If you have been particularly bugged by sound problems ever since upgrading to the latest version of MacOS, this is the place to be. Let’s go through the most common MacOS Catalina audio problems and show you how a little tinkering with settings can typically set things right.
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. By now, you have tried to adjust volume controls, unplugged and replugged speakers, and tried to play media on a different device, but nothing seems to work.
When MacOS first boots up, it sometimes does strange things when assigning speaker outputs, which can lead to radio silence. 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 settings, you will see a tab called Output. In this tab, you should see options for choosing a sound device. Try setting the sound to Internal Speakers. While you are at it, take a look at the volume bar below and make sure that your output volume is turned up and Mute is unchecked.
This should restore audio to your native Mac speakers. “What about my headphones, external speakers, or 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, MacOS — especially when it is loaded onto a computer that’s 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 MacOS 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. Try restarting that particular program to test it.
If the problem is shared across all audio sources, it’s time to reset your parameter random-access memory (PRAM), which MacOS 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 black loading screen, press the Option + Command + P + R keys simultaneously. Keep holding those four keys down until you hear the second startup sound play (on older Macs) or until you see the Apple logo appear and disappear for the second time (on newer Macs). 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 reconfiguring to reset any of 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 in Safari.
This problem is typically caused by a strange configuration change that MacOS applies to sound output if you have certain software loaded onto your Mac. If you visit System Preferences > Sound, you can check on your Output option, which will likely list several device options for audio output. If one of those options is SoundFlower or something similarly unusual, then that’s a sign that MacOS might be using the wrong sound output. 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 uninstalling the SoundFlower extension on your Mac.
Are you hearing random crackling, popping, or other annoying static-like noises coming from your speakers ever since downloading MacOS? If you are using external speakers, check their connections and try them on another device, like a smartphone, to make sure it isn’t the wiring. If the problem seems to be MacOS, it’s time to visit settings again.
Head over to System Preferences and select Sound. Under the first tab for Sound (Sound Effects), you should see several options for settings. Make sure that the Play Feedback When Volume is Changed box is unselected, 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 MacOS doesn’t pair 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 MacOS updates
If you have updated MacOS and Apple apps in previous years, you probably know that not everything is fixed at once. If you are still experiencing MacOS sound problems, AirPlay issues, or other audio conundrums, then apply any waiting updates to your Mac and wait for additional patches from Apple to fix problems. They are on their way.