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How to Output Stereo Audio in Mono

Recently I replaced my aging Bose OE2 headphones with a pair of Sennheiser HD 380 Pro headphones. Both products are a major upgrade from the stock earbuds that ship with iPhones and iPods, but the high-quality audio output also means that you can hear every imperfection in the music. For example, older tracks that were recorded in mono sometimes have output that is only audible in one channel, which means that you can only hear the music in one ear. It can drive you crazy listening to songs like that. (To hear an example of what I'm talking about, listen to "Stumbleine" by the Smashing Pumpkins.)

Fortunately, there's an easy and temporary way to convert your Mac's stereo output to mono. Converting to mono will combine the output of both channels so that you'll hear the same audio in both ears. This usually results in substantially lower sound quality, so it's not a feature that you'll want to leave enabled all of the time.

Here's how to output your Mac's stereo audio in mono:

  1. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences.

  2. Select Accessibility.

  3. From the sidebar, select Audio. The window shown below appears.

  4. Play stereo audio as mono on your Mac

  5. Select the Play stereo audio as mono checkbox.

  6. Close System Preferences.

Now you'll be able to hear music in both channels - a welcome relief for those of you listening to bad tracks with high-quality headphones. To switch back to stereo output, just deselect the Play stereo audio as mono checkbox.

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