If I set my sound effects to come out "Selected sound output device" via the sound Preference panel while using my bluetooth headphones, everything works as expected - both regular sound (like music or video sounds) and sound effects (like sent mail "swoosh" effects) come out my headphones. If I then go up to the volume control icon on the top right of the toolbar, and set the Output Device to Internal Speakers, then all the sounds come out of my laptop's speakers. But then if I set the Output Device back to my bluetooth headphones, then it also "magically" resets my "Play sound effects through:" setting back to "Internal Speakers" - so that now Music and Video sounds come out of my headphones, but sound effects come out of the laptop speakers themselves. This seems broken - changing my output device shouldn't change other settings. Does this do this for other people? Is there something strange I'm doing to cause this odd side effect?

Update (due to some confusion highlighted by the first attempted answer) - I did not disconnect my headphones during this experiment - I just toggled the Output Device from Headphones to Internal Speakers and back to Headphones. I would assume that most people would want their "Play sound effects through" setting to be "Selected sound output device" all the time - since you'd want those sounds to come out of the same place sounds from the Music, TV or other audio/video apps to come from. It was disconcerting to me the first time I was listening to music through my headphones and heard my laptop make noises (e.g. the mail sent "swoosh" sound). So while I can imagine someone wanting to manually decouple the sound effects device from the general sound device, I would be highly surprised that people would want it to be automatically decoupled every time they put headphones in or out.

1 Answer 1


This is how it’s supposed to work because when you disconnect a Bluetooth sound device, it no longer exists. When that happens everything goes back to the default of Internal Speakers

I just tried it. I had everything set to my headset and when I disconnected it, it no longer showed up as an output device.

There are some apps that remember by output settings so if and when I reconnect my headset it will automatically switch. It seems that the safety setting is to make sure Notifications always plays and that’s done by the system always setting them back to Internal.

I also checked with my USB speakers by making sound effects go there and as long as those speakers were there even if Bluetooth was connected and disconnected, the notifications didn’t change to Internal.

  • Maybe I was unclear, but I didn't disconnect my headphones. All I did was switch the Output Device (under the speaker icon on the right side of the upper tool bar) from Headphones to Internal Speakers and back. My headphones stayed connected the whole time. So switching from headphones to internal speakers and back caused the "Play Sound Effects Through" option to uncouple from the previous setting ("selected sound output device") to hard-wired to Internal Speakers. This seems problematic for reasons I will add to the question.
    – Doug
    Oct 27, 2020 at 18:01
  • "Problematic" would be an individual's perspective. But if I put myself in Apple's shoes for a moment and think about how to engineer this workflow, keeping in mind that notifications are very important, I might design it to always take the "safest route." I'd do it the way Apple does. Maybe it's a feature you can request, but this is just the way they chose to do it. It doesn't mean it's a failure or a bug. Nov 2, 2020 at 16:03
  • I'm still curious how this could be at all intended. If I have bluetooth headphones speakers connected, the Play Sound Effects Through set to "selected sound output device", and the Selected Sound Output device set to "Internal Speakers", everything works as expected. But if I then go and change the Selected Sound Output device to "Bluetooth headphones/speaker", without notice, it changes my Play Sound Effects Through setting back to "Internal Speakers". How does that make sense?
    – Doug
    Nov 2, 2020 at 21:17
  • "Internal speakers" is a known quantity from Apple's perspective so it's safest to make sure system sounds go there. Nov 3, 2020 at 16:21

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