Tech Bulletin

Discrete mic preamps vs. Chip-based mic preamps

In the past, analog op amps displayed inferior performance compared to an array of discrete transistors, especially at the input stage of a mic pre where low noise and distortion plus matching between the input’s plus and minus signals is so important. Thus, historically, a discrete mic pre has been higher quality than a “chip-based” mic pre.
Apogee’s Advanced Stepped Gain mic pre uses the architecture that many discrete mic pres use, but use the latest in modern op-amp tech for the actual gain stages. These op-amps will generally perform BETTER than a discrete front end. There is no reason for us to use discrete transistors for our mic pres.
This is borne out by the fact that our mic pre specifications (gain range, noise level) are still superior than any other all-in-one interface out there.

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!

System Extension Blocked alert during software installation

When installing software for your Apogee product, you may get an alert message that a System Extension was blocked.

  • Note: Even if this message does not appear, you still need to manually follow the directions below

This is a new security feature Apple introduced in macOS 10.13 High Sierra that requires a user’s approval before loading third-party kernel extensions. It applies to all future versions of mac OS including 10.14 Mojave, 10.15 Catalina, and above.

Click OK to proceed, then go to your Mac System Preferences > Security & Privacy panel to Allow the System Extension so your Apogee product will work properly.

If you do not see this Allow button, it is programmed to disappear after 30 minutes. To get it to reappear, uninstall your Apogee software (requires you restart the computer), then reinstall. At the end of the reinstall but before restarting your computer for the 2nd time, check Security & Privacy for this Allow button will reappear.

Advanced Troubleshooting:

If the Allow button does not appear even after a full uninstall and re-install of the software, here are some advanced troubleshooting techniques to find out where things are getting stuck:
System Information.app is a utility built into every mac that lets you see detailed information about your system. It is located in your Mac’s Applications > Utilities folder

Apogee driver appears in Disabled Software section

If the Allow button won’t appear in the System Preferences > Security & Privacy panel, check your System Information.app’s Disabled Software. If it is listed, then it is not being allowed. In this case, we must force the computer to load this kernal extension. Here’s how:

  • Find the Bundle ID of the kext listed in the Disabled Software section (In the example image shown, it is com.Apogee.driver.EnsembleFWOverideDriver)
  • Open Terminal.app also located in your Mac’s Utilities folder
  • Enter the following command:

sudo kextload -b {the kext bundle id}

In the case of the image given where the disabled software is for an Ensemble Firewire, the command is:

sudo kextload -b com.Apogee.driver.EnsembleFWOverideDriver

If this is a Duet USB, the command would look like:

sudo kextload -b com.apogeedigital.kext.ApogeeUSBDuetAudio

And last example: if this is an Ensemble Thunderbolt or Element Thunderbolt device, the command would look like:

sudo kextload -b com.apogeedigital.kextElementEnsemble
  • Type in your Mac’s password, then press RETURN
  • Wait two minutes
  • Open Mac System Preferences > Security & Privacy panel and see if the ALLOW button is now there (if it was already open, you must close it then re-open for the button to appear).
  • In some cases, you will need to restart your computer before checking for the Allow button in Security & Privacy.
  • If you never see the Allow button, open the Apogee Maestro 2 or Apogee Control software and see if your interface is recognized anyway

Apogee driver does NOT appear in Disabled Software section

If the Allow button won’t appear in the System Preferences > Security & Privacy panel and the Apogee driver isn’t showing up in the Disabled Software section, try the following steps:

  • Open Terminal.app also located in your Mac’s Utilities folder
  • Enter the following command:
sudo touch /Library/Extensions
  • Type in your Mac’s password, then press RETURN
  • Wait four minutes
  • Open Mac System Preferences > Security & Privacy panel and see if the ALLOW button is now there (if it was already open, you must close it then re-open for the button to appear).
  • In some cases, you will need to restart your computer before checking for the Allow button in Security & Privacy.
  • If you never see the Allow button, open the Apogee Maestro 2 or Apogee Control software and see if your interface is recognize anyway

If you continue to have problems after trying these steps, please contact Apogee’s Support Department here: https://apogeedigital.com/support/apogee-technical-support-form

WARNING: Never disable SIP protection on your Mac!
Some websites and YouTube videos show how to do this as a way to make things work, however this is removing vital protections to the security and integrity of your Mac computer and software. This is not a solution and Apogee vigorously discourages this. Instead contact Apogee Technical Support as they can provided even more advanced troubleshooting.

Updating the Firmware on MiC 96k & JAM 96k for iOS 11 or greater

If your Apogee MiC 96k or JAM 96k has firmware version 3.0.2 (MiC Plus firmware 001.000.011), it needs a firmware update to be completely compatible with iOS 11 and up.

