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Old 07-08-2018, 09:30 AM   #1
serr
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Default Unintuitive settings needed in newer versions of OSX.

Sanity check welcome! Or just read if you like Sunday morning puzzles.

A little background:
For professional audio work, I use standard practices as far as interface connections, clocking, etc go. Everything is perfect and I have wildly overpowered machines for my needs.

I also use one of my machines and interfaces for home theater needs and this is where I decided to play a little fast and loose with the rules for convenience. It's just me in my listening room and no live audience, so occasional faux pas aren't a big deal and usually don't happen anyway.

The home theater setup:
The speaker array in this example is a small top 5.1 setup (5 mains that do highs/mids only with speaker management required to split out the bass content from the mains and route it to the Lfe combined with the original Lfe channel).
I do the speaker management digitally using Reaper as a "plugin". Soundflower (a virtual audio device) is installed. Aggregate device of my interface (Apogee Rosetta800 192k) + Soundflower. OS audio routed to Soundflower (on channels 1-6). DAW app (Reaper) connected to aggregate device picks up the input from the Soundflower channels, does the speaker management, and routes the final output to the Apogee.

Works like a charm. I can even leave the system set to 5.1 in Audio MIDI Setup and all channel formats (2.0, 4.0, 4.1, 5.0, 5.1) come out the correct speakers. Channels that are supposed to be silent stay that way (I mention this because some buggy media player apps will put weird mono folddowns into unused channels sometimes. Like 4.0 having a mono FL + FR mix in the Center channel when it's supposed to be digital zero.)

I've had the clock master set to the Apogee. This is the "fast and loose" part. It's really only proper to connect multiple devices with word clock for 100% stable operation. Obviously you can't connect word clock to a virtual audio device! (Or the built-in audio interface integrated into the logic board.) So I just let it clock over the data connection (firewire). It losses sync just once every blue moon. All good.

This was my setup running in 10.6.8 for the longest time. (And I see myself going back to 10.6.8 here and there likely indefinitely with the direction newer OSX builds are going!)

I'm shaking this down in a 10.9.5 install. (Plan is to keep 10.6.8 as rusty but trusty, 10.9 for "modern-ish" DAW work needed for a handful of newer plugins, and then 10.13 for an "experimental" system and to feel like I'm keeping up with stuff and things.)

Let's cut to the chase...
Something changed in core audio. And 10.9 is supposed to be bug free with this whereas there are allegedly core audio bugs in newer versions.
What I can get to work is setting the clock master to Soundflower and ticking the resample box for the Apogee. Clocking from the Apogee works for maybe an hour and then the Soundflower connection drifts and the system must be reinitialized. Clocking from the Apogee with Soundflower resampled flat out doesn't work. But clocking from Soundflower (the virtual device so... clocking the built-in interface is what that ends up meaning) with the Apogee resampled is rock solid.

That's completely counter intuitive! What's going on here?

I can say that there is no problem with the audio. I haven't recorded streams yet to verify 100% 1:1 samples so there may be a sample drop here and there. But no audible artifacts with 24 bit 96k 5.1 program. (audio only or audio + video) I am aware that the Apogee has a feature to chase and clean up jittery incoming clock signal, so I imagine this is what has my back here!

Just wondering if anyone else has run into this and has any insight to what's going on behind the scenes. Or if I'm missing a control panel setting and just ended up with 2 wrongs making a right in this scenario.

To recap:
Two devices (one virtual) clocked "fast and loose" over a firewire data connection.
Software is not able to chase hardware but hardware is able to chase software.
I expected the opposite!

Yeah, you read that right. It's 2018 and I'm just now entertaining the thought of using newer than 10.6.8 for home theater needs. I wonder if something in this is the root of recent complaints about newer versions of OSX? (Clicks and pops with aggregate devices complaints.)

Aside:
Downloaded the new version of XBMC Media Player - now called Kodi Player.
I thought the GUI for XBMC was hands down the worst garish borderline nonfunctional GUI I've ever seen. Somehow... they made it even worse! I wouldn't have thought it possible. The app works though. Highest res HD video + highest res HD 5.1 audio program and it just works. Price was right. (free)

FYI: Songbird has been playing the surround library on shuffle for the last 14 hours with no hint of trouble.

Last edited by serr; 07-08-2018 at 10:10 AM.
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Old 07-08-2018, 10:11 AM   #2
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Firewire is not supported at all in the newer macOS.., maybe its time for you to get new hardware?, wait until the end of this year for when apple release their new Mac range.. or wait until next year for the new modular Mac Pro.

my iMac runs as perfect as can be.

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Old 07-08-2018, 12:43 PM   #3
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I haven't downloaded the Mojave beta yet. Where are you seeing claims of removing firewire support? I thought 10.14 was supposed to be good on everything supporting 10.13. There are conversations going on about Mac Pro support with only certain graphics cards.

