The more we learn about Leopard, specifically 10.5.2, the worse it gets. I don’t think there are any larger lessons to be drawn here, or meaningful platform discussions to be had. I think you should find a workaround and keep making music. Hey, I’ve been running Mac, Windows, and other operating systems (cough, yes, DOS) for a long time. Some releases are beloved keepers, rock-solid models of compatibility and stability. Others, you move on, and try to erase the version number from your mind. Both seem to come in cycles.

Digidesign has joined its M-Audio unit in responding to our concerns about lagging Mac and Windows drivers, but lest you think this is just a Digi/M-Audio problem, I want to draw attention to this passage by Dave Lebolt, general manager at Digidesign, on the Digidesign user forums:

Many of the problems that Apple addressed in these dot releases [10.5.1, 10.5.2] were critical to improve OS X Leopard operations (you can read about some of them on the support section of Apple’s website). These improvements and fixes were very valuable to a broad base of Mac users. Unfortunately, the currently shipping OS X Leopard release, 10.5.2, contains some changes that actually caused problems with Pro Tools (and some other apps as well). In our case, the problems included audio interfaces not being recognized by the computer, track counts dropping to near zero, and errors coming up during normal operation. Some of you who may have experimented with Pro Tools and OS X Leopard 10.5.2 may have encountered some of these problems.

[emphasis mine]

I certainly can’t recommend Leopard in its current state. If it’s working for you, fantastic. But if you can otherwise avoid it for the time being, I think sticking with your current OS could be a smart move, especially since there’s no real music-specific reason to upgrade. Hopefully a fix is coming soon; maybe 10.5.3 will appear tomorrow and we’ll be rocking out without bugs for Memorial Day Weekend. We’ll see.

This does illustrate the problem — to some, the changes in 10.5.2 were a fix. The issue is, because of the complex, interconnected nature of an operating system, a "fix" can simultaneously be a "break." Being careful with updates is, therefore, par for the course.

(Photo: (CC) ~inky, via Flickr. I actually kind of miss that icon, in a perverse way.)

We’ve already seen official statements from Serato and Native Instruments suggesting users avoid the update, citing similar symptoms to those above. We’ve heard from users using products from other vendors finding other problems. It’s not just music users complaining — you can read reports from the Mac faithful complaining about the update.

Unfortunately, new Apple hardware comes pre-loaded with the update, although your best bet is to just try it and hope for the best — we’ve heard from readers that new Penryn-based hardware seems immune to audio performance issues for some reason.

Incidentally, I’ve now heard several people suggest that this is some kind of conspiracy theory in which Apple breaks competitive music products. (Wow, that sounds like a great plan, and completely plausible!)

I wouldn’t even bring it up, except to say, let’s all agree now that that’s ridiculous. The changes in Mac OS came from other areas of the OS, not from the audio team. Music developers report that they’re working directly with Apple engineering to fix the problem. Apple doesn’t benefit from stuff being broken, period. And Apple doesn’t even make audio hardware. I think people may just be in denial about how hard it is to develop a desktop OS, and how easy it is for problems to occur, particularly with audio subsystems. So, uh, relax, okay?

Unfortunately, the reality of OS development is that it’s a delicate thing, and fixing one thing can indeed break something else. So, at this point, we’re waiting on 10.5.3 or some other update to resolve the problem.

Now, could there be some kind of engineering and testing effort that makes these problems happen less often on operating systems in general? I’d like to think so, particularly with the rising importance of audio in general computing and the growing significance of so-called "pro audio" (read: sound that works) to Apple’s business, not to mention Apple’s strong track record in the past. I imagine that improving the situation will require effort from both the OS and the developer side. It’s an issue we’ll be watching in the coming months.


Mac OS X 10.5.2: Music and Audio Problems on Apple Laptops?

  • obviously, this whole issue is of concern to all of us users, audio hardware/software companies, and (hopefully) to the OS companies as well. With Apple specifically, i'm afraid that their recent rapid growth might influence them to speed through OS updates focused on general OS/homegrown App problems and solutions, and perhaps neglect some of the more "esoteric" applications of the home computer.

