Ensemble (Thunderbolt): Troubleshooting

Mac Audio Optimization Guide

When streaming audio through an interface connected to your Mac, there are many factors that can cause the audio to have artifacts such as pops or clicks, stutters, or dropouts as you play or record. Use this guide to optimize your Mac computer to reduce the chances of this from happening.
  • In Apple Menu > System Preferences > Energy Saver set Computer Sleep to Never. Make sure “Put hard disks to sleep when possible” is NOT checked.

  • In Apple Menu > System Preferences > Network and make sure to remove any unused Network Adapters.  For example remove “Bluetooth PAN” “Thunderbolt Bridge” “Firewire” et al.  Having a port that shares a Bus with your Audio Hardware here can limit its bandwidth.

  • In Apple Menu > System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall make sure Firewall is Off.

  • In Apple Menu > System Preferences > Users & Groups > Admin Account > Login Items and remove any Startup items. None of these are crucial to your system so you can remove them all. Take a screenshot of the items if you’d like to restore them at a later time: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201361

  • In Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility select Macintosh HD and click First Aid (Repair Disk Permissions on older Macs). Repeat this for any other Hard Drives you have connected.

  • If you are using a USB Audio Interface, such as Duet, try all the USB ports as one may work better than another due to how the internal ports are hubbed.

  • Be sure you have tried another USB, Thunderbolt or Firewire Cable.

  • In System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy Tab > Analytics (could say Diagnostics and Usage), un-check the boxes for Share Mac Analytics, Share with App Developers, and Share iCloud Analytics. You may also want to disable Locations services found in this same Privacy Tab to further reduce background network traffic.
After these steps please RESTART the Computer.

While you are recording:

  • Check that any Virus Scanners or Backup software (i.e. Hightail or Carbonite) that run in the background are disabled.  High background activity especially over the Network can cause glitches.

  • Close any unnecessary applications while recording (i.e. Skype or Browsers you are not actively using.)

  • Be sure that you record to a separate Hard Drive from your System/OS drive.

Volume and Gain are changing by themselves – Auto Gain Control

If your Apogee’s Input Gain or Output Volume are changing on their own, this may be caused by a 3rd-party program like Skype, Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, and others.

How is this possible? All modern Apogee interfaces have input gain and output volume that are digitally controlled rather than an analog potentiometer that must be physically turned. The advantages of digital control are many:

  • Improved Sound Quality (turning the gain doesn’t cause a “scratchy” sound, and enables the advantages of our Step-Gain preamp technology)
  • Settings can be saved to presets that can be recalled later.
  • You can also control these settings directly from recording applications like Logic or Garageband’s Device Control feature instead of having to open a separate app.

Unfortunately, other applications are also able to take over these controls in an undesirable way. Most often the culprit are Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) applications like Skype or GoToMeeting, or video conferencing apps like Google Hangouts, as well as Video Podcast features like Facebook Live.

These apps want to optimize the sound as much as possible for phone & video calls or recordings. This feature is usually called “Auto-Gain Control” and is actually pretty great when the computer’s built-in microphone and speakers are being used. However it’s very disruptive when you want to manually set the levels of your own interface and have them stay there.

Sadly, many of these applications do not provide you with the ability to turn off this Auto-Gain Control feature.

There are many applications out there, but there are a few that are most popular that we’ll briefly cover:

SKYPE: Can disable auto-gain 👍

The more recent versions of this app provide the ability to turn off AutoGain Control. The example below shows the Mac version. The iOS app is restricted to only using the built-in iPad/iPhone mic and can’t use external sound cards.

Google Hangouts: Cannot turn off auto-gain 👎

On a Mac, Hangouts typically needs a Chrome or Safari browser extension installed. None of the settings menus provide an option to turn off auto-gain. Even worse: even if you are not in a hangouts session but your web browser is open, the hangouts plugin will still be active and can adjust the gain on you. If you are in a DAW or recording program at the time, this is obviously bad. Turn off or disable the extension to avoid this:

Safari Browser:
 

 

Chrome Browser:
 

 

Facebook Live: Cannot turn off auto-gain 👎

The Facebook Live interface only allows you to select your interface, there are no audio options beyond that so if it is adjusting your Apogee’s levels there is no way to turn it off.

Are there any alternatives?

Yes. At least on a Mac or PC there are 3rd-party programs that stream through Facebook Live, or Twitch, or YouTube, and has extensive audio features. Apogee does our Facebook Live streams using an open source broadcaster software called OBS. There are many other such programs out there so look around to find one that serves your needs.

