Create an Equalizer for All Audio in Mac OS X

May 18, 2012 - 94 Comments

Equalizer for all system audio in Mac OS X

Ever wish you had a system wide equalizer to adjust all audio output in Mac OS X and not just in iTunes? Maybe you want to adjust the way all audio output sounds or maybe you just want to boost the output volume of the built-in Mac speakers. We’ll show you how to do both by creating your own universal EQ using two free tools, follow along:

Requirements

Download and install both Soundflower and AU Lab, you will then need to restart your Mac to have full access to the audio components. Once rebooted, follow along with the instructions below:

Set Up a Universal Audio Equalizer for Mac OS X

  1. Set System Volume to the maximum level, do this either through the menu bar or by hitting the Volume Up key repeatedly
  2. Open System Preferences from the  Apple menu and select the “Sound” panel, followed by the “Output” tab. Select “Soundflower (2ch) from the Output list
  3. Now launch AU Lab, found in /Applications/Utilities/
  4. From the “Audio Input Device” pulldown menu, select “Soundflower (2ch)”, and then from “Audio Output Device” menu select “Stereo In/Stereo Out”
  5. Click the “Create Document” button at the bottom of the screen
  6. At the next screen, look for “Output 1″ column and click the “Effects” dropdown, selecting “AUGraphicEQ”
  7. This is your new system-wide equalizer, set it how you see fit. Changes here will impact all audio output on the Mac
  8. When satisfied with the EQ settings, hit Command+S to save the EQ settings file and put it somewhere easy to find like the Documents folder
  9. Now open AU Lab preferences from the AU Lab menu, click on the “Document” tab and click the radiobox next to “Open a specific document”, selecting the .trak EQ file you saved in the previous step

Optional final step: If you want the EQ settings to load on every Mac OS X boot, right-click on the AU Lab icon, go to Options, and select “Open at Login”

It’s important to note that AU Lab must be running in order for the equalizer to have an effect, keeping it running will consume a small amount of CPU resources but it’s much less process hungry than some of the third party alternatives available on the market.

A big thanks to Dan Wong for sending in this tip

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

94 Comments

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  1. Sky says:

    I can’t find the “Effects” dropdown as to find the “AUGraphicEQ”. So a bit stuck.

  2. Napoleon Wilson says:

    The 31 band equalizer works like a charm,
    much better than the iTunes equalizer

    Because its system wide you can also use it for boosting the audio on videos with ac3 audio

    Listen to some 320k audio in iTunes with a good pair of cans with the 31 band equalizer on and you can really tell the difference

    Another benefit is the equalizer settings are saved in the .trak file file so you can share your setting with other people.

  3. Lri says:

    You could also use Garageband instead of AU Lab (see http://superuser.com/questions/321634/os-x-filter-system-audio-out-to-remove-high-pitched-noise/321791#321791).

    There are also some commercial apps that allow applying an EQ to all sound output like http://www.globaldelight.com/boom/ and http://www.prosofteng.com/products/hear.php.

    • Dan Wong says:

      That Garageband fix uses a heck of a lot more RAM and CPU, where AU Lab is essentially a “barebones Garageband”, making it way more suitable for system-wide equalising.

      Also I skipped over the paid apps that do this because a) this method is free and b) it’s not that much more complicated :)

  4. Romney says:

    This is great.

  5. Alberto says:

    Great!

  6. Kent says:

    I use the Hear app, http://www.prosofteng.com/products/hear.php

    It’s quite remarkable the level of audio presence it can bring out to any sound system, including cheap speaker system to hi-fi head phones.

  7. E Bond Francisco says:

    I’m having trouble with this part of Line 4: “…and then from “Audio Output Device” menu select “Stereo In/Stereo Out”. I don’t see that option in output settings, all I find is:

    “built-in output”
    “soundflower (2 ch)”
    “soundlfower (16 ch)”

    However, under Factory Configurations on the left, I have
    “Stereo In/Stereo Out” selected. What do I select in the output settings drop down if I don’t see Stereo in/Stereo Out. Thanks!

  8. NicolasBalan says:

    …Wow… …Thanks a lot, the sound is amazing (much, much better-the bass is killing me)… …What we would do without people like you… …Just one suggestion to new comers: – between 2nd and 3rd step open SoundFlower from applications, click on ‘it and for (2ch) option choose “Build-in Output”. And for step number 6(six): look for “Audio 1″ column and click the “Effects” dropdown, selecting “AUGraphicEQ” – this is what worked for me…

  9. Jorge says:

    Hint ;)
    U can now record sound from youtube or any other place in fact :)
    Just hit record and it will save a acf file (Apple CoreAudio Format) , open in QT and export as m4a.

  10. larry cohen says:

    Can you use this Apple EQ with a HIFIMAN soundcard?
    What steps would I change?

