Tech Bulletin

Discrete mic preamps vs. Chip-based mic preamps

In the past, analog op amps displayed inferior performance compared to an array of discrete transistors, especially at the input stage of a mic pre where low noise and distortion plus matching between the input’s plus and minus signals is so important. Thus, historically, a discrete mic pre has been higher quality than a “chip-based” mic pre.
Apogee’s Advanced Stepped Gain mic pre uses the architecture that many discrete mic pres use, but use the latest in modern op-amp tech for the actual gain stages. These op-amps will generally perform BETTER than a discrete front end. There is no reason for us to use discrete transistors for our mic pres.
This is borne out by the fact that our mic pre specifications (gain range, noise level) are still superior than any other all-in-one interface out there.

How do I redeem my Eventide Ensemble bundle?

For a limited time (July 10th 2018 thru January 10th 2019)
Customers who buy a new Apogee Ensemble or Element Series Thunderbolt audio interface from an
authorized Apogee dealer get a Discount Coupon good for a free six-month subscription to the Eventide Ensemble bundle (a $180 value).

To receive this promotion,

  1. Purchase a new Ensemble Thunderbolt or Element 24,46 or 88 from an authorized Apogee dealer
  2. Register the product on the Apogee website and opt-in to receive your license code via email
  3. Use the link in the email to redeem your code from Gobbler.com (Each unique license is embedded in the link within the email. You cannot redeem the plugins unless you click through this link in the email.)
  4. Login to register your Gobbler account and click on ‘Redeem’
  5. Download and installer the Gobbler client
  6. Use the Gobbler client to download, install and activate the plugins.

For additional questions about this Eventide Ensemble bundle, please visit Eventide’s FAQ’s.

 

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!

macOS 10.13 High Sierra – System Extension Blocked alert during software installation

When installing software for your Apogee product on macOS 10.13 High Sierra, you may get an alert message that a System Extension was blocked.

  • Note: This message does not always appear, but you still need to follow the steps below:

This is a new security feature Apple introduced in macOS 10.13 High Sierra that requires a user’s approval before loading third-party kernel extensions.
Click OK to proceed, then go to your Mac System Preferences > Security & Privacy panel to Allow the System Extension so your Apogee product will work properly.

  • Note: Do not open Security & Privacy until the install is complete or the Allow button will not be visible.
If you do not see this Allow button, it is programmed to disappear after 30 minutes. To get it to reappear, uninstall your Apogee software (requires you restart the computer), then reinstall. At the end of the reinstall but before restarting your computer for the 2nd time, check Security & Privacy for this Allow button will reappear.

Updating the Firmware on MiC 96k & JAM 96k for iOS 11 or greater

If your Apogee MiC 96k or JAM 96k has firmware version 3.0.2 (MiC Plus firmware 001.000.011), it needs a firmware update to be completely compatible with iOS 11 and up.

To check the firmware version, connect your MiC or JAM to your iOS device with the Apogee Lightning cable.
Go to the Settings App. Navigate to General > About. Select JAM or MiC which should appear toward the bottom of this list and select it to view the firmware version.

    • If version 3.0.2, this device needs to be updated to 3.0.3.
      • (Mic Plus needs update to 001.000.012)
    • If version is 1.x (like 1.0.5), or 2.x (like 2.02), the device does not need an update and is already fully compatible with iOS 11 or greater.

The update must be performed on a Mac or Windows10 computer. Download the firmware updater below. Instructions are included with the download:

ONE for iPad & Mac input distortion on iOS 9.2 and 9.2.1 (FIXED)

If you are experiencing input distortion with your Apogee ONE on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS 9.2 or iOS 9.2.1 our testing indicates upgrading to iOS 9.3 will resolve the issue.

