Why is my laptop left speaker crackling Mac?

It can be frustrating when one of your laptop speakers starts to crackle or pop unexpectedly. If you’re noticing this issue on your Mac laptop, there are a few potential causes to consider.

Quick Overview of Potential Causes

Here are some common reasons why you may hear crackling or popping from your Mac laptop’s left speaker:

  • Faulty audio driver or outdated driver
  • Physical speaker damage
  • Excessive dust or debris in the speaker
  • Proximity to electronic interference
  • Glitch in macOS or audio application
  • Volume set too high

The specific cause will determine the steps you need to take to resolve the issue. Keep reading as we explore these potential causes and solutions in more detail.

Faulty or Outdated Audio Driver

The audio driver is the software that allows your Mac to communicate with the built-in speakers. If this driver is outdated or malfunctioning, it can manifest in crackling or popping noises from the speakers.

To troubleshoot an audio driver issue:

  • Make sure your Mac is running the latest version of macOS. Older operating systems may have more audio driver problems.
  • Check for available audio driver updates through Apple’s software update utility.
  • Try resetting the Mac’s NVRAM and SMC, which will clear out any system glitches related to the audio drivers.
  • If the problem persists, you may need to reinstall or update the audio drivers directly. This involves digging into the Mac’s system files.

How to Update Audio Drivers on Mac

Here are the basic steps to update or reinstall audio drivers on your Mac:

  1. Back up your Mac’s hard drive so you have a restore point.
  2. Restart your Mac and hold down the Command + R keys to boot into Recovery mode.
  3. When the Recovery screen appears, click on Utilities > Terminal.
  4. Type in the terminal command kextcache -system-prelinked-kernel and press Enter. This will clear out old audio driver files.
  5. Type in kextcache -system-caches and press Enter. This will rebuild the audio drivers.
  6. Restart your Mac as normal and check if the speaker crackling is resolved.

This process forces your Mac to freshly install the audio drivers from the system files. If you are still having speaker issues after updating the drivers, then the problem likely lies elsewhere.

Physical Speaker Damage

It’s also possible the left speaker hardware itself has become damaged or worn out over time, causing the odd sounds. This is more likely if your Mac laptop is older.

Signs of physical speaker damage include:

  • Muffled, distorted, or scratchy sounds from the speaker
  • No audio at all coming from the left speaker
  • Visible damage – holes, tears, dents, etc. on the speaker cover
  • Crackling persists even after updating drivers and software

Trying to fix the speakers yourself by taking apart the laptop is not recommended, as you can easily damage other components. Instead, take your Mac to an Apple service center or repair shop to have the speakers professionally inspected and replaced if needed.

Cost of Speaker Replacement on MacBook

If the left speaker does need to be replaced, the cost will vary depending on your Mac model. Here are rough estimates:

Mac Model Estimated Repair Cost
MacBook Air 13-inch $250 – $350
MacBook Pro 13-inch $300 – $450
MacBook Pro 15-inch $400 – $600
iMac 21.5-inch $150 – $250
iMac 27-inch $250 – $350

Keep in mind the final cost can vary depending on factors like your specific model, labor rates in your area, and any additional repairs needed. Check with a local Apple Authorized Service Provider to get an exact quote.

Dust or Debris in the Speaker

If small particles of dust, dirt, or debris get lodged in the speaker, it can cause odd cracking or popping noises. This tends to happen more on older laptops as the speakers accumulate build-up over time.

Try using compressed air to blow out the speaker and dislodge any particles stuck inside. Turn your Mac’s volume down first, then gently blow air through the speaker mesh covers on the left side.

Be very careful not to blow air directly on the speaker cones underneath. Hold the can a few inches away and spray in quick bursts.

You can also use a dry toothbrush or cotton swab to lightly brush the area around the speakers to dislodge debris. Just be cautious not to poke anything into the speakers themselves.

When to Take MacBook to Repair Shop

If you don’t notice any visible dust build-up, or cleaning the speakers doesn’t seem to fix the issue, it’s best to have a technician inspect the speakers more thoroughly. They have specialized tools and methods to clean out the speakers properly.

