Technology and computers are amazing devices, especially when everything is working well.
The moment a device doesn’t work as it should, it quickly becomes one of the most frustrating things to deal with.
Apple computers are great machines, but they can suffer from these technical issues, too.
One common and frustrating issue that can happen on a Mac is when the sound comes out too low or not at all.
Sound issues from a Mac are usually a result of an incorrect software setting but can be a result of a hardware issue as well.
Let’s take it step by step and get your Mac’s audio level back to normal.
Why Is My Mac So Quiet? (13 Reasons)
1. Check The Hardware Volume Level
A very common and the most easily addressed issue is to make sure the hardware volume on your Mac wasn’t accidentally turned down.
There are a couple of ways you can go about determining the volume level of your Mac.
The easiest method is to simply press the F12 key to raise the volume.
A small box will appear near the bottom of the screen, indicating the volume level.
Raise the volume to its maximum level and recheck to see if the sound issue has been resolved.
Another method for checking the volume level is to look at the menu bar of your Mac.
Very often, a speaker icon will be present on the right side of the menu bar.
If it is there, click on it and raise the volume level to its maximum.
Now play something to make sure that everything is working the way that it should.
2. Check The Application Volume Level
Software applications very often have their own volume settings.
This is especially true for video or audio applications such as YouTube or Apple Music.
The first step in determining if you are dealing with an application-specific problem is to find the speaker icon or volume settings for that application.
Make Sure The Application Is Not Muted
You should find a speaker icon like the one that is displayed on the menu bar of your Mac.
If you see a slash through it or a small “x” next to this icon, then the audio is currently muted.
Clicking the speaker icon should unmute the application and allow you to hear the music.
Increase The Applications Volume
If there is an audio bar, click it and slide it to the right or to the top to increase the volume.
Sometimes, such as when using YouTube, you won’t get an audio bar, but you will see the icon.
In these cases, hover over the speaker icon and the audio bar will appear.
Then proceed to slide the bar to the right to raise the volume.
Check The Icon In The Browser Tab
If you are using a web browser, take a look at the tab of the site that is trying to play the audio.
On the tab of the web browser, you will see a speaker icon next to the “X” button to close the tab.
If this speaker icon has a slash through it, then the tab is muted.
To fix this, click on the icon to unmute the tab.
If it is still not working, then try another software application and see if the audio is working with that application.
3. Close All Running Software Programs
Sometimes a software application will override the volume level of the Mac.
This can cause system-wide audio problems.
One way to fix this issue is to completely close out of all running programs.
Don’t just hit the red button in the window to close the application.
Either right-click the icon in the dock and select close or close the program by going to the menu bar, selecting File, and then exiting.
Reopen the application in question and see if that fixed the issue.
If it is still not working, try opening a different application to determine if it is an application-specific issue or a system-wide issue.
4. Update Your Mac
One of the first suggestions you will get from Apple is to make sure your software is up to date.
You need to check to make sure that you are using the latest versions of macOS and the software application that you are using.
To update your computer, open the App Store and click update.
If you see any software updates available, install them and test the volume level again.
If your application didn’t come from the App Store, check the app developer’s website to determine if you have the latest version or not.
Alternatively, you can open the Apple menu, then click System Preferences, then open Software Update.
If there is an update, you will see one of two options; click either the Update Now or Upgrade Now button.
When the computer has finished installing any updates or upgrades, make sure you open an application to test the sound.
5. Reboot Your Mac
When it comes to software issues on any device, one of the first things you should always do is try rebooting it.
Very often, a simple device restart is enough to resolve whatever was causing your issue.
Operating systems are complex pieces of software, and they need a reboot once in a while to clean out whatever junk has accumulated.
After the computer has booted back up, open the software application and test the volume level.
6. Make Sure The Output Is Set Right
Depending on your particular setup and the hardware you use, it is possible that the audio output changed to an incorrect device.
A common example would be when you attach your MacBook to an external monitor that doesn’t have its own speakers.
Sometimes the Mac will route the audio to the monitor, but there are no speakers to play from.
To check the audio output, click the Apple menu icon in the menu bar and then click on software preferences.
Find and click on the sound option and then click on output.
Make sure the output is set to the correct device or choose to use the Mac’s internal speakers to rule out any other hardware issues.
Sometimes you will see software applications listed in the sound output.
These applications should never be selected as the output.
Turn On The “Show Volume In Menu Bar” Setting
If you don’t have the ability to control the sound volume in the menu bar and would like to have it, you can enable it on this screen.
At the bottom of the box, you will see a “Show volume in menu bar” option.
Make sure it is highlighted blue with a checkmark in it to enable the option.
You can also make sure the Mac is not muted by verifying that the mute button is not checked.
This shouldn’t be an issue because raising the volume should automatically turn off the mute function, but it doesn’t hurt to verify the setting in case you missed that step.
If you have made any changes to the audio output, make sure you check the audio level to confirm that it is now working properly.
7. Check External Hardware For Damage
You will also need to rule out any type of external hardware damage if you are trying to use external speakers or wired headphones.
If the device uses a headphone jack to connect to the Mac, make sure the plug is not bent, broken, or damaged in any way.
If the device connects to the Thunderbolt port, make sure that the Thunderbolt cable is in good condition.
