Ensemble (Thunderbolt)

Why is Element Thunderbolt 1 and Ensemble Thunderbolt 2?

The Element units are Thunderbolt 1 chipset, while Ensemble Thunderbolt and Symphony MkII are Thunderbolt 2 chipset.

It is important to clarify what the “speed” designation really means, as it can be a bit misleading.

 

You can see from this link:

https://www.macworld.com/article/2083257/what-you-need-to-know-about-thunderbolt-2.html

 

Thunderbolt 2 is an update to the original Thunderbolt specification and takes the original’s two 10 Gbps bi-directional channels and combines them into a single 20 Gbps bi-directional channel. The amount of data able to go through a Thunderbolt connection hasn’t increased, but the throughput of a single channel has been doubled.

 

Because the Elements are a lower channel count device that only needs 1 lane of bandwidth making them Thunderbolt 2 would have no effect, only cost the user more.  It would not lower latency, only make the Elements able to pass more channels, which are not present.

 

On the Ensemble Thunderbolt and Symphony I/O MkII it is much more important to have Thunderbolt 2, because those units are passing far more channels, up to 64 channels with two Symphony I/O MkII units in multi-unit mode.

 

Thus you will find exactly the same roundtrip latency time on Elements as Ensemble Thunderbolt, regardless of Thunderbolt 1 vs 2.

Why does my Ensemble Thunderbolt needs to be replugged every time I turn it on?

Are you powering the Ensemble On/Off just from the front power button, or cutting power completely such as via a Power Strip or Power Conditioner?

The Thunderbolt card in the Ensemble is separate from the rest of the circuitry of the Ensemble.

When you power off the Ensemble Thunderbolt via the soft button on the front, the Audio Device circuitry turns off but the Thunderbolt card remains active. This is so any other devices daisy chained to the Ensemble remain connected to the computer.

If you power off the unit by fully removing AC power, pulling the rear plug or powering off a power conditioner, you may find that afterward you need to Wake this Thunderbolt card again, by reconnecting the cable to it so the card knows to look for a computer.

 

Follow the recommended power up method here: https://knowledgebase.apogeedigital.com/ensemble-thunderbolt/power-up-order-for-ensemble-thunderbolt/

Connecting Apogee Thunderbolt to Macs with USB-C ports

All Apogee Thunderbolt interfaces can be connected to Mac computers with USB-C Thunderbolt 3 using Apple’s adapter:

https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MMEL2AM/A/thunderbolt-3-usb-c-to-thunderbolt-2-adapter

Thunderbolt 3 is backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 1 devices so any Apogee Thunderbolt device will work through this adapter with no reduction in performance, latency, or sound quality.

Note: Some 3rd-party venders sell a Display Port adapter. Though the plug is the same size and shape as Thunderbolt 2 & 1, these adapters do not support Thunderbolt.

It should be noted that Thunderbolt 3 ports look exactly like USB-C ports and their cables also look similar. This can get a little confusing, so here are a few basic rules to help clear up any questions about connectivity:

  • USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 have the same-size port and the same-size connector for their cables. Since USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports look exactly the same, you will need to make sure your Mac has Thunderbolt 3 capabilities before using it with an Apogee Thunderbolt device and an Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter.
  • A Mac with Thunderbolt 3 ports, such as the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, can use it’s Thunderbolt 3 ports to connect to any Thunderbolt 3 device, USB-C device, and Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 1 device if you use the Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter.
  • A Mac with only USB-C ports, such as the 2015 and 2016 12″ MacBook, can NOT connect to any Thunderbolt device, even when using adapters. It can connect to USB-C devices and other types of USB devices, using the proper adapters.

How do I redeem my Eventide Ensemble bundle?

For a limited time (July 10th 2018 thru January 10th 2019)
Customers who buy a new Apogee Ensemble or Element Series Thunderbolt audio interface from an
authorized Apogee dealer get a Discount Coupon good for a free six-month subscription to the Eventide Ensemble bundle (a $180 value).

To receive this promotion,

  1. Purchase a new Ensemble Thunderbolt or Element 24,46 or 88 from an authorized Apogee dealer
  2. Register the product on the Apogee website and opt-in to receive your license code via email
  3. Use the link in the email to redeem your code from Gobbler.com (Each unique license is embedded in the link within the email. You cannot redeem the plugins unless you click through this link in the email.)
  4. Login to register your Gobbler account and click on ‘Redeem’
  5. Download and installer the Gobbler client
  6. Use the Gobbler client to download, install and activate the plugins.