    • Dan Wong says:

      I imagine you’d just have to change inputs/outputs according to how it’s set up. I haven’t tried it with a USB soundcard so can’t help unfortunately! Don’t those things come with their own software to tweak the sound anywho?

  11. hayduke says:

    Hey Now,

    I’ve been trying to get this to work with the Built-In Digital Optical output with no luck.

    I’m running:

    Zotac Z68-ITX WiFi Supreme Wifi Mobo
    8GB GSkill RAM
    Intel 3.29 GHz iCore 3 (Sandy Bridge)
    OSX Lion 10.7.4
    AU Lab 2.2.2 (2.2.1)
    Sunflower 1.6.2.1

    I’m pumping the signal through a Muse Audio DAC to a Pyle PCA2 2x40w Amp

    It works just fine, but when I add AU Lab and Sunflower, I get no signal. I’ve tried different combinations of Input/Output under Sunflower and AU Lab, but can’t seem to get it to work.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks,

    ~ hayduke

  12. Jim K. says:

    Thanks so much..Works like a charm w/very small resource demand. Love it.

  13. Drew says:

    I was having a problem with Soundflower not passing sound through to the built in output (soundflower 1.6.2.1 and mac OSX 10.7.4), none of the correct settings would work, neither would reinstalling it.

    Once I installed this app soundflower started working again!

  14. K Mac says:

    I can’t get this to output to headphones when they are plugged in, shows music is playing but no sound, tried changing output to headphones in sound preferences, but nada, any ideas? Everything else works just fine, brilliant actually!

  15. Alex says:

    Worked perfectly on Lion. Seems there are troubles with sound volume on Mountain Lion.

  16. François A. says:

    I’m searching for a wide-system audio equalizer for my Mac for years: this is the perfect solution for my needs, and it works perfectly in Mountain Lion too. Thanks!

  17. Eder says:

    Excellent, works greatly on Mountain Lion. =)

  18. wagonburner says:

    Blessed are those who hath bestowed this miracle upon the masses.

    Works like a freaking charm.

  19. benn zeppelin says:

    thanks dood, great for eq’n spotify

  20. Garry says:

    Thank you so much! Just got Audio Engine 2 speakers with the Sub and it needed some tweaking in the mids/highs .. now it’s awesome :)
    Thx thx thx

  21. Jeremy says:

    This is a great tip! Have been trying to do this for awhile and this is a great solution. Thanks!

  22. Chris says:

    Im running Mountain Lion, i can get this to work only through my headphones? When i unplug them, no sound comes out of my built in MacBook speakers…

    What am i doing wrong?

  23. Chris says:

    Literally just fixed it. Before i selected Soundflower as my audio output, i had my speakers muted.

    I reselected the build in output, and unmuted them, then reselected soundflower and viola it works for both headphones and internal speakers!

  24. Peter says:

    Hey.
    This works great. I have just one problem. I can’t turn the volum up. I have set the system volume to the maximum level, and the volum levels on Audio 1 AND Output 1 is also maxed out.
    Is there any easy fix to get the volum higer?

  25. P Jones says:

    ¡Muy excelente! Thanks for posting

  26. Jeff says:

    I can’t get AU Lab to open, MBP 2.9ghz 10.8.2 8gbram, downloaded, installed, rebooted. Couldn’t get step 4 to work, as AUL didn’t open but crashed right after load screen.

  27. Jack says:

    Got it all to work except last step where you right click on AU Lab icon to make it load during booting. Can’t seem to get that Option to come up.

  28. Richard says:

    Hi
    Great tip, but is it possible to make it work with airplay? Everything works fine as long as I output the sound via the “built-in output”, but if I select “airplay” no sound is outputted… I’m running mountain lion, so I’m able to output the sound directly to my airport express (option+volume icon->select airport express as output), but as soon as I try to put the AULab in between, I lose the sound…

    Can this be fixed, or is it only possible to output the sound without and equ? If so, is there any third party apps available? I’ve understood airfoil should be able to do it (built in equalizer), but that it introduces a delay of a couple of seconds (and costs $25 whereas the airplay feature is already built in in mlion)
    Thanks
    Richard

    • Thomas says:

      Hi Richard,

      I do have exactly the same problem. Output thru all devices except AirPlay is ok. With AirPlay and AUlab I hear nothing. Sending sound directly to AirPlay or via SoundFlower is working fine.
      Doesn’t anybody know a way to use this equalizer with AirPlay?

      Thanks all
      Thomas

  29. Matt H. says:

    Don’t know what I’m doing wrong — I followed all the steps, but I get this loud buzzing sound as soon as I launch AU Lab with the settings described. As you can see in the screenshot: https://img.skitch.com/20121009-mjxnjqu4nd1w25migd93x6tg5h.png the soundflower “input” is creating a -8 db buzz on both channels. Anyone every had that happen?

