Fixing Audio Issues in macOS

If you’ve been bothered by sound problems since upgrading to the latest version of macOS, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s explore the most common audio issues in macOS and show you how a little tweaking of settings can typically solve them.

Audio/sound features not working at all

For those of you who upgraded and found that your audio suddenly disappeared completely, this is for you. No matter what video or app you play, there is no sound coming from your speakers. You may have tried adjusting volume controls, unplugging and replugging your speakers, and even playing media on another device, but nothing seems to work.

Sometimes, when macOS boots up, it assigns speaker outputs in a strange way, resulting in radio silence. Fortunately, this problem is easily fixed. Open the System Settings app from the Dock or the Apple icon in the menu bar, then click on Sound in the sidebar. In the Output tab, you’ll find options to choose a sound device. Try selecting Internal Speakers (or the name of your specific speakers, such as MacBook Pro Speakers). Also, make sure the volume bar is turned up and the mute option is unchecked. At the top of the window, ensure that Play sound effects through is also set to your device’s speakers.

This should restore audio to your Mac’s built-in speakers. But what about headphones, external speakers, or Apple TV? In the Output list, you’ll see options for all these devices if they are connected. Simply choose the one you want to use. You may have already guessed that macOS, especially when connected to HDMI speaker systems, can get confused about which speaker to automatically select. By manually choosing your speaker options, you can bypass this issue. You should only need to do this once, as macOS should remember your choice.

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Sound cuts in and out

This is one of the most frustrating issues to deal with. If macOS randomly cuts out the audio and then restores it without any apparent reason, it could be due to memory usage. First, make sure the problem isn’t specific to a particular app or service. You can check which apps are consuming the most memory by opening Activity Monitor and selecting the %CPU column. Make sure the arrow next to %CPU is facing down so that your most memory-hungry apps are displayed at the top. Try restarting the problematic app by selecting it and clicking the Stop button in Activity Monitor to see if it resolves the audio issue.

If the problem persists across all audio sources, it might be time to reset your parameter random-access memory (PRAM), which is used by Intel-based Macs to retrieve basic settings for your Mac and connected devices. Note that this does not apply to Apple silicon Macs, as they don’t have a PRAM. If you’re using an Apple silicon Mac, try shutting it down, waiting a few seconds, and then booting it up again.

To reset the PRAM on an Intel-based Mac, start by restarting your Mac. Immediately press the Option + Command + P + R keys simultaneously and hold them down for about 20 seconds. During this time, your Mac might restart, and you might hear the startup sound play more than once. Afterward, your PRAM should be reset.

Keep in mind that a PRAM reset may also reset some of your other settings in addition to fixing the sound issue. You may need to spend some time in the System Settings to reconfigure any customized settings you had before.

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Safari sound no longer works

If your tests have revealed that sound problems primarily occur in Safari but work fine in other browsers like Chrome, it’s likely a settings issue. In this case, sound will probably not play in Safari, but it will work when using other browsers.

This problem is typically caused by a peculiar configuration change that macOS applies to sound output when certain software is installed on your Mac. To check if this is the issue, go to System Settings and navigate to Sound. Look at the Output option, which may list several device options for audio output. If you see something like Soundflower or a similarly unusual option, it indicates that macOS might be using the wrong sound output. Switch the output to Internal Speakers or another speaker device of your choice, and then try Safari again. The problem should be resolved.

Depending on your setup, you may encounter this audio problem every time you restart your computer. To prevent the issue from recurring, uninstall the Soundflower extension from your Mac.

Static problem

Are you hearing random crackling, popping, or other irritating static-like noises from your speakers since downloading macOS? If you’re using external speakers, check their connections and try them on another device, such as a smartphone, to ensure the issue isn’t with the wiring. If the problem persists with macOS, it’s time to delve into the settings again.

Start by opening System Settings and locating the Sound icon, which resembles a speaker cone. Under the Sound Effects section, you’ll find a list of options and settings. At the bottom of the section, there is a box labeled Play feedback when volume is changed.

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Toggle the box to the off position if it isn’t already, and then activate it again. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, ensure that the output option is set to either Internal Speakers or the external device you’re using for audio. macOS has a reputation for being finicky when it comes to Bluetooth devices. Some devices connect seamlessly, while others don’t work at all. Stuck in the middle, you may experience static. To clear this up, try turning off both your Mac and the Bluetooth device, then restarting them. If necessary, delete the Bluetooth connection under Bluetooth settings in System Settings, and then pair the device again as if it were new.

In some cases, certain devices may simply not work with macOS. To determine if the issue is with the age of the Bluetooth device you’re using, attempt to connect a newer Bluetooth device to your Mac. If the new device works without any problems, you may need to consider upgrading your existing device.

Reminder about macOS updates

If you’re a seasoned macOS or Apple user, you’re likely familiar with the time-consuming nature of dealing with glitches that come with app updates. If you continue to experience sound problems, AirPlay issues, or other audio complications, make sure you update your Mac to the latest version. While waiting for Apple to release patches that fix these problems, you can search for help topics to find any workarounds discovered by others.

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