Ensemble (Thunderbolt): Troubleshooting

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/

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!

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.

Signal not showing up where it’s supposed to and routing incorrect in Pro Tools

If your signal isn’t showing up correctly in Pro Tools, coming out of Pro Tools to the desired outputs, or if the routing isn’t showing up as expected, there are a few things to check. Look below for the section that applies to the Apogee product you’re using:

 

JAM, JAM 96k, MiC, MiC 96k, Groove

  • Confirm that the device you’re using is selected as the ‘Playback Engine’ in Pro Tools by going to the the ‘Setup’ dropdown menu in Pro Tools and selecting ‘Playback Engine’. Make sure your Apogee device is selected in the ‘Playback Engine’ dropdown menu at the top of the window. If you are using JAM or MiC, you will first need to create a ‘Pro Tools Aggregate I/O’ and then you will select ‘Pro Tools Aggregate I/O’ as your ‘Playback Engine’. Click here for setting up JAM for Pro Tools.  Click here for setting up MiC for Pro Tools.
  • You may need to reset the I/O paths in Pro Tools. This is a very common thing. Click on the ‘Setup’ menu in Pro Tools and select ‘I/O’. Once the I/O Setup opens, select all of the channels in the left-hand column and hit ‘Delete’ on your keyboard.  After you’ve deleted them, click the ‘Default’ button in the lower part of the screen. Follow the same steps for each tab in I/O Setup. Once you have gone through these steps in each tab, click the ‘OK’ button to confirm changes and exit.

 

ONE (every model), GiO, Duet (every model), Quartet, Ensemble (every model)

  • Confirm that you are using the correct inputs/outputs on your device. Click here for instructions on how to setup ONE.  Click here for instructions on how to setup Duet.  Click here for instructions on how to setup Quartet.
  • Confirm that the device you’re using is selected as the ‘Playback Engine’ in Pro Tools by going to the the ‘Setup’ dropdown menu in Pro Tools and selecting ‘Playback Engine’. Make sure your Apogee device is selected in the ‘Playback Engine’ dropdown menu at the top of the window.
  • Launch ‘Apogee Maestro’ and click the ‘Reset Routing’ button in both the ‘Input Routing’ and ‘Output Routing’ tabs. If you’re using an Avid Duet or Avid Quartet, you will use ‘Pro Tools I/O Control’ app instead of Maestro. Click here if you need to download the Pro Tools I/O Control app for Avid Duet or Quartet.
  • You may need to reset the I/O paths in Pro Tools. This is a very common thing. Click on the ‘Setup’ menu in Pro Tools and select ‘I/O’. Once the I/O Setup opens, select all of the channels in the left-hand column and hit ‘Delete’ on your keyboard.  After you’ve deleted them, click the ‘Default’ button in the lower part of the screen. Follow the same steps for each tab in I/O Setup. Once you have gone through these steps in each tab, click the ‘OK’ button to confirm changes and exit.

Symphony I/O, Symphony I/O MkII, AD16x, DA16x, Rosetta 200, Rosetta 800

 

 

Duet, Quartet, and Ensemble Thunderbolt’s 1/4″ and XLR inputs explained

When using Duet2, Duet for iPad & Mac, Quartet, and Ensemble Thunderbolt, it is important to remember that any of the dual XLR-1/4″ combo jacks are set up so when the input is set to ‘Mic’ or ‘Line’ (+4dBu or -10dBV), only the XLR part of the jack will receive signal. This means that you will need to use an XLR cable or a cable with an XLR adapter connected to it.

The same is true in reverse- when the input is set for ‘Instrument’, only the 1/4″ part of the jack will receive signal.  This means that you will need to use a 1/4″ cable.

 

Here are some examples for setting up different types of input sources on Duet, Quartet, and Ensemble Thunderbolt:

 

Mics

Connect your Mic using only an XLR cable (no 1/4″ adapters or cables) to the XLR input jacks on your Apogee device.

Launch ‘Apogee Maestro’ from your Applications folder, go to the ‘Input’ tab and ‘Analog Level’ drop-down menu for whichever input you’re using to ‘Mic’.

If you’re using a condenser mic that requires phantom power, engage the ’48′ button on the input you’re using.

Gradually bring the input level in Maestro up until you get a good level from your input source. Make sure the meter isn’t going into the red.

