Under The Microscope


Archive for January, 2020

Overdrive Your Audio, and Much More, With SoundSource 4.2

Last year, we introduced the brand-new SoundSource, version 4. With SoundSource, you gain truly powerful control over all the audio on your Mac. You can adjust sound on a per-app basis, add audio effects, control devices, and much more. SoundSource 4 has proven to be a hit with users, and we’ve been hard at work on updates.

Today, we’re delighted to ship SoundSource 4.2. Read on to see what’s new, or just head over to the SoundSource page to download the latest now.

What’s New in SoundSource 4.2

SoundSource 4.2 is a free update for SoundSource 4 users, but that doesn’t mean it’s light on new features and functionality.

Volume Overdrive

The most visible addition in SoundSource 4.2 is a brand-new built-in effect called “Volume Overdrive”. The Volume Overdrive effect makes it possible to amplify application audio up to 400%, so your speakers get louder than you thought possible.

Better still, Volume Overdrive is smarter than your average amplifier. When active, its built-in limiting functionality works intelligently to improve the quality of overdriven audio, avoiding unpleasant digital distortion.

Control of More Special Audio Sources

The release of SoundSource 4.1 added support for controlling audio from Finder and the OS’s “Text to Speech” functionality in SoundSource 4.1. Now, SoundSource 4.2 provides control of even more of the OS’s audio features, with easy access to Siri and VoiceOver as well. Check out the “Special Sources” section of the “Add App” Source selector to find all of these sources.

A Menu Bar Output Meter

Want a visual indication of when your Mac is playing audio? Head to SoundSource’s Preferences, and turn on the new “Show output activity in menu bar” setting.

Once you do, an output meter will show in the menu bar next to SoundSource’s icon. This meter moves in sync as audio plays through the default output device.

Many More Updates

There’s lots more to enjoy in SoundSource 4.2, including:

  • Bluetooth Device Battery Status – See battery status for Bluetooth devices like AirPods, AirPods Pro, and Beats hardware.

  • Removable Built-In Effects – The built-in Lagutin EQ and Volume Overdrive effects can now optionally be removed from your configurations.

  • Improvements to Bluetooth Device Reliability – SoundSource 4.2 does additional work to avoid issues caused by Apple’s Bluetooth device handling. That means selecting Bluetooth devices, including all versions of AirPods, will work more reliably.

  • Enhanced Audio Capture with ACE 11.1 – The Audio Capture Engine (ACE) backend that powers SoundSource has been updated to version 11.1.1, with many enhancements and improvements for the smoothest audio capture yet, and a fix for issues when processing audio from FaceTime.app.

  • Full MacOS 10.15 (Catalina) Support – SoundSource now has full compatibility with MacOS 10.15 (Catalina).

  • And Still More – We’re always working to improve our products in ways both big and small. In addition to what’s listed above, SoundSource 4.2 fixes several minor bugs, alongside improvements to audio device tracking, drag and drop, and more.

Download SoundSource Now

There’s no need to wait to try out SoundSource 4.2. If you’re new to SoundSource, learn all about our superior sound control, then download the free trial.

For those intelligent readers who are already using SoundSource, just open the app’s Preferences window, and click the “Check for Update” button to get the latest immediately. We hope you enjoy SoundSource 4.2!

Designer Notes: Making a Colour Scheme

Introduction

When I start a design project, one of the very first things I do is come up with a colour scheme. For me, this is a limited set of colours which will be used for all the elements in our interface, including backgrounds, icons, and text. I think it may be helpful for others to see the thought that goes into this, so I’m going to walk through each step of my process.

General Strategies

Before I get into specifics, let’s cover some good general strategies for making a colour scheme.

Limit Your Number of Colours

To start, you should limit the colour set as much as you can. Using more colours than needed can make an app look sloppy and haphazard. A good interface should be consistent, and in most cases uncluttered. Having a set of colours, established at the outset, saves us from picking random colours each time we need one.

