What happens when a key relationship in music technology turns a bit sour? There’s no mistaking the music world’s preference for Apple products. But there are some specific causes for concern in the way Apple is handling its desktop operating system and its relationship with pro musicians.

First, let me be clear. I’ve covered Apple and music for a long time. I’ve met some of the people handling these products; some of them I’ve known fairly well in a professional capacity. I have tremendous respect for the company, its products, and its management. I’ve been a regular contributor to Macworld (reviewing, in particula,r Logic). I’m not the sort to just to go off on a rant about this company because I had a bad day with my MacBook.

Not only that, but part of the reason I’m often quick to defend Apple in light of those sorts of rants is because I know how often they’re based on feelings, rather than facts. “Apple doesn’t care about pros” or “Apple’s products aren’t worth the extra price” or other refrains occur with some regularity, and too often are poorly informed about how products like these work or how they’re developed. I’ve gotten to know enough engineers inside and outside Apple to have some appreciation for the complexity and nuance involved in developing computer music products and catering to the music industry.

Okay. So those are the disclaimers. Now, let’s talk about why I’m worried. There are a number of decisions at Apple that I think are detrimental to the music technology ecosystem and/or the ways in which musicians use the company’s products, which includes the world’s leading digital distribution outlet. To me, they’re increasingly looking like a pattern, and not a positive one for our little niche. “Our little niche” has the right to be a bit loud about that, because we are central to Apple’s brand and the way they present themselves. (Look at it this way: that niche includes the likes of Beyoncé.)

I raise these points not as some sort of macOS versus Windows discussion – that’s a separate issue – but because these are things I think are worth criticizing. And I think they could be addressed, whether Cupertino sees fit to address them or not.

It’s not pretty seeing all these together in one spot, but here we go.

Apple is in the short term making mobile audio output worse, not better. There’s been a lot of ire raised around the headphone jack, but to me, it misses the point. Switching from analog to a default digital output I can understand. There are, however, some problems with the way Apple is going about it.

First, it appears the analog output in Apple’s headphone adapter (that is, via the Lightning port) isn’t strong enough to drive analog headphones reliably. There’s an excellent and detailed study of this by Germany’s CT magazine. (German only, sorry, but you can read the statistics they gathered easily).

Second, Apple’s efforts to improve Bluetooth pairing appear to be locked to their own headphones. That would be fine, if Apple were any good at making headphones – except, sorry, they really aren’t. (See my next point.)

Add to that the fact that Bluetooth connection reliability is partly limited by the laws of physics (because of the penetration of the signal is restricted by objects, wires still sometimes make sense). And consider that the Lightning connection isn’t anything approaching a standard, and that accessories with only a Lightning connection can’t connect to anything else (including, ironically, your Mac), and the whole thing looks like a regression to me. Comparisons of Apple eliminating the floppy drive or other obsolete tech over the years don’t hold, because you immediately had a superior alternative.

This would be a different picture if Apple were making the world’s best headphones in the same way that they make the world’s best phone and phone operating system. But about that —

Apple isn’t making good headphones. I don’t need to write much here, and there’s no way to put this that isn’t blunt. The headphones available from Apple and Beats are inferior to a variety of competing products. They give you less clarity and range than headphones from other makers, certainly at the same price and in many cases for less. That’s not just pro products, either – I’d just as quickly advise a consumer to buy headphones from the likes of Sennheiser or Sony, just to name two established brands.

Headphone manufacture appears to require a certain degree of expertise. I wouldn’t buy artisanal cheese and wine from Apple, either. (Kudos to the likes of AIAIAI for entering this market anew, but – actually, there’s I’d probably still opt for some Sennheiser HD25s over the upstart.)

None of this would matter, except that the bottom line is, we should be able to choose what products we use in order to stay happy. So the combination of pushing these products while eliminating the headphone jack, failing to provide a decent analog output, being restrictive of use of Lightning connectors, and keeping both proprietary control of both wired and wireless connections is pretty damaging.

It’s not a deal breaker, yet, but it’s adding unnecessary resistance to the otherwise industry-leading iOS platform. And it created a problem where there was none.

