Under The Microscope

Rogue Amoeba’s 2016

While we’re always hard at work here at Rogue Amoeba, last year was one of our busiest in recent memory. Here’s a quick look back at the year that was 2016, as well as a look at what’s ahead in 2017.

A Brand-New App, A Major Upgrade

The winter of 2016 was a frenzied one for us, as we shipped one new application and released a pair of simultaneous upgrades to another.

Loopback

Loopback is our first brand-new product in several years, and it allows you to pass audio between applications on your Mac by creating virtual audio devices. Loopback has proven much more popular than we’d expected, and we’ve continued working to improve it, shipping Loopback 1.1 in December.

Airfoil

Shortly after introducing Loopback to the world, we shipped simultaneous upgrades to Airfoil for Mac and Airfoil for Windows. With its new ability to send to thousands of Bluetooth audio devices, Airfoil 5 is now about much more than just AirPlay audio.

Even as we shipped Airfoil 5, work on streaming audio to Google Chromecast devices was already in progress. Airfoil for Mac 5.5 shipped near the end of the year with the power to stream to Chromecast and all Google Cast devices. Windows users should keep an eye on our site for similar updates to Airfoil for Windows in 2017.

Updates, Big and Small

Last year we added compatibility with MacOS 10.12 (Sierra) and fixing myriad bugs and issues, but also found time for several larger updates, including:

Audio Hijack 3.3

This update continued our string of incremental improvements to our flagship audio recording app, adding powerful new low-latency options great for podcasters and musicians, improved AAC and ALAC recording, support for capturing audio from Slack, and more. Take Control of Audio Hijack, the companion eBook designed to help you get the most out of our app, was also updated for the latest version.

Piezo 1.5

Our simplified audio recorder now includes the Instant On component, which restores its ability to record from several hard-to-capture apps including Safari, Chrome, and FaceTime. However, this change forced Piezo to exit the Mac App Store. Fortunately, we were able to transition existing Mac App Store customers to our direct version, and we’ll continue to sell all of our software directly through our own store.

In total, we shipped nearly 50 distinct updates across our entire product line last year, or nearly one update every week. That’s not easy, but we want to provide our users with the latest fixes and features as rapidly as possible.

Reviews and Awards

2016 featured some wonderful distinctions for our team. We started with phenomenal reviews from Macworld, as Loopback earned a 4.5-mice review and Airfoil 5 followed that up with a perfect 5 out of 5 mice. That’s a veritable infestation!

On top of that, Audio Hijack 3 was selected by iMore as the Mac App of the Year for 2015. The many accessibility improvements we made also led to a Golden Apple award for Best Mac App from AppleVis, a site for visually-impaired users. It’s very gratifying to be recognized with awards like these.

A New Identity, and Other Staffing Notes

Our designer Neale really began to show his stuff in 2016, with improvements seen in both Loopback and Airfoil. The single biggest change he’s made, however, is Rogue Amoeba’s new logo and branding, which debuted in August. Yes, after almost fourteen years, we’ve rebranded with a splashy new logo and look.1

For a small company, staffing is both tremendously important and tremendously difficult. In 2016, we bid farewell to our longest tenured employee Jeff, who departed after providing eight years of rock-solid code inside just about every one of our apps. Our hope when we hire is always that an employee will stick around for such long tenures.

Given that, we were delighted to celebrate two anniversaries in 2016. We marked Grant’s five year anniversary with a motorcycle-themed gift, and a few months later, we celebrated Ed’s five year anniversary with some delightfully geeky hardware. I’m humbled to be able to work with the many talented folks we employ, and honored to have them stay with us year after year.

Toward the end of the year, we began looking to hire for three different roles. We’ve made great progress on filling those positions, and we anticipate expanding our team very shortly.

What’s Next

Enough about the past. You want to hear about what we have planned for the future. Long-time readers will know we’re fairly tight-lipped, but I’ll certainly drop a few hints.

We’ve already announced that Airfoil for Windows will gain support for Chromecast, just as its Mac cousin did. Unforeseen challenges have led that update to take longer than we’d hoped, but we remain committed to getting it out to our users.

