Question Re-purpose laptop arrow keys for stereo balance and volume controls?

Clueless in Seattle

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Jan 31, 2014
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Hi! Do you know if there's a way to assign the audio volume and stereo balance controls to the arrow keys on a laptop?

I'm an old guy who has to spend the better part of each day in bed due to worsening debilitating chronic ailments.

So I've increasingly pressed my refurbished Dell Latitude 3330 laptop into service as a substitute for my old-school stereo system with it's receiver, turntable, CD player and cassette deck.

Instead I just have my music on my laptop which sits on a little shelf right next to my bed on the left side.

One problem with this setup is that it takes two hands to make a simple volume adjustment; the left hand to press and hold the Fn key and the right hand to press either the F11 or F12 key to turn the volume down or up.

But that's comparatively easy compared to adjusting the left/right stereo balance which requires:
  1. Moving the mouse pointer to the speaker icon in the system tray,
  2. Right clicking
  3. Moving the mouse pointer to "Open Sound settings"
  4. Left Clicking
  5. Moving the mouse pointer to "Device Properties"
  6. Right clicking
  7. Moving the mouse pointer to the blue marker on either the L or R "Balance" slider
  8. Pressing and holding the Left mouse button while moving the mouse pointer left or right
And I frequently have to adjust the stereo balance because Windows 10 is constantly deleting my balance setting and switching it back to the system default setting.

My laptop has a set of four arrow keys in the lower right hand corner of the keyboard like this:

Arrow Keys on Delbert by Will Anderson, on Flickr

I seldom use those keys, so I'd like to try to remap them so that the up and down arrows would adjust the volume level up and down, and so that the left and right arrows would adjust the stereo balance.

I'd appreciate some help figuring out how to do this.
 
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hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
Since there is no hotkey or single key option to change balance, you may be able to do something with a macro recorder, then use the arrow keys to swap balance if you assign the macro to run with those keys.

There is also a utility to simplify things a bit https://winaero.com/control-your-windows-system-volume-and-balance-from-notification-area-system-tray/

But why even change the balance? If you have issues with that, you should be using speaker room placement for proper imaging. Are you just using the laptop speakers? Even then why play with the balance much? I don't think I ever touch that setting, can't think of any music that ever needed it.
 
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Reactions: Clueless in Seattle
Might I suggest you buy a good over the ear headphone.
Laptop speakers are not very good.
You will be surprised at the improvement with a headphone plugged into the laptop.
On a good one, there will also be a hand control for volume and balance.

Windows accesibility settings has an option for sticky keys that allows you to press keyboard shortcuts one key at a time.
 
Reactions: Clueless in Seattle

Clueless in Seattle

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Bingo! Thanks a million hang-the-9! I just installed and ran SimpleSoundVolume and now I've got the up and down arrows configured as hotkeys to turn up and down the volume just as I requested! And as a bonus, the "End" key, (which sits right next to the up arrow) is now configured as a "Mute" hotkey.

You just made my day!

Now all I have to do is find a way to make the right and left arrow keys act as stereo balance controls. But that's a problem for another day, because now I'm late for my midday nap.

But, before I sign off, to answer your question about why I need to adjust the stereo balance:

I have a set of hand-me-down stereo speakers plugged into the headphone jack on the laptop. I don't recall where I got them, maybe from Freecycle group or from a thrift store. In any event I've had them for years, the brand name on them is ML1, and to my old aging ears they sound pretty good. Except for one problem: the cord that connects the left and right speakers is too short to permit me to space them far enough apart at the foot of my bed.

So I've inserted an extension cord with RCA (old fashioned "phono") plugs to lengthen the cord. But unfortunately that had the effect of noticeably lowering the volume of the extension (left) speaker, so I have to manually raise the system volume for the left channel to get the two speakers in balance. And with Windows 10 constantly resetting the stereo balance I need a simple way to access the balance controls.

SimpleSoundVolume does give me a way to do that too! It's not the hotkey hack like I would prefer, but it does give me an icon in the system tray which with one click opens up a left/right stereo balance slider. I can live with that. It's certainly a major improvement over the absurd 8 step maze that Windows 10 compelled me to navigate.

So, in one fell swoop you solved my problems within minutes of my posting them.

Thanks again! And now it's off to dreamland...
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
B

I have a set of hand-me-down stereo speakers plugged into the headphone jack on the laptop. I don't recall where I got them, maybe from Freecycle group or from a thrift store. In any event I've had them for years, the brand name on them is ML1, and to my old aging ears they sound pretty good. Except for one problem: the cord that connects the left and right speakers is too short to permit me to space them far enough apart at the foot of my bed.

So I've inserted an extension cord with RCA (old fashioned "phono") plugs to lengthen the cord. But unfortunately that had the effect of noticeably lowering the volume of the extension (left) speaker, so I have to manually raise the system volume for the left channel to get the two speakers in balance. And with Windows 10 constantly resetting the stereo balance I need a simple way to access the balance controls.
ML1, is it Lenehan ML1? If you got those at a thrift store you picked up a great set but they need an amp to run them.
 

hang-the-9

Titan
Moderator
No, sad to say, these are just your run-of-the-mill desktop speakers that you plug into your PC. Here's a photo I found online. As you can see, my aging old eyeballs misread the model number. It turns out it's MLi, not ML1.
MLI Speakers, stock image by Will Anderson, on Flickr

Ah, those are MLI (i) not 1. I'd get some nice speakers if this is your main entertainment source, or use headphones. You can get some great speakers and headphones for $50-100, especially used. These Philips are excellent for the price https://www.amazon.com/Philips-SHP9500S-Precision-Over-ear-Headphones/dp/B00ENMK1DW/ref=asc_df_B00ENMK1DW/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=309807586683&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=5162558746481326245&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9001834&hvtargid=pla-406164446593&psc=1a

For smaller speakers the Bose Companion are nice and you can find them used often.
 
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