Understand Each Colour’s Job

Think about the job each colour will be performing. Perhaps one colour will be used to show activity or status, so it should be relatively high-contrast. Some colours provide secondary information, which can subtly fade into the background. For the rare colour that’s used to alert us to problems, something stark and eye-catching is needed. Each colour should have a well-understood role in your interface, and that role should guide your selection.

Break the Rules When You Have To

There aren’t any hard and fast rules that must be followed. It’s wise to follow sensible guidelines, but if you need to bend or break a rule, or come up with your own, go for it.

Selecting Our Base Colours

Ok, time to pick some actual colours. I generally start my colour systems with a set of three primary colours, which form my base. These colours are:

  • Key/branding colour

  • Primary content colour

  • Primary background colour

We’ll need more colours than that, but we’ll obtain additional colours by mixing these base colors.

Getting Inspiration

I could just start picking random colours I like, but I usually like to begin by viewing existing color sets. A site like Color Collective is a fantastic resource for this. However, I also like to look to the real world for inspiration.

For example, I have a shirt I like that mixes orange, green and white. I’m going to use it as a base for doing a quick experimental re-colouring of Airfoil Satellite for iOS.

Here’s the shirt:

And here’s what Airfoil Satellite for iOS looks like currently:

I’m going to combine this mockup of Airfoil Satellite with the colours from the shirt, and we can see what happens. I should note that the orange and green I’ve chosen don’t traditionally go together, but I’m going to demonstrate how we can still make them work.

Key Colour

The key colour is going to be the main colour for anything I want to denote as interactive. It’s not usually going to make up the majority of pixels in any interface, but it’s the colour most closely tied to the identity and branding of the app. For example, the key colour of our soundboard app Farrago is purple.

This colour will generally be used to show status or activation, often on things like checkboxes and sliders. It will probably also be featured prominently in the app icon.

I’m going to use a bright peachy orange, inspired by the shirt, for the key colour.

Primary Content

The primary content colour I’ll use for the most important content, like text. It’s generally less intense than what we used for the key colour.

The white from the shirt for this is a good choice for this, as it’s solidly neutral.

Primary Background

Finally, the primary background needs to contrast strongly with the primary content. It might not be obvious at first, but the primary background colour will actually be the colour that makes up most of the app on a pixel to pixel comparison.

For this, I’ll start with the green colour from the shirt. However, it needs to be darkened to get a background colour that contrasts with the other primary colours we’ve chosen. This gives us a very deep green, which I like.

Picking Utility Colours

The above three selections provide a good base of colours to work with, but even the most minimal app will need more. With that in mind, I’ll also select some utility colours

Warning/Alert Colour

When something goes wrong, the user often needs to be alerted of something they need to look at. Like a poisonous frog in the jungle, I want to make sure this colour stands out from everything else.

My Airfoil Satellite mockup doesn’t show error states, but most apps will need them at some point. I selected it both because it’s bright and because it will stand out from the key orange colour.

Disabled Colour

Elements in our key colour also often require an alternate “disabled” mode. For this, I generally use a moderately-desaturated version of the key colour, rather than a flat grey. It’s related to the key colour, but slightly washed-out.

For this, I’ve taken the key colour and desaturated it from a bright peachy orange to a more muted tan.

Choosing Alternate Colours

The above is a good base of five main colours, but this interface requires additional options.

Secondary And Tertiary Content Colours

These next colours will be used for supplementary bits of text, icons, and a few other things. In the app’s hierarchy of content, these colours will be used for the less essential, but still important, elements in the design. This is content that should be legible when focused on, but it should also slightly fade into the background, rather than calling attention to itself.

To make these colours, I combine my base colours somewhat like a painter mixes paint. I usually do this by literally putting one colour over the other, and reducing the opacity of the overlaid colour until I get a hue and brightness I like.

This is functionally the same as selecting a colour on a gradient between two primary colours. Here are secondary and tertiary content colours presented on a gradient that goes between two of our primary colours:

Alternate Background Colour

This design will also need a colour to use in the background in places where elements should be subtly grouped together. This colour should be close to the primary background colour, but different enough that people can differentiate it.