    Solutions? i profess total ignorance of the way things are currently handled in the audio development world (both HW and SW), but it would seem that closer cooperation between all the development players would be a big help. For instance, HW makers providing their tools to the SW makers for testing (and certainly vice-versa), and to the OS developers. If Apple had an in-house audio development QA team focused on 3rd party HW/SW compatibility, and had a definitive voice where OS fixes/upgrades were concerned, they could possibly help postpone OS releases until audio-specific issues were resolved. With a dedicated team with access to "all" the major HW/SW platforms, it would seem that they should at least be aware of problematic issues and could buy development time to assure these issues were settled before releases.

    Likewise, if HW/SW developers have both HW/SW to test on, and a positive relationship with the OS developers, it would seem many of these issues could be nipped in the bud (before we end up with a bunch of thorny roses bruising our hopes and dreams and wallets).

    This is not to say that ALL issues would be eliminated, but in the case of 10.5.2, which seems very hazardous to audio indeed, it just wouldn't have passed release muster. After all, once upon a time, Apple computers were artist friendly and they touted how their OS was superior for graphic and audio artists (i clearly remember reading about the benefits of OSX for musicians/audio professionals on their website before finally deciding to go Mac). I'm afraid as Apple popularity (and market-share) has grown, that the previous emphasis on the specialized Artist market has taken a backseat to the more general user.

    All that said, I recognize that OS beta development releases must be difficult for HW/SW vendors to work with. Because of the relative short-time between beta releases, it may be quite difficult to thoroughly test a beta before the next release comes out. There also may exist a tendency to expect the next beta to "fix" outstanding issues, because, after all, how could Apple NOT fix outstanding audio issues in their OS??? Well, beta follows beta, and suddenly the "final" beta has arrived and HW/SW developers (and perhaps even the Apple in-house audio development team) are faced with an extremely short amount of time to test/troubleshoot and fix any existing problems. Meanwhile, market pressures insist on a release – if the OS is "okay" for the majority of users, why not go ahead and push it out in to the world?

    Well, if i were Apple i'd take a step back and recognize that it was artists and musicians who basically kept the platform alive during its most troubled days (yes, i realize this a terrible generalization, but….), and therefore, there should be a real dedication to continuing to deliver a solid OS for working artists/musicians/professionals.

    I won't get into the fact that it's the 21st century, and that more and more, audio/video performance/production softwares are becoming increasingly intertwined, and that it's terribly frustrating to see your video SW maker recommending an OS release that can't handle your audio SW (or vice-versa!).

    good luck to all

  • this situation has caused me problems. I was forced into buying a new Mac earlier this year due to problems with my old machine. As you mention, new machines ship with the latest OS and it took some time to get my machine up and running using Leopard. The software I had most problems with suprisingly was Logic Pro. Now I don't want to start ranting about Logic Pro issues but lets just say I don't use it any more. It was just too unreliable.

    Touch wood, Ableton Live is working fine for me as are Kontakt and loads of other plugins. I'm still waiting for Pro Tools, which I use for post production work, to be updated though.

    Thanks for covering all of this.


  • you said:

    <blockquote cite="we’ve heard from readers that new Penryn-based hardware seems immune to audio performance issues for some reason">

    well… in my experience (a brand new penryn-based MB Pro with 10.5.2 unfortunately preinstalled) Max/MSP is less performing than on our early-Intel-generation MB Pro mounting 10.4.11 (with Airport turned off, of course 😉 )!!!

    I then compared both laptops under Win XP SP2 (via BootCamp) and everything is fine: on average, the new MB Pro is 50% more performing than the old one.

    Shame on Apple!

  • oh sorry, discard my previous posting… here's the right one:

    you said: "we’ve heard from readers that new Penryn-based hardware seems immune to audio performance issues for some reason"

    well… in my experience (a brand new penryn-based MB Pro with 10.5.2 unfortunately preinstalled) Max/MSP is less performing than on our early-Intel-generation MB Pro mounting 10.4.11 (with Airport turned off, of course 😉 )!!!

    I then compared both laptops under Win XP SP2 (via BootCamp) and everything is fine: on average, the new MB Pro is 50% more performing than the old one.

