A common need for podcasters (especially those of us who record in a one two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with a wife, two kids and a dog) is the ability to quickly mute our mic. While traditional microphones allow for the addition what’s known as a “cough button,”1 there isn’t a great solution for USB mics. While some mics, like my beloved Yeti, have a built-in mute button, isn’t ideal to use while recording for fear of bumping the microphone. Thankfully, I think I may have found a solution. Better yet, it doesn’t require any additional hardware and it only costs $1.99.
After hearing Merlin and Dan talking about the challenges of adding a cough button to a USB mic on the latest Back to Work, I decided to see if there was an app that could emulate the effect of a cough button. While I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, I was able to combine two apps to get almost all the way there.
Mute My Mic
While Mute My Mic offers a few essential settings for your microphone, the most useful for podcasters being the ability to mute and unmute a mic with the Option-F5 key. It’s not robust, but it gets the job done. When your mic is live, the menu bar icon is black, when muted it’s red, so you have a nice visual cue to that tells you if your mic is live. It’s only $1.99 and is available through both the Mac App Store or via a direct download. Considering all the recent changes with sandboxing, I’d strongly consider buying direct as this is exactly the kind of global app that is leaving the Mac App Store in lieu of recent Sandboxing restrictions.
Better Touch Tools
No matter how good your muscle memory is, you don’t want to have to go looking for the Option-F5 key every time you need to stifle a sniffle. This is where Better Touch Tool comes in. Much like Keyboard Maestro, Better Touch Tool lets you create macros that speed up common tasks on your Mac. Unlike Keyboard Maestro, it lets you activate these using gestures on your Trackpad or Magic Mouse. And, for reasons that make sense to me, you can download it for free (but consider donating).
Covering Your Cough
Combine the two and you have a passable cough button. In my case, I created a global gesture (in other words, it will work no matter what I’m doing on my Mac) so that a four finger swipe down triggers the Option-F5 key.
Swipe once to mute the mic, swipe again and you’re live. While a better cough button might only mute when you hold the command down, this should serve in a pinch for most podcasters. I’ve contacted the developer to see if this feature can be added to a future version of the app, and looks like it has officially been added to his to-do list.
Any better tricks for hacking together a “cough button”? Let me know in the comments.
A button that temporarily mutes the mic. ↩