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Recover damaged audio file on Mac

by Jane is K.O. - 15.01.13

For Mac OS X users, assuming your OS is intact
Note: This article by far doesn’t cover the complete issue, however it is especially about damaged audio files left after an application crash during recording. No professional assistance required.
Use at your own risk.

CASE
Crash during recording an audio file (tested in Logic Audio and MaxMSP). The result (.aif) still appears in Finder, but despite it’s apparent file size (definately more than just a few hundred KB) it shows a play length of zero seconds. The file does not load or play in any application. As if it would contain only header data, but no audio? Wrong.

RECOVER
Using a 24-bit/44.1KHz stereo interleaved file as an example.
• Download Tom Erbe’s Soundhack (must-have freeware).
• Rename file extension in Finder from .aif or .wav to .txt
• Open .txt file in Soundhack using “File -> Open any”. The file will appear as a mono 8-bit file (other variations, see user comments below), without header.
• Press Apple-H or go to “Hack -> Header Change.” Change header to original no. of channels (2), and original bit resolution, but eventually swap bytes (try this first – if the bytes are in wrong order, then you’ll get white noise later).
• Try playing the result (press space bar). If you just hear digital noise, close the result, open .txt file again, and use the “linear” instead of “byte swap” option when changing header.
• Save working result using “File -> Save as Copy” using your original file type and resolution.

I hope that helped :)
Thank you, Tom Erbe.


  1. — Serban Matei    16/02/17    #

    Thanks for this. It is very important to save the changes before you can preview the file. For me the preview did not work before (no noise even, as in for example Audacity).

    So make sure you get the settings right, then save, and THEN the magical moment when your file is playing :)

  2. — Lila    08/11/14    #

    You’re the first person to explain this in a way that actually makes sense and relates to my problem (and I’ve looked for about 6 hours) My worst nightmare of losing songwriting memos has become a reality, I have no idea how it came to be but one specific file is filled with white noise – I’ve tried everything, including your helpful guide! Only tip that improved the amount of white noise, but not all of it! Any more help would be a life saver, even if this was posted awhile ago. Losing files I can handle.. losing music, I cannot (especially mine) the file was recorded on quicktime/highest quality/aifc. All others say 24bit but this one says 34bit float? —— sincerely, L.

  3. — Marc    19/10/13    #

    After a bit of trial and error, THIS WORKED! Recovered an important file I had all but given up on. Thank you so much!

  4. — Jomo    01/12/12    #

    I’ve tried both soundhack & sd2wav for my broken files but they all recover with a ton of digital white noise. I can hear the music beneath the noise but I can’t figure out how to remove the noise. This is terribly frustrating. But I have some hope since I can actually hear the music. At least its there. I’m hoping I can find out what I’m doing wrong or what else maybe I should be doing to recover the files without all the noise. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks.


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