To check the firmware version, connect your MiC or JAM to your iOS device with the Apogee Lightning cable.
Go to the Settings App. Navigate to General > About. Select JAM or MiC which should appear toward the bottom of this list and select it to view the firmware version.

    • If version 3.0.2, this device needs to be updated to 3.0.3.
      • (Mic Plus needs update to 001.000.012)
    • If version is 1.x (like 1.0.5), or 2.x (like 2.02), the device does not need an update and is already fully compatible with iOS 11 or greater.

The update must be performed on a Mac or Windows10 computer. Download the firmware updater below. Instructions are included with the download:

ONE for iPad & Mac input distortion on iOS 9.2 and 9.2.1 (FIXED)

If you are experiencing input distortion with your Apogee ONE on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS 9.2 or iOS 9.2.1 our testing indicates upgrading to iOS 9.3 will resolve the issue.

The Symptoms are:

  • All ONE for iPad & Mac inputs (internal mic, external mic, and 1/4 instrument input) have crackling and clicking distortion noise on iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. All is fine when use with a Mac computer.
  • Inputs were fine on iOS 9.1 and earlier, and only occurred once updated to iOS 9.2 or 9.2.1
  • Noise occurs on all iOS recording apps that use the 44.1kHz or 48kHz sample rates (when record at 88.2kHz or 96kHz in apps that support it, there is no distortion)

Recommended fix for the issue: Upgrade your iOS device to iOS 9.3

Learn more about updating to the latest version of iOS: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204204

Tech Bulletin: Symphony I/O OLED Troubleshooting

Overview

This Tech Bulletin shows you how to resolve issues that may occur with Symphony I/Oʼs front panel OLED.

 

Reported Symptoms

• No display of characters between the two front panel encoders, though all other front panel functions operate as expected.

 

Checking the OLED ribbon cable

  1. Unplug Symphony I/Oʼs AC input and remove the top cover.
  2. Remove the I/O Module(s).
  3. Locate the OLED ribbon cable inside the unit, behind the front panel, in the center.
  4. Check that the ribbon cable is fully inserted in the white connector. If it isnʼt, gently swivel UP theblack retainer bar (indicated below) to loosen the clamp, fully insert the ribbon cable, then push the black retainer bar back down.

Replacing the OLED

If re-inserting the OLED ribbon cable doesnʼt resolve the issue, then the OLED should be replaced.

  1. Detach the OLED ribbon cable as described above.
  2. On the Symphony I/O underside, loosen the two screws of the removable OLED sled.

3.  Pull the sled out, carefully guiding the ribbon cable through the front panel.

 

4. Place the new OLED in the sled and guide the ribbon cable back through the front panel.

  1. Insert the ribbon cable into the connector and gently push down on the black retainer bar to secure the ribbon cable (as shown above.
  2. Re-connect the AC and verify that OLED characters are now displayed correctly.
  3. Re-install I/O Modules and the top cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tech Bulletin: MiC Initial Release Notes

The following troubleshooting topics are presented to resolve issues when using Apogeeʼs MiC with Apple iOS devices and Macintosh computers.

iOS Device Trouble Shooting

No audio input with GarageBand and MiC

Symptoms – If you are using iOS 4 and connect an Apogee MiC, GarageBand may display a message to connect a microphone or other input device. If you press record, you may see a message that the device does not have an audio input and that you cannot record. Resolution – This issue is resolved in iOS 5 – see Apple support article here – http:// support.apple.com/kb/TS4129.

MiC not initialized (no blue LED) after a cold start of the iOS device

On iOS devices updated to iOS 5, MiC may not be initialized after starting the iOS device from a powered-down state. In this case, MiCʼs LED indicator is not illuminated blue (as should be the case). Simply disconnect then re-connect MiC, or connect MiC after the iOS device has completed its start- up sequence.

After sleeping then waking an iOS device while GarageBand is open, audio may become distorted

Symptoms – After an iOS device goes through a Sleep/Wake cycle, audio may become distorted. Resolution – Quit all audio apps (see clicks and pops below) and re-launch GarageBand

No input after connecting Apple headphones with mic

Symptoms – After connecting Apple iPhone headphones, or other headphone equipped with a built-in mic, audio apps donʼt accept input from MiC. Resolution – iOS devices accept audio input from the most recently connected peripheral, in this case the built-in mic. To re-establish input from MiC, disconnect and re-connect MiC.

