Some macOS 10.12.4 users complaining of stuttering or distorted audio with USB headsets

Posted:
in Mac OS X edited March 30
Monday's macOS 10.12.4 update is resulting in stuttering audio for some users of USB headsets, according to multiple complaint threads on Apple's support forums and reports from social media.




The glitch doesn't appear to be linked to a single Mac model or headset brand, and many troubleshooting methods -- like resetting hardware or changing USB ports -- don't seem to work. People reporting the problem have noted that the issue isn't solved by a clean reinstall of macOS 10.12.4, and only seems to vanish after restoring to 10.12.3 or an earlier OS.

AppleInsider has been unable to replicate the issue in limited testing. It may be that only specific headset brands are affected, something supported by the fact that many of the complaints involve Plantronics gear. Testing continues across a variety of headsets and macOS hardware.

Some forum posters have speculated that there could be trouble with the audio drivers in 10.12.4. If so, Apple will likely have to prepare a follow-up update, with arrival dependent on how severe Apple considers the situation.

The macOS 10.12.4 update is intended to make a variety of minor improvements, most notably bringing Night Shift from iOS to the Mac for the first time. The feature "warms" display colors at night, in theory making it easier to go to sleep.

The update also includes new PDFKit APIs, cricket results in Siri, and more options in iCloud Analytics.
tuqqer
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 6,995member
    On a side note I have seen consistent visual stuttering of notifications overlaying the display when coming out of a screensaver view.
  • Reply 2 of 21
    On a side note I have seen consistent visual stuttering of notifications overlaying the display when coming out of a screensaver view.
    I THINK that's an artifact of the new GPU drivers in 10.12.4. We're still looking at that one.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 21
    Plantronics Audio 648 headphones on a late 2015 iMac, audio stutters horribly ever since 10.12.4. Chrome and Safari on youtube, vimeo, and streamable, all audio is distorted. Bleh.
  • Reply 4 of 21
    Weird stuff.

    Don't know if this helps anyone- I get stuttering for about 30-60 seconds when I have some kind of audio playing through the built in speakers and turn on bluetooth headphones. IIRC this doesn't happen if nothing is playing and I connect the BT headphones first. 

    It does go away though. 
  • Reply 5 of 21
    karmadavekarmadave Posts: 257member
    I'm having this same issue with my USB speakers and in fact spent an hour on the phone with Apple Support earlier this week. They are still working on this issue...
  • Reply 6 of 21
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,721member
    Doesn't seem to be affecting my Logitech USB headset on a late 2012 iMac.
  • Reply 7 of 21
    dewmedewme Posts: 764member
    Yeah, USB issues abound in the latest beta build. Here's what I've discovered and a workaround that worked for me:

    When I installed v10.12.4 beta:

    1) My AudioEngine 2+ USB connected speakers stopped working. As part of this issue all audio-video content such as YouTube, CNN, iTunes, etc., would lock up when attempting to play. Selecting an alternate audio connection like the built-in headphone jack would unfreeze the video. 

    2) Some of my USB connected iDevices would not show up in iTunes. 

    I tried the usual reboot, resetting PRAM, etc., but the symptom would either not change or shift to a different issue, e.g., the speakers would com back but no all iDevices would show up.

    The workaround for involved the Network connections in System Preferences. For some strange reason, and new to macOS 12.10.4 pretty much ALL of my iDevices (6) displayed a USB connection, like "iPhone USB," "iPad USB," and even "iPod USB." The last one makes no sense since an iPod cannot provide a hotspot. In fact, none of the devices that I have that can provide a hotspot have the hotspot enabled. But in any case none of these rogue connections have shown up prior so something is amiss. I then deleted each of these rogue connections but I had to do it one-by-one:

    1) Select the rogue connection
    2) Unplug the physical device corresponding to the connection
    3) Hit the minus sign
    4) Hit "Apply"
    5) When you get a popup asking whether to reconnect the device connection, say "No"
    6) Repeat for every rogue connection

    For some reason, if you simply delete all of the rogue connections and then bulk Apply explicitly or by closing the form the rogue connections show up again. If everything works all of the rogue connections will be gone when you close the Network form and open it again.

    7) Plug in the physical devices
    8) Reboot without clearing PRAM (normal reboot)

    After I rebooted my USB speakers returned to life and all of my iDevices show up in iTunes.

    Your results may vary but it took me a while to come across this workaround and it seems to be holding. It's almost as if the OS's USB driver is running out of connection resources by creating these rogue/bogus USB connections. The first sign of something being wrong on my system was some iDevices not showing up in iTunes. If I unplugged one device that it saw then it would find the missing one but it would never find all devices unless it whacked some other device, like my speakers, off the USB connection list. That's what leads me to believe the USB driver is running out of resources at a fairly small number. Just a guess. 

