Under The Microscope


Archive for June, 2018

Audio Hijack 3.5 Adds the Ability to Broadcast Audio

Today, we’ve got a big (and free!) update to our popular audio recording utility Audio Hijack. Audio Hijack 3.5 is all about internet radio streaming, with a brand new Broadcast output block that makes it possible to send any audio to Shoutcast and Icecast servers. It’s perfect for running livecasts of podcast recordings, as well as live streaming DJ sets, and powering all types of internet radio streams.

Broadcasting In Action

If you’re already using Audio Hijack to record audio, broadcasting will be a snap as well. Adding a Broadcast block to your audio chain makes it possible to take what Audio Hijack is pulling in, and send it to an MP3 or AAC streaming server, allowing listeners around the world to tune in. Have a look:

This simple chain is pulling audio from iTunes and a microphone, recording it, then passing it out to an external server. It’s simple, straight-forward, and tremendously powerful. Of course, the new Broadcast block offers plenty of features for broadcasting experts to appreciate. Let’s go to the bullet-point list!

Multiple Server Types

Stream to Shoutcast 2, Shoutcast 1, and Icecast 2 streaming audio servers. Broadcast can even automatically detect your server type.

MP3 and AAC Streaming

With Broadcast, you can stream in either the popular MP3 streaming format, or the more modern AAC streaming format.

Intelligent AAC+ (HE-AAC) Streaming

If you’re streaming AAC, Broadcast will automatically work to achieve the best quality for a given bitrate by switching to the superior-sounding HE-AAC when possible.

Powerful Track Titles

The Broadcast block can be configured to automatically read track titles from supported sources, then embed them in your stream for listeners to see. It’s also possible to manually add and update track titles, as you broadcast.

Multi-Broadcast Support

Using multiple Broadcast blocks in one session, you can stream a high and a low quality broadcast, or in multiple audio formats. You can even easily copy server settings between blocks, with Audio Hijack’s powerful Presets feature.

We’ve also created a new Template to help get you started with an Internet Radio broadcast. You can find the “Internet Radio” template in Audio Hijack’s Template Chooser. Just click “New Session” to select the template (or any of our other templates), and start experimenting!

The new Broadcast block will open up many additional uses for Audio Hijack, and we can’t wait to see (and hear) how folks make use of it!

Another New Block

As a result of beta tester feedback, we’ve also added a second new block to Audio Hijack 3.5: the Input Switch block. With an Input Switch, you can toggle from input A to input B (and back) with one click. This can be useful for broadcasting, but it’s also handy for easily testing audio effects, and more.



Input Switch in action

In the setup above, introductory music for a livestream is being played from iTunes, while the mics are not yet heard. Switching between sources is just a matter of clicking the switch. The source will fade from A to B, and the co-host’s microphone audio will be heard, while iTunes is not.

Get Audio Hijack 3.5 Today

Audio Hijack 3.5 is a free update for all current owners of Audio Hijack 3. Just select “Check for Update” from the Audio Hijack menu to move up to the latest.

While Audio Hijack 3 originally shipped way back in 2015, users of any older version of Audio Hijack or Audio Hijack Pro are still eligible for a discounted upgrade to version 3!

And if you’re entirely new to Audio Hijack, there’s no time like the present to see what you’ve been missing. Visit the Audio Hijack page to learn more, and download the free trial.


A Note for Nicecast Users

Current and former users of our now-retired broadcasting tool Nicecast should make sure to read this secondary post. It’s full of a wealth of additional information on broadcasting in 2018 and beyond, as well as tips on moving your broadcasting setup to Audio Hijack, and an exclusive discount.

Migrating Your Broadcast From Nicecast to Audio Hijack

As you may already know, our internet radio broadcasting app Nicecast was retired back in February. When we made the difficult decision to end development of the app, we knew it would pain users who still relied on Nicecast to power their Internet broadcasts. To help both those users, as well as others looking to stream online, we set out to provide a more modern solution for creating internet radio broadcasts.

Today, we’ve released Audio Hijack 3.5, which includes powerful new broadcasting functionality. Using the new Broadcast block, you can broadcast to Shoutcast and Icecast streaming servers right from within Audio Hijack.

