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I use Bose QC-35 headphones, which can be connected to two Bluetooth audio sources simultaneously and play audio from one at a time (the first one to start an audio stream wins). I frequently keep the headphones connected to my MacBook Pro and to my phone. However, the MBP seems to generate an audio stream almost all the time, even when nothing is playing. The headphones think that the MBP's audio is active, so I can't listen to audio from my phone unless I explicitly disconnect the MBP from the headphones.

I have not had this problem when connecting the headphones to my Windows machines -- Windows seems to accurately distinguish between playing and not playing audio over Bluetooth.

Is there any way to work around this on MacOS? (I'm currently on Catalina 10.15.7, if that's relevant.)

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Are you running Zoom? After a call, it doesn't seem to close off the audio properly. Quitting and restarting the Zoom app releases the headphones.

Other causes could be a tab in a browser playing audio.

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