MacBook Special Report: Poor speaker output: Software-based workarounds

MacBook Special Report: Poor speaker output: Software-based workarounds

Some readers have reported poor spoken word quality from the MacBook's speakers -- especially prominent when using iChat for audio conferences. This is primarily due to the speakers being too quiet. This may be a problem that is software related as users are finding workarounds to boost output.

One reader writes:

"I have a brand-new black MacBook I jacked up to 2 GB RAM. Other than looking cool, one of the reasons I bought this was the built-in video camera for iChat.

"The problem is the speakers in the MacBook are so bad, it's just about impossible to hear the other person talking when in an audio or video chat.

"I thought this was some issue that could be fixed - I mean, why have a video camera built in to a laptop if it's impossible to hear what is being said during the conversation - so I took it into an Apple Store hoping there was some simple explanation. There wasn't. After poking around on my laptop for 2 minutes, the Century City (CA) Genius Bar worker said 'Yep. It's just like the rest of them.' Apparently every MacBook has speakers so weak that dialogue is impossible.

"I'm hoping this gets addressed in the next software update somehow. I actually really miss my 12" PowerBook. The camera was the only reason I upgraded, but the execution of the MacBook makes the camera absolutely pointless."

One potential workaround for this issue involves opening the Audio MIDI Setup application (located in Applications/Utilities), then in the "Properties for:" menu selecting "Built-in Output", then dragging the sliders for volume output to the top level (all the way to the right).

Volume can also be increased in iTunes by going to the Window menu and selecting "Equalizer" then increasing the "Preamp" level.

MacFixIt reader RT writes:

"The speakers stink. Whatever the audio card is is outstanding with headphones, but I have to put the volume up to full every time I iChat or even listen to music."

Calvin Lew adds:

"I, too, am experiencing very poor speaker performance. I really like to use the iChat feature to conference with family, but it is embarrassing that I can't hear the audio."

Quentin Hall writes:

"Yes, even in Australia they are no louder (everything wound up). Only slightly better than a MacMini single speaker! I was hoping for my unit to be used when away "in the outback" so I could have my iTunes and watch the occasional DVD (whilst controlling it across the room via my remote control which came with the unit). Alas, it will be sitting on my lap."

Meanwhile, several readers note that booting Windows XP on their MacBooks in Boot Camp results in much better sound output, indicating a gain or preamp level issue for the speakers under Mac OS X.

Volume can be increased in iTunes by going to the Window menu and selecting "Equalizer" then increasing the "Preamp" level.

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