Mojave

Alexander Lindo on Mojave

Alexander remembers the first computer that he ever owned: the Apple II. What a fascinating machine that was back in the day. Fast forward to 2018 where technology is at its pinnacle. We are at the point where even a slim fan-less 12” MacBook can run Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X. Looking at the history, Apple has always made the best products in the industry and that remains true today. 

macOS Mojave has been shaping up to be one of the greatest releases of macOS from Apple. After using the beta for quite sometime, Alexander Lindo is thoroughly impressed. Featuring a polished interface, along with some welcome refinements to “Internet Accounts” in System Preferences and the “Share Menu” under Extensions. The clean up is much appreciated. We have improved privacy settings, allowing us to have better control over the data that applications have access to. The new “App Store” looks brilliant with large screenshots, live previews, enhanced editorial and an overall more structured modern appearance. The “News” app, ported over from iOS provides you with the ability to follow topics and sources of your choice thus enabling you to stay up-to-date with the content most relevant to you.

Mojave has quite a few features that will appeal to creative professionals starting with Dark mode. “Dark Mode” converts all windows and menus to a space grey appearance, embracing influence from professional applications such as Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X. While Alexander much prefers using “Light” mode (most of the time), he has found “Dark” mode to be quite useful at night or when in a dark area. The new “Gallery” view in Finder is very handy when looking through multiple photos before importing them to your “Photos” library. Within this new view, we have the ability to peruse extensive file metadata without having to use the “Get Info” function. This is a huge time saver. We can rotate the photo, export one or multiple photos as a PDF among other quick actions configurable under “System Preferences > Extensions > Finder”.

With Mojave, Apple has fixed FileVault disk encryption. After enabling it, it took less than a few hours for a full disk encryption to complete, just like it did in macOS Sierra and previous versions of macOS. In High Sierra it took two full days to complete. It must be noted however that initially when enabling FileVault for Mojave, Alexander did encounter a bug which resulted in the spinning beachball, at which point he was forced to reboot the machine. After that, the process completed without an issue.

Logic Pro X works well (like it did on macOS Sierra). The interface feels snappy and CPU usage has improved significantly. While Alexander Lindo tries to limit his dependency on third party plugins, (especially those with unnecessarily hefty requirements), from what he has tested, plugins from the likes of: FabFilter, Focusrite, Blue Cat Audio and Audio Damage among other third party AU plugins work well in Logic Pro X on macOS Mojave. Alexander has also noticed an improvement in the audio quality of his Focusrite audio interface since upgrading to Mojave.

After using the final release of Mojave along with all its welcomed updates for a week now, it can be concluded that Mojave is one of the best macOS releases since Mac OS X Snow Leopard. The OS feels more responsive and more stable than its predecessor: High Sierra. The new cosmetic and performance enhancements along with its new features place Mojave even further into the realm of excellence.

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Logic Pro X 10.4.2

Logic Pro X 10.4.2

The updates get better and better, first with the release macOS Mojave and now with the release of Logic Pro X 10.4.2. Here are the features Alexander Lindo finds most interesting in this release of Logic Pro X.

  • The Sound Library can be relocated to an external storage device
  • New mixer mode allows channel strip fader and pan controls to be used to set send level and pan

Being able to relocate the Sound Library to an external drive is a massive feature, especially for those of us that have limited space on our internal solid state drive. This feature is accessible from “Logic Pro X > Sound Library > Relocate Sound Library”. This will bring up a new window showing you the storage devices attached to your Mac along with their status. Simply select the drive you want to relocate the sound library to and click “Relocate”.

“Sends on Faders” enhances control in the Mixer when it pertains to send level and pan. When this feature is enabled you will notice that the channel strip faders become yellow. Any adjustments that you make on the fader while in this mode will adjust the send level from that respective channel strip. You can also enable “Independent Pan” by selecting it from the send pop-up menu on that channel strip. This will allow you to independently control the pan of the send.