     
  • Reply 8 of 21
    Hi, 

    I am one of the users to have reported the issue (see https://discussions.apple.com/message/31570200?ac_cid=op123456#31570200)

    To date, users have experienced the same issue with the following makes of USB headsets:
    • Plantronics
    • Logitech
    • Microsoft
    • NuForce (µDAC 2)

    I think the Plantronics might be over-represented simply because there are a popular make. 

    As far as I know, macOS uses a generic OS driver for all the USB audio devices (which is why most devices just work when you plug them in, or at least, they use to work).

    Some technical info at https://developer.apple.com/library/content/technotes/tn2274/_index.html
  • Reply 9 of 21
    I have a set of Focals using USB audio on my desktop Mac and they work fine as usual.
    I just tried a Plantronics USB headset/mic combo that was a gimme with Dragon Dictate years ago and they work just fine on my USB 3 hub.

    However the other night I noticed that when streaming from my Mac to my Apple TV using AirPlay the streaming Mac went to sleep (display) and became unresponsive to wired Keyboard, wireless trackpad (Bluetooth) to awaken. I had to do a hard reboot to get the screen up.

    Who is doing Quality Control at Apple- especially on the Mac?
  • Reply 10 of 21
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 4,702member
    I have a set of Focals using USB audio on my desktop Mac and they work fine as usual.
    I just tried a Plantronics USB headset/mic combo that was a gimme with Dragon Dictate years ago and they work just fine on my USB 3 hub.

    However the other night I noticed that when streaming from my Mac to my Apple TV using AirPlay the streaming Mac went to sleep (display) and became unresponsive to wired Keyboard, wireless trackpad (Bluetooth) to awaken. I had to do a hard reboot to get the screen up.

    Who is doing Quality Control at Apple- especially on the Mac?
    And why do you assume everybody is experiencing this freeze you describe? And why do you wonder who is doing QA at Apple? That question is a tired old meme trotted out by the clueless when something goes wrong. When PC users experience issues they always assume it’s a virus first rathe than some other cause. 
  • Reply 11 of 21
    kafecho said:
    Hi, 

    I am one of the users to have reported the issue (see https://discussions.apple.com/message/31570200?ac_cid=op123456#31570200)

    To date, users have experienced the same issue with the following makes of USB headsets:
    • Plantronics
    • Logitech
    • Microsoft
    • NuForce (µDAC 2)
    What kind of connection are you using. My Plantronics Headset (probably the cheapest they make) is connected through a cheap (Amazon bought j5) USB 3 hub and works just fine. Like I said above, my Ancient Focals (2009 vintage JMLXS2.1) are USB streaming ( they have their own DAC and amp) an ALAC Bruch Hornsby & The Noisemakers Concert perfectly connected to the same cheap USB 3 Hub.

    Maybe the problem is the hub you are using or the USB port you are connected to. The performance is the same on all my Macs from a Mac Pro tower (3rd party USB Card) to a Mac Pro 13" Retina to a Mac mini.
  • Reply 12 of 21
    lkrupp said:
    I have a set of Focals using USB audio on my desktop Mac and they work fine as usual.
    I just tried a Plantronics USB headset/mic combo that was a gimme with Dragon Dictate years ago and they work just fine on my USB 3 hub.

    However the other night I noticed that when streaming from my Mac to my Apple TV using AirPlay the streaming Mac went to sleep (display) and became unresponsive to wired Keyboard, wireless trackpad (Bluetooth) to awaken. I had to do a hard reboot to get the screen up.

    Who is doing Quality Control at Apple- especially on the Mac?
    And why do you assume everybody is experiencing this freeze you describe? And why do you wonder who is doing QA at Apple? That question is a tired old meme trotted out by the clueless when something goes wrong. When PC users experience issues they always assume it’s a virus first rathe than some other cause. 
    Stop being Apple weasel. The question's are valid I remember when I worked with MacOS X 10.2 over ten years ago and QA by Apple was much better. Defending like this is foolish. The same behavior brought Microsoft to low quality products that suffer from even more fundamental issues because of dumb politicaally correct audience that did not raise red flags or was suppressed in the process by the company fanatics.

    I onter words you are not doing service at all except providing non-constructive PC supression. Just stop doing this.
    edited March 30 jlandd
  • Reply 13 of 21
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,202member
    lkrupp said:
    I have a set of Focals using USB audio on my desktop Mac and they work fine as usual.
    I just tried a Plantronics USB headset/mic combo that was a gimme with Dragon Dictate years ago and they work just fine on my USB 3 hub.

