Erik’s Brain

The reward of a thing well done...

Weird OS 10.7 Lion Audio/Video Problems (and How to Fix It)

NOTE If this post saves your sanity and keeps you from rebooting five times a day, please consider purchasing either of my iPhone apps: Split Finder or Splitcaster. Thanks :)

HINT: If you’re having the same problem as me, restarting ‘coreaudiod’ solves the problem. You can do that either from Activity Monitor or by running this command in Terminal: sudo killall coreaudiod

See below for more details.

Anyone else having audio/video playback issues with 10.7 Lion? From time to time, much more often than I’d like, audio and video playback breaks. The symptoms are as follows:

Lion Media Error

  • Audio from Flash (specifically doesn’t work.
  • I’ll Quicklook a .m4a or .mov and it won’t play. It just sits there, then beachballs for a bit, then finally give you this message: “An error occurred with the preview of this document.”
  • Sometimes iTunes will continue to work. Sometimes not. Always works via AirTunes.
  • Playing back a video in QuickTime Player X doesn’t work. It acts the same as using QuickLook. Playing the same video back in QT7 works, but the audio won’t play.
  • System and app sounds (like alerts, the “iTunes finished converting songs” sound, and the feedback when changing the system volume) all work.
  • Playback in GarageBand results in silence.
  • Same with iMovie ‘09.

You get the idea.

Another thing I just noticed today, August 30, 2011, is that the screen will flash when a system alert should sound but can’t because audio is dead. It acts as if the “Flash the screen when an alert sound occurs” option is on, even though it isn’t.

Flash Screen

In general, the problem has to do with Flash and media playback. I thought maybe using AirPlay in iTunes screwed things up. But perhaps it’s just from putting my mid-2009 MacBook Pro to sleep. It was working last night, then I put it to sleep by closing the lid, and now the sound is having problems again. And it seems that only a reboot of the machine fixes the problem.

Update Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I had a hunch that force-quitting the ‘coreaudiod’ process from Activity Monitor might fix the issue without a reboot. iTunes just stopped playing audio, so I gave it shot. It worked! Next time things break, I’ll be more thorough about testing this out. But so far it looks like killing coreaudiod (it’ll start right back up again and won’t affect the system) seems to do the trick. You might need to restart the offending application, too.

Update Thursday, August 4, 2011

The issue cropped up again just now and simply killing ‘coreaudiod’ fixed it. No need to restart the apps that weren’t working properly. Annoying, yes. But this is so much better than having to reboot, especially since rebooting with Lion seems to take twice as long as it did with Snow Leopard.

Update Sunday, August 7, 2011

If you aren’t seeing “coreaudiod” in Activity Monitor’s list of processes, make sure that you are viewing All Processes.

All Processes

Update Sunday, August 21, 2011

For the record, this is not fixed with the 10.7.1 update. This issue also causes weird problems with playing back DVDs and I’ve noticed sometimes Hulu videos won’t play correctly. Getting Hulu to work simply requires killing/restarting coreaudiod. DVD playback requires killing coreaudiod and restarting the DVD Player app.

Update Thursday, October 13, 2011

It seems like the 10.7.2 fixed the issue, at least with my mid-2009 17" MacBook Pro. Hopefully the problem has been resolved for everyone else.

Update Monday, October 24, 2011

So maybe it’s not 100% fixed. At least twice since the 10.7.2 upgrade, my computer stopped playing system noises (alerts, the “file deleted” noise, etc.) even though audio worked fine in other places. Running sudo killall coreaudiod fixes the problem as usual. So I’ll keep my TextExpander snippet around a little longer. Bummer…

Update Friday, February 3, 2012

OS 10.7.3 is installed and audio still craps out from time to time. It’s certainly weird. I was able to play iTunes just fine, but system sound effects weren’t working just a minute ago. sudo killall coreaudiod continues to work.