In addition to these welcome updates, there are several bug fixes and enhancements in Logic Pro X 10.4.2. Rock on Apple!

The release notes are available here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208892

 

Logic Pro 10.4

AL LPX 10.4

Logic Pro has been instrumental in the audio production process for Alexander Lindo. The application has seen many significant updates throughout the years with the most noticeable one occurring at version 10. In Logic Pro 10, we saw a release with a complete redesign. Apple has continued to add new features and refinements though incremental updates. Some were significant, while others where simply bug fixes and refinements. The release of 10.4 is a significant one.

In Logic Pro X 10.4 we see the addition of some great vintage plugins as well as facelifts to other studio essentials. Alexander is most fond of the inclusion of the new Neve and Pultec EQ emulations. As mentioned before in a previous article, the 1073 is one the most sought after Preamps / EQs in the music industry and are present on countless international hits. In Alexander Lindo’s own words “Running vocals through a 1073 is a wonderful experience” and this is no different with LPX’s new “Vintage Console EQ” plugin.

LPX 10.4 - Neve

In the “Vintage Tube EQ” we see the EQP-1A and MEQ-5 in all their glory. The EQP-1A is a Tube-styled EQ containing a low shelf boost/cut, high bell boost and a high shelf attenuator. This eq is famously known for its ability to boost and cut at the same frequency and due to their slight imperfections you can achieve some unique sounds. The MEQ-5 accompanies the EQP-1A for some midrange functionality. Both EQs manage to achieve significant adjustments while maintaining a audible bliss, it is this very reason why many top mastering engineers use them when mastering. The drive knob adjusts the intensity of the “color” introduced to the audio passing through the plugin. A word of note: All three new EQs introduce a latency of 261 samples (5.9 ms) and are therefore more suited for the mixing/ mastering stage.

LPX 10.4 - Pultec

The wonderful Space Designer (Logic Pro’s convolution reverb) has received a facelift…

LPX 10.4 - Space Designer

…and Apple has added an algorithmic reverb by the name of “ChromaVerb”.

LPX 10.4 - ChromaVerb

Both plugins sound great!

If there is any feature that Alexander had wished Apple included in this release it is the ability to hide loops from the loop browser and drummers from the Library that have not been downloaded. Logic Pro X currently allows you to hide library presets that have not been downloaded but the same does not apply to loops or drummers. Alexander Lindo is not a heavy preset, “drummer” or loop user as he prefers to build his sounds from scratch. Having the option to hide “drummers”, and loops that have not been downloaded would be a welcome addition. Other than that he is quite happy with this release and look forward to the future. Rock on Apple!

There are a lot of new features present within this release and more details can be found in the release notes here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203718

The Evolution of Audio

There was a time once where it was the standard to record a track with nothing but hardware. From an engineer’s perspective, the band would come in plugin. The engineer would then mic up the vocalist, guitarist, bassist and drummer based on the style demonstrated by the band. These tracks would then be routed though a massive console and outboard effects would be patched in via a patch-bay. The signal would then be routed to a tape machine for record and playback. If there were any errors, the band would have to do the take again. In those days recordings were great not only because the band was great but also due to the fact that they had to practice more in order to get the perfect take.

Fast forward to now and we have DAW software. The workflow for the most part continues on the same path as before with the exception of TAPE and plugins. The signal is routed to the console and from the console to the DAW software. From the DAW software the output channels are routed back to the console in order to enable playback. It is now up to the engineer to decide whether to record to tape or not. Many opt to do so as they claim that the tape enhances the sound.

In reality, all that is necessary to record a band are great microphones, A low latency audio interface with great preamps, with enough inputs/outputs and a reasonably powerful laptop. That is all that is needed. There have been many arguments over hardware vs. plugins that try to emulate that “analog” sound. But let us take this a step back without being over zealous in mentioning any names. In today’s age we have superior audio with a resolution of up to 192 kbps and 24 bit. We never had any where near that resolution with tape. Now that man have accomplished this massive feat, plugin manufactures are now placing the illusion that great mixes cannot be made without these “classic” hardware models. This is simply not true.

