How to fix audio problems in macOS
If you’ve upgraded to the newest version of macOS and have been plagued by sound issues, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s go over the most typical macOS audio issues and how some simple configuration changes can usually fix them.
Audio and sound features don’t work at all
Those of you who eagerly accepted the upgrade only to have your sound suddenly stop working, please read this. Your pre-upgrade speakers are now completely useless to you. Nothing happens when you try to play a video or use an app. You may have experimented with the volume controls, unplugged and replugged the speakers, and even tried playing the media on a different device, but to no avail. Sometimes, when macOS is first booted, it will assign the speaker outputs in an unusual way, which will result in no sound.
This is a fairly simple issue to resolve, thankfully. To adjust your Mac’s audio, launch System Preferences from the Dock or the Apple menu and select Sound from the left pane. You can find the Output tab in this window. Options for selecting a playback device should appear in this menu. Adjust the volume using the device’s internal speakers (the name of the speakers might reflect your device, such as MacBook Pro Speakers). While you’re here, check the volume slider below to ensure that Mute is deselected and the output volume is at a comfortable level. At the top of the window, select your device’s speakers as the output for Play sound effects through.
The sound should now play through your Mac’s internal speakers again. “But what about my headphones, external speakers, and Apple TV?” you might wonder. As long as they are all connected, you should be able to select them from the output list. To use one, just pick your favorite. As you may have guessed by now, macOS can become perplexed as to which speaker system to use when multiple are connected to a single computer via HDMI. Select your speakers manually to avoid this problem. The next time you make this selection, macOS should already know what you prefer.
Sound cuts in and out
This is probably the most irritating problem ever. There may be an issue with the way your macOS is allocating memory if the audio keeps getting cut off and then restored at random. Make sure the issue is not limited to a specific program or service first. By opening Activity Monitor and clicking the %CPU column, you can see which programs are using the most memory. Place the arrow next to %CPU so that it points down; this will prioritize the memory-intensive programs. To see if your audio returns after restarting the offending app, select it and click the Stop button in the top-right corner of Activity Monitor.
Parameter random-access memory (PRAM) is used by Macs with Intel processors to retrieve system and peripheral settings, so if the issue persists across all audio sources, it may be time to reset your Mac. Macs built with Apple’s silicon cannot take advantage of this feature. Try powering down your Apple silicon Mac, waiting a few seconds, and then starting it back up again. To clear the PRAM on a Mac with an Intel processor, you must restart the machine and then press Option, Command, P, and R all at once. For the next 20 seconds, keep pressing and holding those four keys.
There is a chance that your Mac will restart during this time, and you’ll hear the startup sound more than once. Your PRAM should have been cleared after that. Remember that resetting the PRAM may affect other settings in addition to the audio system. You may need to spend some time in the System Settings menu resetting any preferences you may have made in the past.
Keep in mind that you should update your macOS
If you’ve been using macOS or Apple products for a while, you’re probably familiar with the hassle of fixing bugs after installing software updates. Make sure you have the most recent version of macOS if you are still having trouble with sound, AirPlay, or any other audio complications. You may have to wait for Apple to release patches that address these issues, but in the meantime, you can check the corresponding help topics to see if anyone has discovered a workaround.