If you see a cable that is frayed, kinked, or damaged in any way, you can try a different set of headphones or speakers, or disconnect the devices altogether.
This will rule out the external device as the culprit and you have to keep digging to figure out the problem.
Make sure to check if the audio level has been restored to normal.
8. Disconnect The Hardware
Sometimes unplugging your device and plugging it back in is enough to get the audio to start working.
If unplugging and plugging it back in does not help, you may need to get your Mac to a barebones hardware state.
Unplug any and all external devices you have.
This includes the keyboard, mouse, monitor(s), any docks that may be plugged in, headphones, and any other external devices that you may have.
Getting your Mac to its most basic level of hardware allows you to diagnose whether it is a Mac issue or an issue with one of the connected devices.
If unplugging everything fixed the audio issue, then you know you are dealing with an external hardware or connection problem.
You may also want to go back and check the output settings to make sure it is using the Mac’s internal speakers.
If your device is now fixed, an easy way to determine which one was causing the problem is to have music playing from the Mac.
While the music is playing, plug each device in, one at a time, and see if any of them reproduce the sound issue you just had.
9. Check The Ports
It is entirely possible that part of the plug broke inside one of the ports.
This is most common with headphones, and if you aren’t careful, you could break it and leave part of the plug stuck in the jack.
If there is something stuck in a jack or port and you are able to safely grab it, gently remove the broken piece and see if that fixes the issue.
If it is lodged in there, you may have to take it in to get it professionally removed.
10. Forget Your Bluetooth Devices
Bluetooth devices are wonderful and make connecting to things extremely easy.
That ease of use can backfire and could be the cause of the audio issue on your computer.
If you accidentally turned on a Bluetooth device or forgot to turn one off, it may automatically connect to your computer when in range.
When this happens, all of your audio will route to the Bluetooth device, and if the sound is turned down too low or they are Bluetooth headphones, you may not even notice.
First, make sure all of your Bluetooth devices are turned off.
If one of them was on, check the audio on your Mac and see if it fixed the problem.
If it didn’t then go to the Apple Menu, click System Preferences, and then click on Bluetooth.
You will see a list of connected Bluetooth devices with an “X” next to each one.
Click the “X” to remove each device until they are all removed.
Make sure to check the audio output and try playing something on your computer to see if the issue has been resolved.
11. Restart Core Audio
If the software looks like it is set correctly and there are no external hardware issues or port issues, you may want to restart Core Audio (this can also be referred to as the audio controller).
According to Apple, Core Audio is the digital audio infrastructure of iOS and macOS.
It handles all the audio for an application’s needs.
As a warning, this will require you to find and open the Activity Monitor, but it is a lot easier than it sounds.
It may seem complicated, but you won’t have to understand any of what is happening in the activity monitor for you to restart the audio controller.
Step By Step Instructions To Restart Core Audio
- Go to the Applications folder.
- Select the Utilities folder.
- Then select Activity Monitor.
- Type coreaudiod in the search bar to find the controller.
- Click on “coreaudiod” and then click the “X” located in the toolbar to end the process.
- This will restart coreaudiod.
Try to play something and see if this has fixed the audio issue.
12. Reset The NVRAM Or PRAM
If the above steps haven’t worked, you can try to clear your non-volatile random access memory (NVRAM) or your parameter random access memory (PRAM).
A Mac holds certain settings in the NVRAM/PRAM in order to access them quickly.
Settings that are stored in the NVRAM include things like display resolution, sound volume, time zone, startup disk selection, and recent kernel panic information.
One of the settings the NVRAM/PRAM holds deals with the audio of the MacBook.
To reset the NVRAM for a Mac with an Apple chip inside is as simple as restarting the computer.
If your computer needs to reset the NVRAM, it will do it on its own.
To reset the NVRAM on an Intel Mac, the steps are a little more involved, but not difficult.
Reset NVRAM On An Intel Mac
- Turn off your computer.
- Turn on your Mac and immediately hold the Option, Command, P, and R keys.
- Your Mac will look like it has restarted, but keep the keys pressed down.
- Let go of these keys when you hear the startup sound or if the Apple logo appears for a second time.
If resetting the NVRAM/PRAM didn’t restore the audio on your Mac, you are ultimately left with one last option.
13. Make A Genius Bar Appointment
At this point, you have exhausted all the software and hardware options available for you to fix the audio issue yourself.
Your Mac may be suffering from a hardware problem that you cannot fix yourself and will need service from a professional.
Apple computers are complex and well-built machines, but sometimes internal components do fail.
Unfortunately, you cannot open your computer and service it yourself.
It is possible that the speakers themselves have malfunctioned, the logic board in your Mac has failed, or something else has gone wrong.
The only way to fix this situation is to take it to a professional.
Make an appointment at the Genius Bar and let them take a look at it.
As you can see, there are a variety of software and hardware issues that can cause the volume level on your Mac to be too low or disappear altogether.
The good news is that, in the vast majority of cases, this is something you can fix yourself, from the comfort of your home.
Fixing technical problems requires a little bit of detective work, a little bit of luck, and a lot of patience.
Take your time, follow each step, one at a time, and you will have your sound issue fixed in no time.