For additional questions about this Eventide Ensemble bundle, please visit Eventide’s FAQ’s.

 

Mac Audio Optimization Guide

When streaming audio through an interface connected to your Mac, there are many factors that can cause performance problem:

  • audio artifacts such as pops or clicks, stutters, or dropouts as you play or record
  • erroneous firmware messages, performance issues, or other strange behavior.

Use this guide to optimize your Mac computer to reduce the chances of this from happening, or as a starter if you have any issues.

Please keep in mind these steps are not required to use our product, but have solved problems for customers in the past. It is best to test these known fixes first and see if they relate to your issue.

Turn off Automatic Sleep Mode

In Apple Menu > System Preferences > Energy Saver set Computer Sleep to Never.
Make sure “Put hard disks to sleep when possible” is NOT checked.
(These settings may vary on different Mac Models)

This will mean that Sleep Mode does not come on automatically, but you can still put your computer to Sleep when you like, by going to Apple Menu > Sleep.

This is one of the most important steps to prevent problem behavior with an audio device because Sleep Mode works by suspending drivers in a hibernate state, rather than unloading them fully. When waking up the computer does not “enumerate” the drivers fresh as with a newly connected device, but just attempts to proceed as if nothing changed.

However your Audio Device will think it has been disconnected during Sleep, as the driver was no longer available. During Sleep the unit may shut off or go into a standalone mode depending on it’s model/design/features. When the computer wakes from Sleep the Audio Device doesn’t receive a good connection because the driver is not reloaded fresh as with a true unplug/replug, called “driver enumeration.”

Automatic Sleep can lead to situations where you get up for a quick break during your session and come back to glitchy audio, artifacts, no audio, a full disconnect, and other performance issues. Very short Sleep Mode settings, such as every 1 minute, can even create situations where you turn to do something in the studio like adjust your outboard mixer and before you are done the whole unit has been disconnected, or an erroneous firmware message has popped up.

If you must use Sleep Mode, then for best performance first turn off/unplug your interface and then choose Sleep from the Apple Menu. When you come back to work you can Wake the computer and then plug in/power the interface and get a freshly loaded driver.

Remove or Disable Unused Network Adapters

In Apple Menu > System Preferences > Network and make sure to remove any Network Adapters you are not currently using for a LAN or Internet Connection.

For example remove “Bluetooth PAN” “Thunderbolt Bridge” “Firewire” et al.

Having a port that shares a USB, Firewire or Thunderbolt Bus with your Audio Hardware here can limit its bandwidth.

When a certain Port Type, for example “BlueTooth PAN” is listed here, but not in use the computer will constantly “ping” that Port, looking for a connection to appear. This can create a lot of Network Traffic where it isn’t needed, such as on your USB Bus, since BlueTooth is an internally connected USB Device. This can lead to those constant pings knocking your audio device off the USB Bus, disconnecting it.

Turn off your Firewall

In Apple Menu > System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall make sure Firewall is Off.

Networkingis one of the most common sources of audio problems on all computers, Mac and PC. This could be Network Activity on the computer, but also Firewalls for specific programs or computer blocking connections. In general it is best to disable the Firewall on any Audio Production computer.

If you do have important Firewall tasks that need to be done, like opening a Port Forward for your Video Games, it is best to do this on your Router instead, as that device is better equipped. It won’t cause so many audio interactions when done on a different device.

Remove Startup Items

In Apple Menu > System Preferences > Users & Groups > Admin Account > Login Items: remove any Startup items.

Startup Items can be control panels for other audio gear, like Digidesign loader, or programs like Spotify that go online and can interrupt other audio programs. Also things like Adobe Creative Cloud, or even Anti Virus Software will run in the background and slow down your computer.

In this screenshot you can see the computers has iTunes, Flux a color temperature program, and Dropbox all starting up when the computer loads. As iTunes and Dropbox can go online in the background, and Flux may affect graphics performance, these could all potentially affect audio or CPU performance negatively. It is best to remove them if having audio troubles.

There are no Startup Items by default on the Mac so you can remove all of them with no issue.  If you are worried about removing some items, then take a screenshot of them so you can restore them at a later time: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201361

Repair Disk Permissions

In Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility: select Macintosh HD and click First Aid (Repair Disk Permissions on older Macs). Repeat this for any other Hard Drives you have connected.

Choose your best USB or Thunderbolt Port and cable

If you are using a USB Audio Interface (such as Duet), try all the USB ports on your computer. One may work better than another due to how the internal ports are hubbed.