On an iPad or iPhone, you are limited by the capabilities of the iOS operating system and the app you are using, so there are usually even fewer options to get around the auto-gain problem.

The ability to disable Auto-Gain should be added to these apps by the developer. Please contact the maker of the program or iOS app you use and ask them to add this feature in a future update. Getting many requests from customers is the only way developers will know there is a demand for this.

 

*If you know of a better way around this problem, please contact our Support Team and let us know!

Do Apogee Thunderbolt products (Element, Ensemble Thunderbolt, Symphony I/O MkII, Thunderbridge) work with the 2016 MacBook Pro?

Question:

Do Apogee’s Thunderbolt products (Element 24, Element 46, Element 88, Ensemble Thunderbolt, Symphony I/O MkII Thunderbolt, and Symphony 64 Thunderbridge) work with the 2016 MacBook Pro?

 

Answer:

Yes. The 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, shown here, includes Thunderbolt 3 ports. You will need to use an Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter to connect a current Apogee Thunderbolt device. As discussed in this post, you can NOT connect Apogee Thunderbolt devices to the 2015 and 2016 12″ MacBook because it only has USB-C and does not support Thunderbolt. It should be noted that Thunderbolt 3 ports look exactly like USB-C ports and their cables also look similar. This can get a little confusing, so here are a few basic rules to help clear up any questions about connectivity:

  • USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 have the same-size port and the same-size connector for their cables. Since USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports look exactly the same, you will need to make sure your Mac has Thunderbolt 3 capabilities before using it with an Apogee Thunderbolt device and an Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter.
  • A Mac with Thunderbolt 3 ports, such as the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, can use it’s Thunderbolt 3 ports to connect to any Thunderbolt 3 device, USB-C device, and Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 1 device if you use the Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter.
  • A Mac with only USB-C ports, such as the 2015 and 2016 12″ MacBook, can NOT connect to any Thunderbolt device, even when using adapters. It can connect to USB-C devices and other types of USB devices, using the proper adapters.

 

Click here for more information on the differences between USB-C ports and Thunderbolt 3 ports.

 

 

 

 

Do Apogee Thunderbolt products (Element, Ensemble Thunderbolt, Symphony I/O MkII, Thunderbridge) work with the latest 12″ MacBook?

Question:

Do Apogee’s Thunderbolt products (Element 24, Element 46, Element 88, Ensemble Thunderbolt, Symphony I/O MkII Thunderbolt, and Symphony 64 Thunderbridge) work with the 2015 and 2016 12″ MacBook?

 

Answer:

No. The 2015 and 2016 12″ MacBook, shown here, do not include a Thunderbolt port. They only have a USB-C port. The Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapters will not work with these MacBooks, despite using the same-size connectors. Apogee Thunderbolt devices will work with the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, as discussed in this post. It should be noted that Thunderbolt 3 ports look exactly like USB-C ports and their cables also look similar. This can get a little confusing, so here are a few basic rules to help clear up any questions about connectivity:

  • USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 have the same-size port and the same-size connector for their cables. Since USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports look exactly the same, you will need to make sure your Mac has Thunderbolt 3 capabilities before using it with an Apogee Thunderbolt device and an Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter.
  • A Mac with Thunderbolt 3 ports, such as the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, can use it’s Thunderbolt 3 ports to connect to any Thunderbolt 3 device, USB-C device, and Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 1 device if you use the Apple Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter.
  • A Mac with only USB-C ports, such as the 2015 and 2016 12″ MacBook, can NOT connect to any Thunderbolt device, even when using adapters. It can connect to USB-C devices and other types of USB devices, using the proper adapters.

 

Click here for more information on the differences between USB-C ports and Thunderbolt 3 ports.

 

 

 

 

Popping noises on the analog outputs

In rare cases, Ensemble Thunderbolt will generate short pops or clicks through the analog outputs. This would occur even if there are no inputs connected, the unit is hardware reset and on it’s internal clock, and is disconnected from the computer.

This is resolved with a firmware update that is part of the Ensemble Thunderbolt July 2016 software. Download it here: Download

  • Run the Software Installer.pkg that is inside this downloaded file. It will require your computer to restart.
  • Connect Ensemble via Thunderbolt cable to your Mac computer. You will be prompted to update the firmware.
  • If you are not prompted, the Ensemble Thunderbolt Firmware Updater can be manually run from your Mac’s Applications > Utilities folder.

