Under The Microscope

Broadcasting From the Mac Without Nicecast

Nicecast is no longer in development, but we have now updated Audio Hijack to replace it for most users. We encourage you to read this blog post for details on migrating to a modern broadcasting setup powered by Audio Hijack.

As you may have seen, our internet radio tool Nicecast has been retired. While the app will continue to function on existing systems, it will no longer be supported after 2018.

We know that there are still plenty of people who wish to broadcast audio across the internet, and Nicecast’s retirement post touched on a few alternatives. After feedback from users, it’s clear that a deeper look at these alternatives is worthwhile.

Broadcasting Background

Nicecast contained two key components: A broadcaster and a built-in server. The broadcaster made it possible to send audio from a Mac to a streaming server, where listeners could tune in. The built-in server provided one option for making a stream accessible to listeners, with minimal setup required.

We’re not aware of any tools to make running a local streaming server on the Mac as easy as Nicecast did. However, there are several Mac broadcasting tools to send audio out to a remote streaming server. Much like purchasing web hosting, companies such as Fast Serv can provide a remote streaming server for a small monthly fee. You can also look at dedicated streaming services like Live365 and Shoutcast.com.

Once you have a remote streaming server, you’ll need a broadcasting tool to send audio to it from your Mac. This post uses a free tool called Ladiocast for illustrative purposes, but the Icecast website maintains a useful list of third-party broadcast tools to consider. The techniques shown below will work with any standard broadcasting tool.

Broadcasting to an External Server

Setting up a broadcasting tool like Ladiocast is fairly straightforward. To start, enter the details for your external server. Here’s the connection window in Ladiocast, connecting to a Live365 server:

Once you’re able to connect to the remote server, you need to select your audio source. Ladiocast features a Mixer window, which enables you to choose one or more audio devices to broadcast:

Here, we’ve selected a microphone (“USB Ear-Microphone”), and are now on the air. Ladiocast is taking audio from the mic and sending it to the remote Live365 streaming server. Listeners can then tune in to hear the stream.

Feeding Application Audio Into Your Broadcast With Loopback

On their own, Ladiocast and other tools are unable to broadcast audio played in apps like iTunes or djay. Instead, these broadcast tools are limited to pulling audio from microphones and other devices. This is where our audio routing app Loopback comes in. Using its virtual audio devices, you can get application-based audio into your broadcasting tool, and on to your listeners.

Here’s a very basic virtual audio device made with Loopback. It will take audio from djay Pro 2, and make it available through a virtual audio device called “LB: djay Audio”.

Once created, this virtual audio device can be selected as an audio source in a broadcasting tool like Ladiocast:

As you can see, audio from djay Pro 2 is now flowing directly into Ladiocast, which is then broadcasting it to a remote server. Virtual audio devices made by Loopback enable you to get any audio sources into your broadcasting tool, instead of being limited to physical audio devices.

More Powerful Broadcasting With Audio Hijack and Loopback

Loopback can assist in broadcasting application audio, but it doesn’t offer advanced controls such as audio effects, level adjustments, and more. For that, we’ll turn to Audio Hijack. Audio Hijack is generally aimed at recording audio, but it also offers tremendous flexibility to create the exact audio stream you want for a broadcast.

Below, we’ve created a complex audio chain in Audio Hijack. Audio from a mic, the DJ app MegaSeg, and our own soundboard app Farrago is all being pulled in, then audio effects are applied, before sending it on to multiple outputs.

As you can see, Audio Hijack lets you customize an audio stream in nearly limitless ways. At the end of the chain, you can see audio flowing on to “LB: Pass-Thru Device”. When we select that same device as the source in Ladiocast, the audio passing through our Audio Hijack session will be picked up by Ladiocast and broadcast to the selected remote server.

Closing

The setups shown above require a bit more setup than Nicecast, but they will enable you to continue broadcasting audio from your Mac. We encourage new and old users alike to utilize these techniques to transition away from the now-retired Nicecast.