At this time, we strongly encourage all Nicecast users to migrate to a modern Audio Hijack setup for broadcasting. Read on for more details.

Broadcasting Basics

Whether you’re new to Audio Hijack or a long-time user, you’ll be able to get started broadcasting with ease. Audio Hijack’s intuitive audio grid provides a pipeline-style view to show exactly how audio is flowing. By adding the new Broadcast block, any audio chain can now send audio to a Shoutcast or Icecast streaming server.

Above, you can see a very basic broadcasting setup. Audio is being pulled in from two sources: a USB microphone and iTunes. It’s then passed on to a remote server, via Broadcast. Audio chains can be much more complex than this, including audio effects, recorders for archiving your broadcast, and more, but even this basic chain will stream audio out.

Configuring the Block

To set up the Broadcast block, you just need to enter your server information in the “Setup” tab, and you’ll be ready to connect.

Once you’ve got the block configured properly, your broadcast will be triggered by running the session in Audio Hijack. As soon as you start your session, the Broadcast block will connect to your remote server and begin streaming.

After downloading Audio Hijack, you should be able to recreate your old Nicecast setup in just a few minutes. Of course, if you have questions or need assistance, our top-notch support team is here to help.

Audio Hijack’s Many Improvements Over Nicecast

Streaming with the new Broadcast block in Audio Hijack offers many advantages over Nicecast. Here are just a few of the improvements and enhancements you’ll find upon migrating your broadcasting setup to Audio Hijack.

Shoutcast 2 support

While Nicecast could only work with Shoutcast 2 servers in their Shoutcast 1 compatibility mode, the new Broadcast block has full support for Shoutcast 2 servers.

AAC Streaming

In addition to standard MP3 streaming, the new Broadcast block can also stream in AAC/AAC+ (HE-AAC) format. When streaming AAC, Broadcast automatically switches to the superior-sounding HE-AAC whenever possible.

Send to Multiple Servers at Once

By placing multiple Broadcast blocks in one Audio Hijack session, you can create multiple streams for multiple servers. It’s a snap to stream your audio at multiple qualities or in multiple audio formats.

Track Titles

We’ve overhauled and improved the track titles system which originated in Nicecast. You can now select supported application sources to automatically have their information embedded in the stream for listeners to see. You can also customize the exact display, and even manually enter track titles in real time as you broadcast.

A Beautifully Designed Interface

Audio Hijack’s pipeline shows you exactly how your audio is flowing through the app. With an easy-to-understand view of your broadcast, complex audio processing with effects and more is now simpler than ever.

Fully Accessible

Due in large part to its advanced age, Nicecast had some unfortunate holes in its accessibility, particularly when it came to using to audio effects. Audio Hijack is fully accessible, and great for our visually impaired users. It’s even been awarded a Golden Apple by the AppleVis community, recognizing great and accessible applications.

Audio Hijack will make a fantastic replacement for your older Nicecast setup, and we hope you’ll try it today. Read on for details on making the move to Audio Hijack.

Moving to Audio Hijack

Nicecast is no longer in development, having been retired earlier this year. The last version of Nicecast (v1.11.13, available from our Legacy page) works as expected on MacOS 10.13 (High Sierra) and lower, and should continue to work there indefinitely without needing updates. However, it’s very likely it will experience issues running on the forthcoming MacOS 10.14 (Mojave). Further, due to changes made by Apple, the app will not run at all on MacOS 10.15 and up.

Given the above, we strongly encourage all active users of Nicecast to move to Audio Hijack. Audio Hijack is fully supported and in active development, with frequent updates. The app offers nearly all the functionality Nicecast had1, with many additional features and improvements as described above.

If you already own Audio Hijack, just grab version 3.5 (or higher), and get started. This is a free update for owners of Audio Hijack 3, and re-creating your setup should be quick.

If you’re a Nicecast user who doesn’t yet own Audio Hijack 3, we’re providing an exclusive discount to make this transition easier. With your valid license for Nicecast, you can save $20 off the purchase of Audio Hijack. To access your exclusive discount, just click this button:

Act now, as this offer is only available through the end of 2018.