    MacBook Pro OSX 10.7.5

  30. Please Help says:

    Upon loading AU Lab, this comes up every time.

    [IMG]http://i47.tinypic.com/11jw1fb.png[/IMG]

  31. Ian says:

    Thanks for posting this up! I have been looking for a free and descent system wide eq since I switched from linux (got spoiled with the audio output options there.) Just from a descent set of 2.1 speakers I can tell this setup works great.

  32. Shawn says:

    This is awesome, makes even just my iMac speakers sound sooooooooo much better! Thank you so much!

  33. Craig says:

    I can get it to work with the built in speaker but not through my apogee duet that goes to my powered monitors. I was able to get buzzing digital clipping sound, turned down the levels, but it still sounded somewhat distorted and the volume would not work. Any suggestions would be awesome.

  34. Craig says:

    also: i could only get the duet to work by using the boom app as an output, otherwise nothing. Thanks…

  35. Michael says:

    It works for me. However, everytime I restart I loose the sound, requiring me to create a new document. I noticed that when I first create the document, the output setting says “main out.” However, after restarting, the output setting says “sound flower stream.” Does anyone have any suggestions why I lose the sound after I restart? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  36. Alex says:

    Works great. However, when I reopen the *.trak file in AU Lab, the input column indicates that no sound is coming in, even when it was working before closing. Any help would be appreciated.

  37. Matt says:

    Awesome! thanks for this.
    You can also add some reverb too if you like that sort of thing or your room’s a little dry haha. Just add AUMatrixReverb – put ‘dry/wet mix’ down to about 7% and ‘small/large mix’ to about 40% and experiment.
    Thanks again

  38. Jan says:

    Wait, is this free? Do you need to be an actual developer?

  39. Tom says:

    I got it set up and working fine, love it!

    One small problem though, I’m getting a yellow warning triangle with an exclamation mark icon displayed at the bottom left on the AU lab icon in the dock every time after waking from sleep. When I open AU lab and hover over the warning sign it says ‘…overload’. Is anybody else getting this message?

  40. tom says:

    hi guys.
    i use a NI audio kontrol 1 soundcard and in order to use it i have to change the system preferences>audio menu to the sound card instead of the soundflower (2ch) which obviously cuts all output audio from soundflower. is there a way around this?

  41. mike vaughan says:

    thanks, great tip, particularly useful when listening to internet radio. This had always too much Bass through my external speakers but now I can get it just right.

  42. phil says:

    yeah! thanks a lot. soundcloud sounds now like it should!

  43. Joe Mowrey says:

    Doesn’t seem to work on Mountain Lion. I can see the sound registering in the AU Lab monitor window, but nothing comes out of my speakers when I select Soundflower in my sound output prefs. I have to switch back to “Line Out” (I’m using a speaker set with a subwoofer, not the internal Mac speakers) to get any sound and then the equalizer has no effect.

  44. Miah Moore says:

    So as I was setting this up, step 4 I was unable to select stereo in/stereo out in the drop down menu from audio output…. the only choices I had were 2ch & 64 ch and built in output… so I selected 2ch and it seems to work fine. Is this ok? Or did I do something wrong in the setup process for me to not have the correct choice displayed?

  45. Francisco says:

    Great post. I downloaded AU lab from http://www.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/ and to make it load it at startup time I use System Preferences/System/Users&Groups/Login Items.

    Thanks!

  46. Guru says:

    Awesome! have always wanted something like this! Thanks

  47. Ferra says:

    great . it works amazingly and also I can use all my audio plugins that I use in Protools. Thanks!

  48. [...] it’s even easier to use, plus it also allows for additional advanced options like setting a system-wide equalizer for all audio output on a [...]

  49. [...] Windows, and though it’s certainly not applicable to everyone, be aware that if you set up a universal audio equalizer for all system audio in OS X using something like AU Lab you may run into EQ exaggeration that you [...]

  50. Mark says:

    Thank you. Just thank you. What a difference!

  51. Michael B says:

    Hi Dan
    I got a problem on installing the equalizer using Au Lab and Soundflower and hope you can assist. I followed the above instructions but did a wrong selection at Step 4 and saved in a Document File. When I go back to amend it, it wouldn’t gave me the option to do that anymore. Even though I uninstalled and reinstall both the Au Lab and Soundflower, the old data always remain in the box and I couldn’t delete it. I have tried clearing all cookies but it still doesn’t work. The factory configurations would not appear again. I would appreciate your advise. Thank you.

  52. steve says:

    Outstanding!!

  53. Danny says:

    Hi, will this also give eqalizer control for the mini-Hdmi port?

