I just got a portable bluetooth speaker for my travels – because I spend way too much time in hotel rooms – and want to know the fastest and easiest way to connect the speaker to my MacBook Air running 10.9 Maverick. Suggestion?
I’m sure that there are third party solutions for this problem but it turns out you don’t have to go any further than the System Preferences in Mac OS X itself, whether you’re on an iMac, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air. On an iOS device, of course, the process is completely different and starts with you tapping on “Settings” -> “Bluetooth”. But let’s stay focused!
I’ve noticed that once you’ve paired some bluetooth speakers with Mac systems, the connection automatically re-enables any time the device is detected within range, the system being smart enough to automatically pair and switch audio output too. That’s nice, but a bit disconcerting because it also automatically “plays” your iTunes music, so the net effect is that your computer’s perfectly quiet, you power up the BT speaker, and almost instantly it starts playing music. A good reason to keep the volume low by default, by the way!
The easy way to work with Bluetooth in Mac OS X is to add the Bluetooth menu to the menu bar on the top, so I’ll start there.
Go to “System Preferences…” off the Apple menu and look for Bluetooth:
Click on it and you’ll see a window that lists all the known Bluetooth devices — and I have quite a few!
At this point I could select one of the devices, but instead my goal is to make things fast and easy for you, so instead, click on the checkbox adjacent to “Show Bluetooth in menu bar”.
Now on the very top of your screen will be a tiny bluetooth logo. it’s pretty subtle, so look closely to find it:
You can see it approximately centered on that list.
Wondering what everything is? I always peek at other people’s menu bars to see what they’re running, so it’s quite fair for you to ask! From the left, I have MenuTab and MailTab, that give me pop-up verions of Facebook and Gmail, 1Password (the key icon), News Notifications to enhance the Notifications already included in Maverick, CrashPlan, ClipMenu (the clipboard) that gives me a convenient clipboard full of email signatures, canned paragraphs for email, and the like, the bluetooth menu that we seek, SwitchResX that makes it a breeze to change screen resolution and work with external monitors, Time Capsule, wireless, battery and date. Got it? There’ll be a quiz later… 🙂
Click on the bluetooth icon along the menubar and it’s super easy to hook up an external Bluetooth device as audio out:
Choose “Connect” and in this case the NYNE NB-200 speaker — a favorite of mine! — switches over to be the audio output device.
That’s it. Once you have the menu enabled it’s really that easy to hook up a known Bluetooth device. Power up, choose it from the menu, done.
Now occasionally it won’t work right for some reason that I can’t fathom, and in that case, the failsafe is to go to the “Sound” option in System Preferences and ensure that you’ve selected it as the Output device. Like this:
In this case the Bluetooth device doesn’t show up, but that’s because I turned it off. Normally you’ll see it as one of the outputs and if you don’t, like in this instance, it’s a good opportunity to ensure it’s on and that your computer has previously paired with it.