The End of the Nicecast Era

Nicecast is no longer in development, but we have now updated Audio Hijack to replace it for most users. We encourage you to read this blog post for details on migrating to a modern broadcasting setup powered by Audio Hijack.

Summary

Today, our internet radio tool Nicecast is being retired from active development. Nicecast is no longer available for purchase, and we do not plan any further updates. Nicecast will be supported on MacOS 10.10 through 10.13 until the end of 2018, after which it will be fully deprecated.

Please read on for more details.

Nicecast’s Origins

Nicecast was one of Rogue Amoeba’s earliest apps, first released way back in 2003, and receiving more than sixty updates since then. Soon after Audio Hijack provided the ability to record any audio on the Mac, users asked us to make it possible to broadcast any audio to the world. At the time, it was very difficult to create an online radio station.

So it was that we decided to join our powerful audio capture with a simple user interface on top of the open-source command-line icecast MP3 streaming server. With Nicecast, even novices could get started streaming audio from their Macs to listeners around the globe.

Since 2003

In short order, Nicecast users were providing hundreds of different streams for the world. Hobbyists were able to live out their DJ fantasies, while terrestrial radio stations could easily provide online access to their content as well. It was very exciting, and we improved the app significantly in the first few years.

However, Nicecast never gained widespread popularity, and thus has always been a junior player in our product lineup. As well, after a brief ascendancy, internet radio has not continued to grow. While it is certainly still in use today, it is small niche compared to the promise it originally showed. The vast majority of listeners rock out with streaming music services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and many others.

Our customers are best served when we optimize our limited resources, and so the time has come to put Nicecast out to pasture. The waning popularity of internet radio, coupled with pending changes to MacOS which will break 32-bit apps, are leading us to retire the product.

Next Steps

If you’re an existing user of Nicecast, you can of course continue to use it on supported systems (that’s MacOS 10.10 – 10.13). Nothing will change for you in the short-term. If you need to download the software again, the last planned version, 1.11.13, is available from our Legacy page. Technical support will be continued for licensed users through the end of 2018, after which the application will be fully deprecated.

Due to Nicecast’s 32-bit nature, we expect that changes Apple plans for future MacOS updates will render the two wholly incompatible. As such, you should be extremely cautious with any production environments running Nicecast, and avoid updating them past MacOS 10.13.

The Future

We encourage our existing users, as well as any new users looking for Nicecast, to find alternate solutions for broadcasting content online. Other solutions for creating an internet radio station do exist. To run a local streaming server on your Mac, installation of the command-line icecast is possible using Homebrew or MacPorts.

Feeding audio into any streaming server, local or remote, is possible with several different tools. The icecast website maintains a useful list of third party apps, with Mac tools like Ladiocast and broadcast using this tool (aka “butt”) being of special note. It’s also worth mentioning that our audio routing tool Loopback will enable you to feed any audio from your Mac into these tools for broadcasting.


Update (March 2nd, 2018): We got a lot of questions from users, so we’ve taken the time to expand on the above in a separate blog post. Please see “Broadcasting From the Mac Without Nicecast” for more complete instructions to help you transition away from Nicecast.


While Nicecast is now retired, we are considering future solutions to help users broadcast to more modern streaming options. In particular, we know many podcasters provide a live stream using Nicecast, and hope to eventually provide a more comprehensive solution for that use case. Following this blog is the best way to stay up to date with our latest news.

Closing

It’s sad to retire an application, particularly one that’s been developed for almost fifteen years. Nicecast solved a real problem in a fun, useful way. Unfortunately, that problem space just wasn’t big enough, and the world passed the app by. We’re sad to see Nicecast go, but excited to dedicate our energies to more modern projects which will help even more users.

Questions?

If you’re an existing Nicecast owner with further questions, please get in touch directly.

