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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped System
I don't know if you want to make this a hint or not, but the balance adjustment in the Sound Preference Pane is definitely drifting away from center for some users. I wrote in about this a couple weeks ago, but without any confirmation of what was causing the problem. No one yet knows exactly what is causing the problem, but it is affecting other users. This weblog contains a discussion about the issue.

If there's a hint in here, it's that if you notice the sound quality on your mac deteriorating, check the balance adjustment of the Sound Preference Pane. It's probably skewed to one side or the other. Especially if you use a PowerBook and often use the keyboard keys to adjust the volume. No one yet knows if this is a bug in iTunes, or in OS X, or exactly what triggers it. As for me, I've already filed a bug with Apple, as I hope many others have as well.

[Addendum: This hint originally ran on July 16th, 2003. I'm re-publishing it with additional information supplied by macosxhints reader kngofwrld:
While searching through the Sound Preferences Pane I noticed that my sound output balance was off center. I set it back but after using the computer for a few days I checked it again and it was off again. Checking Apple's Knowledge Base, it turns out that this is a real bug (article number 25466), and can occur when the processor is under a heavy load and the volume controls are pressed rapidly.

I didn't realize that my sound balance was off center, even using headphones. But now that I have set it back to the middle I get much better sound.

Apple's explanation for the problem's cause explains why I haven't seen the bug myself -- I don't use the volume keys; I just tweak my speakers' output setting.]
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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped | 36 comments | Create New Account
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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: cello on Jul 16, '03 11:52:41AM

This happens to me too. I remember reading once that this will happen if the system is under heavy load and you use the keys on your keyboard to raise or lower the volume.
But a solution is still no yet found...



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: momerath on Jul 16, '03 12:03:57PM

I have had this problem with my iBook 16 VRAM. It normally occurs after dialing up with the internal modem, but sometimes just spontaneously changes.



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me too
Authored by: poultryfarm on Jul 16, '03 12:10:36PM

i have this problem all the time with my 15" powerbook 800.
haven't noticed a particular scenerio that causes it.



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: naplesmike on Jul 16, '03 12:45:58PM

I didn't even notice a sound difference, but once I checked the Sound prefs, sure enough, my balance had drifted off towards the left. Odd. Indeed, I've noticed that when under heavy loads, the sound keys aren't very responsive and have watched the volume bar flutter back and forth rather than just become louder or softer. Methinks it's related to iTunes. (I'm using a 17" Powerbook, 10.2.6 and iTunes 4.0.1, btw.)



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: brianw on Jul 16, '03 12:54:58PM

My PowerBook (G4 400, 10.2.6) has the same issue. I can't for the life of me track down the source--I tend to notice it when I hook up the PowerBook to my stereo to watch DVDs so I thought it was DVD Player doing something, but it happens when I'm just running iTunes (4.0), too. I'm glad to hear that I'm not crazy...



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: Mulud on Jul 16, '03 02:18:22PM

Same thing on my iBook (800 / 10.2.6)



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Mine leans the other way...
Authored by: kenw on Jul 16, '03 03:59:38PM

Oddly enough, my balance is at least 75% to the right. When I saw the hint it dawned on me that I'm always checking the left speaker on my 15" 867Mhz Powerbook to see if it's dead or not.

Thanks for the hint!



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: logo on Jul 16, '03 04:15:14PM

Can confirm this, just a bit off to the right.

iBook 600/Combo 10.2.6, 384 MB



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: MacMuse26 on Jul 16, '03 04:54:09PM

ditto - PB G4/667, 10.2.6, happens all the time, can't figure out why.

Now we just need some gracious soul to post an AppleScript to set it back to the middle with just a double click or menu selection.

INSTEAD OF HAVING TO SLOSH THROUGH SYSTEM PREFERENCES TO FIX IT.