We’re excited to see how folks take advantage of Audio Hijack’s new broadcasting ability, and former Nicecast users are sure to be a big part of that. We hope to hear you using Audio Hijack to broadcast soon!


Footnotes:

  1. There is one difference between the old Nicecast application and the new Broadcast block which must be noted. The Broadcast block does not offer a built-in server, as Nicecast did. We know that the majority of Nicecast users were already using an external server, so this will only affect a minority of folks migrating to Audio Hijack.

    If you were previously using Nicecast’s built-in server, however, you’ll need to find remote hosting in order to broadcast. See this knowledge base article for several good options. The more technically inclined can also self-host Shoutcast or Icecast, right on their own server. ↩︎

Current Notes on Airfoil & AirPlay 2

Since Apple first announced AirPlay 2 at WWDC 2017, we’ve heard many questions from users about how it would affect our home audio streamers Airfoil for Mac and Airfoil for Windows, as well as our software audio receiver Airfoil Satellite. It took quite awhile for Apple to ship AirPlay 2, but it’s finally here.

The biggest user-facing change provided by AirPlay 2 is the new ability for iOS devices to send directly to multiple AirPlay outputs. Airfoil for Mac and Airfoil for Windows have both been able to stream to multiple outputs for many years, so AirPlay 2 doesn’t change anything there.

However, there are some relevant questions, which we’re still in the process of answering.

Can Airfoil send to AirPlay 2 devices?

Update (July 21st, 2018): Sonos has now updated several of their newest speakers with AirPlay 2 support. Airfoil for Mac 5.8 added support for streaming to these Sonos devices, and Airfoil for Windows support is coming soon as well. Other vendors will be providing AirPlay 2 compatibility in their own hardware later this year, and we expect that Airfoil will support those devices as well.


Currently, the only available AirPlay 2 receivers are the Apple TV and the HomePod. Airfoil has long supported playing audio to any number of these devices, all in sync, and that continues to work great. Below, you can see Airfoil sending to these devices perfectly:

Later this year, several dozen third-party devices from manufacturers like Sonos and Denon will add AirPlay 2 support. We expect to work with these devices when they’re updated. Watch for further updates to Airfoil in the future.

Can Airfoil send to a stereo pair of HomePods?

It’s possible to configure two HomePods in a special mode where they act as a stereo pair. When configured this way, audio is split between the two devices, with one playing the left channel and the other the right channel.

At present, sending audio to stereo pairs is not supported by Airfoil, but we’re exploring this for the future.

Can Airfoil Satellite receive AirPlay 2 audio?

Airfoil Satellite receives audio via the AirPlay 1 protocol. Because of this, it can’t currently be part of a multi-speaker group receiving audio from iOS. If you attempt to add Airfoil Satellite to such a group on iOS, it will become the only receiver.

It’s still possible to send audio from iOS to a group of outputs that includes Airfoil Satellite, with the help of Airfoil in the middle. As well, Airfoil Satellite can still be part as part of a multi-speaker group receiving audio sent by iTunes on your Mac.

It remains to be seen if we’ll be able to support receiving audio via AirPlay 2 in our Airfoil Satellite apps. We’re always working on updates to Airfoil, so stay tuned for more in the future.

Quieting Vuvuzelas at the 2018 World Cup

Way back in 2010, we told World Cup fans about how to reduce the annoying sound of vuvuzelas while streaming games online. The most-watched tournament in the world is back, and so are the vuvuzelas. Fortunately, there’s still a great and easy solution for enjoying World Cup 2018 in relative peace: VuvuX.

Hear the Difference

Fortunately, in the twenty first century, better living through audio processing is possible. The free VuvuX plugin was released by the now-defunct Prosoniq way back in 2010, to help with this very problem. You can easily hear the difference with this clip:

In this recording, the Vuvux plugin was toggled twice (right after “evening” as well as near the end), and the difference is incredible. Using Vuvux, you can cut down on background noise and actually hear the commentary.

Downloading and Installing

The original site for the VuvuX plugin is no longer online, and the plugin seems to have been abandoned. We’re re-hosting a copy of VuvuX, so that others can benefit from this orphaned work.

