Quickly Enable AirPlay Audio Streaming On Your Mac

| TMO Quick Tip

If you use a device which can receive audio via AirPlay, or even just switch your Mac's audio output device, you can easily do that without any extra software.

You may know that, with Mountain Lion, Macs made in the last couple years can broadcast their screen to an Apple TV using AirPlay. This is useful for showing just about anything that can be seen on a Mac on your TV. However, if your Mac was made before 2011, you likely don't have this ability. But there's good news! If you just want to beam your Mac's audio to an Apple TV or AirPort Express, just about everyone running Apple's latest OS can do that.

To set it up, open System Preferences and go to the Sound pane. From there, select the Output tab and select the device to which you want to broadcast your Mac's audio. When you're done, simply select your primary output device (which is typically called "Internal Speakers" or "Headphones").

Sound Preferences

"But wait," you're likely saying. "Isn't there a quicker way?" Why, yes there is. To select an AirPlay output device from just about anywhere on your Mac, simply hold the "option" key while clicking the speaker in your menu bar to see a list of all available output (and input) devices. In fact, from this menu you can quickly switch your audio input and output to any device currently connected to your Mac. Now that's handy!

But just a moment. What if you don't have the little black speaker in your menu bar? Well, it's easy enough to get it there. Again, open System Preferences and head to Sound. From there, check the box located at the bottom of the window which reads "Show volume in menu bar" and you'll be all set.


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mM new imac has terrible playback on the 3rd gen apple TV. The video is stilted and choppy and hangs.
Not sure why, but it was glassy smooth with my HDMI and TosLink cable.

I am glad not to have the 2 cables, but playback via airplay is not the best on my higher end iMac. Can’t figure it out, but I think it must be a software issue of some sort.

Michael Johnston

Paikinho: The most likely reason that you’re getting poor performance with AirPlay mirroring is that your network isn’t providing sufficient bandwidth.

Check on the signal strength and test it by running ethernet between your router, iMac, and Apple TV.

Russell Bither-Terry

I just want to thank you for writing this post. I was getting tired of going into System Preferences all the time. Given how easy it is to switch back-and-forth in iOS it seemed odd for it to be so many clicks in OS X. Now I know it doesn’t have to be!

Matt P.

Or hold down the Option key and press any of the volume keys on your keyboard to bring up System Preferences for audio.  It’s annoying that the menu bar icon doesn’t list AirPlay/Bluetooth devices be default, without the need to hold Option.

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