But I was going on about clocking multiple devices improperly and what you can get away with.
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Old 07-08-2018, 08:40 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Futur8me View Post
Firewire is not supported at all in the newer macOS..
Of course it is still supported. It's part of Thunderbolt and USB-C. Hec, even iSCSI is still part of USB-C...

It's the Firewire Audio/Video class driver that's no longer present. AFAIK the only manufacturers using that driver are Apogee and Griffin. The Griffin FireWave was obsoleted >10 years ago, I think.

EDIT: The M-Audio Firepower and the Behringer FCA610 also use the FW Audio Class drivers, IIRC.

Funny. Apple's Spell checker still knows the name "FireWave" and flags it if it's not in camel case.
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Old 07-09-2018, 03:14 AM   #5
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We are talking firewire audio here and serr specifically mentioned apogee firewire, which do not have drivers for the newer macOS, it stopped with el capitan if i remember correctly.., so basically as i have already said maybe its time to look at buying new hardware.. here is the explanation from apogee..>>


“Apple began to phase out FireWire connectivity in 2012 on all Mac computers. With significant improvements to USB audio and the introduction of Thunderbolt, the performance and stability offered with FireWire audio interfaces has been surpassed. As a result, Apple has discontinued development and maintenance of their FireWire Core Audio driver for the new Mac OS X El Capitan. For this reason, we simply cannot ensure a stable/reliable experience for users of our FireWire audio interfaces who choose to upgrade to this new Mac OS release.
Due to the fact that Apple is no longer developing their FireWire Core Audio Driver, Apogee’s Duet FireWire and Ensemble FireWire will not be officially supported on OS X 10.11 El Capitan or any future Mac OS X release. While these products may work normally for some users, Apogee will not be able to provide technical support, troubleshooting or bug fixes for any software related issues you experience on OS X 10.11 El Capitan or higher. Please note, Apogee will continue to fully support our FireWire users who remain on Mac OS X 10.10 or below, just as we have done since the products were first introduce in 2006. In addition, we will continue to provide repair services for the hardware components as long as parts continue to be available.”
Hope that helps.

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Old 07-09-2018, 03:30 AM   #6
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I know, man. And so do you..

But others might be confused about "dropping firewire support". Hec, even Serr was confused.

So, being anal as I usually am, I felt the need to correct.

Maybe Thesycon could release a FW driver for the Apogee? They have done the same for Windows USB2 Audio class, which MS dropped in Win10...

But then, I have no idea about the complexity of this task and the potential market for it. How many Apogee's are there in the field?

And it is a bit strange, as I know several people who's Apogee FW Duet still works under EC and even Sierra. I believe this device also uses Apple's FW Audio class driver?
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Old 07-09-2018, 04:35 AM   #7
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Thats just semantics again.., apple have dropped all development for firewire in core audio.., thunderbolt and usb for core audio is now the focus and the future.., why waste time on it when time is money, just buy a new sound card and stop wasting time.

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Old 07-09-2018, 09:21 AM   #8
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Haha. Yeah replace a $2000 unit with 8 AD and 8 DA because of an OS software faux pas. We don't do things that way around here!

If the theory is that Apple started depreciating their firewire driver already in 10.9 and the fallout from that is it changed how clock sync functions worked (which run stable as I described)... man, that's a stretch!

The Rosetta800 works in 10.13 BTW. I haven't really beat up on the system in 10.13 yet. Haven't had reason to. There aren't any OSX features on the horizon that would come near justifying making a sideways move with hardware either. Can't even imagine what could.

So... clocking! (And in OSX 10.9)

Keep in mind here this scenario is intentionally breaking the rules. I'm running an interface built into a logic board that has no word clock connection by proxy from a virtual device in aggregate with an external interface. There may still be a level of acceptable performance with the convenience of clocking over the data connection though and there seems to be with certain settings.

I suppose I'll just have to say clocking from your virtual audio device is required in aggregate devices of virtual + hardware. Either something changed with this or it was never supposed to work well the other way and for some reason 2 wrongs were making a right for me in the past.

Last edited by serr; 07-09-2018 at 09:40 AM.
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Old 07-10-2018, 04:26 PM   #9
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Maybe you worry too much about clocking?

AFAIK Core Audio re-clocks everything when needed. I would worry more about SoundFlower's codebase. IIRC, that hasn't been updated in years. And it wasn't reliable for me under Mavericks.

There are a number of complaints about clicks and pops, but none related to clocking, as far as I can tell. And most of these complaints are about USB.
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Old 07-11-2018, 07:15 AM   #10
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Maybe you worry too much about clocking?

