In a new format we are producing videos offering tips and solutions to common problems in under a minute. Here’s some things to help if you are running Pro Tools on a Mac and when you hit play you are greeted by silence…
Check The Hardware First!
Because there are so many things which can go wrong in software it is tempting to assume that the problem must be in Pro Tools software - Not necessarily!
Is The Volume Up?
Don’t crank it up and leave it there if it is not the problem, remember to turn it back down or you might get a big shock when you do find what is wrong!
Are Your Peripherals Connected And Powered Up?
A bus powered audio interface should have status lights on it. Are they on? A common mistake which I have to admit I have made more than once in a computer lab style classroom is to adjust the headphone level of the interface being used by the person next to me.
System Preferences vs Playback Engine
People trying to fix a playback engine issue by changing the System Preferences > Sound settings is one of the most common causes of confusion I have come across as new users do not appreciate that there are audio settings for the whole OS (i.e. computer-wide) and audio settings for the specific application you are using (i.e. Pro Tools).
Changing the system settings will not affect Pro Tools. For Pro Tools you will need to set the Pro Tools Playback Engine, which is accessed from the Setup menu and it is here you can select which audio interface you wish to use with Pro Tools.
Because there are sound settings for the operating system (i.e. the whole computer - web browser, iTunes etc.) are separate to the settings for Pro Tools, it is possible to have sound hardware, which is used by the rest of the system and different hardware which is just used by Pro Tools. The available Pro Tools playback options are accessible from the Setup menu.
If you are using on board sound hardware on a Mac you will be using Core Audio. On a Mac, Pro Tools sees the Core Audio input and output as separate devices and Avid created an Aggregate Device combining them both called Pro Tools Aggregate IO. If you want to use the on board IO, this is the option you need though if you are using your system for playback only I would recommend selecting Built In Output.
To hear a track it has to be routed to an available output. It is unusual for this to present many problems unless a session has been created on another system. If it has, then Pro Tools should be able to “map” the outputs imported with the session onto the appropriate output on the system the session is being opened on. If this does not work the invalid output will show up as italicised. The neatest way to fix this is from the Bus tab of the IO settings, found under Setup.
A final thing to check is whether any features designed to provide low latency monitoring while tracking are the problem. This only affects users with external audio interfaces but a common cause of confusion is the role of the mix control found on many USB interfaces. Use of these is beyond the scope of this article but if you cannot hear playback from Pro Tools make sure the mix control is not turned fully towards “input”. Some interfaces use some kind of mixer software external to Pro Tools to achieve the same thing. If your interface uses proprietary mixer software check the settings.