Signs you should take your MacBook to a repair professional include:

  • Visible debris deep in the speakers that compressed air can’t reach
  • Speakers making noises even after trying to clean them yourself
  • Any sign of moisture or liquid damage in the speakers
  • Speakers producing no audio at all

A technician can use vacuum suction, swabs, and other methods to safely clean out the speakers and make sure there is no lasting damage.

Nearby Electronic Interference

Speakers can sometimes be affected by electromagnetic interference (EMI) from other devices nearby. This can cause the speakers to emit odd buzzing, humming, or popping noises.

Potential sources of EMI include:

  • Cell phones
  • Wireless routers or modems
  • Two-way radios
  • Microwave ovens
  • TVs and computer monitors
  • Power cables

If your laptop’s left speaker crackles when close to any of these devices, EMI is likely the issue. Try moving the laptop farther away from the potential source of interference.

Also check if your WiFi router and laptop are on the same frequency band – 2.4GHz vs. 5GHz. Changing to a different band may help reduce EMI crackling sounds.

Added shielding on cables, better cable positioning, and even restarting nearby electronics can also help mitigate this type of interference in some cases.

Using a Ferrite Choke to Block EMI

Attaching a ferrite choke to your laptop’s audio cable can block electromagnetic interference and reduce crackling. This inexpensive magnetic accessory suppresses EMI traveling along cables.

To use:

  1. Purchase a ferrite choke that matches your cable size.
  2. Clamp it around the audio cable near the laptop end.
  3. Position it to block EMI from reaching the speakers.

The ferrite choke needs to be near the laptop speakers to be effective. Be sure to get one properly sized for the audio cable diameter.

Software Issue in macOS or Audio App

In some cases, speaker crackling or popping can stem from a software glitch rather than hardware. Problems in macOS or audio applications can manifest as odd sounds through the speakers.

To rule out a system software or app issue:

  • Fully update your Mac OS to eliminate any known audio bugs.
  • Reset the NVRAM and SMC to clear out system glitches.
  • Try using different audio apps like iTunes, QuickTime, and Chrome.
  • Determine if the noise only happens during audio/video playback.
  • Connect external speakers via USB or headphone jack.

If you still hear crackling through headphones or external speakers, that points to a system-wide software glitch rather than just the built-in speakers.

Common Mac OS Audio Issues

Here are some specific macOS and application bugs that have been known to cause speaker popping and crackling:

  • Discord audio cutting out on Mac
  • Mac SMC firmware problems with Apple T2 chip
  • Audacity recording crackles and pops
  • Garageband audio feedback glitch
  • Mac audio input kernel panic after update

Updating your OS, apps, and drivers can often resolve these types of intermittent software bugs. If not, you may need to do further troubleshooting within the affected applications.

Volume Set Too High

Before diving into more complex troubleshooting, check if simply lowering your Mac’s volume makes the speaker crackling go away. The speakers may distort or pop when maxed out at very high volume levels.

Try adjusting the volume in small increments using the volume keys or menu bar icon. See if there’s a threshold where the crackling stops.

If turning down the volume eliminates the issue, the speakers themselves are likely fine. The distortion is just caused by pushing the speakers beyond their capabilities.

You can also try adjusting the individual left speaker volume specifically using the Audio MIDI Setup utility:

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities and launch Audio MIDI Setup.
  2. Select your built-in speakers or headphone output on the left.
  3. Click the speaker icon and drag the left channel down a bit.
  4. Test if the crackling is reduced when playing audio.

Getting the left-right balance right in the mid-range can help prevent distortion at high volumes. You may just need to keep the master volume a bit lower going forward.


Laptop speaker crackling can stem from a range of hardware, software, and environmental factors. Common causes on MacBooks include driver problems, physical damage, debris build-up, electromagnetic interference, software glitches, and simply high volume.

Carefully inspecting your speakers, updating drivers, adjusting software settings, cleaning debris, and troubleshooting interference sources can help isolate the issue. For recurring crackling not fixed by basic steps, taking your Mac to an Apple service center may be needed to inspect and replace damaged speakers if necessary.

With some targeted troubleshooting steps, you should be able to resolve annoying laptop speaker crackling and get your Mac’s audio back to normal.