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A smarter audio manager

Here’s what I typically do in the course of a day.

  • Start iTunes, play some new songs while I code, read email, and surf the web
  • About every 15min or so, I run across a youtube video, mp3 link, or vimeo post that I want to watch, so I…
  • pause iTunes, let the video/music play in my browser, then return back to what I was doing

Here’s the rub: anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours later, I’ll realize I’ve been sitting in a room wearing headphones with nothing coming out of them. I don’t mind it, but I do wish I could have an app that could manage iTunes automatically for me.

This is my wish: I start playing iTunes music, surf along while some magical app watches my sound output. When something else sends output to the soundcard (I’d have to disable iChat message alerts), hit pause in iTunes for me, then when the soundcard is clear, push play on iTunes automatically (maybe with a bit of cross-fading to bring it up smoothly).

Is this impossible? I think I’ve seen something like this before — it doesn’t seem like it’d be impossible for a computer to manage for me.


  1. It seems like it should definitely be doable at the browser level, since Skype does this. They have a setting for “pause itunes during a call.” The browser would just need to know whenever it was playing audio. I guess it depends on how all of those plugins (flash, qt, etc) work.

  2. That’s how it works on the iPhone, more or less. When something like an e-mail beep or text-message beep comes on, the music dims. I think it’s a good idea.

  3. Oh my God, this has been one of my top five first world problems, along with iTunes not displaying the current song title in the taskbar. If something that makes this work automagically comes along I will pay money for it.

  4. I would pay money for such a thing too, this exact thing is my problem. Oh look, there’s iTnues on pause right now! Actually, I use quicksilver to pause and unpaise iTunes (or I have in the past) and that got me a little more used to remembering to unpause it.

  5. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that suffers from this sort of auditory fugue state for hours at a time.

  6. foxyTunes seems to be putting a lot of effort into their Firefox plugin, maybe they’re the ones to bug about this.

  7. This could be a job for Rogue Amoeba too. They’ve done some great work for audio on the Mac.
    A quick band-aid solution would be some sort of app that checked: silence for xx seconds + paused iTunes = Unpause iTunes.

  8. Along the lines of Jack’s comment, if iTunes (or whatever) waited for a few seconds of continuous sound before fading out or for a minute of silence before fading back in, you wouldn’t have to worry about quick sounds like system alerts or message notifications causing rapid start-and-stoppage of your music.

  9. I’d be suprised if Apple didn’t integrate this into the system at some point. As Jeff mentioned, it works pretty seamlessly already on iPhone for system alerts, mail notifications, and phone calls.
    I still smile to myself when I finish a call and the song I was listening to just picks up where it left off, gradually fading up to full volume in my earbuds.

  10. Just wanted to add my amen, I spend about 2-3 hours a day thinking I’m listening to music when I’m not. It’s just frustrating thinking about the lost enjoyment, but I almost wonder if it matters deeply enough, since I don’t even notice for such a long time.

  11. This is a great idea. This has happened to me too… sweaty ears, no music… and I figure my amplifier is just wasting electricity sitting idle.
    I think this belongs at the OS level. That way system beeps would not be affecting the pause/play.

  12. The sad part is this is so doable by Apple themselves, but it’s one of those small features that could possibly never come to fruition.
    Why could this be easily done? There is already this level of integration between iChat and iTunes. If you are playing some music and someone wants to initiate a video/audio chat, iTunes will pause and then resume upon completion of the conversation.
    Maybe Leopard at some point will take some cues from how the iPhone handles audio events.
    Then again, maybe it won’t.

  13. Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack application audio watching tech + application based rules manager + continuous sound checker.
    Definitely looks like Rogue would be best placed to do this and likely worth the dev for these commenters money alone.

  14. QuickSilver my friend — That is if you are on a Mac. I have a trigger setup in QuickSilver that toggles the Play/Pause button from anywhere I might be. If a phone call comes in, or I want to listen to audio on a website, I simple hit my trigger (in my case Alt-Z), and it will pause the audio coming out of iTunes only. It would be add a nice touch if the music faded away and faded back on (like the iPhone), but I am very happy with QuickSilver as it changed my life. If you are on Windows, I imagine that Launchy can do something similar although I have not verified this to be true.

  15. Michael, you seem to be missing the part where the music should automatically resume after the web browser stops making noise. It isn’t an issue of how many keypresses it takes to pause iTunes!

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