  54. Jason says:

    Holy cow!! This woke up my Sennheisers 205′s!! Thanks for this write-up! =-)

  55. Jay says:

    This works really well, much better than a 3rd party app. However, there is one issue. It can’t handle 5.1 sound! So for example if you have stereo speakers and you’re watching a video with a 5.1 soundtrack you’ll hear nothing.

  56. Peter says:

    Got this to work without a problem, awesome.
    But what I am trying to do is setting up separate equalizer settings for right and left output. This way I can compensate a bit for the (slight) loss of hearing (in a specific range) in my left ear. Any audio magicians out there who know how to set this up?

  57. koenie says:

    LS,

    Problem. When i take a alook at the preference/sound tab i see the soundflower 2ch and 64ch. i also have a digital output (optical). The last one is my default sofar. (optical to my logitech Z-5500)
    Going to work with AUlab there is no way i can choose that one. Somebody also have problems with optical out.

  58. Chris S says:

    Hi there,

    I tried this so didn’t like the lag over airplay
    I uninstalled but now my mac audio is hit and miss playing some youtube clips not others and my sony airplay speaker dock is no discoverable on the mac (it is on iphone)

    Can you advise please
    Is there a way to reinstall original audio drivers?

    I’m using latest version of mavericks
    running macbook pro retina

  59. Chris S says:

    Solved my problem – the firewall was blocking it!
    Hope this helps someone else

  60. Dandelo says:

    A few months ago airplay wasn’t working for me as well. Today (in the meanwhile I installed OS Mavericks…) I tried again – and it works :)

    This is the configuration:

    -select sound flower 2ch as audio output
    - open au lab
    - as “Output” select “Airplay”
    - as “Input” select “Soundflower 2ch”

  61. Blake says:

    Ive followed all of the settings after downloading all of the latest software you recommended and no sound is running through the AU Lab i can go back to original output and sound works fine my output didn’t have the option for stereo in/out but i read in the comments to select built in which i have but still nothing please help would love to experience the awesome sounds that everyone is claiming this will do

  62. Francisco says:

    Awesome tip. Works great on OS X 10.6.8. The system wide equalizer was really essential for me to turn down the mids for my logitech z623.
    Only issues i have is that the document doesn’t open automatically on startup even though AU lab does.
    I’ve now added AU lab to my dock and just start it manually.
    Also sometimes the sound gets stuttery. I have to restart AU lab to fix it.

  63. Darek says:

    In my case of Maveric OS I had to use Soundflower 64 channels, otherwise AU Lab was not detecting any sound.

  64. Foster says:

    Well, when I use soundflower I feel like I get less quality. It just sounds strange, to me. Like it’s hitting a large fan mixed with a metal room.

    But when i use the AU Lab, it just amplifies that imperfection even at the same volume level. Which is weird. This is without any effects or anything. I added the EQ and whenever put a couple frequencies at +3db it blows the crap up. So I lower my computer volume and I ad a crapp ton in the lower freq. and I can hear a bass boost… but only slightly. And I can’t go past 3 notches in volume (where the lyrics are inaudible) before it goes haywire and blows my eardrums up like it’s getting some kind of feedback. It’s the weirdest thing. Why is a strict audio output giving me feedback issues? I’M NOT EVEN TRYING TO BOOST THE VOLUME! I’m just trying to take out mids, and add a bit of bass and treble. like a basic expand. :P

  65. Foster says:

    Also, I’m using a late 09 with an SSD and a quad core. Sony MDR 7056 professional circumaural headphones.

  66. Alex says:

    there is a little program called Hear that does equalization and more, system-wide, without all the hustle.

  67. MacsAre1 says:

    For those of you who don’t get an audio signal in Soundflower, creating an aggregate device of Soundflower and your desired output in Audio Midi Setup may resolve the issue. It did for me on my Hackintosh.

  68. Tuuuunes says:

    This works great. I’ve EQ’d my headphones with this method and the difference is amazing.

    Tips for regular use:

    - Ensure your output volumes are sufficient
    1. Plug in your headphones.
    2. Go to system preferences > Sound. In the output section, select headphones and set to at least 75% of max
    3. Now change the output to Soundflower (2ch)
    4. Open AU Lab and check that your db limit is set between -4.5 and 0 db for both Audio 1 and Output 1. This is indicated by the small triangle on the right side of the volume level meters.

    - To quickly switch input and outputs, hold down the option key and click on the volume indicator in the menubar. Way quicker than opening sound preferences through the system preferences.

  69. PhilBoogie says:

    Great tip guys! I thought Spotify didn’t sound good at all at first, so I changed the prefs to use the highest quality. That didn’t do much, but I was comparing the sound to iTunes, in which I always use the equaliser. So, went on the lookout for this, and what a gem. And system-wide, so good sound from Safari to boot.

    Cheers.

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