The Symptoms are:

  • All ONE for iPad & Mac inputs (internal mic, external mic, and 1/4 instrument input) have crackling and clicking distortion noise on iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. All is fine when use with a Mac computer.
  • Inputs were fine on iOS 9.1 and earlier, and only occurred once updated to iOS 9.2 or 9.2.1
  • Noise occurs on all iOS recording apps that use the 44.1kHz or 48kHz sample rates (when record at 88.2kHz or 96kHz in apps that support it, there is no distortion)

Recommended fix for the issue: Upgrade your iOS device to iOS 9.3

Learn more about updating to the latest version of iOS: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204204

Tech Bulletin: Symphony I/O OLED Troubleshooting

Overview

This Tech Bulletin shows you how to resolve issues that may occur with Symphony I/Oʼs front panel OLED.

 

Reported Symptoms

• No display of characters between the two front panel encoders, though all other front panel functions operate as expected.

 

Checking the OLED ribbon cable

  1. Unplug Symphony I/Oʼs AC input and remove the top cover.
  2. Remove the I/O Module(s).
  3. Locate the OLED ribbon cable inside the unit, behind the front panel, in the center.
  4. Check that the ribbon cable is fully inserted in the white connector. If it isnʼt, gently swivel UP theblack retainer bar (indicated below) to loosen the clamp, fully insert the ribbon cable, then push the black retainer bar back down.

Replacing the OLED

If re-inserting the OLED ribbon cable doesnʼt resolve the issue, then the OLED should be replaced.

  1. Detach the OLED ribbon cable as described above.
  2. On the Symphony I/O underside, loosen the two screws of the removable OLED sled.

3.  Pull the sled out, carefully guiding the ribbon cable through the front panel.

 

4. Place the new OLED in the sled and guide the ribbon cable back through the front panel.

  1. Insert the ribbon cable into the connector and gently push down on the black retainer bar to secure the ribbon cable (as shown above.
  2. Re-connect the AC and verify that OLED characters are now displayed correctly.
  3. Re-install I/O Modules and the top cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tech Bulletin: MiC Initial Release Notes

The following troubleshooting topics are presented to resolve issues when using Apogeeʼs MiC with Apple iOS devices and Macintosh computers.

iOS Device Trouble Shooting

No audio input with GarageBand and MiC

Symptoms – If you are using iOS 4 and connect an Apogee MiC, GarageBand may display a message to connect a microphone or other input device. If you press record, you may see a message that the device does not have an audio input and that you cannot record. Resolution – This issue is resolved in iOS 5 – see Apple support article here – http:// support.apple.com/kb/TS4129.

MiC not initialized (no blue LED) after a cold start of the iOS device

On iOS devices updated to iOS 5, MiC may not be initialized after starting the iOS device from a powered-down state. In this case, MiCʼs LED indicator is not illuminated blue (as should be the case). Simply disconnect then re-connect MiC, or connect MiC after the iOS device has completed its start- up sequence.

After sleeping then waking an iOS device while GarageBand is open, audio may become distorted

Symptoms – After an iOS device goes through a Sleep/Wake cycle, audio may become distorted. Resolution – Quit all audio apps (see clicks and pops below) and re-launch GarageBand

No input after connecting Apple headphones with mic

Symptoms – After connecting Apple iPhone headphones, or other headphone equipped with a built-in mic, audio apps donʼt accept input from MiC. Resolution – iOS devices accept audio input from the most recently connected peripheral, in this case the built-in mic. To re-establish input from MiC, disconnect and re-connect MiC.

Clicks and Pops on iOS devices

Tip – When experiencing clicks and pops on iOS devices, try closing all apps and re-starting the audio app with these steps: 1) Press the Home button to return to the Home screen 2) Double-tap the Home button to display recent apps 3) Tap and hold the affected app until the red minus appears 4) Tap the red minus to quit the app.

GarageBand and Airplay – Bluetooth – HDMI equipped output devices

GarageBand 1.01 and higher offers the capability to output to external output devices equipped, including Airplay, Bluetooth and HDMI-equipped media devices. When using any of these devices there is no support of audio input, including MiC. See the Apple Support article which describes this functionality here: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4622.

Latency

Weʼve measured latency from MiC through GarageBand iPad to iPad headphone output to be 23ms. We havenʼt found instances of latency inconsistency, though there are reports from the field indicating that latency can increase.

