Update: As a commenter writes below, if you press the Mute key on your keyboard – the F10 key – you can record a voice memo. That this works suggests that there is some sort of bug in the macOS coreaudio framework that needs to be fixed.
Another commenter has pointed out that if you enable Play user interface sound effects in the Sound pane of System Preferences, that this resolves the problem.
Voice Memos is one of the Catalyst apps that Apple has brought to macOS with the release of Catalina. Catalyst is a framework that allows iPad apps, with some small tweaks, to run on Macs. However, seems that Voice Memos doesn’t work on the Mac, at least to record voice memos. You can listen to voice memos you’ve recorded on iOS devices, but when you press the Record button, nothing happens in the app. Not only does it not record anything, but the timeline doesn’t move.
I had thought that the app might need to be added to the Security & Privacy preferences, in the Privacy tab under Microphone – this is where apps are listed that have requested permission to use a Mac’s microphone – but there’s no way to add it.
Some people have suggested that it works only if you’re not logged into your iCloud account; the app does sync voice memos across your devices via iCloud, if you told it to do so on first launch. I tried it with a test account on one of my Macs, which is not signed into an iCloud account, and it works fine.
Interestingly, if I attempt to make a voice memo on my Mac, with my account that is signed into iCloud, the app creates a file (in ~/Library/Application Support/com.apple.voicememos/Recordings), but that file remains at 0 bytes until I quit the app. That suggests that something is happening to prevent the file from being written correctly (perhaps), due to a problem in the cloud (conjecture).
When I try to record a voice memo, I see the following error message in Console:
-[RCMainControllerHelper _recordingFailed:error:] -- failed to start recording error = Error Domain=VMAudioServiceErrorDomain Code=6
And when I click Done or the Pause button, this message displays in Console:
-[RCMainControllerHelper exitEditMode] -- finishError = (null)
Turning off iCloud sync for voice memos (in System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud Drive) doesn’t resolve the issue. And if I delete the Recordings folder at the path mentioned above, the app hangs, then quits.
Voice memos are clearly working for most people, but there are also a number of people reporting that it isn’t working. (Here’s a search on Apple’s forum; there are a number of posts in the list from people with the same issue.) I’ve tried adjusting the settings in Audio-MIDI Setup, and they don’t make a difference, and I’ve tried using different inputs, such as my AirPods, or the mixer I use for podcasts. It seems that iCloud is the variable here, though some people who are signed into iCloud can record using the app. This wouldn’t be the first case of iCloud corruption I’ve seen, especially since iOS 13 was released.