Apple Music isn’t reaching out to musicians, either. Then there’s the iTunes side of things. Apple I think is straining their relationship there with the push to Apple Music, which strong de-emphasizes download sales. Sure, the writing may be on the wall as the whole industry goes to streaming. But then there’s the question of the way you interact with Apple on the music service.

And there, unless you’re a big artist or label, the relationship hasn’t been great, either. I’ve yet to talk to many labels or artists happy with their experience dealing with Apple; by comparison, I’m hearing more positive feedback about Spotify. That’s qualitative and just hearsay, but I can’t find material evidence that Apple Music is a place where smaller- and medium-sized artists see much control. Spotify and Pandora are adding new artist connect features, whereas Apple, as Hypebot noted this month, is backing off of its Connect service. What we get instead is front-and-center machine algorithm streams, despite Apple saying publicly that they’ll do more human curation.

To be fair, I expect more from Apple (and the Beats team) in part because streaming needs some new thinking and new interaction. I also know anecdotally that streaming revenue via Spotify is up for a lot of music and seems to benefit most from real engagement tools (like playlists).

Of course, we’re on the Web now, and we’re humans. Yet Web and social media integration is also sorely lacking on Apple Music, in addition to the already-lackluster, now largely demoted Connect.

So Apple was beloved mostly for moving a lot of downloads. Now, with that gone, it seems to be a reflection of Spotify, but with even less artist control. That’s not great news, really, unless you luck out and wind up on their radio station.

Apple’s desktop computer strategy is murky (especially at the higher end). I don’t want to say too much about this, as some sort of announcement seems imminent. But the reality as I write this is, Apple’s desktop computer offerings seem frozen in the past.

The Mac Pro was never updated. The Mac mini, iMac, and MacBook Pro are all long in the tooth. The best we’ve seen lately out of the MacBook line is thinness, but not significantly enhanced performance (and in some cases, worsened performance per dollars invested). (As a reader correctly notes, we’ve seen some updates – but none of these cover the flagship machines or bring much that’s significantly new to the table. And to be fair, Apple has historically set the bar for our expectations high.)

And it shows. For people working in visual media, the Mac is in a real way locked out of the latest advanced in 3D and real-time visuals by GPU offerings that are, at best, overpriced and behind the times, and at worse, incapable of performing at all.

But even in music, Apple’s hardware has failed to keep up. Storage is non-upgradeable, fine – but also mind-bogglingly expensive. CPU performance is unacceptable on many of the lighter models, and lackluster on the pricier machines, which matters if you’re in love with, say, soft synths.

Mac naysayers will say this has always been the case. But the truth is, Mac models have historically been expensive, but offering enough to merit the investment. The Retina MacBook Pro and MacBook Air set standards for display and form factor when they came out, for instance. People often find their machines last longer and are easier to maintain and support. And if the OS is superior (more on that in a moment), that can be worth an investment.

We just need more information. I wonder if the delay is to do with Apple owning their own destiny. It seems the day will come that Apple’s desktop line benefits from the advanced in their system-on-a-chip tech as on mobile – especially when your iPad Pro might easily best your MacBook in CPU performance. But that’s an awful lot of unknowns for the time being. I certainly would advise would-be Mac purchasers to hold off on a purchase to see if there’s something this fall.

Apple’s desktop OS is too often unstable and incompatible, and the yearly update cycle isn’t helping. I saved what I think is the biggest issue, and the only really existential one, for last.

Again, there’s no way to put this nicely. macOS updates are fraught with problems.

People sometimes forget the pain of operating systems past. That seems true on both platforms – I was amazed at the PC users who fell in love with the same Windows XP they once despised. Ask many musicians what their all time favorite OS X release was, the “make the Mac great again” operating system, and they’ll often say 10.6.8. The number after the last decimal place should clue you in to something. Ahem. Apple in the past had a tendency to ship a number of point releases.