    Shame on Apple!

  • I managed to avoid the AirPort update on 10.4.11 and find it otherwise just fine on several machines. But this also illustrates to me how wrong-headed certain members of the Mac development community are being by forcing people to get Leopard just to run an app. The idea that you'd make a half-year-old OS an essential prerequisite to me is just wrong. Ironically, after all of the concerns that you'd "need Vista" to run the latest applications, I haven't found one application — not one — that requires Vista. That's not a pro-Windows sentiment, incidentally; part of why that's important is that Vista, like Leopard, seems to be a step backward for audio. But then, if OS updates are prone to producing unpredictable bugs, why would you force someone into an upgrade? Wouldn't you back-port your development to reach more customers and better absorb some of those growing pains? (Thankfully, this hasn't infected music developers — for obvious reasons, given they're as aware as we are that the "upgrades" aren't necessarily upgrades.)

  • Fiz

    Goodbye Logic, hello Live…for awhile. After 3 dangerous audio spikes in a row while exploring the Noatikl generative music plug-in in Logic, I figured now's a good time to give Logic a rest and get to know Operator and the gang.

    I value my hearing too much to gamble with Logic's bugtasticity right now….

  • flaxx

    I'm using the 2.2GHz 15" MacBook Pro with Ableton Live for DJing and mixing 6 microphone tracks (with effects) as part of a live stage show. No problems noticed yet on 10.5.2. I'm driving a Mackie Onyx firewire for all of the ins and outs. I have a setup that is very latency sensitive and it has not let me down yet.

    Maybe I have just the right combination of hardware and software for this to "just work".

  • @flaxx: what model MacBook Pro do you have / when did you get it? My strong suspicion is that chipset may be our critical variable, but who knows … and there may be multiple factors.

    @Fiz: this seems to impact more than just Logic, so I wouldn't necessarily blame Logic. This does blow massive holes through any conspiracy theories, but then, you knew that. 🙂

  • I like this quote from our friend Marco above:

    "Leopard is een soort van Vista. Inderdaad: punt!"

    See, some things translate pretty well.

  • jonnyfive

    Very Weird. I've been running 10.5.2 for a while, with the airport updates and all on a santa rosa MBP for several months now (which I bought in october expressedly so I could run 10.4 for ages to come since I had some projects lined up already and was worried about exactly this situation) When my tiger install went south and Motu came out with DP 5.13 and max/MSP seemed to work i figured eff it i'll check out this leopard scene, and I have completed several of these projects with Max/MSP (v4 and now v5)Live 7 and Digital Performer with a variety of plug-ins (even Kontakt2) and everything has been just peachy. I guess I'm lucky, maybe ironically so but thats not really why I posted.

    I had one compelling reason to upgrade I have a presonus firebox and the FW audio drivers in Tiger have well documented critical issues. In Leopard I am not experiencing (noticeably problematic)random offsets or processor spikes as I did in Tiger so there is at least one improvement in audio land, which I felt like pointing out. One thing I have not done is stress tested it versus 10.4 so i don't really know how performance compares. Anyway, I will say that the audio hardware on these new machines is definitely a step down from the G4 powerbooks, the built in output has alot of HD bleedthrough. Well at the risk of rambling on I will stop.

  • Thomas Cermak

    Ya, I'm waiting quite eagerly that 10.5.3 will have my fix – it's supposed to have over 200 right now. I've settled to using my iMac.

    10.5.2 & Live are not working at all with any external interface I have at the moment – regardless of airport being disabled. I've tried several versions of Live as well. I've had to postpone two shows now, and consider just doing my shows with my MPC! I'll probably end up using it in conjunction with my Mackie for extra mixing/EQ power.

  • Fiz

    @ Peter — right. Unlike Thomas Cermak, for me Live runs magically well, while Logic can't get through the door. As for conspiracy theories, they are a dime a dozen. That's why I like freeware. 🙂

  • My guess at this point is that host variables are largely coincidental … it sounds like OS / hardware chipset / driver is where the action is.

