14-inch MacBook Pro speakers sound muffled

At first I thought it was my imagination, but no matter what I listen to the sound seems… muffled. Too bass. Harder to understand that with my MBP late 2013. It’s loud. Just disappointingly not clear. I was really looking forward to better speakers on my new MBP. This is disturbing.

How are other people’s speakers?

I’ve tried listening to music, play movies on Netflix, etc. Even Siri’s voice doesn’t sound that great.

Apple says there is no way of modifying it. I’ve compared music and Netflix movies with clear speech on three different devices, and this is the order of clarity (being able to understand what people are saying):

(1) Best: my 2021 iPad Pro 11 inch

(2) Middle: my late 2013 MBP - tinny, not loud, but clear

(3) Worst: my new MBP M1 Pro 14 inch - loud, but too much bass and muffled so what people are saying is harder to hear

Thinking of returning it. I have 12 more days to decide.

Rogue Amoeba has SoundSource and Audio Hijack which allow inserting an equalizer in the audio path. I compensate for speakers, headphones, and bad source audio using these.

Apple provides and equalizer in the Music app, but none for general audio.

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TBH, I think my 14" MBP sounds great. I wrote elsewhere that in terms of volume it has more dynamic range than any previous MBP I 've had.

You could try testing against a 14" display model at a store to see if that’s just the way it is, or if yours actually has a speaker issue. No idea if it will detect speaker issues beyond trivial things like disconnect, but since it’s near-zero effort, you might as well give it a try: Apple Diagnostics.

I would expect the sound on your computer to be vastly superior to that of the 2013 MBP. When I upgraded from the 2013 MBP to the 2018 MBP, the difference was night and day. Apple seemed to have used what it learned from developing the HomePod. If you’re getting muddled sound, you may have a defective computer on your hands.

I’d try what Simon suggested. Go to a store and compare your computer with how the display model sounds.

People are mentioning things like dynamic range and volume. It’s clearly better in those categories.

But what about clarity?

If you listen to people speaking in movies, or solo singing, are the words as clear as on the older computers?

To me they are very obviously less clear and distinct and easy to understand than on my iPad, iPhone, and even late 2013 MBP speakers.

If I find that the speakers in the store seem sharper and clearer and want to exchange then returning would still be better because an exchange would require over a month’s wait and an extra ding on my card in the meantime.

Not sure what to do, because it’s obviously a vastly improved computer otherwise.

But if I can’t enjoy watching movies on it comfortably… it will bother me forever.

Yet my current MBP is 8 years old and slow and can’t be upgraded to Monterey anymore.

One thought it to downgrade to a MacBook Air and even if that speaker is the same at least listening through headphones wouldn’t bother me as much because the price is so much lower.

But less ports, etc. this is my daily work computer.

Confused about what to do…


I think what you are likely describing is due to a combination of (1) a boost in bass response from your new computer and (2) gradual high-frequency hearing loss, which usually starts at age 40 or so. (It may be earlier – I’m not an audiologist.)

I compensate by either connecting external speakers or a radio with bass and treble controls, or using an equalizer application, such as eqmac https://eqmac.app.

Listening to it again this morning. Music sounds nice. Voices definitely sound muddled. :frowning:

Sounds fine on my iPad Pro 2021 though.

Was disappointed to read this.
My hearing is not perfect, to be sure, but I was greatly relieved with the improvement in the sound system in my MBPro 2017 vs 2015.
I always have assumed, naively, that Apple would always be improving on their, somewhat casual attention to this component in their lap tops (even if it was simply on the order of Volume). Maybe the quest/obsession for thinness, on their part, had something to do with that.
I’d say, definitely try some equalizer apps before returning it.
Which raises another slight befuddlement on my part: Why Apple never incorporated even a rudimentary equalization pallete in the Sound Prefereneces

I guess I should do that.
I have Boom 3D. I never use it, but maybe it has that feature in it. I’ll upgrade and see.
For what it’s worth, I had my partner listen to a song in Japanese this morning and asked his opinion. He didn’t think it sounded muffled. Instead he remarked that it sounded “three dimensional” and nice.
So who knows. Different for different people?

I would second @james.cutler in recommending Audio Hijack. I just created a quick “session” (their lingo) to run all sound through an EQ and was able to reduce bass/boost treble to my heart’s content. Check it out. (What a beautiful app…and TidBITS members get a discount to boot!)

Any tips on setting it up to use for eq of all sound outputs? (So far I can only figure out how to use it for recording.)

Also, any advantages to using Audio Hijack instead of SoundSource or eqmac?

Well, I’m certainly not an Audio Hijack guru, but here’s the Session I created. As far as the other two apps you mentioned, I’m afraid I have no experience with them.


Thanks a lot – that made it very easy to set up.

Do you just leave it on all the time?

Well, you could do. But it sounds like @doug2 was specifically concerned about Netflix, etc., so if I had the same concern, I’d probably toggle it on and off as needed.

I was playing with eqMac (that’s what you’re talking about, right?). Do you need to leave the app open to make the equalizer settings live? Or does it change something at the system level?

By just fiddling with the bass settings it looks like I was able to adjust the bass somewhat. But I couldn’t get the sound as “clear” as, say, on my iPad Pro.

I’m concerned about the sound in general - not just NetFlix.


Can you disable spatial sound with it? And does it need to remain running all the time?

Audio Hijack appears to be a recording app with a new name, Rogue Amoeba. Are you talking about something different?

I couldn’t adjust anything satisfactorily in eqMac to compensate for whatever this speaker is doing.

Rogue Amoeba is the name of the company, Audio Hijack is still the name of the app.