 

 

Guitars, Basses, Keyboards, Hi-Z Mics that have 1/4″ cables, such as harmonica mics:

Connect your Instrument using only a 1/4″ instrument cable to the 1/4″  input jacks. (be sure that you’re connecting to the 1/4″ inputs on the combo XLR-1/4″ jacks and not the 1/4″ output jacks)

Launch ‘Apogee Maestro’ from your Applications folder, go to the ‘Input’ tab and ‘Analog Level’ drop-down menu for whichever input you’re using to ‘Instrument’.

Gradually bring the input level in Maestro up until you get a good level from your input source. Make sure the meter isn’t going into the red.

 

Sending Line-Level audio to your Apogee device and bypassing it’s mic-pres

Connect the output from your line-level piece of gear (such as a compressor or external mic-pre) to the XLR input jacks. If your Line-Level device only has 1/4″ outputs, you will need to use balanced 1/4″ to male XLR cables. You can’t use the 1/4″ input jacks on your Apogee device, as they are only used for guitars/basses/keyboards.

Launch ‘Apogee Maestro’ from your Applications folder, go to the ‘Input’ tab and ‘Analog Level’ drop-down menu for whichever input you’re using to ‘+4dBu’ (for use with professional audio gear) or ‘-10dBv’ (for use with consumer audio gear).

 

Why are the input and output level/volume popup indicators not showing up?

Several Apogee products have pop-up level indicator graphics that will appear on the desktop of your Mac when the input and output levels are adjusted from the device or from the Mac’s keyboard volume buttons.

 

If the pop-ups aren’t appearing, there are a few things to check:

Launch ‘Apogee Maestro 2’ from your Applications folder, click on the ‘Apogee Maestro 2’ drop-down desktop menu and select ‘Preferences’. Confirm that the ‘Display pop-ups’ checkbox is checked. If you don’t see this option, then pop-ups aren’t available for the product you’re using.

 

If you’ve confirmed that the ‘Display pop-ups’ checkbox is checked and you’re still not getting the pop-ups, try the following:

 

– Unplug/replug your Apogee device

– Restart your Mac

– Launch ‘Activity Monitor’ (Applications> Utilities> ‘Activity Monitor’), click the ‘View’ drop-down desktop menu and select ‘All Processes’. Type ‘apogeepopup’ in the searchbar in the upper right-side corner of Activity Monitor. Once you see ‘ApogeePopup’ displayed in the list, highlight it and force-quit the process by clicking the ‘X’ button in the upper left-side corner of Activity Monitor. Wait a few seconds and you should see the popups again after adjusting input/output level.

 

*Note for Duet Firewire and Ensemble Firewire customers*

There was a known issue with pop-ups not working for Duet Firewire and Ensemble Firewire when using any version of Mac OS 10.8. It is recommended that you use either a version of Mac OS earlier than 10.8 or later than 10.9.

 

 

Ensemble Thunderbolt – Factory Hardware Reset / Initialize

Factory Hardware Reset / Initialize

Ensemble’s running on the Apogee Control software
  1. Open Apogee Control
  2. Go to the File menu > Open Snapshot Template
  3. Choose any of the template choices and click Load.
Ensemble’s running the older Apogee Maestro 2 software:

To return Ensemble to the factory default settings:

  1. Start with Ensemble turned off.
  2. While holding down the Output Controller knob, turn Ensemble on.
  3. When the Apogee Splash screen clears and the Display shows the Level Meter screens, let go of the Output Controller knob.

You’ve successfully reset the Ensemble Thunderbolt.

Here’s a video demonstrating this:

The Ensemble is frozen in the middle of boot-up with the Apogee ‘A’ logo and/or 3 dots on the screen

If the Ensemble Thunderbolt ever gets in a state where it seems to be “frozen” and the front-panel display is stuck on either the Apogee ‘A’ logo with version numbers, 3 dots on the screen, or any other kind of half-loaded display, try the following steps below in this specific order:

– Quit all apps

– Unplug Ensemble from power and from Thunderbolt

– Connect Ensemble to power

– Connect Ensemble to Mac via Thunderbolt

– Power up Ensemble

– Launch the ‘Ensemble Thunderbolt Firmware Updater’ app (Applications>Utilities) and confirm that the firmware is up to date. If it’s not, run the firmware updater.

From now on, when connecting the Ensemble, always connect it to power first before connecting it to Thunderbolt as described in this article: https://knowledgebase.apogeedigital.com/ensemble-thunderbolt/power-up-order-for-ensemble-thunderbolt/