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May 11, 2021

Switching audio devices for virtual meetings sucks!

Adam Cuppy



Advisor / Founding Partner
Medford, OR

I listen to music when I work at home, and I don't love to live in my headphones. If I have to jump into a meeting, I go through the clunky process of switching to my headset. There are a few ways to make it easier - and one is free! 

(A) Set your default speaker/mic to your main speakers. set zoom to your headset.

If you use the same speaker/mic combo for Zoom, this might be a quick (free) solution that will not impact other apps.

  1. Go to Zoom > Preferences
  2. Go to Audio in the left sidebar 
  3. Pick your preferred speakers/mic

Now, whenever you jump on a call, Zoom will default to your preferred speakers/mic, regardless of what you might use for everything else.

Are you not using Zoom? Most video conferencing apps will offer the same abilities. Open the app and check the settings/preferences section.

This is nice if you're consistent, but if you're not (like me), it's only a short-term fix that creates confusion down the line. I often forget and find myself unable to hear or be heard.


(B) Use a SOFTWARE audio switcher.

There are plenty of apps that will take over control of which speakers/mics are receiving/sending audio from your computer. The Stream Deck solution I'll walk through later is effectively the same thing; however, other than the Stream Deck unit, I've found most software switcher to be buggy and clunky to use.

An alternative is to write a small program to register a keyboard shortcut to do the same, but again, it's something I have to build/maintain. My outcome is to literally click a single button to switch both my speakers and microphone from one device-set to another. That's it.

Pass (on most).

(C) Use an external audio switcher.

If you're a professional audio/video person, this won't be a new concept. External switchers have been around a long while. In effect, your computer uses the same input/output source (the switcher), but the switching device physically routes to which speaker/microphone combo is receiving/sending the sound. 

Amazon has a slew of these devices for sale, but it's not what I'd recommend:

  • They can be expensive for my use case.
  • They often require you to run physical cables from the switcher to the equipment (bluetooth excluded).
  • They don't transport easily.

So, pass again.

(D) Use a Stream Deck.

Like a remote control for your computer, a Stream Deck is a small external box that uses software to control the functions of your computer. If you're thinking: Isn't that a keyboard? You're close. The only difference is that every Stream Deck key can do more than type out a letter.

With a Stream Deck, you can instruct it to work with a single app or to trigger a combination of "actions" at one time (such as switching which speaker/microphone combo you want to use). 

I bought the Stream Deck Mini (~$80), which has six programmable keys, and, using "profiles" and "folders," can expand to thousands of actions.

Here's how you set it up:

-> Once you receive the unit, download the Stream Deck software;

-> Create a new profile called "Work" (optional);

-> From the right sidebar, under the heading "Stream Deck," drag-n-drop the "Multi Action" option onto whichever button you want to program;

-> From the right sidebar, under the heading "Audio Devices," drag-n-drop "Set Audio Device." Towards the bottom, you'll be able to select which speakers (output) you'd like to use when you click this button; 

But, wait?! What if I want to switch both the microphone and the speakers with the same key?! This is why we're using the "Multi Action" functionality.

-> Drag-n-drop another "Set Audio Device" onto the same list, and select the microphone (input) you'd like to use. Now you should see two "set audio device" actions listed - one for the speakers (output) and one for the microphone (input). That's it!

You can test it by clicking the physical button on the Stream Deck.

Follow the same process to create more Stream Deck keys for different speaker/mic combinations. I have three keys set up: 

  • Headset
  • External Bluetooth speakers and attached microphone
  • Onboard laptop speakers and microphone

Hope that helps!

Photo by Steve Harvey

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