In simple terms: a compressor is a compressor, an eq is an eq, and distortion is distortion.

A compressor is designed with only one thing in mind, and that is to reduce dynamic range.

An equalizer was designed to accentuate favorable frequencies to better sculpt the audio spectrum. Anything else is distortion, which in many cases can prove to be unfavorable and yet quite favorable in some instances. Alexander Lindo has experienced many different pieces of hardware and software used to emulate the corresponding hardware and he can confidently say that the differences are greatly exaggerated. A knowledgeable engineer can get a usable sound out of most compressors. Having said that the SSL 4000 Buss compressor and the 1176 are two excellent compressors. The 1176’s super fast microsecond attack time distorts the incoming signal, giving it a perceived “liveliness”. The SSL 4000 Buss compressor add life and consistency to a mix through the use of distortion as-well.

A Take on Cheap Bluetooth Headphones

AL MPOW 059.jpg

Bluetooth headphones are the future of portable audio and one would be foolish to ignore their presence considering the wealth of high quality options available. However that is not what Alexander Lindo will be discussing in this article, instead, he will discuss his thoughts on the MPOW 059 Over-Ear bluetooth headphones (aka MPOW review). They are currently the best-seller on Amazon in their respective category.

Now, as a certified audio professional who mainly listens to and composes rock music, Alexander can safely say that at this price point you are not going to get Sennheiser, Bose or Beats audio quality out-of-the-box (quite the opposite in fact). However, for the price these are useable headphones that are more than capable of providing decent audio quality (once the right adjustments are made). The MPOW 059 (also called the MPOW M3) requires a bit of frequency gain reduction between 60-250Hz to reduce boom and a boost at around 16kHz to establish clarity. Once you’ve done that you’ll have a more balanced sound from these headphones.

The bluetooth volume controls, and battery status bar indicators of these headphones are natively supported on Android (but not on macOS.) In other words when you adjust the volume on your headphones it will directly adjust the volume control on your Android device. On the Mac the headphone’s volume is independent of macOS. Play/Pause and Skip buttons work natively on both platforms.

There are no latency issues when watching video. Lips move in sync with audio.

The MPOW 059 supports the SBC audio codec exclusively, which means no AAC or AptX is present. It would have been great to see support for AAC seeing as it is a superior codec to SBC but nonetheless sound quality is reasonable.

macOS users will need to download the “Hardware IO Tools for Xcode” from Apple’s developer page in order to get the “Bluetooth Explorer” application. This application will allow you to increase the bitpool value from its default value of 40 to 53. This will dramatically improve the audio quality of these headphones and any other bluetooth headphones that rely solely on the SBC codec. For those who want specifics: a bit pool value of 53 is equal to a bitrate of 325 kbps. SBC at 325 kbps is the equivalent of MP3 at 256 kbps. When the you’ve downloaded “Hardware IO Tools for Xcode” and have opened the Bluetooth Explorer app you will see the app’s name in your menubar. Go to “Tools > Audio Options” or “Command + Shift + A”. This will bring up the window for you to edit the SBC audio settings. Under “SBC Codec Options” Set all bitpool values to 53 and close the window. This will ensure that the audio quality remains optimal. Close the window and re-connect your Bluetooth headphones.

Build quality seems reasonable, hinges are reinforced with metal. Only time will demonstrate the endurance of these headphones but superficially speaking the headphones appear to be quite sturdy. The ear-cups and headband are made of a soft synthetic leather which provides initial comfort but they are a bit shallow in depth and can place a bit of pressure on the ears when the headset is worn for an extended period of time. Battery life is reasonable. Accessories include a micro-usb cable for charging and a 3.5 mm audio cable which is handy for more critical listening and for events in which the battery has lost its charge. The velvet-like pouch is a great inclusion and provides protection against dust and scratches. These headphones are definitely worth the price and Alexander doubts you’ll find better at this price point.

