Sound and audio playback issues on Macs are fairly common. You may encounter audio bugs after updating your operating system, installing a new audio device, or even when you switch between applications. Fortunately, most of these problems have solutions that are as simple as pressing and un-pressing the mute button or adjusting your sound settings. Here are a few quick fixes for times when the sound is not working on a Mac.
Check Your Volume and Hardware
First, make sure you haven’t just muted your system. It may seem pedantic, but you can potentially save yourself from hours of audio troubleshooting by identifying this early. Tap the mute/unmute button and then increase your volume before testing the audio again. If you’ve plugged in headphones or external speakers, this is also a good time to check whether they’ve blown out.
Check Individual Apps
One of the fastest ways to check for audio issues is to ensure there isn’t an issue in an individual app. For example, make sure your browser tab is not muted. This can be true in Safari, Chrome, Edge, Firefox, etc. Checking out the sound control in these apps is a great place to start to make sure any audio issue isn’t something that is more likely hardware-related. As audio plays in individual tabs, browsers often have indicators next to the website name on the tab that can be muted or unmuted. Double-check to make sure those are not muted or whether you are playing a YouTube clip, making sure that clip isn’t muted as well.
Choose the Right Audio Device
If you can’t hear anything after plugging in your headphones or connecting your computer to an external audio device, chances are you’ve uncovered one of the Mac’s most common audio bugs. While the exact reason isn’t clear, sometimes Macs select the wrong output audio device when you install or plug in a new one.
1. Go to the Apple menu and choose “System Preferences -> Sound -> Output.”
2. Select the correct output device for your audio.
3. If the device you want to play audio is already selected, choose a different audio device. Reselecting the one you want may remedy the problem. If it doesn’t, you can try unplugging and reconnecting your audio devices. Don’t forget to uncheck the mute option and adjust the output audio.
Reset Core Audio
If your audio problems continue, there may be an issue with one of your Mac’s audio interfaces which can result in various bugs, including missing or distorted sound. Resetting the low-level Mac audio API, Core Audio often resolves these problems.
1. Click the Spotlight search icon and search for “Terminal.”
2. Launch Terminal and type:
sudo killall coreaudiod
in the input window and press Enter. Type in your password if asked.
3. Once you reset the API, test your sound to make sure it’s working properly.
Alternatively, you can also delete the “Coreaudiod” process in Activity Monitor. Go to “Applications -> Utilities -> Activity Monitor,” and you will see a list of all of your running processes with a “% CPU” next to them. Locate the search bar in the top right and type in “coreaudiod,” then click on it with your mouse or trackpad. As soon as it’s highlighted, click on the “X” icon at the top left of the Activity Monitor window, and it will automatically restart your Mac’s Core Audio process.
Restart Your Computer
Sometimes the solution to an audio problem is as easy as turning off your computer and turning it on again. If you can’t hear audio or your audio quality is poor, it may be a good idea to completely shut down your Mac. Restarting your computer is a good way to fix various audio issues including any stuttering or crackling audio noises coming from your internal speakers.
Zap the NVRAM
Non-volatile random-access memory (NVRAM) or parameter RAM (PRAM), is a special type of memory your Mac uses to store information that it needs before loading the operating system. This information includes audio and display settings, time zone preferences, your current startup disk, and details about any recent fatal system errors. NVRAM/PRAM issues are rare but can cause any number of odd Mac behaviors. Resetting or “zapping” the NVRAM can potentially solve your audio problems.
1. Shut down your Mac.
2. Press the Power button until your Mac turns on.
3. Press and hold Command + Option + P + R until your computer restarts.
4. If you choose this option, keep in mind that zapping your NVRAM/PRAM will return your startup disk, time zone, and audio preferences to their default settings.
Audio issues on the Mac usually have quick, easy fixes and are rarely linked to serious hardware problems. However, if you have to reboot your Mac several times or repeatedly reset the Core Audio API to get your sound working, it’s probably best to reach out to Apple for additional assistance.
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox