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Apr 12, 2001
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Apple has still not fixed a bug in macOS that causes the audio balance to drift on Macs under certain conditions, despite having acknowledged the issue 12 years ago.

sound-balance-bug-1.jpg

A developer named Fabian highlighted the problem today in a post on X (formerly Twitter), claiming that Apple "still has not fixed the audio left/right balance bug in macOS. I still have to use an app to fix it automatically. The app is from 2015, that means we are approaching the 10 year anniversary [of the bug]."

Balance Lock is the app in question, a free download available from Tunabelly Software. The bug's continuing existence was corroborated by other users who responded to the X post and commented on it over on Hacker News. However, it seems as though the issue has persisted for even longer than Fabian initially supposed.

Writing in 2013 on Stack Exchange, one user claimed to have experienced the same bug on multiple Macs going back to 2003. Whether or not that is the case, what we do know is that Apple acknowledged the bug on February 12, 2012 in a Mac OS X 10.2 support document, which is no longer on Apple's website but retrievable via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. In it Apple states:
In some cases the audio balance may unexpectedly drift towards the left or right channel. This can happen if you rapidly press the volume up or down keys while the computer's microprocessor is under heavy load.
To rectify the problem, Apple advises users to open the Sound panel in System Preferences (now System Settings) and "Drag the audio balance slider to the desired position."


Given Apple's advice at the time, it sounds like the company had not been able to come up with a proper fix when the support document was published, which begs the question as to whether it still has no solution to the bug, and that is why the company has let it remain in successive versions of Mac OS X and macOS up to this day.

Have you experienced the audio balance drifting on your Mac? Let us know in the comments.

Article Link: Mac Audio Balance Bug That Apple Knew About 12 Years Ago Still Exists
 
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neuropsychguy

macrumors 68020
Sep 29, 2008
2,439
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There are bugs and then there are bugs. This is one of the bugs that is so random and harmless that it’s at or near the bottom of the list of bugs to address.

Edit: Apparently this bug has been around for about 20 years. That definitely means it’s rare and harmless, otherwise it would have been addressed a long time ago.
 
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longofest

Editor emeritus
Jul 10, 2003
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There are bugs and then there are bugs. This is one of the bugs that is so random and harmless that it’s at or near the bottom of the list of bugs to address.
As someone who develops software, I agree with this. While it might be embarassing that this issue has been open for so long, the reality is some times bugs happen so rarely and lack sufficient impact that the team decides either to prioritize it incredibly low, or they say they won't fix it at all. The decision not to fix something is often made based off of the priorities of new development and/or the risk that fixing it could accidentally create a different, more serious bug.
 

xfusejc

macrumors 6502
Dec 29, 2006
442
467
It’s happened to me in the past, but not for a while now (that I’ve noticed). Usually happened while playing VLC and on the AirPods, they would sometimes just give me audio from one ear and checking the settings would show me it was unbalanced and all the way to the left or right. Didn’t realize it was still ongoing.
 

HobeSoundDarryl

macrumors G5
Now we all know that where Apple chooses to let the balance stray is the one and proper balance for all. Clearly, recording artists themselves balanced their creations wrong if Mac is spontaneously re-balancing it.

Else, "you're balancing it wrong" to any naysayer.

Else, some third party (not Apple) attachment is likely at fault.

Else, user error.

Sprinkle in some "it has never happened to me" (so it can't be happening to anyone else) and maybe some "99% don't care/can't hear the difference..." ;)
 
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MajorFubar

macrumors 68020
Oct 27, 2021
2,105
3,724
Lancashire UK
I haven't encountered this, but it's been many years since I used the volume up and down buttons on my studio-based Mac. Everything goes through an external audio interface which doesn't respond to volume nor balance.
 

LilyAa

macrumors newbie
Feb 10, 2023
5
3
Took apple over 3 years to allow anything other than 48khz audio over hdmi and displayport on apple sillicon machines, not surprised
 
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CarAnalogy

macrumors 601
Jun 9, 2021
4,279
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I gotta say audio on macOS seems remarkably primitive. Windows and Linux for more than a decade now have had independent volume controls for each app, for example. I don’t understand why they haven’t addressed this. Similar situation on iOS, way too few audio channels and too hard to control the volume of them.
 

toobravetosave

macrumors 6502a
Sep 23, 2021
896
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I gotta say audio on macOS seems remarkably primitive. Windows and Linux for more than a decade now have had independent volume controls for each app, for example. I don’t understand why they haven’t addressed this. Similar situation on iOS, way too few audio channels and too hard to control the volume of them.

per app audio would be fantastic

they seem to identify each media playing app or site in the now playing menus so i’m not sure what’s stopping them from adding volume sliders.

apple can at least copy if they’re rarely going to innovate
 

prime17569

macrumors regular
May 26, 2021
194
496
I've experienced this issue many times with the Apple USB-C to 3.5mm adapter on my M1 Mac. There is no problem with AirPods or when plugging headphones directly into the 3.5mm jack. Only when using the adapter.

(I keep the adapter on my wired headphones so that I can use them with my iPad.)
 
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