AFAIK Core Audio re-clocks everything when needed. I would worry more about SoundFlower's codebase. IIRC, that hasn't been updated in years. And it wasn't reliable for me under Mavericks.

There are a number of complaints about clicks and pops, but none related to clocking, as far as I can tell. And most of these complaints are about USB.
Well, I had clicks and pops when I first fired up an install of 10.9 and set the clock master for the aggregate device to the Apogee as I had always done in 10.6. (I also had trouble in a 10.10 install but I didn't troubleshoot it for other reasons.)

If I clock from Soundflower however, it's perfectly stable like it always was before.

Core audio DOES drop clock cycles every now and then (maybe once every 2 hours?)! You will catch that if you try to run without the resync option checked. It made sense to me to use the hardware clock as master and make core audio (and the virtual device) chase it since it wasn't truly word clock accurate to begin with.

But in hindsight... maybe the opposite makes more sense? Clock from the weakest link in the chain (so it can't get any worse) and make the hardware device use its feature to work with a jittery (or occasional cycle dropping) clock and clean it up for the DA conversion.

Maybe this is the root of the trouble others have had?

What do you recommend for an upgrade to Soundflower? I noticed the glaring lack of recent development! I went and looked at "Jack" again but it looks like a mess that I don't even want to try. Requires a client constantly running in the background like it's sort of a DAW-like app itself. Clumsy. I just need a virtual device app. I thought Soundflower was pretty slick. I like that they let you attempt clocking over the data connection as an option (even though it's dependent on hardware cooperating and not recommended for professional applications). Sort of a Reaper-like unrestricted option set.

The back and forth routing in my setup might be 'advanced' as it were but it's sure convenient. And it eliminates the need for expansive hardware speaker management devices for my smaller 5.1 array. Not abandoning this any time soon.
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Old 07-11-2018, 03:14 PM   #11
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My personal rule for clocking: clock comes from the first input device. But that's for clocking over ADAT and when recording. I've never had playback problems. And the RME FF400 I use re-clocks to everything. Doesn't Apogee have something like RME"s SteadyClock?

I never have had clock problems with Core audio, unless with aggregated devices and then usually with two wildly different devicses (like one pro and one consumer device).

I'd test without SoundFlower. BTW, what exactly do you need it for? There are several other audio routers out there, but none for pro audio. They're al geared toward sending audio (or video) to AirPlay devices, or to record fi Skype conversations. Things like Reflector, Audio Hijack, Sound Siphon. The last one I've tested under Mavericks (while it was in beta) and it works well. Have a look:

https://staticz.com/soundsiphon/

It's a one dev company, but he's responsive to questions and looks determined to compete with Rogue Amoeba's Audio Hijack.

All of these software audio routers are heading for trouble, unless they can work without a kernel extension. Apple seems determined to weed out all 3rd party kernel extensions. I'm glad I can do all routing in hardware in the RME. Just one tiny step closer to independence from Apple.
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Old 07-11-2018, 05:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrano View Post
My personal rule for clocking: clock comes from the first input device. But that's for clocking over ADAT and when recording. I've never had playback problems. And the RME FF400 I use re-clocks to everything. Doesn't Apogee have something like RME"s SteadyClock?
Yes and that's probably what's making this work!

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrano View Post
I never have had clock problems with Core audio, unless with aggregated devices and then usually with two wildly different devicses (like one pro and one consumer device).
Haha. Well, that's exactly what I'm doing. Aggregate of an Apogee Rosetta800 + Soundflower.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrano View Post
I'd test without SoundFlower. BTW, what exactly do you need it for? There are several other audio routers out there, but none for pro audio. They're al geared toward sending audio (or video) to AirPlay devices, or to record fi Skype conversations. Things like Reflector, Audio Hijack, Sound Siphon. The last one I've tested under Mavericks (while it was in beta) and it works well. Have a look:

https://staticz.com/soundsiphon/

It's a one dev company, but he's responsive to questions and looks determined to compete with Rogue Amoeba's Audio Hijack.
Yeah, I suppose I'll have to go down the list and try them then.
I need it to send any system audio (eg. output from media player apps) to Reaper for speaker management of a small top (highs and mids only) 5.1 speaker array. This eliminates hardware management needs and gives the convenience of using any media player app normally (audio or video). This is a non critical home use. Anything professional here uses audio interfaces with word clock connections only.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrano View Post
All of these software audio routers are heading for trouble, unless they can work without a kernel extension. Apple seems determined to weed out all 3rd party kernel extensions. I'm glad I can do all routing in hardware in the RME. Just one tiny step closer to independence from Apple.
That will likely be the event I will be calling the end of OSX.
But I'm fine with the level of computer equipment and interfaces I have if they become frozen in time.
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