The problem is, we shouldn’t have to be playing this game any more. OS X – sorry, now again macOS – is a mature operating system. You’re not paying for short-term reliability because some significant low-level change was necessary. This should be the easy, golden years of the OS – a bit like after retirement when you’re reading long novels on the beach or going on fishing trips or whatever.

Instead, we’re being treated to disastrous, showstopper audio reliability problems. NI have written a good overview, and the headline says it all:

Audio Performance Issues (Drop-outs, Distorted Audio, Timecode Delays) in OS X 10.9 – OS X 10.11 [Native Instruments Support Article]

Here’s how bad this is: you show up to a gig, and out of the blue, your machine starts popping or dropping buffers or creating random distortion. That’s clear-the-floor stuff, things that could make people never want to play again. And it’s not necessary. Computers are perfectly capable of acting reliably for days at a time.

This is being reported by NI, but the cause is Apple and can impact other systems – I’ve reproduced the issues they’re describing in Serato DJ and Ableton Live, for instance, with different pieces of hardware from different vendors. People who work in support paint an ugly picture, and then anecdotal evidence is useful, because it covers a range of different situations. And it’s getting been worse through El Capitan: “OS X 10.9 (rare occurrences), OS X 10.10 (occasional occurrences) and OS X 10.11 (most occurrences, compared to the aforementioned OS versions).”

Now, it’s not uncommon to wait a few weeks when an OS comes out to make sure your complex ecosystem of software hosts, plug-ins, and hardware is compatible. But note the OS numbers – that’s years without a fix, and instead worsened regressions. That’s simply unacceptable. OS X 10.9 Mavericks is about to turn three years old (older if you count pre-release builds).

This should never have shipped in a stable OS in the first place. I can’t think of an instance of this happening on any recent build of Windows, and Microsoft doesn’t control the hardware you run on. It certainly should not have dragged on for years on a platform who has defined itself as the choice of musicians and producers.

The good news is, macOS 10.12 Sierra seems potentially to fix the problem (with AppNap functionality turned off manually, which isn’t totally ideal). More testing is needed to be sure of this.

The bad news: Apple still can’t seem to keep third parties synced up with its now annual release cadence. In a now yearly ritual, Apple has broken plug-in validation for its own Audio Unit format. Open question: why? Why is this now a regular feature of updating an operating system for a format that has basically remained unchanged for years? Why shouldn’t desktop upgrades be the kind of no-brainer mobile upgrades are.

There are some workarounds for plug-ins, but this reveals a deeper, more cultural problem at Apple. The inability to ship OS builds to developers in time for them to adapt, a tendency to change OS internals without properly documenting the results, or whatever the reason, the upshot is the same. If musicians can’t trust an upgrade, they won’t install it – and that means they will avoid critical fixes, too.

In the case of Sierra, we need Mac users to update as soon as possible if it in fact resolves this issue. And the advice I had given would-be installers — wait a few weeks to validate an OS — is proving to be wrong. In this case, you would have had to wait three years, then install that update on day one just to solve chronic showstopper problems with the whole audio system.

Now, there’s different advice: switch to Windows. And I think that’s not hyperbolic in this case, not when you talk to people doing Apple support for a living who can’t recommend either the 2015 or 2016 stable builds of the operating system. (Boot Camp at least got a bit more appealing than it had been!)

Conclusions

There’s a whole lot Apple under Tim Cook is doing right. iOS is an amazing platform, with unparalleled music capabilities. Apple hardware is still heavily used and widely loved. macOS still has features that can best Windows (and Windows still has problems of its own). Logic Pro is still a great DAW, and shows that Apple can make products for our market.

There’s just some stuff to fix. And I complain, because I believe Apple could do better.

To me, these issues are adding up as they raise concerns about priorities. But it’s really the operating system and desktop platform issue that I feel is critical.

Now, Apple very likely will have new machines out soon. So part of what we need to see is what those look like. It might be a longer transition, but I’d like to see Apple leverage its hardware advances from iOS. (Update – commenters agree, that part of the stagnation of the desktop Mac line parallels stagnation on Intel’s side. So maybe what we’ll see is a non-x86 hardware platform from Apple. The last big lag like this was actually just before the move from PowerPC to Intel. Bet you temporarily forgot about that – which also demonstrates how effective it was.)