For this, I’ve taken the primary background colour and brightened it by about 10%-15% for use as the alternate background colour.

A Colour Mixing Note

One important note here: If you’re mixing with desaturated colours (including black or white), you might find the result looks a little less colourful than desired. I often find that I need to boost the saturation of the resulting mixed colour manually.

In Sketch, my design app of choice, colours farther to the right in the colour picker are more saturated, and colours to the left are less saturated. If your initial result is a bit dull, pick something a little to the right of it instead.

Trying it Out

We’ve now got a comprehensive set of colours, which should handle just about any job, at least for this app. Let’s look at all of our colours together:

Even though orange and green might be expected to clash, this entire group looks relatively harmonious, mostly because it was all derived from just three primary colours.

This gives us our final colour looks when applied to Airfoil Satellite for iOS.

And there we go, a solid re-colouring of our existing interface. Not all the colours I selected are visible in this screenshot, but when designing an entire app, it’s very helpful to have them picked out ahead of time. We’re not currently planning on actually overhauling Airfoil Satellite, but the above provides a great example of how colours that might seem to clash can work harmoniously.

Give It a Go Yourself

The process I’ve outlined can be used when designing an app, a website, or almost anything. I find starting with a colour scheme makes the rest of the design process much easier. I hope it helps you with your own work.

Stream Audio to All Your Android Devices

With our home audio streamer Airfoil, you can play any audio from your Mac to devices throughout your house. Airfoil automatically works with thousands of different speakers and other hardware, from Apple products like the Apple TV and HomePod, Google Cast devices, and even Bluetooth audio device

With our free companion Airfoil Satellite apps, the list of possible outputs gets even longer. Using Airfoil Satellite, you can turn hundreds of additional devices into audio outputs, from Macs and PCs to iOS and Android devices.

It’s Android that we’re talking about today, specifically version 3.0 of Airfoil Satellite for Android which has just shipped for all modern Android devices. With it, you can turn your Android phone or tablet into a wireless output for Airfoil, streaming audio from your Mac to the device. In addition, Airfoil Satellite for Android can also remotely control both Airfoil itself, as well as playback from supported source applications.

What’s New in Version 3

The new version 3.0 of Airfoil Satellite for Android is a near-complete overhaul of the previous application. The design has been updated and modernized, and it’s better looking than ever. In addition, it includes:

Support for Multiple Airfoil Instances

When multiple Airfoil instancs are present on the network, it’s now possible to specify to which Airfoil Satellite connects for remote control.

Password-Protected Speakers

A new preference makes it possible to password protect your Android device’s output, preventing undesired access and playback.

Notification Center Improvements

A “Now Playing” notification has been added, to display album art and other information about the currently playing track when available.

A New “Keep Screen Awake” Preference

The new “Keep Screen Awake” preference makes it possible to continue displaying information about what’s currently playing, rather than having the phone shut off its screen.

Improved Networking Reliability

Substantial work has been done on the backend to make Bonjour work better, resulting in devices connecting back to Airfoil more reliably than ever.

Much More

There’s a lot more in the update, from visual feedback for playback controls to a “Hide Meters” preference, and much more. Airfoil Satellite 3.0 is a major update, featuring many additional enhancements. Best of all, it’s still free to use alongside Airfoil!

Get It Free, Right Now

Airfoil Satellite for Android remains an entirely free companion to Airfoil. Airfoil Satellite for Android 3.0 can be downloaded directly from our site, and it’s available in the Google Play store as well. Just like version 2, this update is compatible with Android 6 and up.1

Ready to use your Android device with Airfoil? Head to the Airfoil Satellite for Android page now!


  1. Android 6 and up are supported, but if you’ve got an older device, head over to our Legacy page. There, you’ll find Airfoil Speakers for Android, which runs on Android 5 and lower. It’s not as fully featured as Airfoil Satellite, but it can turn your old device into a dedicated Airfoil output. ↩︎

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