When the firmware has completed it’s update, verify the version by opening the Apogee Maestro 2 software. Go to the Apogee Maestro 2 > About Apogee Maestro 2 menu. A properly updated Ensemble Thunderbolt will have Firmware 1.0.0.5 and FPGA 0.32 or higher.

Ensemble Thunderbolt acting weird when connected to Mac- audio not showing up, Maestro slow

There is a known issue where having the Symphony I/O MkII software and the Ensemble Thunderbolt software installed on the same partition will result in multiple issues, such as audio not showing up on any inputs or outputs, Maestro performing sluggish, or one or both of the devices not being recognized in Maestro and/or the firmware updater app. This will be addressed in a software update. Until then, you would need to run each installer on a separate partition for both devices to be recognized properly. If you have already ran both software installers on the same partition and you’re currently experiencing this issue, follow the instructions below:

 

  • Disconnect both devices from your Mac.
  • Run the Ensemble Thunderbolt Uninstaller and restart the Mac.
  • Run the Symphony I/O MkII Uninstaller and restart the Mac.
  • If you have only one partition and you can’t create another one, you will need to choose which device you want to use and run it’s software installer. Restart the Mac.
  • If you have a separate partition available, restart the Mac on this partition and run the installer for the other device on it. Restart the Mac.
  • Reconnect device(s).

 

Signal not showing up where it’s supposed to and routing incorrect in Pro Tools

If your signal isn’t showing up correctly in Pro Tools, coming out of Pro Tools to the desired outputs, or if the routing isn’t showing up as expected, there are a few things to check. Look below for the section that applies to the Apogee product you’re using:

 

JAM, JAM 96k, MiC, MiC 96k, Groove

  • Confirm that the device you’re using is selected as the ‘Playback Engine’ in Pro Tools by going to the the ‘Setup’ dropdown menu in Pro Tools and selecting ‘Playback Engine’. Make sure your Apogee device is selected in the ‘Playback Engine’ dropdown menu at the top of the window. If you are using JAM or MiC, you will first need to create a ‘Pro Tools Aggregate I/O’ and then you will select ‘Pro Tools Aggregate I/O’ as your ‘Playback Engine’. Click here for setting up JAM for Pro Tools.  Click here for setting up MiC for Pro Tools.
  • You may need to reset the I/O paths in Pro Tools. This is a very common thing. Click on the ‘Setup’ menu in Pro Tools and select ‘I/O’. Once the I/O Setup opens, select all of the channels in the left-hand column and hit ‘Delete’ on your keyboard.  After you’ve deleted them, click the ‘Default’ button in the lower part of the screen. Follow the same steps for each tab in I/O Setup. Once you have gone through these steps in each tab, click the ‘OK’ button to confirm changes and exit.

 

ONE (every model), GiO, Duet (every model), Quartet, Ensemble (every model)

  • Confirm that you are using the correct inputs/outputs on your device. Click here for instructions on how to setup ONE.  Click here for instructions on how to setup Duet.  Click here for instructions on how to setup Quartet.
  • Confirm that the device you’re using is selected as the ‘Playback Engine’ in Pro Tools by going to the the ‘Setup’ dropdown menu in Pro Tools and selecting ‘Playback Engine’. Make sure your Apogee device is selected in the ‘Playback Engine’ dropdown menu at the top of the window.
  • Launch ‘Apogee Maestro’ and click the ‘Reset Routing’ button in both the ‘Input Routing’ and ‘Output Routing’ tabs. If you’re using an Avid Duet or Avid Quartet, you will use ‘Pro Tools I/O Control’ app instead of Maestro. Click here if you need to download the Pro Tools I/O Control app for Avid Duet or Quartet.
  • You may need to reset the I/O paths in Pro Tools. This is a very common thing. Click on the ‘Setup’ menu in Pro Tools and select ‘I/O’. Once the I/O Setup opens, select all of the channels in the left-hand column and hit ‘Delete’ on your keyboard.  After you’ve deleted them, click the ‘Default’ button in the lower part of the screen. Follow the same steps for each tab in I/O Setup. Once you have gone through these steps in each tab, click the ‘OK’ button to confirm changes and exit.