Be sure you have tried another USB, Thunderbolt or Firewire Cable.

Turn off Analytics and Location Services

In System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy Tab > Analytics (could say Diagnostics and Usage), un-check the boxes for Share Mac Analytics, Share with App Developers, and Share iCloud Analytics.

You may also want to disable Locations services found in this same Privacy Tab to further reduce background network traffic.

Turn off Sound Notifications for Apps

Turn off sound notifications for all your apps: In System Preferences > Notifications, select an app then un-check the box for “play sound for notifications. Repeat this for all apps in the left side-bar.

After these steps please RESTART the Computer

While you are Recording

  • Check that any Virus Scanners or Backup software (i.e. Hightail or Carbonite) that run in the background are disabled.  High background activity especially over the Network can cause glitches.
  • Close any unnecessary applications while recording (i.e. Skype or Browsers you are not actively using.)

Volume and Gain are changing by themselves – Auto Gain Control

If your Apogee’s Input Gain or Output Volume are changing on their own, this may be caused by a 3rd-party program like Skype, Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, and others.

How is this possible? All modern Apogee interfaces have input gain and output volume that are digitally controlled rather than an analog potentiometer that must be physically turned. The advantages of digital control are many:

  • Improved Sound Quality (turning the gain doesn’t cause a “scratchy” sound, and enables the advantages of our Step-Gain preamp technology)
  • Settings can be saved to presets that can be recalled later.
  • You can also control these settings directly from recording applications like Logic or Garageband’s Device Control feature instead of having to open a separate app.

Unfortunately, other applications are also able to take over these controls in an undesirable way. Most often the culprit are Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) applications like Skype or GoToMeeting, or video conferencing apps like Google Hangouts, as well as Video Podcast features like Facebook Live.

These apps want to optimize the sound as much as possible for phone & video calls or recordings. This feature is usually called “Auto-Gain Control” and is actually pretty great when the computer’s built-in microphone and speakers are being used. However it’s very disruptive when you want to manually set the levels of your own interface and have them stay there.

Sadly, many of these applications do not provide you with the ability to turn off this Auto-Gain Control feature.

There are many applications out there, but there are a few that are most popular that we’ll briefly cover:

SKYPE: Can disable auto-gain ????

The more recent versions of this app provide the ability to turn off AutoGain Control. The example below shows the Mac version. The iOS app is restricted to only using the built-in iPad/iPhone mic and can’t use external sound cards.

Google Hangouts: Cannot turn off auto-gain ????

On a Mac, Hangouts typically needs a Chrome or Safari browser extension installed. None of the settings menus provide an option to turn off auto-gain. Even worse: even if you are not in a hangouts session but your web browser is open, the hangouts plugin will still be active and can adjust the gain on you. If you are in a DAW or recording program at the time, this is obviously bad. Turn off or disable the extension to avoid this:

Safari Browser:
 

 

Chrome Browser:
 

 

Facebook Live: Cannot turn off auto-gain ????

The Facebook Live interface only allows you to select your interface, there are no audio options beyond that so if it is adjusting your Apogee’s levels there is no way to turn it off.

Are there any alternatives?

Yes. At least on a Mac or PC there are 3rd-party programs that stream through Facebook Live, or Twitch, or YouTube, and has extensive audio features. Apogee does our Facebook Live streams using an open source broadcaster software called OBS. There are many other such programs out there so look around to find one that serves your needs.

On an iPad or iPhone, you are limited by the capabilities of the iOS operating system and the app you are using, so there are usually even fewer options to get around the auto-gain problem.

The ability to disable Auto-Gain should be added to these apps by the developer. Please contact the maker of the program or iOS app you use and ask them to add this feature in a future update. Getting many requests from customers is the only way developers will know there is a demand for this.

 

*If you know of a better way around this problem, please contact our Support Team and let us know!

Logic Direct Monitoring

What is Logic Direct Monitoring?

 Hardware – Software Requirements

  1. Element Series + Ensemble Thunderbolt with July 2017 software and firmware updates
  2. Requires Logic Pro 10.3.2 or greater
  3. Direct Monitoring feature enabled only with a single Apogee interface – Direct Monitoring is disabled when multiple Apogee interfaces are connected.

