How to fix audio issues in Mac OS X

Apple MacBook Gold 2015 speaker grill 2
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
If you have been particularly bugged by sound problems ever since upgrading to the latest version of OS X, this is the place to be. Let’s go through the most common Yosemite audio problems, and how a little tinkering with settings can usually set things right.

Related: OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 launches just in time for new Macbook release

Audio/Sound features don’t work at all

This is for those of you who gladly upgraded but then found that your audio had cut out completely. In this case, you get no sound at all from the speakers that you were using before the upgrade. It doesn’t matter what video or app you pull up, you get nothing: You have tried to adjust volume controls, you have unplugged and re-plugged speakers, you have tried to play media on different device, and nothing

When OS X first boots up, it sometimes does strange things when assigning speaker outputs, which can lead to dead air. Fortunately, this problem is easy to fix. Head over to your System Preferences in the Apple Menu, and look for the Sound icon. Inside the Sound menu, you will see a tab called Output. In this tab you should options for choosing a sound device. Try setting your sound to “Internal Speakers.” While you are at it, glance at the volume bar below and make sure that your Output volume is turned up at least part of the way and “Mute” is unchecked.

This should restore audio to your native Mac speakers. “But what about my headphones/external speakers/Apple TV?” you may be asking. In the Output list, you should see options for all these devices, as long as they are connected. Choose the one that you want to use. As you may have guessed by now, OS X– especially when it is loaded onto a computer connected to HDMI speaker systems – can get confused about which speaker to automatically pick. Pick out your speaker options manually to circumvent this issue. You should only need to do this once.

Sound cuts in and out

This can be one of the most frustrating issues to experience. If OS X is randomly cutting out audio and then restoring it without rhyme or reason, there could be something wrong with how your computer is using memory. First, make sure the problem can’t be narrowed down to any particular app or service (if it can, try rebooting that particular program).

If the problem is shared across all audio sources, it’s time to reset your PRAM, or parameter random-access memory, which OS X uses to retrieve basic settings for your Mac and connected devices. Begin by restarting your Mac. When your computer is about ready to pull up the Gray Screen of Loading, press the Option, Command, P, and R keys simultaneously. Keep holding those four keys down until you hear the Mac “restart” chime. This lets you know that your PRAM has been fully reset.

Keep in mind that a PRAM reset may also change some of your other settings in addition to rebooting your sound. You may need to spend some time in System Preferences re-tweaking to find the customized settings you had before.

Safari sound no longer works

If your tests have revealed that sound problems are primarily located in Safari, this may be another settings problem (in this case, sound will probably work in other browsers like Chrome, but not Safari).

This problem is typically caused by a strange tweak OS X applies to sound output if you have certain software loaded onto your Mac. If you visit System Preferences and Sound, you can check on your Output option, which will list several device options for audio output. Is one of those options “SoundFlower” or something similarly unusual? That’s a sign OS X has goofed. Switch the output to “internal speakers” or another speaker device of your choice, then try Safari again. The problem should have been resolved.

Depending on your setup, you may find this audio problem occurs every time you restart your computer. You can stop the problem by searching for and deleting the SoundFlower extension (or other stranges extensions) on your Mac. Certain apps and programs will automatically install SoundFlower or other random output options, but Yosemite and Safari don’t play nice with them any more.

OS X Yosemite Spotlight 3

Static problem

Are you hearing random crackling, popping, and other annoying static-like noises coming from your speakers ever since downloading OS X? If you are using external speakers, check their connections and try them on another device like an MP3 player to make sure it isn’t the wiring. If the problem seems to be Yosemite, it’s time to visit settings again.

Head over to System Preferences and select Sound. Under the first tab for Sound you should see several options for settings. Make sure that the “Play feedback when volume is changed” box is un-selected, and toggle it on and off again to see if this helps remove static. Also double check that the Output is on “internal speakers” or a speaker of your choice.

If you are using a Bluetooth device, some users have noticed that OS X doesn’t pare well with certain devices, which can lead to crackling and hissing noises. Here, the best thing to do is to reset both your Mac and your Bluetooth device to see if this solves the problem. You may also want to try switching to a newer Bluetooth device, at least momentarily, to see if the sound improves.

Reminder about OS X updates

If you have updated OS X and Apple apps in previous years, you probably know that not everything is fixed at once. If are you still experiencing OS X sound problems, AirPlay issues, or other audio conundrums, then apply any waiting updates to your OS X and wait for additional patches from Apple to fix problems. They are on their way.

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