Workaround – Voice Memos on macOS Catalina Doesn’t Record for Some Users when Signed into iCloud

Update, April 2: 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.


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.

Voice memos is broken

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).

Recordings

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.

24 thoughts on “Workaround – Voice Memos on macOS Catalina Doesn’t Record for Some Users when Signed into iCloud

  1. No solution, but just to say I tried out Voice Memos for the first time on my 13″ MacBook Pro under 10.15.3, and it seems to work just fine. I didn’t make any changes at all to System settings. I am logged into iCloud (always.)

    • Thanks, there’s clearly a variable, because it does seem to work for many people, but I can’t figure out what it is.

  2. Not sure what the variable is that affects you but not me. I can only say that Voice Memos records on my iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Mid 2015) running the latest version of Catalina while I am signed into my iCloud account. I had not used it before on my Mac, so on the first run it asked if it was OK to use my location; I approved the request.

  3. I’m seeing additional error messages in the Console when it doesn’t record:

    error 10:33:45.352624-0800 kernel Sandbox: VoiceMemos(45435) deny(1) file-write-data /Users/ulysses/Library/Preferences/com.apple.Accessibility.plist

    Couldn’t write values for keys (
    ApplicationAccessibilityEnabled
    ) in CFPrefsPlistSource (Domain: com.apple.Accessibility, User: kCFPreferencesCurrentUser, ByHost: No, Container: (null), Contents Need Refresh: Yes): setting preferences outside an application’s container requires user-preference-write or file-write-data sandbox access

    -[RCSavedRecordingsModel recordingWithID:] — ERROR: Unable to fetch recording (Error Domain=NSCocoaErrorDomain Code=133000 UserInfo={NSAffectedObjectsErrorKey=, NSUnderlyingError=0x7ffcecca0e00 {Error Domain=NSCocoaErrorDomain Code=133000 UserInfo={objectID=}}}.)

  4. Works here, but what really sucks is that there’s no shortcut for deleting memos, you have to go via the menu bar (at least I didn’t find another way).

  5. I get the same console log messages that Kirk does, and some additional (related?) warnings and errors.

    – UIKit/FrontBoard gives the error “subordinate process assertion failed”

    – AVAudioSession gives an ERROR in getting channel layout for auScope – which is also mentioned at https://forums.developer.apple.com/thread/123716

    Finally, voicememod gives “ERROR: Unable to fetch recording”, followed by the messages Kirk describes in his article (failed to start recording), etc.

  6. I’m confused by this sentence: ‘I tried it with a test account on one of my Macs, which is not signed into an iCloud account, and it works fine.’ Does this mean that Voice Memos doesn’t work for you on your main account or main computer, but does on another account or another computer? Second question: Are you saying that it doesn’t matter whether you are signed in to an iCloud account; that it can potentially work (or fail to work) with either setting?

    • For me, all you have to do is make a test account on the same Mac, and Voice Memos works. But on my main account on that Mac, Voice Memos refuses to record anything new with the console log errors mentioned above. It syncs new recordings from my iOS devices, but refuses to record anything new on macOS.

      Oddly enough, my wife has an account on the same Mac, she IS signed into iCloud, and Voice Memo recording works fine for her!

      So it’s something to do with my user profile (on multiple Macs) and/or my iCloud account. And Kirk’s user profile and/or iCloud account. And many other people mentioned in the Reddit and Apple Discussion forums.

    • On my MacBook Pro, it doesn’t work when I’m signed in to my regular iCloud account, but does work, on the same Mac, when I’m using a test account that isn’t signed into iCloud. So the variable is iCloud.

      On my iMac, it doesn’t work, but I haven’t tested with a test account not signed in.

  7. “You can swipe to delete, like in iOS.”
    Thanks Kirk, tried every oldfashioned mouse and keyboard combi but not that…

  8. Same issue 🙁 I wish there was a fix…already tried reinstalling Catalina, and Voice Memos works again then…but as soon as I let iCloud sync for a while, the issue is bound to reappear. If anyone knows a fix, or has any pointers – I’d be very grateful!

  9. To get it to work press the speaker mute button then record a memo and then to listen press the speaker mute button again. Why this works I do not know but it did for me.

  10. snap2 – thanks much – that workaround works for me too. How did you find out about this? Were you just experimenting or did you read it somewhere?

  11. snap2, YOU ABSOLUTE GENIUS!!! That fixed it for me too!! Perhaps the Coreaudio driver thinks it needs to prevent some kind of feedback loop?! Anyways, thank you so much! Let’s spread the good word to our tormented friends on Reddit as well! YOU LEGEND

  12. FINALLY found the solution, thanks to a very kind person on Reddit!! You have to go to your sound preferences and tick the “Play user interface sound effects” box found in the “Sound effects” tab. I have NO idea why that fixes it – but it does. You’re welcome!

  13. Hey there. Thanks for the post. I could work around this by pressing mute, yes. Very weird…

    What still doesn’t work is the icloud sync. The voice memos from my iphone appear for a few seconds, than they disappear again. And the ones left continue to say “Loading…”

    I even disconnected to icloud activated/deactivated voice memos on my iPhone and Mac but nothing resolved it. Any ideas?

    Thx, Jan 🙂

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