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Sometimes, when I connect an external set of headphones/speakers, I am unable to change the volume. When I press one the volume keys, I see the image below.

Why does this happen? Interestingly, if I am playing music using software that has a volume control (e.g. Spotify or Youtube) I can still change the volume with the mouse using the application's volume bar. However, the system's volume bar is greyed out and can't change it either.

enter image description here

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This icon appears when the external device or application has taken over and is to be used to adjust volume. –  Buscar웃 Mar 16 at 0:26
    
Thanks @Buscar웃 Is there any way to override that? Why does it have to be one or the other? YouTube and Spotify retain their volume controls, and in many systems the final volume is usually the product of any intermediary volumes. Why can't the system volume be yet another intermediary volume? –  user815423426 Mar 16 at 0:31
    
see my answer below –  Buscar웃 Mar 16 at 0:34

3 Answers 3

This icon appears when the external device or application has taken over and is to be used to adjust volume.

That also means the internal speakers are disabled.

To verify, go to system preferences sound, and look in the output tab which device is to be used to adjust volume.

See following example

If I select the Sharp TV I will get the icon like you have if I try to adjust volume on may mac, so i have to use the TV volume adjustment.

However if i select Internal speakers the volume adjustments works on my mac.

volume adjustment device

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If all else fails, open a terminal window and type the following to adjust it your volume:

sudo osascript -e "set Volume 5"

You can change to "5" to a higher or lower number to make the volume go up and down

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I think I found a quicker and easier fix. At least it works for me.

When the volume keys don't respond (happens pretty often and I haven't figured out why) I simply put the computer in sleep mode then re-awaken it. Takes a few seconds but it works every time.

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