Persistently terrible sound quality on my 2010 i3 iMac (Lion upgrade)

Discussion in 'macOS' started by lentaigne, Feb 6, 2012.

  1. lentaigne, Feb 6, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012

    lentaigne macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2012
    Right. My iMac is a refurb. I bought it in the winter of 2010. The specs are as follows:

    Processor: 3.06 GHz Intel Core i3.
    Memory: 4 GB 1333 MHz DDR3.
    Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 4670 256 MB.
    Software: Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3 (11D50b) - upgraded from Snow Leopard a couple of months ago.

    The machine worked, and still works, fine in every way except sound. Sometime in the first months of owning it, something terrible happened for no apparent reason and all the audio coming from it - from the internal speakers, through headphones or external speakers and through any programme, youtube and CDs and Spotify, not just iTunes - was simply dreadful sounding. Completely flat and drab, with no flair and a horrible, distorted, boomy bass. I'd heard better sounds coming from the toilets at McDonalds. After quite a few months of jiggling around but really doing nothing, I discovered the problem was characterised by a massive amount of aliasing - that is, the computers filter was all non operational (Found out by doing this test:
    Eventually I managed to finally return sound quality to something much, much more pleasant by installing Lion via the app store. The music sounded much nicer to me but my girlfriend - who is a producer and has sharp ears - noticed that the mid range frequencies were being replicated much higher than what would be considered 'normal'. Didn't really matter to me as most music sounded pretty good.

    Then, yesterday, a new problem occurred. I knew the moment I changed the volume and heard that little 'popping' sound that something was amiss. It didn't sound right. Sure enough, when I listened to music, it was horrible. But it's different to the previous problem - anti - aliasing is being done fine and well it appears - now, the music is simply too sharp and tinny. The beat of a song sounds so nasty it hurts my ears. High tones are way, way WAY too emphasizes - it makes listening to music a dreadful, painful experience. It sounds like this from every source - internal and external, every programme.

    Yes, I have tried resetting PRAM and NVRAM. The iTunes equalizer is OFF. iTunes audio enhancement is OFF. I used to have rubbish things like Hear installed but I recently deleted them and all their plugins. All in all, I had decent (but even then not perfect) sound quality for a couple of glorious weeks, but now I'm back to tedious, unlistenable, tinny garbage. It hurts all the more cause I work from home and just need good quality music for a few hours a day over Spotify to keep my eyes sane.

    I'm disgusted by the number of Apple products that malfunction and operate poorly. It almost feels like a gamble whenever I buy an Apple product - wondering if mine will be one of the many which suffer from some debilitating defect and will cough and splutter its way through a short and expensive life of repairs and break downs. I'm fed up with it. And I just want music that I can LISTEN TO! Apparently this is too much to ask of the most wealthy and powerful :apple: corporation in the history of the World.

    Can anyone help me?
    Ben x
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Buy a pair of quality headphones.

    Or take it in to get fixed.
  3. lentaigne thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2012
    Thanks for you response -

    I already have a set of studio quality, neutral frequency headphones. No difference. As for taking it in - I would, but before dishing out money to Apple on this one I'd rather check around to see if anyone else's getting this problem, and knows of any fixes.
  4. dknightd macrumors 6502

    Mar 7, 2004
    Check "audio midi setup" (in the utilities folder) to make sure the bitrate is set to either 16 or 24. I remember one person got horrible sound because somehow it had been set to 8 bit.
  5. lentaigne thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2012
    The MIDI settings are at 44100.0 HZ and 24 bits. I don't change them, don't even bother looking at them since they seem to have an uncanny knack to start changing themselves if you edit them too much. The settings I have for the MIDI seem to be the factory default settings and work fine for most other iMac users I've compared with. I thought at first it must be a problem with the MIDI settings, but mostly only because they're the only audio settings Mac OS really allows you to get at. It'd be lovely to be able to see a proper, all purpose equalizer and get close to the more technical audio specifications built into an iMac - since it's there that I reckon I'd really be able to get to grips with this awful sound problem ...
  6. John T macrumors 68020

    John T

    Mar 18, 2006
    I think you are expecting too much regarding sound quality from your iMac. I have a similar model and although the sound is acceptable, it is by far from anything resembling "quality" sound - and neither is it meant to be. If you are after anything resembling quality sound you'll need dedicated source, amplifying and reproducing kit.

    BTW, out of interest, what do you mean by "studio quality, neutral frequency headphones"? and what are the "technical audio specifications built into an iMac" that you refer to?
  7. lentaigne thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2012
    I disagree that I'm expecting 'too much' - remember that the quality of my iMacs sound has fluctuated, going from good (or at least, as good as the sound produced by any other iMacs of similar specifications) to recognizably bad in the way I described in my initial post, to good again and then to worse. What I'm looking for in the way of help is some 'fix' found by somebody who's experienced a similar sound problem to my current one (tinny, high pitched and quite 'boomy') - which appears, judging by several other forums, to be a relatively common problem in recent iMac models, or some ideas as to what fault in my iMacs software or hardware could be causing the recurring nature of my audio issues.

    My headphones have a relatively flat frequency response. They aren't overly receptive to high or low frequencies like most sold today on the modern market, which primarily emphasise bass frequencies. They allow a sound closer to what was originally recorded and so are more useful for studio work. 'technical audio specifications built into an iMac' means in my case default EQ and filtering settings, since I suspect they are somehow amiss and would wish for some option to tweak them without having to download something like AudioHijack.
  8. espensbud macrumors newbie

    Apr 26, 2012
    Started using Hear when problems accured

    I downloaded hear on my Macbook Pro. It affected the sound on both on Spotefy and Itunes. It didn´nt improve sound at all. Then problems accured and they are now permanent for all sound. The sound is now with lots of vibrato and a really messy noice. It is trash and it seems like Hear has altered all settings without showing...I have high end headphone and amp, but it does not mather wether I use the USB or pin output - trash...!!!


    I just put Hear in the trash to remove it. It does not help - it still affects the whole system...You need to reinstall it and then from the meny select Uninstall. And Yes - my sound is back!!!:)

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