Under The Microscope


Archive for November, 2018

Loopback 2 Is Audio Routing, Simplified

Get excited, Loopback users! We’re now shipping Loopback 2.0, a major upgrade to our popular audio routing utility. The success of the first release of Loopback gave us the chance to go back to the drawing board for version two. We focused on making the app both more powerful and more accessible, with an intuitive wire-based interface that better illustrates how your audio will flow.


Loopback’s easy to understand wire-based routing

If you’re already familiar with Loopback, you can jump over to our “What’s New in Loopback 2” web page to read all about the new features. This upgrade is a fantastic leap forward.

New to Loopback?

Loopback gives you control over how audio flows between apps and devices on your Mac. Since it first shipped in early 2016, Loopback has gained a substantial audience of podcasters, screencasters, audio techs, and more. Loopback’s power is great for a wide variety of uses, including:

Playing Audio to All Podcast Guests

When a physical mic is coupled with a music player like iTunes or a soundboard app like Farrago, guests on Skype can hear your voice, as well sound effects and musical add-ons.

Creating Top-Notch Screencasts

Screen recording tools grab either microphone audio or all system audio, and neither option is ideal. With Loopback, get just the audio you need by recording only the mic and the application being filmed.

Pairing It With Audio Hijack

Audio Hijack is best known for letting you record any audio, but it can also apply effects to audio, without recording. When Audio Hijack and Loopback join forces, you can do things like putting a compressor on your microphone before you send it to Skype, and more.

Combining Multiple Hardware Devices

Audio apps including GarageBand, Logic, and Ableton Live only record from a single audio device at a time. Loopback can merge multiple physical input devices into a single virtual device for easy recording.

Using Pass-Thru Devices

Loopback’s virtual audio devices also make it easy to pass audio directly from one application to another. A zero-configuration “Pass-Thru device” can be used as both an audio input and an audio output throughout the system to pipe audio directly between applications.

And So Much More

Podcasters, live streamers, and audio techs swear by Loopback, and now it’s better than ever. Virtual audio devices give you control over how audio flows on your Mac, making it possible to do incredible things.

Try Loopback 2 Right Now

For the power of a high-end studio mixing board in a much simpler package, look no further than Loopback.

Loopback 2 works on MacOS 10.11 and higher, and the links below will get you started. Download our free, fully-functional trial to explore all that Loopback offers, then purchase through our online store for $99.


Get Started With Loopback 2


Notes for Owners of Loopback 1

If you previously purchased Loopback 1, you’re eligible to upgrade to version 2 for just $49. Download the new version to try it out, then click to purchase your discounted upgrade to version 2.

Folks who purchased Loopback on or after September 1st, 2018 will receive a complimentary upgrade to Loopback 2. Full details have been sent via email, so please check your inbox.

Renewed Hope in Mac Hardware

Following Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) back in June, we posted about the sad state of Macintosh hardware. At the time, every Mac except the iMac Pro had gone over a year without any update. Most egregiously, the Mac Mini had gone almost four years without even a speed bump or price drop. And yet, WWDC came and went without Mac hardware announcements. This was more than a little distressing for us as Mac developers, and the response our post received made it clear that we weren’t alone in our concerns.

Thankfully, there is now reason to be a bit more hopeful. A month after the conference, Apple issued a press release to announce new MacBooks Pro, which featured small but useful improvements. More recently, Apple’s late October event featured truly meaningful updates to both the MacBook Air and the Mac Mini.



The new MacBook Air with Retina display

The 13″ MacBook Air has been updated to be a quality laptop for just about anyone, and the Mac Mini is now a desktop for both average users and many different professionals, with the ability to purchase substantial upgrades in terms of computing power. Both these machines include more powerful processors and much-requested features like a Retina display (on the Air) and a large number of modern ports (on the Mini).



Ethernet, 4 USB-C, HDMI 2.0, 2 USB-A, 3.5 mm headphone jack with audio in

These updates have been very well received, in no small part due to pent-up demand caused by the long fallow period which preceded them. We’re certainly pleased to see these new machines, for both ourselves and our users. The Air and the Mini each make good entry-level Macs, and they’re very easy to recommend to almost any customer.

That said, there’s more work for Apple to do, as the Mac lineup remains slightly muddled. The updates to the Air leave the one-port MacBook especially out of place, and the Mac Pro is still awaiting its promised update. Prices have also increased, and there are reasonable concerns about just how much it costs to join the Mac ecosystem.