New: Airfoil Satellite for Android

Our home audio streamer Airfoil enables you to send any audio from your computer to AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Chromecast devices. We also expand that ecosystem with our companion app, Airfoil Satellite. Using Airfoil Satellite, you can send audio to Macs, PCs, iOS devices, and more.

Today, we’re thrilled to add an Android version to the Airfoil Satellite family!1 With Airfoil Satellite for Android, you can stream audio from a Mac or PC to any modern Android device (running Android 6 and up). In addition to receiving audio wirelessly, Airfoil Satellite for Android can also remotely control both Airfoil itself, as well as playback from supported source applications.2

Get It Free, Right Now

Airfoil Satellite for Android is an entirely free companion to our paid Airfoil applications. The new Airfoil Satellite for Android 2.0 is available for immediate download from our site. Get full details and download the app from the Airfoil Satellite for Android page.


Footnotes:

  1. We formerly offered an application called Airfoil Speakers for Android which could receive audio from Airfoil, but did not offer remote control of Airfoil or supported audio sources. The new Airfoil Satellite for Android brings the Android platform to full parity with iOS when it comes to Airfoil, and it inherits the old app’s release history.

    Speaking of the old app, if you have an older Android device running Android 2.3 through 5.1.1, get Airfoil Speakers for Android from our Legacy page. With it, you can turn those older devices into dedicated Airfoil outputs. ↩︎

  2. See a list of sources supported for remote control on Mac and Windows. ↩︎

Airfoil for Mac 5.7 Rocks the HomePod

Apple’s new HomePod speaker is now out in the wild and it’s generating plenty of buzz.1 The device sounds great, but plenty of folks have noticed just how tied to Apple’s ecosystem it is. Thankfully, our home audio streaming tool Airfoil already works great with the HomePod. With Airfoil, you can send any audio from your Mac or PC to the device.

Today, we’ve got a great update to Airfoil for Mac which provides full compatibility with the HomePod, as well as several other updates and improvements. Read on for more details about Airfoil for Mac 5.7, or just grab the latest version right here!

Send Any Audio to the HomePod

Audio playback from the HomePod itself is entirely tied to Apple’s ecosystem (specifically, Apple Music and iCloud Music Library). If you use Spotify or any other audio streaming service, Airfoil is here to help. Just play your desired audio on your Mac, then use Airfoil to send it along. While the HomePod lacks a line input port, anything you can play on or through your Mac can be passed wirelessly to the device.

Perfect Your Audio With Airfoil’s Equalizer

Airfoil includes a built-in equalizer that lets you tweak your audio to get it just right. The HomePod sounds great, but you may wish to tone down its bass. Airfoil’s “Bass Reducer” preset is a great place to start:

Of course, if you want to go the other direction and really feel the music, the Bass Booster preset can help. Airfoil’s equalizer includes almost two dozen presets, and you can create and save custom presets as well.

Control Supported Sources from the HomePod

Airfoil for Mac can even receive direction directly from the HomePod. That means you can use “Hey Siri” or the volume buttons to adjust playback levels. Even better, you can pass playback commands from the HomePod through Airfoil and on to supported sources. A single tap on the top of the HomePod will toggle play/pause, a double-tap will skip to the next track, and a triple-tap will jump back. Addressing Siri with these same commands works as well.

Send to Multiple HomePods, in Sync

If you’re fortunate enough to have two (or more) HomePods, you can use Airfoil to send to all of them at once, with playback happening in sync. Airfoil has long been able to play audio to multiple devices in sync, and playback to the HomePod is no exception. Apple has touted multi-speaker sync as part of their delayed AirPlay 2 protocol2, but it’s already possible today using Airfoil.

Send to All Sorts of Devices

Of course, wireless audio isn’t limited to the HomePod, or even just to AirPlay-compatible devices from Apple and others. With Airfoil, you can send audio to thousands of different devices, thanks to its additional support for Bluetooth and Chromecast hardware. Your house may already have multiple devices just waiting to help you rock out.