Click here to download VuvuX

Once you’ve download VuvuX, it’s a snap to install on your Mac. Just follow these steps:

1) Go to the Finder and click the Go menu in the menu bar. Select the “Go to Folder…” command.

2) Enter the following location into the field:

/Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components

3) Move the VuvuX.component file to this folder.

That’s all you need to do to make the plugin available to all apps on your Mac that load Audio Units.1

Using VuvuX

The VuvuX plugin will work with any modern Audio Unit host on your Mac, but for removing audio from streamed games, we recommend our own Audio Hijack. Once you’ve installed it on your Mac (as explained above), restart Audio Hijack. You’ll then find VuvuX in the “Audio Unit Effects” section of Audio Hijack’s Library. Add the plugin in the middle of any audio chain, and it will adjust your audio.2

Above, you can see VuvuX being used to adjust audio streaming through Safari, quieting the vuvuzelas then playing the audio out to the Mac’s internal speakers. That’s really all it takes. Happy listening!


Footnotes:

  1. If you’d like to install the plugin solely for your user, it can alternately be placed in ~/Library/Audio/Plug-ins/Components. ↩︎

  2. When first initialized, the plugin will send your web browser to the now-defunct vuvux.com. Unfortunately, this action is caused by the plugin itself, and can’t be prevented. ↩︎

On The Sad State of Macintosh Hardware

With Apple recently releasing their first developer beta of MacOS 10.14 (Mojave), we’ve been installing it on various test machines to test our apps. The inevitable march of technology means Mojave won’t install on all of our older hardware. There’s no shock there, but the situation is rather distressing when it comes to spending money to purchase new equipment. Here is the situation, as reported by the wonderful MacRumor’s Buyers Guide:

Buyer's Guide showing 'Don't Buy' on nearly all Macs

At the time of the writing, with the exception of the $5,000 iMac Pro, no Macintosh has been updated at all in the past year. Here are the last updates to the entire line of Macs:

  • iMac Pro: 182 days ago

  • iMac: 374 days ago

  • MacBook: 374 days ago

  • MacBook Air: 374 days ago

  • MacBook Pro: 374 days ago

  • Mac Pro: 436 days ago

  • Mac Mini: 1337 days ago

Worse, most of these counts are misleading, with many machines not seeing a true update in quite a bit longer. While the Mac Mini hasn’t seen an update of any kind in almost 4 years (nor, for that matter, a price drop), even that 2014 update was lackluster. The once-solid Mac Pro was replaced by the dead-end cylindrical version all the way back in 2013, which was then left to stagnate. I don’t even want to get started on the MacBook Pro’s questionable keyboard, or the MacBook’s sole port (USB-C, which must also be used to provide power).

It’s very difficult to recommend much from the current crop of Macs to customers, and that’s deeply worrisome to us, as a Mac-based software company. For our own internal needs, we’ve wound up purchasing used hardware for testing, rather than opting to compromise heavily on a new machine. That isn’t good for Apple, nor is it what we want.

Rather than attempting to wow the world with “innovative” new designs like the failed Mac Pro, Apple could and should simply provide updates and speed bumps to the entire lineup on a much more frequent basis. The much smaller Apple of the mid-2000s managed this with ease. Their current failure to keep the Mac lineup fresh, even as they approach a trillion dollar market cap, is both baffling and frightening to anyone who depends on the platform for their livelihood.

Given the incredibly sad state of the Mac lineup, it’s difficult to understand how WWDC could have come and gone with no hardware releases. Apple’s transparency in 2017 regarding their miscalculation with the Mac Pro seemed encouraging, but over a year later, the company has utterly failed to produce anything tangible. Instead, customers are still forced to choose between purchasing new computers that are actually years old or holding out in the faint hope that hardware updates are still to come. Every day, the situation becomes more dire.

Apple needs to publicly show their commitment to the full Macintosh hardware line, and they need to do it now. As a long (long) time Mac OS developer, one hesitates to bite the hand that feeds. At a certain point, however, it seems there won’t even be anything left worth biting.

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