How can I configure OS X to allow audio playback while I use voice-to-text?


As empowered as my MacBook makes me [feel], an important part of my personality is indefinitely numb from familiarity with a feeling the still hopeful ones of us will also integrate into their being eventually: devastation that "no, you can't." is literally the correct answer to their Apple-related how-to question.

... so, with carefully managed expectations, I await ...

  • Dangling participle fans: I am not looking for the series of utterances that will allow me to use Speech Command to navigate system preferences to modify audio settings using my voice. I would like for my audio playback not to be stopped when I press fn fn to enter voice dictation mode! Oct 21, 2014 at 23:40

2 Answers 2


Run these two commands in terminal.

defaults write com.apple.SpeechRecognitionCore AllowAudioDucking -bool NO
defaults write com.apple.speech.recognition.AppleSpeechRecognition.prefs DictationIMAllowAudioDucking -bool NO

Then restart Dictation.

  • +1 for the can-do attitude, +1 for being named Tobias. I can't wait to give this a try when I get home! Nov 11, 2014 at 1:28
  • So tell me if I'm assuming correct.. could I then use this to have OSX transcribe an audio file? I was looking for a way to do this a few weeks ago, so if so, this is awesome. :) Nov 11, 2014 at 6:10

You can't. But you can request the feature.

It's my understanding that processing your voice into text is much harder, the more background noise there is. While your Macbook (or iMac, or whatever) has no control over noisy people sitting near to you, or a TV in the background etc, it does have control over the noises it emits, and as such does what it can to ensure optimal listening to the best of it's ability.

That's not to say it can't be done, but this is certainly how Apple have implemented it. You might want to look into 3rd party dictation software if the built in tools do not do what you require. You need to carefully consider the pros and cons of how important dicatation is to you, is it worth the hassle of it pausing your audio when you speak, or is paying upwards of $200 which is the cost of even basic 3rd party software value for your specific needs.

OSX, and indeed Apple products in general do a lot of things, especially for the price, but they are not in the business of making best of class apps free to users by bundling them in with the OS. They provided dictation, but you may want more, and 3rd party ecosystem delivers on that. They provide basic tools for notes, reminders, read-later software and so on, but non of these are as good as (for example) Things, or EverNote, or Instapaper and so on. They show you what you can do, it may be enough for most, if not see how other people can expand on the basic offering for improved features.

Think not "Can I do this with free Apple software without having to spend money to achieve my specific requirements", but "Can this be done, and what might I need to purchase to enable it"

  • Your use of plural verbs in agreement with plural nouns softens the blow. Apple have in deed made astonishing choices in their implementations. Oversight, I do hope, it must be oversight... Sep 19, 2014 at 11:38
  • Probably by design, or lack of. Siri does the same thing on iOS. Doing otherwise probably requires some comprehensive digital signal processing that analyses what noises it believes it is outputting, and then trying to subtract those from incoming audio on the fly. That's exactly the sort of thing that is left for others to implement as an improved feature.
    – stuffe
    Sep 19, 2014 at 11:45

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