  • beej

    After using a Powerbook for a long time, I upgraded to a new Penryn 2.4 MBP with 4gig ram, firewire and sata drives, a FW interface and so on, and Logic performs well for me. I don't get the audio dropouts or horrendously bad performance others are reporting.

    I did not install the airport update.

    So it's not necessarily cut and dry that Leopard, or 10.5.2 as a rule is bad for audio. It does mean though that audio problems are fairly widespread (and again, I'm not talking about the airport thing which is a known issue Apple are investing and hopefully fixing).

    All I can say is my MBP and Logic (and Live) are performing as expected for me.

  • Thomas Cermak

    Mine is one of the first Core 2 Duo MBPs. Still using merom – was that the name?

  • Boy, safe money is on the generation of laptop you're using.

    So far, the general pattern has been: MacBook, pre-Penryn MacBook Pro = problems. Penryn MacBook Pro = no problem (or, at least, fewer problems). I'm not saying it's the only factor, but there does seem to be a correlation, as apparently Serato users were already finding.

    It's also worth noting that Apple doesn't have complete control over the "whole widget," even though they claim to. Something like the firmware on a chipset could be an independent variable.

    This is also why I don't like buying Apple hardware early in an *OS* release cycle, in addition to early in a hardware cycle. I've been burned by that, let's see … all the way back to my Power Mac 7500/100 and PowerBook 5300/c days. (Well, except in this case, the newer hardware works and the older hardware may not … but then, at least, you can downgrade or simply wait to upgrade.)

  • Benjo

    I too have issues with a first-gen MBP and 10.5.2. Headphone output needs a Hum Eliminator when connecting to my MOTU 828. On the other hand, recording for a jazz album with 10.5.2 and Logic 8 on a dual 2GHz Mac Pro G5 has been practically solid. I just updated Logic to 8.0.2 today and look forward to an even better experience. Tiger has a place – and a dedicated HD – in my studio rig, but Leo(pard) is and will be the Lion King for my music, until the next OS cat lands on its feet.

  • Interesting … well, and that's my point. I'm not trying to slam Leopard, necessarily — though the end result, the advice is the same (i.e., avoid it until you can be sure it'll work for you — or at least have a path backwards).

    But I could believe the problem in situations *like* this may actually be things like buggy firmware on a chipset, or other variables that are simply revealed by the OS. So it's not so much a matter of blame, as it is, we need everybody involved to adhere closer to spec and communicate and test more. And that's very easy to say, very tough to actually implement, because of the number of variables.

    I heard some people blaming the switch to Intel Macs, except that's kind of silly … in the PowerPC age, going very far back, Apple has been using nearly all standard, commodity parts. (In fact, those of you who remember the PowerPC switch will recall that was the idea when they made that architectural switch. And even the 68k machines, minus a few proprietary parts here and there, were still mostly commodity components.)

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  • yomismo

    Well A big change in 10.5.2 was that MacOsX began to implement memory randomization. I explain, with 10.5.0 the operating system give access to services so each reboot the program driver … would reside in a different memory location so everybody could began to implement with that in mind but most of the services of the own OS where not randomized. In 10.5.2 some of the services became randomized one of them was hardware detection and driver loading. I find natural that problems would occur in real time process that are the one more probable to try to cut corners.

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  • Glenn

    I'm running 10.5.2 on a santa rosa macbook with an Echo Audiofire 4 card. Mostly running Ableton Live 7.

    I'm not having any problems once I turn Airport off…


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  • Peter

    Here is my 2 cents…Apps run on an OS not the other way round, so a new OS update may mean an App maker has to adapt. Apple cannot wait for every App maker to be ready before releasing an update. To defend youself do not update till your app maker says its safe. Same for a new computer with 10.5.2, do not buy till you know your app is compatible. As for Digidesign…they always take time to qualify their hardware and software for new versions of apps and hardware….and beware those downloaded plug ins that you could not imagine would cause a problem!!!

  • 7oi

    well, until my software will absolutely require leopard, i'm sticking with tiger. i absolutely feel no need to upgrade. actually, i have leopard on another computer that's not for making music and i must say i prefer tiger. it does what i need it to do.