Still, Apple is now offering a solid lineup of truly new Macs to purchase, and that’s no small thing. The quality of these recent updates also gives us hope that the new Mac Pro will be well designed too. High-end users will undoubtedly be saving their pennies as they look forward to 2019. We certainly hope these recent updates are the beginning of a longer-term trend, and a return to regular Mac refreshes. If Apple can continue to make worthwhile updates as they did with these two products, and if they commit to more regularly updating all of their computer offerings, the future of the Mac will remain on solid ground.

Apple’s Newest Macs Include Better Built-In Audio Devices

Late last month, Apple finally shipped updates to two of the most neglected Macs, the Mac Mini and MacBook Air. While the prices have unfortunately crept up, these are solid updates worthy of consideration by anyone looking for a new desktop or laptop. Better still, they include a nice little surprise when it comes to audio: two distinct audio output devices!

Output Devices on Old Macs vs. New

On older Macs, the headphone jack and the internal speakers are essentially separate ports on a single output device, and only one of these ports is allowed to be active at a time. Because of this, audio can be sent to either the built-in speakers, or the headphone jack, but not to both. As well, if anything is connected to the headphone jack, the OS shuts off the built-in speaker completely.

With these new Macs, there are actually two distinct output devices. The headphone jack and the internal speakers are separate devices, completely independent from one another.

This change means it’s possible to send different audio sources to each output. Below, you can see this in action, with Audio Hijack being used to route audio from iTunes to a pair of external headphones while audio from Spotify plays to the built-in speakers.

Send Sound Effects to the Built-In Device

Perhaps the most obvious way to take advantage of these two devices is to send the Mac’s sound effects to the built-in speakers, while using the headphone jack for music and other audio. This way, you’ll never be jarred out of a good listening session by an error message beep blaring over your music.

To split things up, head for the “Sound Effects” tab in the Sound System Preference. There, you can configure the “Play sound effects through” setting to use the device speakers set the Sound Effects.

Make sure your headphones or speakers are being used for the standard audio output device (as configured in the “Output” tab), and you’ll be all set.

More Powerful Audio Control, With Audio Hijack and Loopback

Both the aforementioned Audio Hijack and our audio routing tool Loopback are useful for working with multiple audio devices at once. With older Macs that effectively only had a single audio output device, however, you needed to have external audio devices to do any sort of routing.1 These new Macs mean powerful audio routing is possible with nothing more than a pair of headphones.

Auto-Switching Still Works

When you plug a pair of headphones or speakers in to the headphone jack on any modern Mac, MacOS automatically switches your output to that new device. Likewise, if you unplug from that port, audio will immediately go back to your built-in speakers. This behavior is still present with these new devices, with the headphone jack still prioritized.

Microphone Capture

While these new Macs don’t have any jacks dedicated to audio input, it is still possible to get audio in to them without any dongles, using headphones with a built-in microphone (TRRS headsets). This includes Apple’s older Ear Pods (with 3.5mm connector), as well as most modern headphones designed for use with smartphones. Just plug in a compatible headset, and your Mac will recognize it as an input device.

Good Housekeeping

Note that if nothing is plugged in to the headphone jack, the OS will hide that output away. This is mostly just good housekeeping, as it prevents you from sending audio to what is effectively a muted device. As soon as headphones or speakers are plugged in to the new Macs, that second device will appear, ready for use.

iMac Pros and 2018 MacBooks Pro, As Well

In the course of researching this, I asked friends and colleagues to test several other recent Macs. It appears that distinct output devices are also present in both the MacBooks Pro Apple released in July of this year and the iMacs Pro which started shipping at the end of 2017. This mnew functionality appears to be related to the new T2 chip Apple is using in their latest Macs.

Hopefully, this trend will continue in all future Macs. Though it’s a small change, it’s nice for users to have the ability to use multiple audio devices built right in.

Conclusion

For years, we’ve heard from folks who had all sorts of reasons for wanting to use their Mac’s built-in speakers separately from the headphone jack. Until now, we had to explain that it simply wasn’t possible. Thankfully, that’s finally changed. We’re eager to hear about the many ways users take advantage of this new functionality.


Footnotes:

  1. Worth a quick mention: simple USB audio adapters are readily available for under $10, in both USB-A and USB-C form factors.

    These devices enable you to quickly add extra audio devices to any Mac. ↩︎

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