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Bring in the Noise
Mac Audio Column
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Audio Notes From Macworld Expo
by Mark Fassett

I have not been very pleased with Apple's product announcements lately. As a matter of fact, I think they've made some very questionable decisions ever since they discontinued the six slot 9600. Apple had become a consumer computer company instead of the company that had the audio, video, and graphics markets locked up. Maybe that's good for Apple's bottom line, but I'm more interested in how they're going to help you and me.

So as I tuned in live to watch the Keynote on my computer on Tuesday, I was not optimistic.

Surprise surprise. This year, Apple made some very smart decisions. FINALLY an extra PCI slot. Higher bus speed. Higher CPU speed. iDVD. CD-RW. Apple's product announcements address the segment of the market they had seemed to have forgotten about for so long. Finally, the time has come to replace my upgraded 9500.. and my order is in for a G4 466 with Radeon.

I had planned to go to Macworld on opening day (Tuesday), but the day job was calling, so I went on Wednesday. I was also hoping to grab some video with my dv camcorder for you, but alas the security guards were none too happy with the idea.


Some of the audio software and hardware developers in the audio world shared a booth with Guitar Center, including Digi, Seasound, Waves, and Steinberg. Since I'm a Cubase user, I was most interested in speaking with someone from Steinberg. I was fortunate that person was Rodney Orpheus, long time Steinberg employee and former forum moderator.

The Steinberg portion of the booth was very busy, and there wasn't time for too much detailed discussion. Rodney demonstrated VST 5 (which I've ordered and not yet received) and some of Steinberg's VST instruments using a G3 laptop, PCI expander, and MOTU 2408 interface. I asked about Mac drivers for the Midex 8 USB MIDI interface, and he told me they'd be ready by the time OSX was released. They want to make sure it's OSX compatible before releasing the drivers. Of course, the next logical question was when we could expect Cubase under OSX.. but that was a question Rodney had no answer for. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this as time goes by. I would have grilled him more, but Craig Anderton walked up and started talking to Rodney.. gee, where's that video camera again?

The other important thing I learned from Rodney is that LTB (Linear Time Base) is a standard Steinberg is promoting like ASIO, VST instruments, etc., so hopefully we'll see new LTB products soon. For the uninitiated, LTB promises to significantly improve MIDI timing over USB.


Next to the Cubase demo, Product Manger Rob Hill deomonstrated Nuendo, Steinberg's answer to Pro Tools. Originally designed as a tool for post, Steinberg found themselves with a great music production product as well, with a similar featureset to Pro Tools (with the exception of TDM, of course). The interface is streamlined and clean, with fewer windows than Cubase. It seemed familiar and fast, I felt like I would have no problems walking into the studio and completing a project on it. The only drawback for me is the missing Cubase style drum editor, which they have no current plans to address. It's really a show stopper for me (and Rodney, who walked up when Rob and I were talking). Hopefully, more people will ask for it and they will add it. If you're a current or potential Nuendo user, head over to the Nuendo forum and let them know you'd like to have the drum editor. By the way, Nuendo will be ready for OSX as soon as it's released on the Mac. Rob tells me it will be soon.

FYI, both Cubase and Nuendo take advantage of the 2nd processor in multiprocessor Macs.

OSX for Audio?

So what about OSX for audio? Is it a good idea?

There are a bunch of questions we still have about OSX. When will your DAW of choice be carbonized? How is the timing for audio and MIDI? What about OMS, which reportedly will NOT work under OSX? Will your sound card manufacturer need to rewrite their drivers?

I'm one of those people who believes in stability over flash. I'd rather have an OS that works great for audio than one that looks better, and I'm sure most of you feel the same way. On the other hand, OSX brings with it much more than just looks, like better support for multiple processors, memory protection, etc. There are far more questions than answers at this point. The only thing we do know is Apple is working on a replacement for OMS.

By the way, please let me know if you are running OS 9.1 successfully with your DAW.

Music Video by Numbers?

OK, it's not audio. But wouldn't you like to create your own video for your music? How about collaborating with a visual artist in real time at one of your shows? Would you be interested in an application that responds visually, in real time, to the changes in your music?

There were three products I found that would fall into this category, only one of which I spent any time with. The three products seemed very different, with significantly different featuresets:

Of the three, I only spent some time with Onadime, and it was quite impressive from the little I saw. I spoke with Bruce Mitchell, President of Onadime, who demonstrated a few of the tricks of the tool. You can use many different types of sources for this program, including MIDI, audio, mouse/keyboard, jpg, etc, in real time.

Check out the links above for more information.

What else?

iDVD. This is pretty cool.. it's time to start mixing in surround. Now all we need is the 5.1 channel .mp3 or .ac3 standard.

Mark Fassett
Email me with comments.
Intuit Web Development
Intuit Multimedia Production

Click here for the current Audio Column Issue

SoundBlaster Live Report: A reader sent a report on the Mac SoundBlaster Live! demoed at MWSF 2001.

Note: Thad Brown's been busy with other things and I'm glad this column has gotten him some much deserved recognition in the audio world. (See below for links to Thad's 60 issues of the Audio column here). I welcome any reader submissions on the subject of Mac audio. If you have an article or commentary to submit, please contact me. Thanks!-Mike

Have an Audio question? Check the Audio FAQ first, then the General FAQ Audio topic area.

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