Much More to Find in Airfoil for Mac 5.7

In addition to improvements for the HomePod, Airfoil for Mac 5.7 has new support for enhanced metadata and remote control of Downcast for Mac. An enhanced experience will also be provided with web-based audio when using BeardedSpice to play music from supported sites in Safari, Chrome, or Vivaldi.

All Airfoil for Mac users should get this update immediately by selecting “Check for Update” from the Airfoil menu, or downloading from the Airfoil page.

If you’re new to Airfoil, you can get started streaming audio to the HomePod and other devices all around your house with the free trial of Airfoil for Mac.


Footnotes:

  1. As well as a few ring-shaped stains. ↩︎

  2. As discussed in our recent company status report, we’re still awaiting more details from Apple on AirPlay 2. There are many open questions, and for now, few answers. When we know more, we’ll be sure to share with you. ↩︎

Behind the Scenes of Farrago’s Launch Video

The intro video for our new soundboard app Farrago has been very well received, so I thought I’d discuss how we made it. If you haven’t seen the video yet, take just 73 seconds to watch it, then read on.

When we decided to make a video to accompany the release of Farrago, the concept we began with was very different from what we wound up with. The original video featured a montage of mostly still screenshots, with animations between them. A great deal of time was spent making ultra-high detail vector screenshots of the app, then compositing them in Apple’s Motion app.

A screenshot of the original video being animated

Unfortunately, though the resulting video looked gorgeous in 4K, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was overly flat, even lifeless. Much work went into making Farrago a lively app that’s full of subtle motion, and the video simply wasn’t doing it justice.

Thankfully, a better idea arrived in an unexpected flash of inspiration. While I was assembling the video’s soundtrack, it struck me that the layout of my GarageBand-based project looked rather like Farrago itself, with coloured sound file blocks showing waveforms. I wondered how the video’s audio track would look if I actually brought it in to Farrago.

A screenshot of GarageBandThe GarageBand project that inspired the concept

After spending just a few minutes porting the audio over, I knew I could make a much more dynamic and effective video by simply recording my screen while I ran through a sequence of steps live in Farrago. Instead of disjointed screenshots, the new video would have a continuous flow from one feature to the next, with no cuts or editing. Crucially, it would show exactly how the app works.

I created a rough abstract for the team to review, and everyone was immediately on board with the new concept. I unceremoniously dumped most of the work from the first video and started fresh. While we kept the voiceover largely unchanged, I had to decide what exactly we would show. I took inspiration from the classic first level of Super Mario Bros., deciding that the video would slowly reveal different parts of the app. As the video builds on previous items step by step, the viewer gains a solid understanding of the whole product.

To do this, Farrago became something of an instrument, and I had to practice over and over to get the desired sequence just right: Click this tile, wait five seconds, drag in a new file, and so on. Every mouse movement and key press was deliberate, and when I messed up, I’d start again. I ran through the entire flow at least 50 times before I was ready to create the actual recording to use in the final video.

Amusingly, when I set up my screen recording software, I realized I had an audio issue. I needed to get Farrago’s audio into my screen recorder, which only accepted audio from an input device like a microphone. Thankfully, Rogue Amoeba’s own software helped me work around this in mere seconds. Using Loopback, I was able to route audio from Farrago right into my screen capture app. With that solved, I was ready to record.

A Loopback setup to get audio from Farrago into the screen-recorder appLoopback saves the day!

Once I had my raw recording, I dove back into Motion to assemble everything. I added zooming and panning to emphasize different parts of the app, but nothing else was changed. Everything in the video is a real action, done in real time, in one long shot. It took many takes to get it right, but it was worth it to get the final result.

In the end, I think it was our willingness to throw away the effort we had already expended on the first concept that helped the video turn out as well as it did. When an obviously superior idea came along, we were willing to pursue it, even though it meant additional work. The end result is a video that vividly shows how the app works, rather than just telling, and viewers have responded to that.

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