Over the last couple of years I’ve spent an upsetting amount of money trying to find a cough button solution for my XLR mic setup. The audio interface I fell in love with (Komplete Audio 6) wasn’t compatible with Shush, the cough button solution I’d used for years with my USB mics. So I started looking at hardware solutions.

The best one I found was the Pro Co Power Mute (after I added a foot switch topper to it). But when I switched to using a Rode Podmic, something about my setup caused the Power Mute to start adding a buzz to the line. No amount of troubleshooting would get rid of it without switching mics, so I ended up continuing my search and settling on a Rolls XLR A/B Switch. You just leave one of the XLR inputs empty and toggle between the hot and empty inputs. It does a fantastic job, and I imagine it will continue to work perfectly even when I inevitably change mics1 and/or audio interfaces in the future. The biggest drawback is that the button takes a significant amount of force to toggle, and thus it makes a better foot switch than a desktop one, which is a bit of a bummer for me2. Nonetheless, with no less than 4 XLR hardware mutes in my arsenal now, I once again had a solid cough button solution.

As fun as a dedicated switch can be, though, I still found I missed the convenience of toggling mute with a keyboard key. I’m afraid I’ve lost track of where this tip came from, but whilst sharing these adventures on social media, it was pointed out to me that Rogue Amoeba’s Loopback could make any audio interface mutable, and thus able to work with USB mic mute solutions like Shush. I ended up switching away from Shush, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Loopback isn’t cheap, but it’s so handy and so powerful that if you’re working with audio — whether streaming, podcasting, producing music, or using audio routing for any reason — it’s worth the investment ($99). And to make your XLR mic mutable with Loopback, all you have to do is create a virtual device with your USB audio interface as the input. That’s it. Keep the default output channels and give the device a unique name.

Now you can just set your microphone input in any app (Skype, Zoom, etc.) to the virtual device. Any USB muting app will be able to cut the input with the press of a button.

The problem I ran into with Shush is that it mutes ALL USB devices, and with the audio routing I have set up, that meant it was also muting my guest on a Skype call. That’s not workable. I tried a few other apps, and the one I landed on is called Mikrofon. It lets you assign a shortcut and select exactly which audio input to mute. The only drawback is that it doesn’t have push-to-mute. It has push-to-talk, but the only other choice is a latching toggle. Which is working out ok, though I’d like to lodge push-to-mute as a feature request.

I have an extra key on my Ultimate Hacking Keyboard (a trackball click on the key cluster thumb module, actually) mapped to toggle Mikrofon, and I get a nice red icon in my menu bar letting me know I’m muted. The button is silent, and there’s no pop or click when muting the channel.

Aside from podcasting, I also use this on Zoom calls, leaving myself unmuted in the Zoom app, and then just controlling my mute with a keyboard shortcut. If I’ve wandered off into another app during a meeting, it makes it easy to unmute myself and respond to somebody without having to switch back to Zoom and find the mute button.

Even at $100, Loopback costs less than the cheapest hardware solutions, plus it can do so much more than just this. If you want to avoid buying a hardware cough button for your XLR mic setup, I recommend checking it out.

  1. Torn between the Sure BETA 87A and the good old SM7B. One way or another, I’ll be changing mics again. 

  2. My desktop converts from a sitting desk to a treadmill desk, and having foot pedals just means more stuff to move around when I want to put the treadmill down. Not impossible, but inconvenient. 

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