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When I plug in a USB audio device, if no sounds are playing then my output automatically switches to that device. However, if a program is currently playing any audio then it does not switch. If I enter Audio/MIDI Setup and change it manually, [EDIT: or change it in System Preferences -> Sound, or by alt clicking on the volume control in the menu bar] then the running program still does not switch.

[EDIT: I most often encounter this situation with Chrome, VLC, and many video games.]

Is there a way I can switch the output for audio that's already playing, without restarting the program in question?

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It depends on the program that is playing the sound. If I have a youtube video playing in Safari, I can switch between output devices in Audio MIDI Setup, and it works. VLC on the other hand handles the choice of output device for itself, so I have to change it in VLC. The advantage is that I can choose an output device that is not the default one.

  • Chrome and many video games are my prime culprits, and most of them don't have in-application sound device selections. – Sparr Nov 24 '13 at 15:43
  • I just tested with Youtube in Chrome, no problem with Audio MIDI Setup or Preferences. I can switch between Built-In, USB, AirPlay on the fly. I am using 10.9. – Carsten S Nov 24 '13 at 18:54
  • Try something other than flash in chrome? – Sparr Nov 24 '13 at 19:01
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If you alt-click on the speaker icon in your toolbar you can select output and input devices.

  • This does not affect audio that is already playing when the change is made (in Chrome, VLC, various other applications and games). (on OSX 10.7.5 and whatever earlier versions I've been running this and last year) – Sparr Nov 24 '13 at 15:43
  • @sparr this really depends on the application you are using. It works for iTunes for instance. – nohillside Nov 24 '13 at 19:31
  • OK, so the question, then, is how do I do it for every application? – Sparr Nov 24 '13 at 21:23
  • I am not sure it is possible in every application, I know for sure that it isn't possible in VLC. But I assume that the alt-click option works for all native OS X apps. – Laura Nov 25 '13 at 8:27
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Under System Preferences → Sound → Output there should be a list of available output devices. From that list you should be able to choose your output device.

  • This does not affect audio that is already playing when the change is made (in Chrome, VLC, various other applications and games). (on OSX 10.7.5 and whatever earlier versions I've been running this and last year) – Sparr Nov 24 '13 at 15:41
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Use output, it is a program that sits in the menu bar which can switch the audio device on the fly.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/output/id435867551?mt=12

I use it at work to switch between my built in output on my Macbook Pro and my logitech usb headset.

Except for one voip provider, and google chat, It is able to switch the audio on the fly in every program I have tried.

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