  • ericdano

    Only piece of Audio software that does not work right for me is ProTools. Logic, Digital Performer……they work fine in 10.5.2. ProTools? On my MacPro 8 core, if you set the number of CPUs to 3, it works fine. I can run Altiverb on it, McDSP. No problems. On an iMac……..lots of problems (2006 iMac).

    But if you are NOT using ProTools, I don't see why one wouldn't recommend 10.5.2. Just because M-Audio/Digidesign can't get their ass in gear (have they ever???) doesn't mean other companies can't. MOTU I believe had driver and updates to DP within 2 weeks of 10.5 coming out.

    Digidesign/M-Audio……..we are still waiting………..

  • @Eric: Because not everyone is as lucky as you are. 🙂

    We've seen people with issues using other hosts (not just Pro Tools — including Apple's own Logic), and other hardware (not just M-Audio / Digidesign). And we've seen official warnings from Native Instruments (not even relative to their own hardware, their software), and Serato (ditto). So, anecdotally, and in terms of what we're hearing with manufacturers, what we're hearing is that a significant number of people are having issues.

    I think if any significant percentage of users are having problems for which there isn't an easy fix, it's worth saying, this isn't something I can recommend.

  • I've been idly considering a roll back, because my 10.5.2 machine was glitching using the _internal_ soundcard the other day during recording.

    my options are 3:

    1: sit and wait till 10.5.3

    2. bootcamp XP and rock from there (gotta tweak that considering the KbdMgr causes many audio glitches… see the RME forum for "Boot Camp Audio")

    3. roll back to tiger

    all day i've been pondering and I can't bring myself to make a jump. The main hurdle is software re-authorization since that will involve some emails and waiting

  • David

    Tiger is solid as can be for me on my 8 core machine. I almost upgraded to Leopard (which I also unfortunately run on my MacBook Pro) thinking it would be a good move over the Memorial Day weekend, but I'm glad I didn't. Leopard for me, so far, has been a step backward.

  • By all means, everybody should file bugs and complain to Apple Support about any and all problems you see. That being said, software is a very complicated thing… especially an Operating System. Pieces of the OS can combine and interfere in unexpected and catastrophic ways under some configurations. I personally feel like all hardware and software manufacturers (I'm looking at you NI) should just chill out on features for a bit and make their products rock solid.

    Funny enough, I run Logic 8 and 10.5.2 on a macbook air and a dual G5 2.7ghz and absolutely love it on both. No issues on either platform with or without the AirPort enabled. The sound quality is amazing (MAJOR improvements to the CoreAudio bitrate conversion engine dramatically and demonstrably reduce aliasing in 10.5), and the whole general experience is so polished that I cannot imagine using any other DAW.

    Most importantly Leopard comes with TimeMachine which is absolutely priceless. With Ed Ma (Edit of the GlitchMob) and Matthew Dear both having data-bearing components lifted right infront of their faces within the last 2 months, there can be no more evidence that all creative professionals should use the tested, transparent backup TimeMachine offers. Have you backed your data up recently? Maybe you should go back your data up now 😉

  • I'm having similar problems running Tiger with pro tools HD 7.4 with the Magma expansion chasis.I cannot get this system to run at all.Any advice out there? so far Apple and digidesign have not been any help.

  • P.Frank

    I must admit that I am a late comer to this blog, and I preface my next opinion with the understanding that people who have recently purchased a Mac are stuck with Leopard and are hosed, however, I have never understood people with working studios that are also early adopters. Usually the upside of updating is very minimal with a massive downside. I have a studio running PT 7.4 with an HD3 on 10.4.10 that is absolutely rock solid. If I update, I take the risk of not only taking out the core of my rig, but taking out some of my more esoteric plugs (Sonnox for example are technically supported but have had some dodgy reports). I update, I could break my business, and for what? A fancy new dock, a bunch of features I don't need? I know larger studios still on Panther for this same reason. Don't even get me started on the stupidity of updating to Vista. When Leopard hits mid generation (10.5.5 on) I might consider updating once I know every piece of hardware and software has proven drivers, but until then it's just foolhardy. Can someone please explain to me the compulsive need to update, especially with Mac people? Although I do hope 10.5.3 fixes things for you guys.

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