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Sometimes my MBP plays this somewhat distressing sound through its speakers (external if connected, otherwise internal, if my system volume is not muted).

Has anyone experienced this? What is it?

[Listen to the sound here.]

Things that make me doubt it has to do with the electrical system:

  1. The fact this seems to be emanating from my system (affects either internal or external speakers)
  2. The precise, musical, repeating nature of the sound
  3. That it has occurred on battery power at my girlfriend’s as well as in my house (plugged in).

Makes me wish there was an app like Little Snitch but for audio output instead of network traffic…

share|improve this question
That's a really odd sound... – Austin May 12 '11 at 0:38
Pretty sure that "mysql" is the wrong tag. :) – Matthew Frederick May 12 '11 at 3:56
@MatthewFrederick MY System's Queer Language? – ughoavgfhw May 12 '11 at 4:18
Did I tag it “mysql”? I tried to tag it “mystery” and gave up because that’s not a real tag; it must have auto-completed to “mysql” for me. – Alan H. May 12 '11 at 17:28
Wiretap studio DOES have application specific recording, and will record only the audio from that process. You could try the trial. – ConstantineK May 13 '11 at 13:17
up vote 3 down vote accepted

It’s the “Inactivity Sound,” called “Bass,” that Assistly plays by default when you haven’t been using it for a few hours.

And I thought my computer was overheating!

I can’t understand why anyone would make a web app that non-obviously plays a repeating, scary sound on repeat hours after the user last interacted with it.


Anyway, that’s one mystery solved.

You can +1 my relevant feedback to Assistly here.

share|improve this answer
Ha! Good detective work. – Harald Hanche-Olsen May 27 '11 at 7:09

Definitely computer-generated.


Melodic-range spectrogram

share|improve this answer
Off topic, but what program did you use for the FFTs? – Fake Name May 12 '11 at 5:26
@Fake Name Sonic Visualiser – ændrük May 12 '11 at 13:05

Sounds like a dashboard widget that is making sound when not in the dashboard, I have heard stuff like this from say an asteroids widget.

share|improve this answer
Good thought -- it does sound rather "game-like". – Austin May 12 '11 at 5:10
Not a bad guess at all, but my only dashboard widgets are iStat Nano & Apple’s default calendar widget. – Alan H. May 12 '11 at 17:28
Damn! I thought I had the magic answer :( – ConstantineK May 13 '11 at 13:15

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