    However the other night I noticed that when streaming from my Mac to my Apple TV using AirPlay the streaming Mac went to sleep (display) and became unresponsive to wired Keyboard, wireless trackpad (Bluetooth) to awaken. I had to do a hard reboot to get the screen up.

    Who is doing Quality Control at Apple- especially on the Mac?
    And why do you assume everybody is experiencing this freeze you describe? And why do you wonder who is doing QA at Apple? That question is a tired old meme trotted out by the clueless when something goes wrong. When PC users experience issues they always assume it’s a virus first rathe than some other cause. 
    Stop being Apple weasel. The question's are valid I remember when I worked with MacOS X 10.2 over ten years ago and QA by Apple was much better. Defending like this is foolish. The same behavior brought Microsoft to low quality products that suffer from even more fundamental issues because of dumb politicaally correct audience that did not raise red flags or was suppressed in the process by the company fanatics.

    I onter words you are not doing service at all except providing non-constructive PC supression. Just stop doing this.
    I was on 10.2 as well, and I've been having fewer issues with Sierra than I had back then. 
  • Reply 14 of 21
    chickchick Posts: 26member
    Well let me add Velodyne VBold bluetooth headphones to the list. I actually thought that the headphones had died. When connected to my Mac Mini they only output sounds like a sawtooth waveform with the fundamental in the range of 100-150 Hz. On top of that waveform is the audio modulating the waveform at a very low level. The desired sound is barely discernible underneath the rasp of the sawtooth. After reading this I decided to check the headphones with my iPad Pro. Well they work just fine with iOS 10.3. Now I need to check them on my 17" MBP late 2011 model.
  • Reply 15 of 21
    It's definitely a USB audio issue with the latest update 10.12.4. Apple is definitely aware of it and hopefully is working on a fix...
  • Reply 16 of 21
    kafecho said:
    Hi, 

    I am one of the users to have reported the issue (see https://discussions.apple.com/message/31570200?ac_cid=op123456#31570200)

    To date, users have experienced the same issue with the following makes of USB headsets:
    • Plantronics
    • Logitech
    • Microsoft
    • NuForce (µDAC 2)
    What kind of connection are you using. My Plantronics Headset (probably the cheapest they make) is connected through a cheap (Amazon bought j5) USB 3 hub and works just fine. Like I said above, my Ancient Focals (2009 vintage JMLXS2.1) are USB streaming ( they have their own DAC and amp) an ALAC Bruch Hornsby & The Noisemakers Concert perfectly connected to the same cheap USB 3 Hub.

    Maybe the problem is the hub you are using or the USB port you are connected to. The performance is the same on all my Macs from a Mac Pro tower (3rd party USB Card) to a Mac Pro 13" Retina to a Mac mini.
    I'm also one of the users the have reported the issue on the Apple community forums. I am using a Logitech H340 connected directly into one of the USB 3.0 ports on the back of a iMac 27" (2016 model). I noticed it seems to mostly be entry level headsets exhibiting the issue - I'm wondering if they use a common chipset.
  • Reply 17 of 21
    I can confirm that my Plantronics 478 is stuttering on 10.12.4  

    Trying to Google a solution is what brought me here.
  • Reply 18 of 21
    kafechokafecho Posts: 2member
    For some users, plugging the USB headset into a USB hub solves the problem. It worked for me, but I know that it does not work for some others. Buggy USB drivers seem the obvious culprits. 
  • Reply 19 of 21
    tuqqertuqqer Posts: 1member
    Same here: upgraded 3 computers (11" MBA, 2013 Mac Pro, and an older MacBook) to 10.12.4 and now my Plantronics Audio 655 USB wired Headset stutters in all audio. My attempts so far: 

    • Reset SMC and PRAM
    • Tried on multiple Macs 
    • Unplugged all devices, did hard restart
    • plugged in only headset, using multiple USB ports
    • Downloaded and played with Plantronics Hub, their utility, but it doesn't even recognize the plugged-in headset, so there nothing to access in the utility.
    • Had Plantronics even send me a new replacement headset (same 655), but identical stuttering issue. 
    • Downgraded one Mac to 10.12.3 and this headset works fine. 
    I have 4 other headset and headphones, all different manufacturers, all which work fine. Currently the only problem is with this brand new Plantronics headset. 

    If anyone has a file or .plist to delete, I'm game. 

    In the end, I just purchased a new headset (Logitech Stereo Headset H230), and an adaptor to use with USB on a mac, and it works great. 
  • Reply 20 of 21
    I just updated to 10.12.4 this morning and the same happened to me with my logitech H340 headset on a late 2012 iMac.

    I get choppy sound when plugged in to the back of my iMac, but it works fine again if it's plugged into the wired apple keyboard.

    Weird. Hope it gets fixed soon!

    edited April 6
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