Oh well, glad to know I'm not going crazy(ier)



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: truhe on Jul 18, '03 03:47:08AM

an applescript would absolutely be the best thing. just launch it via cron every 5 minutes and the problem is gone forever :)



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: Kemul on Sep 12, '03 03:15:58PM

Well, I have this problem once in a while. So, I tried to write an applescript to re-center the sound balance, inspired by your request.

The script is based on the examples in http://www.apple.com/applescript/GUI/ and will require the installation of UI Scripting beta software from Apple available here. Please remember that you have to set "Enable access for assistive devices" in System Preferences under Universal Access.

Here's the code. Please note I am not a professional applescript scripter. ;-)

tell application "System Preferences"
  activate
end tell

tell application "System Events"
  tell process "System Preferences"
    click menu item "Sound" of menu "View" of menu bar 1
    delay 2
    tell window "Sound"
      tell tab group 1
        click radio button "Output"
        delay 1
        tell group 1
          tell group 1
            set value of slider 1 to 0
          end tell
        end tell
      end tell
    end tell
  end tell
end tell

ignoring application responses
  tell application "System Preferences" to quit
end ignoring


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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: makeinu on Sep 13, '03 12:49:59PM
lol, Kemul beat me to it. Here's my version, with a few extra delays in it, to ensure success and to allow for user verification of results.
tell application "System Preferences"
	activate
end tell
delay 0.25
tell application "System Events"
	tell process "System Preferences"
		click menu item "Sound" of menu "View" of menu bar 1
		delay 4
		click radio button 2 of tab group 1 of window 1
		delay 1
		tell slider 1 of group 1 of group 1 of tab group 1 of window 1
			delay 1
			set value to 0
		end tell
	end tell
end tell
delay 3
tell application "System Preferences"
	quit
end tell
I also have it available as a compiled script here. Simply unstuff it and place it in ~/username/Library/Scripts, then access it from the script menu. Or whatever you like.

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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: iRideSnow on Jul 16, '03 06:42:38PM

Wow! I'm glad to see so many others were having this problem and it wasn't just me (Note to RobG: Shoulda put this up the first time I submitted it! ;-) ). For a while, I seriously thought the new AAC files from iTunes and/or iTunes 4 itself were just awful. I found myself increasing the volume of all my songs using the iTunes volume adjustment option, but it wasn't helping. Turns out my balance was skewed way to the right. Bad Apple! Bad! :-)

Anyway, here's the response I received from Apple after filing the bug report mentioned in the hint:

Thank you for the bug report on iTunes. This is a known issue that is currently being investigated by engineering. This issue has been filed in our bug database under the original Bug ID#3009544.

Please know that we will notify you when there is a resolution to this reported issue. If you have any additional questions related to this bug, please send us an email at devbugs@apple.com, referencing Bug ID#3009544.

Thank you for submitting this bug report. We truly appreciate your assistance in helping us discover and isolate bugs.



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: pismomac on Jul 16, '03 07:01:49PM

This is a disturbing event for me. I have been diagnosed with a 40% hearing loss of the higher frequencies in my left ear. My G3 400MHz PowerBook is suffering from this problem.

For a few weeks now I have been under the impression that my hearing was improving in my left ear due to the volume being "adjusted" toward the left. It was especially noticable when wearing headphones and watching movies.

Now I know that my hearing is just as bad as it has always been.



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Confirmed on PowerBook G3
Authored by: miggins on Jul 17, '03 12:12:04AM

Well, I hadn't noticed but when I check the settings the balance was off a little bit to the right. I don't use iTunes (I only have 3.0.1 installed) and I've never moved the balance at all.

I do get the volume keys not working sometimes - the volume bar just jumps a bit crazy and you have to wait a few seconds before you can set the volume correctly.

This is on a Wallstreet PowerBook G3 233MHz - the volume controls are _not_ the function keys. Mac OS 10.2.6.