Logic 10.3.2

 

AL LPX 10.3.2Apple fixed the GUI bug present in some of its Retina-Optimized instruments and plugins in LPX 10.3.2. For those who took notice, some of the stock Logic Pro X instruments and plugins produced an annoying graphical bug in regards to the number entry field when placed on any scale factor other than 100%.

Some of the plugins affected by this issue included: Retro Synth (in the screenshot above), Vintage B3, Vintage Clav, Vintage Electric Piano, Drum Kit Designer, Compressor, Channel EQ, Linear Phase EQ.

In the past: The blue halo that appears around the number entry field was distorted and out of place. That issue has now been resolved. The blue halo that appears around number entry field now complies with the scale factor of the plugin. Rock on Apple!

Upgraded to Sierra

LPX & Waves on macOS Sierra – Inst

Alexander Lindo upgraded to Sierra and he is glad that he did. In his words: The OS feels much faster and lighter than El Capitan and the new optimized storage features are certainly a welcome addition.” Logic Pro X appears to be working much better than it was on El Capitan and best of all, and he is no longer having audio drop outs / distortion when using applications such as iTunes.

After copying over all his useful content (such as music, photos, videos etc.) from a backup, his first step after installing a new OS was to create a backup. For this, he used Time Machine. The backup went through just fine with the exception of “iCloud Drive” which took a while to download content during the backup process. Once all iCloud content was downloaded, the backup process was complete.

Alexander opened up Logic Pro X and tested it without any 3rd party plugins installed. The DAW was as fast as its ever been since the OS X Mountain Lion; certainly a plus in his book. The next step was to install 3rd party plugins. Many companies in this area have warned users not upgrade to Sierra yet. Of course that did not stop Alexander as he tends to keep 3rd party plugin dependency at minimum. He opened up Waves Central and installed a local backup of his plugins after which he authorized. At first it did not authorize but this may have been due to the unstable internet connection at the time. After trying again it worked.

Alexander opened up Logic Pro and his Waves plugins were fully operational. He even recorded, mixed and mastered a song. Performance wise the improvements are certainly visible.

Plugins from Plugin Alliance do not work officially yet as told by the manufacturer however, he has found a temporary solution that will work until the problem has been officially fixed. See below:

  1. First copy the auvaltool file from the /usr/bin folder from your El Capitan install on to a USB Stick.

  2. Restart your Sierra install and hold down Command + R until you see the Apple logo and loading bar.

  3. Once in recovery mode, Open Terminal from the Utilities menu and type csrutil disable

  4. This will disable System Integrity Protection, which will enable you to replace the auvaltool on Sierra with the one you copied from El Capitan. Be sure to keep System Integrity Protection disabled while you use the previous auvaltool otherwise the it will not work anymore.

  5. Once a fix is officially released, simply replace the auvaltool you copied from El Capitan with the one installed by Sierra.

  6. Reboot your Mac and hold down Command + R until you see the Apple logo and loading bar.

  7. Once in recovery mode, Open Terminal from the Utilities menu and type csrutil enable in order to re-enable System Integrity Protection.

After following steps 1-4 you may need to configure file permissions. Do the following:

cd /usr/bin

sudo chown 0:0 auvaltool

sudo xattr -c auvaltool

sudo chmod 755 auvaltool

Disclaimer: Please note that this temporary fix is not endorsed by Plugin Alliance and you must use at your own risk. Plugin Alliance say that they are working on an official fix. SIP must be disabled in order for this workaround to work and should be re-enabled as soon as an official fix is released by Plugin Alliance. Disabling SIP (System Integrity Protection) poses a security risk and should only be disabled when it is absolutely necessary.

Alexander Lindo’s EP entitled “Progression” has been released recently and is available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Google Play. BUY IT NOW!

Update: Plugins by Plugin Alliance now officially support Sierra.