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This is a very well known bug around these forums! (It's also mentioned in some of the posts on the Adobe blog.) There's an issue with El Capitan and the new architecture introduced in AE CC 2015.
It's really annoying, isn't it? Happily, there's a simple workaround. Dock a panel underneath your timeline.
Note the render queue underneath the timeline.
Alternatively, you can apply to beta test the 13.7.1 update that fixes the bug: help test the After Effects CC 2015 (13.7.1) patch update
I'm having the same problem. Working on a really basic project but I can't get smooth playback even at quarter quality. This workaround doesn't help.
You might consider installing After Effects CC 2015.3 (version number 13.8.0.x) - it's basically CC 2016 - it has a much more stable preview engine.
Be aware that when updating to the new version, the CC software might try to uninstall your older versions. I would recommend you go into the settings and set it to keep your old versions.
I'm having the same problem on Windows 7. I'm trying to synch animations to an audio track, and it's almost impossible.
try the latest release of 13.8.1 - the performance is much better. here's a comparison I am making between the CC2015 and CC2015.3: After Effects 2015.3 - My Favorite Features - YouTube at 00:57.
if you are still experiencing playback problems see if you have in your preferences under display - accelerate hardware - and set it OFF.
This actually appears to not be fixed in the latest version - 126.96.36.199, as I'm still experiencing these issues after the update.
So, I docked the Render Queue panel to the bottom of the timeline and it dramatically improved the playback once cached. Previously, the audio was chugging, pitch shifting and getting non-realtime playback. So far it's been holding up decent today...
Also El Capitan OS? It seems that some OS are still struggling with this issue. I would recommend to file a bug report. Thank you for sharing what somewhat helped you with this issue.