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: djqed on Jul 17, '03 12:34:27AM

Also happens to me. 10.2.6 and PB 1Ghz. I thought it might have to do with running Audio Hijack, which installs an APE, but it sounds like this might just be a system bug. No apparent scenario that causes it- it just happens sometimes.

I'm really glad to hear I'm not the only one!



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Yup
Authored by: sorklin on Jul 17, '03 08:38:37AM

I've never really opened the sound panel, but when i just checked, it had drifted to the left quite a bit.

I'm on a PowerMac Digital Audio machine.



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I've had the Sound Balance problem
Authored by: jwoolson on Jul 17, '03 10:08:08AM
System: 1GHz PowerBook G4 (Nov.2002), SuperDrive, 1GB RAM.

Problem: Sound Control panel balance on the Output pane is shifted 1/4 off center to the Right side. Have not been able to determine how often it it occurs, but I always reset it to Center and it returns to the offset position after a while.

---
Jonathan Woolson
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
jwoolson@mac.com
http://www.ritebrane.net/

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Check Subwoofer Volume, Too
Authored by: youcanrunnaked on Jul 17, '03 09:17:42PM

If you have an iSub, check your output volume, too. That seems to get lowered on a random basis.



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me twelve!
Authored by: zarqman on Jul 24, '03 03:54:57PM

heh. well, whaddaya know? mine's offset to the right a bit. i use the sound buttons heavily. ibook/700. i also experience lite popping regularly, which i understand seems to be common since 10.2.5 or .6 (i'm running .6).



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very very strange
Authored by: mosch on Sep 12, '03 11:13:16AM

I opened up the sound prefs on my PB12 and sure enough, it was ever so slightly to the left. I tried doing volume up/down for a bit but it didn't make the slider move. Weird.



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I bet it's the buttons
Authored by: gidds on Sep 12, '03 11:37:27AM

I never use the buttons to adjust the sound volume, and I've never noticed the balance wander away from dead centre. FWIW.

---

Andy/



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: desmondfuller on Sep 13, '03 06:22:10PM

I have seen this issue whenever I use the onboard mic of my powerbook G4. If I change the sound prefs on the INPUT tab to LINE IN (instead of internal mic) it never seems to happen again.



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: rogerwilco on Sep 13, '03 07:16:53PM

I use F4 and F5 a lot for iTunes volume in X2.6 on a Ti1GHz and have never experienced this balance problem. That said, I do have an APE haxie named BetterSound installed which amazingly may be squashing said bug.



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: ppatoray on Sep 14, '03 05:07:22AM

Same here, powerbook G3/500 use the volume keys all of the time, and I never even thought to look in the preferences! Funny, because I had tried everything else, including switching out the cord to the stereo thinking it might be bad.

Thanks for pointing this out, my music now sounds much better!

I like the applescript ideas here, but it should be easier than this. From what I have found, the preference is stored in /Library/Preferences/com.apple.soundpref.plist under the OutputDevices key. Shouldn't there be a way to write this easily via unix, and set it to a cron?

Anybody have any idea what the AlertsUseMainDevice key is for?



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Different output for alerts
Authored by: saint.duo on Sep 14, '03 11:33:27PM

SoundSource I believe uses this tag, as it can set a different output for "system" sounds from everything else.

---
--
duo



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This is what I see in my error logs
Authored by: ppatoray on Sep 15, '03 06:39:22PM

Every once in a while when I adjust the volume using the keys, I will see a huge string of the following in /var/log/system.log:

/System/Library/CoreServices/SystemUIServer.app/Contents/MacOS/SystemUIServer:kCGErrorIllegalArgument : CGSGetWindowGeometry:Invalid window

This will appear about 20-50 times for each time I press the volume key. This only appears occasionally, and once it does, it will continue until I reboot. I went in and looked at my balance settings after seeing a series of these, and sure enough, the balance was starting to head back over to the right.

I am assuming that there is some sort of extension conflict causing this, but am not sure exactly what.



