"Audio playback engine failed to start" error

If you encounter the "Audio playback engine failed to start" error in Systemwide, this guide provides more details on the error and tips for resolving it. 


Reference 4 Systemwide attempts to present detailed error dialogs if the audio playback engine fails. However, this is not always possible - there are scenarios where Systemwide cannot determine the cause of the failure.


There can be different reasons for this. For example, a sudden format change on the audio output device can be unsupported and cause a playback engine failure if the engine is in the middle of initialization. Other cases could involve uncommon channel layouts, unsupported sample formats, or exclusive access settings from other processes. In such cases, the "Audio playback engine failed to start" error dialog will be presented.


This will help the troubleshooting process and narrow down the cause of failure. Common anomalies to look for might include sample rate/format mismatches, blank setting fields, and other obscure things in Mac's Audio MIDI Setup and Windows Sound Control Panel. If the cause can be pinned down and fixed, proceed to Systemwide audio settings and hit the "Restart audio playback engine" button.


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Hi everyone, 

We are still sorting out a couple of problems with this new feature - for some users, the playback engine failure notification might be showing up every time on start-up. 

We are hoping to sort this out in a few days time. The current release is build, check the downloads page in a few days - if there is a later build available, it should include the fix for this too.

Thank you guys!


Beta Revision solved all issues


I get it every time I put my computer to sleep (Windows 10).

It requires a computer restart for it to "find" the device again. 

Total PITA.



Some users that experience playback engine failures on Reference 4.4.2. running Focusrite interfaces have reported that reinstall of current Focusrite drivers solves the issue. 
Driver downloads can be retrieved following this link -



Hi, it seems Sonarworks is incompatible with AudioHijack's ACE Extension, which enables the program to capture audio from any application that is currently open. With the ACE Extension I constantly got Errors regarding the Audio Playback Engine, removing the ACE Extension resolved the problem, everything is fine again now. Obviously Sonarworks and AudioHijack have a similar way to reroute system audio. Unfortunately the similarity also leads to an incompatibility. Maybe this can be resolved at some point?


Hey Alexander,

If AudioHijack also functions as a Virtual Output device it is very likely that you are correct.
One virtual device routing signal into another might cause some conflicts, but this might differ from case to case depending on your interface, version of Reference 4 as well as OS. 
If you'd like to investigate a possible solution further, feel free to submit a support ticket here and we will do our best to help you!

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