And it seems Apple is working with third parties to address long-running difficulties with the OS.

All of this, though, should leave people who love computers deeply unsettled. To me, this isn’t really about Apple’s relationship to their hit iPhone. There’s still a lot of revenue coming from the Mac and from services related to the Mac (apart from it being a development machine for iOS). And some of Apple’s best-ever upgrades shipped well into the iPhone era. (If anything, the watch seems to time out with some of the missteps.)

But what it is about to me is trust. Apple may have taken the “computer” out of the name, but we trusted that they didn’t take the computer out of the product. They haven’t rewarded that trust lately.

I love hardware, but I still believe in the computer. To use the computer to its potential, to feel comfortable with it as a device for musical expression, you need to trust it. You need to know it won’t, you know, suddenly glitch out in the middle of a performance – something that in 2016 ought to be a thing of the past.

And you need to trust the company with which you invest time, both the computer itself and the OS platform it’s running. Apple is both. You need to feel a connection to both the commitment level and the vision of that company, because you’re investing your creative output and significant time and financial resources in that platform – hours upon hours of time.

On top of that, to really deepen exposure on a distribution method, you need to trust the distribution method.

I do think Apple can win back that trust. But I’d be lying if I said right now it was secure.

These things have historically gone in cycles. This feels to me like a down cycle – so it’s a question of what the up swing could be.

I’ll be keenly watching as we test Sierra more, and see how fixes arrive for third party software. And I’m eager to see what computer refreshes we get, if any, in 2016, as well as how Apple Music evolves. But I do hope that, entirely apart from whoever may read this, Apple has gotten the message from its enormous and inspired musical user base that there are things that need fixing.

And at that point, yes, we are likely to get emotional. This isn’t just about using your iPhone to buy a Frappuccino at Starbucks with Apple Pay or monitor your daily jog. This is the tool we use to express our deepest feelings, our greatest passion, and to move rooms full of people. We have to trust it.

Postlude: I left out an article that takes this perspective from the “Motion” side of the coin. But for live visuals, it’s almost no contest, as I briefly hinted here – and I think that’s relevant, as someday soon cutting-edge visuals may matter to more musicians. The top-of-range Macs don’t have GPUs that are competitive with even many inexpensive PCs. On top of that, OS X has suffered significant graphics bugs as well as audio bugs, and Windows has plenty of powerful visual exclusives used to do some seriously amazing work, like TouchDesigner and vvvv. That’s an extremely specific niche, though some areas – like virtual reality – also represent the bleeding edge. But I’ve decided to leave that alone, as I don’t think there’s the same cultural need that Apple has on the music side. I will also leave meanwhile leave the now-discontinued Aperture and controversial Final Cut Pro X out of it; suffice to say Logic Pro hasn’t suffered in the same way. Logic lovers I know still love Logic; people who prefer other DAWs still prefer other DAWs.

  • Bravo.

  • Apoclypse

    You make some valid points but I have to disagree with some of you points if for nothing else that they seem anecdotal at best, especially the dropouts issue which being a long time OSX user with different audio interfaces I have never encountered. Those fall on Serato and NI and they seriously crappy drivers which break every time there is a new macOS version and in some cases NI didn’t release fixes until months after the the OSX release. Hell NI even dropped the S4 from their list of supported devices (probably because they didn’t want to have to deal with the driver issues anymore).

    Also as a dev, Apple has always given developers plenty of time to get their stuff together and since Mavericks, have even opened the process to public betas where developers can get an even larger cross-section of users to test with. I’ve never seen NI release one public beta to test the latest OS support, and most instances NI has had broken day one installs going all the way back to Tiger if not before.

    That being said AU support in Logic has been broken since Beta 2 of Sierra so it’s not a new thing, There are a handful of plugins that work fine (Xfer’s Serum2 for example). Who knows why but I don’t believe the fault lies solely in Apple’s court. Some plugin developers are notoriously lazy and would rather not have to do any work to update to the new OS.

