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I have a DR-BT50 bluetooth headset (they are headphones) that I want to use with my MacBook unibody. I didn't use to have any problems, but as of recently I am running into gaps/skips in the sound. This happens mostly in third party music players (including flash/youtube videos) although I see it in iTunes, just less often. I know my headset is ok, because it works perfectly with my phone. Also, interference is unlikely the problem, since the headset works well with the phone one foot away from MacBook, and one would think that whatever is interfering with the computer talking to the headphones would also mess with the connection to the phone. Anyway, I know it's a Bluetooth issue because I have absolutely no problems with wired headphones. That said, I have no idea where to start debugging it. I played with all the Bluetooth options I could find, and reset everything to factory defaults (erasing all devices and re-pairing) yet to no avail.

On top of this, maybe related or maybe not (this is an older problem) the Bluetooth audio connection sometimes becomes "garbled". What I mean by this is that, whenever music is playing on the computer I just hear crazy digital noise on the headphones. No errors, no nothing, just continuous garble. I have to turn off Bluetooth on the computer and re-connect to make it go away.

Is there anything else I can do, or am I stuck with using wired headphones with my MacBook?

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I experience exactly the same cracking clicking sounds when using my bluetooth headset (Sennheiser MM-450x) with my MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. It works flawlessly with my iPhone. I wondered if this might be because of the aptX codec? On the iPhone a different codec is used, as far as I know. Does anybody know how to choose the codec being used on a MacBook? –  user40900 Feb 1 '13 at 13:02
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4 Answers 4

The best step to isolating your issue would be to collect some data about the bluetooth environment where you are using your mac. Radio waves come and go with other devices, new phones, degrading antennas and changes in bluetooth firmware.

The Bluetooth Explorer is the best tool I have found to troubleshoot bluetooth hardware and data. It's free as part of Xcode from the Mac App Store.

You can debug data issues, see the protocols that connected devices are using, and get to all manner of engineering data relating to bluetooth such as errors, relative signal strength indication (RSSI). It's hard to tell if this will help you, but it lets me know when a microwave or home phone was causing noise issues on several occasions when my hardware was otherwise working properly.

Connection Quality Window

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How would I use this tool? Like I said in my post, I'm pretty sure that the problem is not caused by outside interference: the headphones work flawlessly with my phone in the exact same place where they fail with the computer. The link quality, in my case, drops every time the sound breaks, but I have no idea why or how I would fix it. –  vlsd Feb 27 '12 at 18:52
    
You would need to explore the application and learn how to read the bluetooth error logs it can provide, rule out interference with measurements (although your hunch may be correct that it's unrelated to signal or noise), and generally just start isolating things one by one until you determine the culprit. Troubleshooting is as much art as it is following a process or finding someone else's list of things to check. –  bmike Feb 27 '12 at 19:08
    
There are no errors. The link quality just goes down. –  vlsd Feb 27 '12 at 23:42
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I have also suffered 'popping' and crackling using a Bluetooth stereo headphones on a MacBook Air running Lion. The headphones work perfectly when paired with other devices such as my iPhone 4.

I have had substantial improvement by reducing microphone input sensitivity. Open the 'open sound preferences' submenu under your bluetooth devices, and reduce microphone sensitivity to zero.

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OK, so after a whole lot of debugging and reading internet forums, I came to the conclusion that this is a hardware issue. Apparently the bluetooth cable/antenna in a 2009 unibody macbook is inside the screen assembly, on the same cable as the iSight. A while back I replaced the LCD, so I must have nicked the cable/antenna while doing this. I am not opening the display all over again just to fix this, I just got a bluetooth dongle that works flawlessly --- that's how I know it's not a software problem, since I'm pretty sure OS X uses the same bluetooth stack for both transmitters.

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You should accept this answer so that future viewers know that this is the best answer. –  CajunLuke Jun 5 '12 at 20:45
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My bluetooth audio over AptX was choppy, too. This fixed it for me:

defaults write com.apple.BluetoothAudioAgent "Apple Bitpool Min (editable)" 53

Another great hint I found is to alt(option)-click the bluetooth icon on the top menu bar of os x: Then navigate to the bluetooth music device on that menu and it will show you the type of codec being used (atpX in my case).

Thank you bmike♦ for the hint to using Connection Quality Window of Bluetooth Explorer! Thanks to it, I was able to determine what's the best position for my bluetooth audio receiver[1]. Surprisingly enough, the best position was on one of it's narrow sides! The position that it is designed to be in doesn't actually give the best RSSI :P

[1] ProCaster Bluetooth Audio Receiver BT-02

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