Setting up Logic Pro to use Direct Monitoring

  1. In Logic Pro > Preferences > Audio > General, check Software Monitoring.
  2. In the Logic Pro menu bar, choose Record > Auto Input Monitoring if the setting is unchecked.
  3. Configure Logic Pro for use with an Apogee Element Series or Ensemble Thunderbolt interface
  4. In Logic Pro, choose View > Show Mixer if Mixer isn’t displayed.
  5. In the Mixer pane, choose View > Channel Strip Components, then select Audio Device Control if it is unchecked.
  6. At the top of the Channel Strip, Audio Device and Monitoring controls should now be displayed.

Are Bus Sends active in Direct Monitoring Channel Strips?

Yes, Logic Pro Bus sends operate as expected when the Channel Strip is in Direct Monitoring mode, allowing the user to send the signal to a reverb or other effect. Note that the send is delayed in relation to the Direct Monitoring signal, but this delay is rather inconsequential in the context of a reverb send.

What about plugins?

Plugins appear active but aren’t processing the Direct signal. Plugins DO process the Bus sends (i.e. reverb sends). Also, when audio is played back from tracks through the Channel Strip, plugins process the playback signal.

 Can I engage Direct Monitoring on Multiple Channel Strips and mix them to one stereo output?

Yes, it’s possible to engage Direct Monitoring on as many Channel Strips as there are hardware inputs. For example, an Element 46 has 4 analog and 8 optical inputs – thus, it’s possible to engage Direct Monitoring on up to 12 Channel Strips and mix them to one stereo output.

Can I create create Direct Monitoring mixes for multiple hardware outputs?

Yes, it’s possible to create up to 4 stereo mixes using Ensemble Thunderbolt and 3 stereo mixes using Element Series interfaces. Note that it isn’t currently possible to route a hardware input to two different mixes. Also note that it’s not possible to route a Direct Monitoring mix to Element Series optical outputs.

How does Direct Monitoring interact with Apogee Control low latency mixers

  • Direct Monitoring mixers are in addition to Apogee Control mixers. Users may employ both if they so desire.
  • Apogee Control low latency mixers. This means that, practically, users should employ one approach or the other.

Do Apogee Thunderbolt products (Element, Ensemble Thunderbolt, Symphony I/O MkII, Thunderbridge) work with the latest 12″ MacBook?

Question:

Do Apogee’s Thunderbolt products (Element 24, Element 46, Element 88, Ensemble Thunderbolt, Symphony I/O MkII Thunderbolt, and Symphony 64 Thunderbridge) work with the 2015 and 2016 12″ MacBook?

 

Answer:

No. The 2015 and 2016 12″ MacBook, shown here, do not include a Thunderbolt port. They only have a USB-C port. The Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapters will not work with these MacBooks, despite using the same-size connectors. Apogee Thunderbolt devices will work with the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, as discussed in this post. It should be noted that Thunderbolt 3 ports look exactly like USB-C ports and their cables also look similar. This can get a little confusing, so here are a few basic rules to help clear up any questions about connectivity:

  • USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 have the same-size port and the same-size connector for their cables. Since USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports look exactly the same, you will need to make sure your Mac has Thunderbolt 3 capabilities before using it with an Apogee Thunderbolt device and an Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter.
  • A Mac with Thunderbolt 3 ports, such as the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, can use it’s Thunderbolt 3 ports to connect to any Thunderbolt 3 device, USB-C device, and Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 1 device if you use the Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter.
  • A Mac with only USB-C ports, such as the 2015 and 2016 12″ MacBook, can NOT connect to any Thunderbolt device, even when using adapters. It can connect to USB-C devices and other types of USB devices, using the proper adapters.

 

Click here for more information on the differences between USB-C ports and Thunderbolt 3 ports.

 

 

 

 

Popping noises on the analog outputs

In rare cases, Ensemble Thunderbolt will generate short pops or clicks through the analog outputs. This would occur even if there are no inputs connected, the unit is hardware reset and on it’s internal clock, and is disconnected from the computer.

This is resolved with a firmware update that is part of the Ensemble Thunderbolt July 2016 software. Download it here: Download

  • Run the Software Installer.pkg that is inside this downloaded file. It will require your computer to restart.
  • Connect Ensemble via Thunderbolt cable to your Mac computer. You will be prompted to update the firmware.
  • If you are not prompted, the Ensemble Thunderbolt Firmware Updater can be manually run from your Mac’s Applications > Utilities folder.

When the firmware has completed it’s update, verify the version by opening the Apogee Maestro 2 software. Go to the Apogee Maestro 2 > About Apogee Maestro 2 menu. A properly updated Ensemble Thunderbolt will have Firmware 1.0.0.5 and FPGA 0.32 or higher.