No HDMI Sound Under OS X Lion Using A Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt Adapter? There’s An Easy Fix For That [How-To]



I’ve mostly been very happy with my migration to Lion, but I did get bit with one bug after the upgrade: for the life of me, I couldn’t get sound to output through HDMI when using my Kanex Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter. That meant the days of hooking my 11-inch MacBook Air to my 47-inch 1080p HDTV were at an end.

I wasn’t alone. Apple’s support communities are filled with threads from frustrated Lion upgraders who suddenly lost the ability to pump sound through their HTPCs. HDMI sound also stopped working on my girlfriend’s MacBook when she upgraded to Lion. It’s obviously a widespread problem.

Luckily, today I finally figured out how to fix the issue, and it was remarkably simple. Here’s how to get HDMI sound back into Lion.

The fix is fairly simple, but it might take a few times. What you need to do are flush out your Mac’s PRAM and SMC, resetting them.

Resetting your PRAM is easy:

1) Shut down your Mac totally.

2) Locate (but don’t press) the following keys on your Mac’s keyboard: COmmand, Option, P and R. Put your fingers over them, but don’t press them yet.

3) Turn on your computer.

4) Immediately after turning on your computer, hold down Command+Option+P+R. This must be done before you see the gray boot up screen.

5) Hold down the keys. If you do this correctly, your Mac will restart and you’ll hear the startup sound a second time.

6) Release the keys.

Congrats, your PRAM’s reset! Now let’s reset the SMC for good measure. The instructions on doing this vary from computer to computer, but Apple’s got a great support document that explains how to reset the SMC on any Mac you own.

Once you’ve flushed both the SMC and PRAM, allow your Mac to boot properly. Plug in your Mini DisplayPort or Thunderbolt to HDMI adapter, make sure that HDMI is selected as your Sound output in System Preferences and give your Mac a whirl. Your sound should now hopefully be working through HDMI under OS X Lion. Hoorah!

Using the above steps, I got HDMI sound working on my MacBook Air as well as my girlfriend’s MacBook. How’d it work for you? Let us know in the comments.

  • Alexandre Bonatto

    My HDMI worked fine after the upgrade, but I had problems with my external firewire audio interface (Konnekt 24D). There was no sound at all! I tried everything I could (reinstall drivers, reset computer, audio interface…) then I read something about resetting the PRAM. I just did it and the sound is working fine since then!

    I recommend this procedure if you have issues with external hardware…

  • grouver

    I have no problem with the HDMI sound output however there is a serious problem with QT and Mission Control. Apparently external displays have a separate set of virtual desktops even if they are configured as an extension of the primary display. It blows my mind how Apple can screw something like this up but the bottom line is that QT will not run in full screen mode on the secondary monitor. Needless to say that is a huge problem for certain workflows. Does anyone know of a workaround that does not include me using MplayerX, VLC, etc. 

  • fivecolors

    My problem is that i’m not getting any encoded audio output (Dolby Digital, DTS). Obviously, this was working fine before upgrade.

    This procedure did not work for me…

  • lsl70
  • lsl70
  • lals196
  • Mrlloyd2

    lion Is a disaster. It crashes new 27 iMacs. You can’t play video, edit or watch YouTube. Check out apple support forum if you don’t believe me. iMac + lion+ video = freeze has 60 pages of responses (52736 Views, 900 Replies).  This is my first ever mac and it’s more unstable than any pc I’ve ever had. 

  • fivecolors

    I disagree, I’m only having this one problem. Lion as a whole, is a terrific upgrade

  • vipshopper57
  • cxiaoduo
  • cxiaoduo
  • lls977
  • Robert Pruitt

    I was just having this problem yesterday.  It’s like you read my mind, thank you for posting this.

  • baleara

    Great tip!  I’m not personally having this issue, but I love these How To guides. 

    Do you know a way to use Lion’s fullscreen apps on a laptop with an external monitor used as as extended display? I haven’t found a way to get said fullscreen app to keep itself only on one screen.  (The second screen ends up with the grey linen background.)  :(

  • Mediafl3x

    on both my new iMac 27″ & MacBook Pro (both bought July 2011) everything works fine.. I even got sound thru the thunderbolt (hdmi) connector!! but.. not with all software, iTunes & VLC are working fine, but media center software like Plex only gives me video and no sound..
    Also I found Lion working much better after a full install instead of an update. DL-ed the Lion update, extracted the install file, burned it with Disk Utility on a DVD and re-installed both mac’s.. works like a charm.

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  • Rafal Rapa

    What if this “how to..” doesn’t do the trick ?

  • Duangluk Piyasirisilp

    It worked!! I’m using a 2011 macbook pro and I was having the same problem. Quick fix and great instructions. Thanks so much!

  • xrystopher

    noob steps. this is basic mac troubleshooting and should be known by all mac owners. much like owning a car and knowing to change the oil.

  • Girts Dumpis

    you can press keys down and turn on mac while holding, then wait for restart again – works 100%. thats basic 2×2 command everybody should know that

  • Fanoer

    It’s not working for me.. I have tried several times.

  • Francis Mccabre

    thank you!  I was skeptical, but it worked out great.

  • Mário Filipe Pinhal

    I have a MacBookPro (Early 2009) and doing the 2 steps did not work. I am sure my mac’s PRAM was reset, but did not have any feedback (sound, screen or whatever) that indicated the SMC was flushed. tried 2 times, no success. My OS X version is 10.7.1.

    Any other fix or way I can inspect what is the problem?

    I’ll try to log on as other user (some other google searches documented this solution) and to reset again PRAM to see if it solves this issue.

  • Jose

    Hi Mario, HDMI Audio output is only supported by 2010+ models. Check this in your system profile anyway as in the picture below for the “HDMI / DisplayPort Output” feature. If is not there then you will need a separate standard 3.5 jack audio cable in addition to the HDMI to transfer the sound. Depending on your TV you might or not find a HDMI port at the back with an audio input jack next to it. Alternatively, you can plug your mac to the TV via HDMI and plug/bluetooth some external speakers to your mac for decent sound.

  • Peter

    Worked like a charm! Thanks a bunch!

  • Daniel

    Hi Jose. I´m sorry to correct you, but I have a late 2009 imac 21.5 inch, and while it does not support HDMI audio output on snow leopard (don´t know about lion in that particular machine), it DOES support audio output via HDMI using WinXP or 7 on bootcamp. Weird huh? I asked around in apple support but didnñt get any answers. But regarding this particular post, do you know if by doing this the problem is solved for good? Or do I have to do it EVERYTIME I start up myMBP? Thank you.

  • Grunter375

    CMD 3 whilst the video is in the second display

  • Eldar Rozencvaig

    worked so well, Thanks !!!

  • Aaron Heacock


    Since upgrading to Lion, in the “sound” system preference pane, I have lost the option to select HDMI as my device for sound output. I am using a generic display port adapter with an HDMI cord to a new Sony HDTV that had no issues under Snow Leopard. Do you have any advice on how to get this option back in the sound output devices list? I have tried resetting the PRAM and SMC as instructed above but the option is still missing.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


  • UC

    It didn’t work for me, it actually screwed up my full screen mode while watching netflix. My netflix will go full screen and then while watching whatever, my firefox browser window flashes on and off in front of what I’m watching. It does it in 3 or 4 second intervals. I haven’t been able to fix that yet.

  • UC

     Get off your high horse