Symphony I/O, Symphony I/O MkII, AD16x, DA16x, Rosetta 200, Rosetta 800

 

 

Duet, Quartet, and Ensemble Thunderbolt’s 1/4″ and XLR inputs explained

When using Duet2, Duet for iPad & Mac, Quartet, and Ensemble Thunderbolt, it is important to remember that any of the dual XLR-1/4″ combo jacks are set up so when the input is set to ‘Mic’ or ‘Line’ (+4dBu or -10dBV), only the XLR part of the jack will receive signal. This means that you will need to use an XLR cable or a cable with an XLR adapter connected to it.

The same is true in reverse- when the input is set for ‘Instrument’, only the 1/4″ part of the jack will receive signal.  This means that you will need to use a 1/4″ cable.

 

Here are some examples for setting up different types of input sources on Duet, Quartet, and Ensemble Thunderbolt:

 

Mics

Connect your Mic using only an XLR cable (no 1/4″ adapters or cables) to the XLR input jacks on your Apogee device.

Launch ‘Apogee Maestro’ from your Applications folder, go to the ‘Input’ tab and ‘Analog Level’ drop-down menu for whichever input you’re using to ‘Mic’.

If you’re using a condenser mic that requires phantom power, engage the ’48′ button on the input you’re using.

Gradually bring the input level in Maestro up until you get a good level from your input source. Make sure the meter isn’t going into the red.

 

 

Guitars, Basses, Keyboards, Hi-Z Mics that have 1/4″ cables, such as harmonica mics:

Connect your Instrument using only a 1/4″ instrument cable to the 1/4″  input jacks. (be sure that you’re connecting to the 1/4″ inputs on the combo XLR-1/4″ jacks and not the 1/4″ output jacks)

Launch ‘Apogee Maestro’ from your Applications folder, go to the ‘Input’ tab and ‘Analog Level’ drop-down menu for whichever input you’re using to ‘Instrument’.

Gradually bring the input level in Maestro up until you get a good level from your input source. Make sure the meter isn’t going into the red.

 

Sending Line-Level audio to your Apogee device and bypassing it’s mic-pres

Connect the output from your line-level piece of gear (such as a compressor or external mic-pre) to the XLR input jacks. If your Line-Level device only has 1/4″ outputs, you will need to use balanced 1/4″ to male XLR cables. You can’t use the 1/4″ input jacks on your Apogee device, as they are only used for guitars/basses/keyboards.

Launch ‘Apogee Maestro’ from your Applications folder, go to the ‘Input’ tab and ‘Analog Level’ drop-down menu for whichever input you’re using to ‘+4dBu’ (for use with professional audio gear) or ‘-10dBv’ (for use with consumer audio gear).

 

Why are the input and output level/volume popup indicators not showing up?

Several Apogee products have pop-up level indicator graphics that will appear on the desktop of your Mac when the input and output levels are adjusted from the device or from the Mac’s keyboard volume buttons.

 

If the pop-ups aren’t appearing, there are a few things to check:

Launch ‘Apogee Maestro 2’ from your Applications folder, click on the ‘Apogee Maestro 2’ drop-down desktop menu and select ‘Preferences’. Confirm that the ‘Display pop-ups’ checkbox is checked. If you don’t see this option, then pop-ups aren’t available for the product you’re using.

 

If you’ve confirmed that the ‘Display pop-ups’ checkbox is checked and you’re still not getting the pop-ups, try the following:

 

– Unplug/replug your Apogee device

– Restart your Mac

– Launch ‘Activity Monitor’ (Applications> Utilities> ‘Activity Monitor’), click the ‘View’ drop-down desktop menu and select ‘All Processes’. Type ‘apogeepopup’ in the searchbar in the upper right-side corner of Activity Monitor. Once you see ‘ApogeePopup’ displayed in the list, highlight it and force-quit the process by clicking the ‘X’ button in the upper left-side corner of Activity Monitor. Wait a few seconds and you should see the popups again after adjusting input/output level.

 

*Note for Duet Firewire and Ensemble Firewire customers*

There was a known issue with pop-ups not working for Duet Firewire and Ensemble Firewire when using any version of Mac OS 10.8. It is recommended that you use either a version of Mac OS earlier than 10.8 or later than 10.9.

 

 

Ensemble Thunderbolt – Factory Hardware Reset / Initialize

Factory Hardware Reset / Initialize

To return Ensemble to the factory default settings:

  1. Start with Ensemble turned off.
  2. While holding down the Output Controller knob, turn Ensemble on.
  3. When the Apogee Splash screen clears and the Display shows the Level Meter screens, let go of the Output Controller knob.

You’ve successfully reset the Ensemble Thunderbolt.

Here’s a video demonstrating this: