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Even when the volume on my MBP running 10.7.2 is set to only one bar - it is too loud for my use.

When using headphones, the minimum and maximum volume configuration is just fine. This is not the case when using the internal speakers.

How can I set a lower minimum volume on my Mac?

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up vote 17 down vote accepted

This only gives you one more notch below 1, but it might do as much as you need it to. Use the decrease volume button to lower the volume to 0. Then, press the Mute button once. This will let sound play, but at a lower volume than 1.

Also, you can change the volume in 1/4 increments with the following shortcuts:

  • + + volume buttons in Snow Leopard
  • + option + volume buttons in Lion or later
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2  
The volume in the menu bar offers small increments. – Alex Feb 4 '12 at 21:09
    
Yes, but it requires moving one's mouse (which alone is enough to dissuade some people) and dragging with pixel-perfect precision. …That alliteration was unintentional. – timothymh Feb 4 '12 at 21:40
1  
@TimothyMueller-Harder Thanks! I did not realize this. But I've just tried it out. This works just fine for me. – gentmatt Feb 4 '12 at 23:09

starting in 10.7.4 (and versions prior to Lion) you can adjust the volume in 1/4 the normal increment. You can get down to 1/4 bar using ++F11 and ++F12

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Oh yes, I've heard that before - but did not think that I had posted this question :) Thanks for the anser! – gentmatt Jun 19 '12 at 16:09

An alternate way to control the volume is one from the terminal. For example:

sudo osascript -e "set Volume 3.5"

This will set the volume to 50% (the scale is 0-7 using the terminal).

You can use whole numbers or decimal numbers. A higher or lower number will make the volume go up and down in intensity (again 0-7).

This will put your volume at super quiet:

sudo osascript -e "set Volume 0.1"

This will put the volume at an even quieter setting:

sudo osascript -e "set Volume 0.01"

As @timothymh stated, for 1/4 (0.25) increment control without the terminal, you can hold Shift + Option while using the F11 or F12 keys to adjust the volume by 1/4 (0.25) increments.

Using the keyboard will only give you 64 adjustments of volume control 16*4 = 64

Using the terminal you can achieve 700 options for volume control 7*100 = 700

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