Clicks and Pops on iOS devices

Tip – When experiencing clicks and pops on iOS devices, try closing all apps and re-starting the audio app with these steps: 1) Press the Home button to return to the Home screen 2) Double-tap the Home button to display recent apps 3) Tap and hold the affected app until the red minus appears 4) Tap the red minus to quit the app.

GarageBand and Airplay – Bluetooth – HDMI equipped output devices

GarageBand 1.01 and higher offers the capability to output to external output devices equipped, including Airplay, Bluetooth and HDMI-equipped media devices. When using any of these devices there is no support of audio input, including MiC. See the Apple Support article which describes this functionality here: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4622.

Latency

Weʼve measured latency from MiC through GarageBand iPad to iPad headphone output to be 23ms. We havenʼt found instances of latency inconsistency, though there are reports from the field indicating that latency can increase.

MacIntosh Troubleshooting

Long latency after putting the Mac to Sleep – OS X 10.6.8

Symptoms – After the Mac goes through a Sleep/Wake cycle, latency through MiC is excessively long. Resolution – This is fixed in OS X 10.7

Clicks and Pops on the Mac

Tip – When experiencing clicks and pops on a Mac, try raising the buffer size in the audio app. In Logic, for example, choose Logic Pro > Preferences > Audio, click the Devices tab, then the Core Audio tab, and set the I/O Buffer Size to the next highest number.

 

Tech Bulletin: Symphony 64 PCIe – Incorrect Firmware Message

Overview

It has come to our attention that Symphony 64 PCI cards within a small serial number range may have been programmed with an incorrect firmware version, which may result in the failure of the card. This Service Bulletin provides information on the detection and resolution of this issue.

Your Apogee representative will provide you with the specific serial numbers that have been delivered to you. If these cards are still in your stock, or the stock of dealers in your network, we strongly suggest that they be tested before delivery to the end-user.

 

Three Steps to Resolution

Apogee recommends that all Symphony 64 cards within the serial number range be tested in the manner described below (each step is described in greater detail later in this Tech Bulletin).

  • Step 1 – Test for incorrect firmware. (Dealers and Distributors)
  • Step 2 – If the card has been programmed with the incorrect firmware, run the Symphony 64 Functional Test to update firmware and test the card. (Distributors)
  • Step 3 – If the card fails the functional test, contact Apogee for a replacement card. (Distributors)

Regardless of the outcome, please report your results to your Apogee representative.

 

Step 1 – Test for incorrect firmware

Items need to complete this step:

  • 1 Mac Pro running OS X 10.5.8 or greater (for example, your Symphony demo Mac Pro).
  • Symphony 64 Sept09 Update software, available from Apogeeʼs website.
  1. Install the Symphony 64 Sept09 Update on a Mac Pro (if you have a Mac Pro configured for use with a Symphony I/O, thereʼs no need to install the Sept09 Update).
  2.  Power down the Mac Pro and install the Symphony 64 card to be tested.
  3.  Power up the Mac Pro. If Symphony 64 card has been programmed with the incorrect firmware version, an alert will be displayed on the Macʼs Desktop – proceed to Step 2. If no alert is displayed, the card has passed.

 

Step 2 – Functional Test

Items need to complete this step:

  • 1 Mac Pro running OS X 10.5.8 or greater connected to the internet – FUNCTIONAL TESTWON”T RUN WITHOUT AN INTERNET CONNECTION.
  • Symphony 64 Sept09 Update software, available from Apogeeʼs website.
  • Sym64TestProcedure_v1_4_0 Functional Test application.
  • 1 Apogee PC-32 Loopback cable (or adaptor), provided by Apogee Electronics.
  1. Install the Symphony 64 Sept09 Update on a Mac Pro (if you have a Mac Pro configured for use with a Symphony I/O, thereʼs no need to install the Sept09 Update).
  2. Install the Sym64TestProcedure v1_4_0 on the Mac Pro.
  3. Connect the Mac Pro to the internet.
  4. For each Symphony 64 card:
    • Note the serial number of the Sym 64 card – the number should be in the format PE64xxxx. Entry of the serial number is a required step during the procedure.
    • With the Mac Pro powered down, install the Sym64 card to be tested in the first PCI slot
    • Power up the Mac Pro, open and run the Sym64TestProcedure app – follow on- screen instructions. Have the Apogee PC-32 loopback cable ready, as you will be prompted by the application to attach it to each port of the card.
    • The application updates the firmware as part of the procedure.
    • Once the Test Procedure is finished, the Mac Pro will automatically shut down.
    • Clearly label failed cards with a sticker on the physical card.

 

Step 3 – Exchange Faulty Cards

If a Symphony 64 card fails the Functional Test, please contact Apogee to arrange for the card to be replaced. Make sure to include the cardʼs serial number in your communication.