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I just purchased a new MacBook Pro Unibody 15" (summer 2009). I'm comparing it to a MacBook Pro Unibody 15" (late 2008) model. The speakers on the older one seem to sound louder and more clear to my untrained ear.

Is there any way I can confirm this for sure? Is there any software that can measure the output of the speakers and tell me which one is louder? If not, how should I go about figuring this out. I think the difference is too subtle to be able to take to the Apple Store without having any reasonable evidence in my hand.

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8 Answers

Even if there is a difference, what exactly do you hope to accomplish? they are different models. If you hope to get a new machine based on this you would need to compare to the same model.

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+1 there is no point in this comparison. –  Sandro Dzneladze Jul 18 '12 at 12:12
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I was at the Apple Store yesterday, and also noticed that the NEWEST (Mid-2012) MacBook Pro's (non Retina) internal speakers were MUCH quieter than my Mid-2007 (SantaRosa) MBP!

Also, as an earlier poster mentioned about the 2009 vs. 2008 model, most of the sound seemed to come from the Right speaker, and even more, from a spot between the "L" and the ";" keys (also on the right side), with very little coming from the Left Speaker.

I think if you asked Apple (and if they answered!) they'd say that that's intentional, and that the sound coming from between the "L" and the ";" is from a 'sub=woofer.'

This is not good for me, as I use the MBP speakers as a stereo pair, and they're fairly loud on the 2007 model. This is a big reason why I will wait yet again to leave the great SantaRosa MBP behind. Of course they'll tell you, 'Of course you're going to use external speakers!" – but often that's simply inconvenient. And the quality is less tinny in the older model.

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This answer is from a 2006 thread. Audio Hijack is no longer available, but there is a Pro version for $32:

The most popular solution for this is using Audio Hijack. Great app to have for a variety of things (e.g., recording streaming audio), but it's also perfect for what you need. It allows "hijacking" the audio output of an application and applying Audio Unit plugins or its own built-in EQ to the output.

So, step by step:

  1. Launch Audio Hijack
  2. Create a preset for whatever application you'll commonly want to make louder (i.e., itunes, vlc, mplayer, quicktime).
  3. Open the EQ on that preset
  4. Activate the EQ and move the gain/level up to desired volume
  5. "Hijack" the application (but you don't need to hit record) posted by Señor Pantalones at 9:54 PM on July 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Let me offer you a guess as to why this may be happening. If you read the Apple Discussion board thread Alan provides, you'll see that some people report this problem after a software update.

I think Apple is choosing to limit the output volume of its laptop speakers as part of an overall strategy to deal with their infamous overheating problems. Speakers are a big power consumer, and if you limit their volume with software, not only do you reduce the heat the speakers generate directly, you reduce the heat generated in the sound card and in the battery by the battery's own internal resistance -- and the batteries have, according to some reports, been getting hot enough to swell up in some cases.

If this is true, you probably can fix it with a hack like the one Senor Pantalones offers, but you then might want to pay close attention to how hot your computer is getting.

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If you have an external mic I suppose you could plug it into both machines individually, open the Sound SysPref tray,choose the external mic as the input, set the sensitivity the same on each machine, play the same sound file at the same volume and see what the response is on the monitor/meter on the input screen.

Or you could just turn the volume louder?

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Interested to hear that your MBP is quieter than the older one. I have a new 15" MBP (bought mid August) to replace one from early 2008. Its speakers are definitely quieter than the older one. I have the "Decibel" app on my iPhone (considered reasonably accurate) and it detected about 8 dB difference - the older MBP is definitely louder. The sound quality of the newer one is OK, just not loud enough. Apple support knows nothing about any design difference. There also appears to be a channel imbalance - the right speaker is louder. I suspect a hardware fault.

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@AH, yes. I have two problems: one is the quiet speakers compared to my other MBP, the other is an imbalance. I initially diagnosed just the first, but it's possible I was just hearing one speaker and this accounted for the lack of volume. It could be that @dtmunir has the same problem. Subsequent testing using Techtool Pro 4 shows that, in fact, my left speaker isn't working at all, but that's not obvious as sound from each speaker tends to spread out from its location. It sounds like an imbalance. The left channel works with headphones, but not on speakers. I need to visit the fixit shop. –  dcnicholls Oct 1 '09 at 6:43
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If it is a hardware problem, and there is no hope of fixing it, then a more permanent solution for the sound imbalance may be to manually adjust the level of each speaker.

Search for Midi setup in spotlight and you should be able to do it from there.

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Though your answer can help @dcnicholls, and though I can totally see where the confusion came from: the question is not about imbalance of two speakers on a single computer. (It's about a difference between two different computers, even two different series. I've changed the question's title now.) –  Arjan Sep 30 '09 at 13:30
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i too have had the older 2008 macbook pro model and just recently picked up the 2009 mid summer model and there is definately a huge difference in volume in speakers. i thought this was just a defect, but my buddy bought one as well and his is the exact same volume, so i beleive there is either a design change or ther is some kind of firmware change to the amount of power now being supplied to the speakers on the new models... maybe to save battery? i don't know but it is actually quite annoying since i really enjoyed the loudness of the last ones. I am using bootcamp, and in windows the speakers are very quiet at the loudest setting but they are louder in snow leo. very strange. i want to call apple and ask questions.

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One option would be to use an SPL meter. However, this wouldn't provide evidence to take to an Apple Store. You would have to perform the demonstration in front of them, but it would be a way for you personally to verify what you believe your ears are hearing. Perhaps one like this: http://www.amazon.com/Scosche-SPL1000F-135DB-Max-Meter/dp/B001CMKFH8/ref=pd_sim_sbs_e_5

It would appear there are also phone apps to do this, but I can't speak to their precision or accuracy.

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