After Loopback found a larger-than-expected niche, we’ve decided to dedicate more resources to it. We received a lot of great feedback and ideas, and we’ve got a very solid plan for future improvements. It’s not yet clear what we’ll ship in 2017, but Loopback is getting plenty of attention.

We shipped a small but useful update to Fission last year, with version 2.3 adding the ability to read and write for MP3 chapters and offering faster MP3 encoding. We’ve got a lot more in the pipeline for Fission, however, and we’re eager to get moving on it.

Of course, we won’t be ignoring any of our current applications. As usual, you can expect updates big and small to all of our products. We’ll be adding features, fixing bugs, and bringing compatibility with the likely next version of MacOS (our guess for the name: “Mojave”).

Perhaps most exciting is a brand-new application code-named “Iron Beetle”. Without revealing much, I’ll say that we think many of our existing customers will be quite pleased with this playback-based addition to our line-up. Keep an eye on this blog, as we’ll be starting a private beta test in the coming months.

Thanks To You

Let me close this post by thanking you for being a Rogue Amoeba customer (or at least for reading our blog). It’s your support that allows us to continue running this great software company with the strange name, putting out powerful audio tools that make the world just a little bit better. We’re incredibly grateful to those of you who purchase our software, provide us with valuable feedback, or even just tell a friend about our products.

Now here’s to 2017, and all the progress to come!


Footnotes:

  1. Our old mascot Ammo has taken a backseat, but you can still get one of the special plush toys we first created over a decade ago. We’ll ship a free plush Ammo to anyone who makes a new software purchase in January and requests a plushy. Purchase through our store, then request your free plushy through this form. We’ll ship him out to you free of charge. ↩︎

Winning Big at the Upgradies

Over on Relay FM, Jason Snell and Myke Hurley host a well-loved technology podcast called “Upgrade”. On the first show of the new year, they handed out the Upgradies, awards for their favorite products of the year. Rogue Amoeba was honored to be included among the winners!


Woo!

At last year’s ceremony, Audio Hijack received a nomination for “Best New Mac App”, but it was bested by Fantastical from our friends at Flexibits. This year, however, Audio Hijack was not to be denied. Our flagship audio recorder took home the big prize, earning the title of “Best Overall Mac App”. Not bad!

Loopback IconWe also had another contender in the “Best New Mac App” category, with our audio routing tool Loopback getting a nomination. While Loopback didn’t come away with the win, it did receive a very respectable 10% of the vote, surprising the hosts. While Loopback certainly isn’t needed by everyone, it’s far less niche than some folks assume!

Our thanks to Jason and Myke, as well as their listeners, for recognizing our work! We hope to pop up again on Upgrade, perhaps at the 2018 Upgradies.

Loopback 1.1 Brings Nested Devices and More

Loopback IconAt the beginning of the year, we shipped the first version of Loopback, our audio routing app designed to make it easy to pass audio between applications on your Mac. Loopback immediately drew rave reviews from critics, and users have been similarly thrilled to have a powerful new tool for their audio workflows. We’ve been tremendously gratified to hear how podcasters, screencasters, audio techs, and more are making use of our newest app. Now, just before the year ends, we’re shipping Loopback version 1.1.

What’s New?

The biggest new feature in Loopback 1.1 is nested devices. With nested devices, it’s now possible to embed one Loopback virtual audio device right inside another. This allows for some incredibly powerful (and complex) setups. For instance, we’ve seen podcasters looking to use both Skype and FaceTime together for one show, configuring things to ensure all audio is heard by all parties.


Nested devices provide tremendous power

With the setup seen above, all parties can hear each other’s voices in their respective VoIP apps, as well as music the host is playing via iTunes. With the “Final Output” device, all the audio is joined together for recording of the final product with Audio Hijack.

Version 1.1 makes a slew of improvements to Loopback’s interface as well. We’re now providing useful visual warnings when physical devices aren’t present, to help understand why audio may not behave as expected. We’ve also improved full-screen support, added a helpful Type column in the Audio Sources table, made it possible to drag applications directly to that table, and much more.

