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Audio glitches, internal components making strange sounds, problems with connecting an external audio device, or sound not working at all are some of the common Mac sound issues you may encounter.
At times, misconfigured apps or settings can result in static in your audio output, inability to change the volume, lack of stereo output, or even no output at all. Here’s a list of fixes to resolve sound problems on your Mac.
No Sound on Mac? Check the Volume First
Before you spend all day resolving a non-existent issue, check the volume and make sure it’s not muted. Press and hold the F12 button to increase the volume, or use the slider in the menu bar to adjust it.
Additionally, check your computer’s audio port to ensure that you haven’t forgotten about any connected headphones or other external devices.
Choose the Right Audio Device
If your Mac’s sound is still not working after the basic troubleshooting above, we’ll next find whether the sound problem is system-wide or only in a particular app.
When you can’t hear anything after plugging in your headphones, microphone, or any other external device, you must check the input/output audio device settings. Sometimes your Mac might select the wrong device due to incorrect configuration, driver incompatibility, conflicts, or other reasons.
From the Apple menu, launch System Preferences and select Sound. Jump to the Input tab to check the input audio device settings. Make sure you have the correct input device for your audio selected.
Repeat the same procedure for the output audio device settings. A common mistake is unknowingly having a Bluetooth device connected, so audio plays to that instead of through your Mac’s speakers.
Sometimes simply switching from one output to another can also fix the problem. Also, try unplugging and reconnecting your audio devices. Remember to uncheck the Mute option and adjust the output again.
You’ll get a better view of all output devices through the Audio MIDI Setup utility. Open the app (search for it using Spotlight with Cmd + Space) and choose Built-in Output. In here, you can configure the audio channel, bit-depth, format, and rate.
If your sound is acting funny, tweak the audio settings. After you’ve made changes, quit the app and try playing your audio again.
Reset Core Audio
Apple’s documentation defines Core Audio as a set of software frameworks designed to handle the audio needs in apps. This includes recording, editing, playback, signal processing, compression and decompression, and more.
On Mac, coreaudiod is the launchdaemon that powers Core Audio. Daemons typically run as root in the background, whether you’re logged in or not. Their process names end with the letter “d”. We’ve covered more about launchdaemons and their implications on macOS if you’re interested.
If the sound stops working or becomes distorted (crackling or noisy), then restarting the coreaudiod process should solve your problem. This effectively resets the sound on your Mac, and you can quit the processes in two ways.
One is to open Activity Monitor, type coreaudiod in the search box at the top-right, and click the Force Quit button to manually kill the process.
The other method is to launch Terminal and type the following command:
sudo killall coreaudiod
Press Return, input your administrator password, and check your sound again.
The coreaudiod process should restart via either method. In rare cases, if it does not restart, you may not hear any sound at all. In this case, shut down and restart your Mac.
If rebooting isn’t an option at the moment, use this Terminal command instead:
sudo launchctl start com.apple.audio.coreaudiod
The launchctl command starts the daemon and reinitializes the coreaudiod process.
Sound Not Working Due to Third-Party App Issues
Third-party plugins that integrate with your system can cause the sound on your Mac to not work correctly. Music producers and audio engineers are cautious of this, because there are often hardware and software incompatibilities with a new release of macOS. While developers are usually quick and responsive to issue app updates, the operating system itself can be a major headache.
With the release of macOS Catalina, every audio unit plugin must be “notarized” by Apple’s security systems. Non-notarized apps are not allowed to run on Catalina, meaning that any older audio plugin will not work at all.
Also, macOS Mojave was the last release to support 32-bit apps. We’ve covered how to check for 32-bit apps on your Mac before you upgrade.
Points to Consider With Third-Party Apps
With so many creative audio apps available for Mac, it’s not possible to describe exact solutions for each app. Here are some general points to consider for fixing Mac sound problems with specific apps:
- Check the desired output device in Audio MIDI Setup utility as mentioned above. Launch the app and right-click the Built-in Output option to see the list of devices. Toggle the output device selection to correct configuration problems, if any.
- Every audio app stores a profile in the Audio MIDI Setup utility. If you see any errors like “Error in the sound driver of Core Audio,” delete the profile and restart the app.
- Mix multiple audio interfaces by creating an Aggregate Device. This increases the number of audio inputs and outputs and reduces the chance of any configuration-related errors. See Apple’s help page on Aggregate Devices for help.
Every macOS release comes with new features and improvements. Under the hood, you’ll notice many changes in kernel frameworks, audio drivers, Unix tools, and more. But often, people complain about new bugs aswell. USB-related audio issues in 2018 Macs were quite common in Apple’s discussion forums.
The macOS Mojave release notes highlighted some improvements. In macOS 10.14.4, Apple improved the reliability of USB audio issues used with the MacBook Air, Pro, and Mac Mini. And in macOS 10.14.5, Apple fixed the audio latency on MacBook Pro models introduced in 2018.
So if you’re having sound problems, updating your OS is a good solution. However, if you work with a dedicated audio workstation, it makes sense to install updates on other Macs before applying them to your production machine. You should also keep a backup of audio files in case something goes wrong.
NVRAM (non-volatile random-access memory) is a small amount of memory that your Mac uses to store various types of settings, including sound volume, display resolution, start-up disk selection, the time zone, and more. Resetting the NVRAM can help clear up glitches with these and other attributes.
Follow our guide to resetting NVRAM and the SMC on your Mac to try this.
Problems With External Devices
Sometimes when you connect an external device (like an HDMI TV), the sound will continue to come from your internal speakers. Bizarrely, the connection still results in a perfect picture. And the connected HDMI device won’t show up in Preferences > Sound > Output.
First, check the cable’s connection and inspect the HDMI cable for any physical defects. Even tiny flaws can cause problems, so you should try an alternate cable.
Ensure that your equipment is compatible. Some older components might be unable to receive audio via an HDMI connection, even though your Mac and other devices can play sound through it. Note that older MacBook models (around mid-2010) do not support passing audio through Mini DisplayPort.
Navigate to Sound > Sound Effects. In the Play sound effects through section, click the dropdown menu and choose your connected device.
Restart your Mac. Afterward, open Sound > Output in System Preferences and select your TV from the Select a device for sound output section.
Finally, launch the Audio MIDI Setup app once again. Select the HDMI option from the left panel and choose your TV from the Output tab. If you cannot see the speaker icon next to HDMI, click the cog button and select Use this device for sound output.
Check Hardware and Ports
If after checking all these software aspects, you’re still facing sound problems on your Mac, then you should examine all ports. This includes Thunderbolt, HDMI, USB, and headphone (or microphone) sockets.
Detach all wired accessories connected to your system. While doing this, check the integrity of the cables to make sure nothing is frayed or split. Then shut down your Mac and plug in one peripheral at a time after each restart. Try playing your audio each time.
With this thorough check, you’ll figure out if there are any problems with your hardware, cables, or ports. If you use headphones and hear crackling noise, examine the socket. Modern Macs display a red light inside to warn of blocked sockets. Clean the jack, then connect your headphones and adjust the volume level to address the problem.
Reset Your Mac’s Sound and Move On
Troubleshooting sound issues on your Mac is not always easy. macOS lacks a comprehensive set of tools to diagnose and fix the problem. Thus, you’re left with trial and error and your judgment on finding the source of the problem. Hopefully, these tips will start to guide you through all the steps.
Sound issues aren’t the only problem you can have on macOS. You should know other warning signs of Mac problems so you can spot them early.