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Try turning off the feedback sound with volume keys
Authored by: MJCube on Aug 28, '04 12:43:43PM
I had a problem similar to this, but worse, several times in the last few months: Suddenly the keyboard volume keys would adjust the left side only, while the right side stayed at full volume. When I went to Sound Prefs, the balance slider for my HK speakers had disappeared, and instead it said "The selected device has no output controls."

More than once the problem went away by itself just as mysteriously as it started, but not by anything I did deliberately (including logging out, restarting, unplugging peripherals, trashing prefs). A couple days ago it happened to the other pair of speakers I have connected to an iMic. And this was even worse, because in addition to the volume & balance control problem, the sound quality was really poor.

Yesterday I finally discovered I could fix the problem completely with the Audio MIDI Setup utility: Just reset the parameters for the speakers that went wrong. The strange volume response was because the speakers got reset to mono rather than stereo, and the bad sound over the iMic was a low bit depth setting.

These malfunctions seem to have been caused by hitting a volume key on the keyboard when the hard drive was busy. Or, one time, I switched sound output devices with SoundSource at the moment iChat was playing a sound. The common thread seems to be the System trying to play a sound and access the disk for something else at the same moment.

So I have unchecked "Play feedback when volume keys are pressed" in Sound prefs, and I know what to do if it should happen again. I'd be interested to know if anyone has their speaker balance go off (or anything like the above) with the feedback sound off.

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THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!
Authored by: OSXgenius on Jan 28, '05 10:45:45PM
All I can say is WOW!! Using Audio MIDI Setup worked and now my Yamaha YST-MS35D USB speakers are singing in stereo again. THANKS AGAIN!

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Try turning off the feedback sound with volume keys
Authored by: fractacular on May 21, '05 03:25:04PM

Yes, my balance still gets messed up even with feedback keys off, using a new 1.67Ghz 15" PB and the built in analog audio out. This also happened on my last powerbook (with feedback off), a DVI TiBook (800Mhz). I'm running 10.4.1 now and have found it to still be an issue -- in fact, that's why I visited this thread, hoping for a solution to this long time problem.

Marc



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: blueaudio on Sep 23, '05 02:48:17AM
I'm seeing this problem for the first time recently. I'm running 10.4.2, and I can duplicate the problem by closing all applications except System Preferences, and then changing the volume up and down using the volume keys on the standard Apple keyboard.

I couldn't find any way to fix it using Audio Midi Setup, but I did happen across this site:

http://www.whamb.com/balanced/

It is described as "an output volume balance adjustment daemon for Mac OS X Tiger" and it might help others here. I'm trying it now and it seems to be doing its job quite well. Hopefully Apple will find a fix for this longstanding problem, but until then this seems to work.

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audio imbalance
Authored by: sjk on Sep 23, '05 05:59:20PM

Thanks for the info. I never had this problem before 10.4(.1/.2) but now it occasionally happens on my iMac G5. Haven't noticed it on my wife's eMac.



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: chazzzzy on Oct 26, '05 11:24:15AM

Blueaudio.. I just installed your daemon and it works great. My only concern is .. does this daemon use up resources? Should I be worried about that? Does the fact that it fixes the balance after say a second mean that it is checking the balance every second and using up resources?

Thanks so much!

Charles



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: mweissen on Jan 17, '06 02:49:55AM

The webpage says it registers for CoreAudio events. So it's event-driven, not polling.



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http://www.whamb.com/balanced/
Authored by: rajas on May 21, '06 01:19:11PM

This did it for me, thank you very much indeed!
~Boris



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Check sound balance if audio quality has dropped
Authored by: jble on Apr 12, '06 10:31:19AM

I get this bug all the time with my 1.33 g4 ibook running 10.4.6. I'm surprised they haven't squashed this by now. If I only hit volume buttons one at a time and wait for eons for the feedback from each keypress I can avoid it... but it's often faster to just hold the volume buttons down as I would normally do and then fix the balance in sysprefs. LAME.



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