We also made some small improvements to virtual audio devices themselves. Loopback’s virtual audio devices now support the 176.4 kHz sample rate. You can also now duplicate devices, to quickly create similar devices, and there’s support for undo/redo when making device changes. Devices even each have an automatically generated custom icon, visible in apps like Audio MIDI Setup.


A helpful custom icon, as seen in Audio MIDI Setup

In addition to new features and improvements, we took the time to squash some nasty bugs. Changes made by Apple briefly prevented Loopback from capturing audio from FaceTime, but we’ve worked around that issue, so FaceTime and Loopback again work together as expected. We’ve also fixed several related issues where audio monitoring could fail, leading to missing audio. While we were at it, we managed to solve a few very rare crashes too.

We’re also making good use of Notification Center to help you as you use Loopback. Rather than the app popping itself open, you’ll now receive a notification when a new update to Loopback is available. We’re also using notifications to display critical errors when the Loopback app itself isn’t open. For instance, you’ll get a notification if a monitoring device is missing, so you don’t wonder why you’re not hearing audio!


A notification from Loopback

Finally, Loopback 1.1 offers complete support for MacOS 10.12 (Sierra). While Loopback 1.0.3 offered preliminary support for the new OS, the latest version is now fully vetted and updated for Sierra, so you can use it with confidence.

With Loopback, we set out to smooth out the rough edges that snagged early adopters of Loopback. The app should now be easier and clearer to use, in addition to being more feature-filled than ever. There’s always more to do, including some major feature additions planned for 2017, but this is a great update to our newest app. We hope you like it!

Get It Now

If you’re looking for the power of a high-end studio mixing board in a much more affordable software package, Loopback is for you. Learn more via the Loopback page, then download the free trial. If you’re already using Loopback, open it up and select “Check for Update” from the Loopback menu to get the free update to version 1.1.

Frequently Asked Questions About Airfoil and Chromecast

On Friday, we released version 5.5 of our home audio streamer Airfoil for Mac. This free update adds support for Google Chromecast, and other Google Cast devices, to Airfoil. Since then, we’ve been gratified to hear from many users thrilled with the new functionality. We’ve also heard a few questions repeatedly, so I thought I’d answer them here.

Can Airfoil stream <insert app name here>?


Stream audio from any app on your Mac, or all of your System Audio at once

As veteran users can no doubt guess, this question is coming from folks new to Airfoil. Airfoil can stream any audio from your Mac out to remote speakers. That includes music apps like Spotify and iTunes, web-based services like Pandora, and even all System Audio at once. Whatever you’re playing on your Mac can be streamed via Airfoil.

Does Airfoil work with <insert my Chromecast here>?

We’ve successfully tested with every Chromecast device Google has released thus far. That includes both of the current puck-shaped models (Chromecast Audio and Chromecast), as well as the original stick-shaped model released back in 2014. Airfoil works great with all of this Chromecast hardware!

Does it work with the Chromecast Ultra?

Ah, we can’t fool you, dear questioner. The Chromecast Ultra is not yet released, and thus doesn’t fit the answer above. Because it isn’t yet available, we haven’t tested with it. We’ll be getting the Ultra as soon as possible, however, and we’re confident it too will be supported.

What are Google Cast devices, exactly?

“Cast” is the official name for Google’s streaming protocol. It’s essentially their version of Apple’s “AirPlay” protocol. Like AirPlay, third-party hardware manufacturers can incorporate Cast technology into their devices. A “Google Cast” device is simply a piece of hardware which can receive audio via the Cast protocol.

While the Chromecast devices made by Google are the most well-known Cast devices, there are hundreds of others out there. This includes televisions made by Sony and Vizio, as well as speakers from LG, Grace, Bang and Olufsen, and more. Check your hardware, because you might have a Cast receiver and not even realize it!

Can I send to multiple Cast devices at once?

You can indeed. Airfoil can send the same audio to multiple Cast devices, so if you’ve got more than one Chromecast, you can play audio throughout your house in sync.

Can I send to a mix of devices?

