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Mac Day 4 – 8/28/09 Audio Tests

This is the beginning of my “birthday weekend” in Harrisburg. It’s our last chance to get a little R&R before my next class at BU and Audra’s next school year starts up. Having lived in Harrisburg for four years, it is fun to visit old friends and see some of the old haunts. There’s so much to do and see in Harrisburg these days, so we usually just book a room on Priceline and try to get a good deal; that way we don’t have to worry about rushing home late at night. The traffic is usually crazy (reminding us of why we left) and it just makes sense to base ourselves centrally to maximize our time doing the things we like to do rather than worrying about what time we’ll get home back in Bloom.

We had a gift certificate for Alfred’s Victorian, so we went there for dinner tonight. Save for the rather cramped quarters, the meal was great and the decor like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. Afterward we returned to the hotel.

Once we were back at the hotel, I wanted to use this opportunity to see what the Mac could do with some of my portable music gear. All hopes of recording an opus were shattered by the extremely noisy rain noise above us and the thin walls between us and the other guests. These were minor quibbles though, as the real purpose of this dry run was to lay the technical groundwork for recording on the Mac if the mood struck – which could be done with headphones.

Based on the couple hours I spent fiddling with Cubase, and looking online for solutions, it is clear that CubaseLE 4 has some serious issues with the Mac Book internal (line in) audio. This is more of a problem with how Steinberg (makers of Cubase) have ported their software, rather than a problem with how the Apple audio works in general. Some research on the web seems to confirm this, and Steinberg even admits that it may or may not work. You are pretty much on your own.

This is clearly an issue with Steinberg rather than Apple. Settings that work perfectly in Garage Band and Riffworks do not work in Cubase. It’s a shame really. I have read so much good stuff about Cubase as a recording platform, mostly from magazines in the UK. But the manner in which Cubase assigns inputs is unnecessarily complicated, and needs some serious work. The process is convoluted to say the least. If it does ever work, it will be after too many hours spent twiddling – hours that could have been spent creating. Get with the program guys.

I can see the audio signal… but can’t hear it… what the $%&^#$%^????

With the onboard audio an utter failure, I turned to another test I wanted to perform using my Zoom H4n audio recorder (which can also be used as a USB interface). I chose this because I have not yet tried it as an audio interface on a PC and thought it would give me a good, fresh Mac experience. I wasn’t disappointed. Luckily, I had some very good success here, even with Cubase, which worked quite well (the Zoom replaces the Mac line in as an input). I hoped it would work, as the CubaseLE software came with the Zoom. The Zoom worked well with Garage Band as well.

I really wanted to give CubaseLE another shot with the onboard Mac line input, so I downloaded the latest patches and tried again. Still no dice. Perhaps I would use Cubase with the Zoom, but not with the onboard Mac audio until Steinberg gets it ported properly. I just don’t understand how companies can release software with such obvious handicaps.

…. The unnecessarily complicated (even for Mac) Cubase input setup…

Why all this trouble over which program works if I already know Garage Band works well? The problem is that Garage Band – as good as it is – does not have many of the professional features that I’m used to seeing in Sonar and other programs. Don’t get me wrong -it’s a very good entry level recording program. It has many great features. But it is not on the same level as a Sonar or Cubase recording system. This is lost on most folks who just want to mess around with some stuff to play for their friends. However, there’s also something to be said for a very basic application to get ideas down, and I think that’s where I need to focus my energy. I am not trying to create a super studio on the Mac. I just want to capture ideas easily and with enough fidelity that – if I chose to – I can use the tracks in a final production, perhaps tweaked in a more full featured program like Sonar or Cubase. …


By jjdeprisco

Sonic explorer, sound artist, guitarist in Fricknadorable, software designer.