor will SoundBunny attempt to control the volume of these apps or services.

Final Word

SoundBunny is a great solution for the problem of apps sharing the same volume level. One of the first things I did was turn Mail's notification sound level down to about half, and Safari to mute.

The downside to muting Safari is that I'll have to open SoundBunny to unmute Safari whenever I want to listen to something on the web. But for the time being, I think that's preferable to being force-fed ads and news clips from various sites I visit.

SoundBunny works well and is easy to set up and use. As I mentioned earlier, be sure to use the uninstaller if you decide to remove SoundBunny. This will ensure that all of the app is removed properly, and that sound levels are reset to system defaults for all of the apps affected by SoundBunny.

SoundBunny is $9.99. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks