Audio dropping out

Mac 10.6.8
Audacity 2.0.3 from dmg
Recording through a Griffin PowerWave into USB

I’ve recorded LPs on Audacity on and off with this same setup for a while now and had few problems. But now, not long after upgrading to 2.0.3 I’m getting drop-outs (less than a second of dropped audio signal (silence) at odd moments. It often leads to substantial distortion after the signal starts dropping a few times. Input is not clipping (pretty far from clipping in fact).

I may have recorded one LP (2 sides) under 2.0.3 before having this problem but not sure (that previous recording a few days ago is fine), and so far it’s only on one album that I’ve had the problem, but it’s not the LP causing the drop outs. I’ll try to record another LP soon. Also, I’ve had some problems with spinning beachball from some kind of system overload, but I’ve quit most apps, restarted, and have nothing actively working at the moment other than Audacity. No spinning beachballs while doing this. It sure seems like an Audacity interaction with the OS.

Anyone have thoughts? Thanks!

Are you filling up your hard drive? The Spinning Beachball of Death happens when the Mac starts a process and allocates time for it, and then the process takes too much time to complete. This happens when the system starts becoming sloppy or there’s something powerful running in the background.

Desktop > Go > Utilities > Activity Monitor > My Processes. Look under %CPU and see what’s taking all the zot. I used to routinely hang FireFox and it would take 95% of the CPU and stick there. If you have a dual core machine, you could get numbers over 100%. This could be normal.

If nothing seems to be hogging the machine…

At the bottom of that display, select your hard drive and then Disk Usage. If you’re using all your hard drive, that’s where your speed is going. Take off a few movies or back up your music collection.


Thanks Koz,

I’ve got 300GB of a 500GB drive left (not a ton of music here and even less video content), and I rarely see anything taking more than 10% of system/cpu resources (but the beachball prevents me from navigating to the Activity Monitor and may prevent re-writing of the Activity Monitor screen, so I never get to see what’s causing the problem while it’s happening). I do have 450k of read-ins and 200k of write-outs, which I think I recall may be a bit high, but don’t really know for sure.

Beachball typically happens more after I’ve been running without re-boot for days or weeks. But I just re-booted and the problem happened again,even though I haven’t had the beachball yet.


Leave Activity monitor running in the corner when you have trouble. Don’t try to launch it quick to catch something wrong. If running the Activity Monitor causes performance issues with your Mac, then you have very serious problems, probably beyond what I can do.

You only have one drive right? That’s important. Also you’re not trying to do production over a network?

There are a few beneficial things you can do to a Mac.

The Mac has to keep track of each and every icon on your desktop. If you’re in love with keeping thousands of icons sprayed around, that’s a problem. I make a folder called “Desktops” and then periodically scoop everything up and jam it into a dated folder and then into that folder. Desktop20130702, Desktop20130629. You should not use slashmarks in a filename, so you should use that ISO date format – or dashes if you have trouble reading it: 2013-07-01.

Desktop > Go > Utilities > Disk Utilities.
When it settles down, select your system disk and Verify Disk and then Repair Permissions.

I haven’t done this in a long time, but you can archive your UNIX log files and speed things up a bit. This is a copy portion of another web page. If you haven’t done this in a while (or ever) it can take a bit of time.

Clean up system logs and temporary files periodically. Your system should automatically run UNIX maintenance scripts, but some earlier versions of Mac OSX only run these scripts between 3 and 5 AM, during which time most computers are either asleep or shut off, depriving your system of regular maintenance.

If you want to clean up system logs and temporary files manually,
Access terminal by navigating to Applications → Utilities → Terminal
In Terminal, type in “sudo periodic daily weekly monthly” and hit Enter
Type in your Mac admin password
Wait for your system to run the maintenance, after which you’ll be returned to Terminal

Thanks again, Kpz,

I do currently have a lot of icons on my desktop (48 items including the HD). I do occasionally move them into a Desktop folder, typically when I’m about to share my screen for a training for my consulting practice. But 48 doesn’t seem like it should cause such problems - should it?

I do sometimes open Activity Monitor when the issue starts happening and leave it running. But when the next beachball event happens, it freezes the monitor and I usually can’t navigate to AM until the event is over. So I miss the CPU stats for that event. I have had two Kernal panics in the last few days, which I think are due to overheating while a screensaver is on (which I’ve since disabled). Still having problems recording. I’ve also raised the MacBook up on blocks to cool it down (I’m using it as a desktop to run a larger monitor for working). Haven’t tried recording like that yet, but will do it today.

I do occasionally run Onyx to clean up the system, run the crons, repair permissions, etc. I haven’t ever run the archive of log files (it’s a 2007 MacBook, but I’ve re-installed the OS in the last 6-9 months. I think it was a full reinstall but it may have been an archive and install (but I don’t see any sign of the archive, which I usually do). I’ll try to archive log files next.

But…since Audacity keeps recording, I’m not certain it’s a beachball event that causes the drop-outs and increasing distortion. Usually the events interfere with just about all system functioning so I’d expect Audacity to just stop recording entirely. I’ve read somewhere that Audacity can have trouble keeping up with the recording depending on what else is going on, but I’ve tried it without anything running and encountered the same problem.

Check an obvious thing - ensure you plug Griffin into a spare USB port, not into a USB hub that has other devices connected to it.

Also see for a long list of possible things you can try for the dropouts.