No sound from Macbook Pro built-in speakers except for Siri

and… How to unstick software audio using Audio MIDI Setup

This has been a recurring problem with Macbook and Macbook Pros ever since Apple added the digital audio output to these portable Macs. The D/A converter is software controlled and occasionally will not bring audio back to the built-in speakers after a) headphones are unplugged from the computer, or b) an app takes over audio output and does not relinquish control after quitting.

For (a), it was a combination hardware/software issue. Sometimes, the little switch inside the Macbook’s headphone jack would get stuck or the optical laser would not shut down because of some piece of fuzz getting stuck inside. But sometimes, the software that watches this hardware switch would flake out and not bring audio output back to the built-in speakers.

For (b), many audio editing software and video conference apps that would re-process the internal audio of the Mac would detour the audio from the D/A converter and forget to re-route it back to the built-in speakers after the app quits. With third party video conferencing apps being popular during the pandemic, this is currently the most probable cause.

The solution, has been the same for over a decade.

  1. Check that no headphones or external output device is connected to the headphone jack
  2. Check that the speakers are not muted
  3. Check that the volume is not at zero
  4. Check that the built-in speakers are set as the default output device either through System Preferences > Sound > Output or Option-Clicking on the Speaker icon in the menu bar
  5. Check Utilities > Audio Midi Setup and see that the built-in speakers are set as the default sound output device

Usually, if all software solutions failed, you had two steps left. Restart the computer, and if that still didn’t do the job, reset the NVRAM. BUT if for some reason you really don’t want to restart the computer, there is one more thing you could try.

While you have Audio MIDI Setup open, take a set of headphones and plug it in to the computer. Confirm that sound plays through the headphones.

  1. While the headphones are still plugged in, control-click on the built-in speakers and select “Use This Device for Sound Output”.
  2. Then click “Configure Speakers…”
  3. In the virtual listening room, click on the speaker icons for “Test”.

You should now here audio through the built-in speakers. You may now unplug the headphones and quit Audio MIDI Setup.

If this didn’t work for you, too bad – go ahead and restart your computer.