Yes again. If you have an Apple TV attached to your television in the living room, a Chromecast Audio attached to your stereo in the bedroom, and a Bluetooth speaker in the office, Airfoil will send audio from your Mac to all of these devices. Airfoil now supports sending audio via AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Cast, or any combination of the three. Whatever supported devices you have, Airfoil will send to any and all of them, with audio played in perfect sync.


Airfoil A-B-C’s: Send to any combination of AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Chromecast devices

When will Airfoil for Windows get Chromecast support?

We’re hard at work on adding Chromecast support to Airfoil for Windows as well, and we’ve been making good progress. This will be a free update, and we hope to ship it by early next year.

Did people really ask all of these questions?

Yes.

Even the one asking if people really asked all of these questions?

Well, no.

I have a different question. How can I get help?

As always, contact us via our support form, and we’ll be glad to assist.

Making It Tick: 5 Years (And More) With Ed

For the second time this year, we’re delighted to celebrate a five-year anniversary here at Rogue Amoeba! This is always a treat for me, because it’s a chance to put one of our great employees in the spotlight for a bit. Today, we’re honoring Ed Wynne, who joined Rogue Amoeba full-time back in October of 2011. Since then, he’s been helping to make our products the best they can be. In fact, he was doing so for many years before he came on full-time as well.

Ed’s most visible work is actually our newest product, Loopback, which allows you to route audio between applications and around your Mc. While Ed has been working for Rogue Amoeba since 2011, this app marked the first time he handled the front-end of an application. Loopback has proven even more popular than we expected, and we’ve been pleased to see Ed’s skills develop in this area after many years working behind the scenes.

It’s in our back-end code that Ed has made his biggest contribution. From the recording done by Audio Hijack and Piezo to the local audio streaming Airfoil allows, and even broadcasting to the web with Nicecast, audio capture is an integral part of our apps. The Instant On component used for much of this audio capture has long been Ed’s domain, and he’s worked long and hard to make Instant On powerful, robust, and as close to flawless as it can be.

Even before Ed joined us full time, he did contract work on our audio capture code. For over 13 years, Rogue Amoeba has been using Ed’s work. In the past five years things have really improved, however, as Ed has been able to devote his full efforts. When things work right, users barely notice, but we certainly pay attention internally. From reduced latency in audio capture to far fewer bumps surrounded OS updates, we’ve got a lot of reasons to be thankful to Ed.

Most recently, Ed was instrumental in adding support for Chromecast to Airfoil for Mac. He’s also hard at work on updates to Loopback, so you can be sure he’s not done making things better yet. We hope our users will continue to be delighted with Ed’s work for many years to come.

Nerding Out

When an employee reaches the five year mark with us, we like to find a gift especially for them. For several years, Ed’s been working with his son and daughter on various robotics competitions. If you’re thinking of Battle Bots, you’ve got the general idea, anyhow.

To help him in these endeavors, we provides a gift certificate to SparkFun Electronics, one of the best electronics retailers out on the web. While Radio Shack may have gone the way of the do-do, the internet has fortunately stepped in to provide places to purchase all the bits and pieces needed for electronics projects.

Even more fun is the Flir One thermal imager we got for Ed. Below, you can see our old friend Ammo using a Flir to diagnose a problem.


“Yup. There’s the problem.”

The Flir One attaches to an iPhone (or an iOS device), and turns it into an infrared camera. This can show overheating components in a robot, which windows are drafty and in need of repair, and even find leaks behind walls. Or you can just point it at a dog to see which parts of your canine are the hottest. In Ed’s own words, “this is so much better than the plaque my last employer gave me after 5 years!”

Dog picture
Cold Nose

In addition to these gifts, there was also our traditional custom card and 5 year challenge coin as well.

Coin and Card
Custom Card

Thank You!

I’ll close by again publicly expressing our gratitude to Ed. The work he’s done to help our products, particularly in his last five working full-time for Rogue Amoeba, has been tremendously appreciated. Thank you for all you’ve done, Ed!

Previously

We’ve previously celebrated the five year anniversaries of six other employees here at Rogue Amoeba:

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