MacIntosh Troubleshooting

Long latency after putting the Mac to Sleep – OS X 10.6.8

Symptoms – After the Mac goes through a Sleep/Wake cycle, latency through MiC is excessively long. Resolution – This is fixed in OS X 10.7

Clicks and Pops on the Mac

Tip – When experiencing clicks and pops on a Mac, try raising the buffer size in the audio app. In Logic, for example, choose Logic Pro > Preferences > Audio, click the Devices tab, then the Core Audio tab, and set the I/O Buffer Size to the next highest number.

 

Tech Bulletin: Symphony 64 PCIe – Incorrect Firmware Message

Overview

It has come to our attention that Symphony 64 PCI cards within a small serial number range may have been programmed with an incorrect firmware version, which may result in the failure of the card. This Service Bulletin provides information on the detection and resolution of this issue.

Your Apogee representative will provide you with the specific serial numbers that have been delivered to you. If these cards are still in your stock, or the stock of dealers in your network, we strongly suggest that they be tested before delivery to the end-user.

 

Three Steps to Resolution

Apogee recommends that all Symphony 64 cards within the serial number range be tested in the manner described below (each step is described in greater detail later in this Tech Bulletin).

  • Step 1 – Test for incorrect firmware. (Dealers and Distributors)
  • Step 2 – If the card has been programmed with the incorrect firmware, run the Symphony 64 Functional Test to update firmware and test the card. (Distributors)
  • Step 3 – If the card fails the functional test, contact Apogee for a replacement card. (Distributors)

Regardless of the outcome, please report your results to your Apogee representative.

 

Step 1 – Test for incorrect firmware

Items need to complete this step:

  • 1 Mac Pro running OS X 10.5.8 or greater (for example, your Symphony demo Mac Pro).
  • Symphony 64 Sept09 Update software, available from Apogeeʼs website.
  1. Install the Symphony 64 Sept09 Update on a Mac Pro (if you have a Mac Pro configured for use with a Symphony I/O, thereʼs no need to install the Sept09 Update).
  2.  Power down the Mac Pro and install the Symphony 64 card to be tested.
  3.  Power up the Mac Pro. If Symphony 64 card has been programmed with the incorrect firmware version, an alert will be displayed on the Macʼs Desktop – proceed to Step 2. If no alert is displayed, the card has passed.

 

Step 2 – Functional Test

Items need to complete this step:

  • 1 Mac Pro running OS X 10.5.8 or greater connected to the internet – FUNCTIONAL TESTWON”T RUN WITHOUT AN INTERNET CONNECTION.
  • Symphony 64 Sept09 Update software, available from Apogeeʼs website.
  • Sym64TestProcedure_v1_4_0 Functional Test application.
  • 1 Apogee PC-32 Loopback cable (or adaptor), provided by Apogee Electronics.
  1. Install the Symphony 64 Sept09 Update on a Mac Pro (if you have a Mac Pro configured for use with a Symphony I/O, thereʼs no need to install the Sept09 Update).
  2. Install the Sym64TestProcedure v1_4_0 on the Mac Pro.
  3. Connect the Mac Pro to the internet.
  4. For each Symphony 64 card:
    • Note the serial number of the Sym 64 card – the number should be in the format PE64xxxx. Entry of the serial number is a required step during the procedure.
    • With the Mac Pro powered down, install the Sym64 card to be tested in the first PCI slot
    • Power up the Mac Pro, open and run the Sym64TestProcedure app – follow on- screen instructions. Have the Apogee PC-32 loopback cable ready, as you will be prompted by the application to attach it to each port of the card.
    • The application updates the firmware as part of the procedure.
    • Once the Test Procedure is finished, the Mac Pro will automatically shut down.
    • Clearly label failed cards with a sticker on the physical card.

 

Step 3 – Exchange Faulty Cards

If a Symphony 64 card fails the Functional Test, please contact Apogee to arrange for the card to be replaced. Make sure to include the cardʼs serial number in your communication.