A MacBook with an audio mixing program sits on a table next to other audio equipment in a nightclub atmosphere

Photo: mine warehouse (Shutterstock)

If you’re trying to listen to audio on your MacBook – whether you’re playing Spotify while working or editing a video project – chances are you don’t want to avoid the constant interruption of loud notification tones from your messaging apps. Unfortunately, unlike Windows, macOS doesn’t have a built-in utility that lets you control the alarm volume for individual apps.

If you want to set the volume for Messages or Slack to 20% and Music to 60%, you have to rely on third-party apps to get the job done. We found two great ones.

BackgroundMusic: A free app that lets you adjust the app volume individually

BackgroundMusic is a free macOS app that lets you assign different volume levels to each app.

BackgroundMusic is a free macOS app that allows you to assign different volume levels to each app. Screenshot: Pranay Parab

BackgroundMusic is a free app that allows you to set different volume levels for each app running on macOS. It adds an icon to the menu bar that, when clicked, shows the volume levels for various apps, which can be easily adjusted using a slider.

While BackgroundMusic works well, the user interface isn’t the best, especially on smaller screens. Not everyone has a 27-inch iMac, and those of us with 13-inch MacBooks will find it a bit cramped. One problem is that the app shows more than necessary – I can see 13 apps on my computer’s list, including some photo editing and writing apps that don’t send notifications or play audio. The ability to pin favorite apps is sorely missed here, and when you hit the More Apps option, you’ll scroll through an insanely long list to find the app you want.

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However, BackgroundMusic is free, which makes it easier to live with those little annoyances. You can download BackgroundMusic on GitHub (Big Sur compatible version and older versions are available separately).

SoundSource: The best app for advanced audio controls on Mac

SoundSource allows you to assign different volume levels to each Mac app and also redirect audio to different devices.

With SoundSource you can assign different volume levels to each Mac app and also redirect audio to different devices. Screenshot: Pranay Parab

Rogue Amoeba is among the best in the business when it comes to creating audio apps for macOS, and Sound source is one of its outstanding apps. With it, you can not only control the volume for each app, but also redirect the sound from each app to different devices. You can ask the app to play sounds from music or Spotify only through your headphones, while zoom audio is routed to your Mac’s built-in speakers by default. You can customize these options to your heart’s content and even pin frequently used apps to the top of the list.

SoundSource also offers other advanced features, including the ability to add sound effects or apply equalizer settings on an app-by-app basis. The free version allows you to try out all of the features for 20 minutes each time you start SoundSource. After that, the resulting audio quality is “worsened” (at least that’s what the app developer says). If you like what it does well enough to make some cash, the full app can be purchased for $ 39.