    If yo value stability then don’t upgrade. Apple still releases security updates two years after they release the OS. There is no reason why you need the new shiny unless it has somethign you absolutely need. Personally I don’t update until x.1 or .2

    I do think that maybe it’s time that Apple took a rolling upgrade approach similar to what MS is doing now, but even that can lead to things breaking (such as webcams stopped working in the anniversary edition release or Windows 10).

    • Sure, developers can be lazy – of course.

      But there’s a cyclical problem here, and it’s a cycle Apple could help break. The good news is, the public beta on OSes – that should in theory get more feedback on OSes.

      The bad news is, things like AU validation seem to keep breaking late in the process.

      And that’s where this cycle starts — if users can’t trust updates, there’s little reason for vendors to be ahead of the game. And worse, if Apple fails to get significant changes in front of developers in time for them to ship in sync with the OS, users won’t (and shouldn’t) trust the updates.

      There is a rolling series of updates to the OS, too, I’m not sure what you mean by that. It’s an annual release cadence for bigger changes.

      But all of this comes back to a central point – waiting *three years* is not reasonable, even if you value caution.

      I’m hopeful that the Sierra cycle is more positive. We’ve gone through these kinds of cycles before. (Ask about early OS X releases, before 10.3, or the dark days of System 7.5 if you want to go really far back.)

      • Apoclypse

        Developers get 3 months to test and that has always been the case. Developers are given access to OS X almost immediately after it’s announced at WWDC. Other app makers have updates DAY 1 of OS X release, almost all audio application makers can’t seem to do that for some reason. NI doesn’t even officially release updates to their software for platform compatibility until about a month and half after OSX is release. They had 3 months prior to do testing, post open betas, do the work but they don’t want to.

        Remember when 10.5 came out and all the NI installers were broken? NI didn’t post a fix until almost a month later. That’s a major issue. Your customers can’t install the software bought? How many times has NI’s audio drives broken when updating, meanwhile, without even needing an update my OG FW Duet still works in OS X. My Focusrite 8pre still works flawlessly with Sierra (tested it on one of my spare macs). NI Komplete Audio borked. The s4 hasn’t worked flawlessly in OS X since about 10.8. At that point I lay the blame on NI.

        It’s a cyclical thing because audio devs keep doing the same thing. How long did it take to get a 64-bit version of Sylenth on OS X again?

        Rolling updates as in things like Mail etc aren’t tied to each version of the OS. Every OS update is almost a platform unto itself. Though this has been mitigated a bit since they started doing yearly updates. Now they update yearly but don’t do as many sweeping changes like the past. Microsoft have tiered updates.

  • Neil

    “your machine starts popping or dropping buffers or creating random distortion”

    Indeed. I don’t want my laptop doing that and clearing the floor. That’s MY job.

  • Ziga Mraz FFrika

    While i have to say that so far i haven’t come across any problems you mention i do think that mac pro line needs to get upgraded. Away with the trashcan and give us back proper upgradable workstation.

    • Patrick Pagano

      I did n’t have time to read every reply but i’m not sure if you mentioned how apple really does the upgrade to a new O/S? You bet those new macbooks and Macpros will come with Sierra pre-loaded. Voila. i rarely update my O/s [Certainly not if i am working on ANYTHING i am getting paid for. Updates are for teenagers usually and tech junkies. i would still be running 10.6.8 if Max7 ran nicer on it.

  • Renaud

    “…this reveals a deeper, more cultural problem at Apple. The inability to ship OS builds to developers in time for them to adapt…”

    I’m a developer and sorry but… no. The first developer preview of Sierra has been available since June 13th. That’s 3 full months, and indeed you must have noticed most developers of non-audio apps have spent the summer shipping updates.

    Yet somehow in the audio world, all hell breaks loose come September each year, it seems plug-in developers only start looking at the new OS the same day as their customers, and they scramble to make panicked “DO NOT UPGRADE YET !” statements. Not being ready on day 1 is unfortunate, not having started working on it is simply unprofessional, sorry.

    But the worst part is that they manage to get away with it, because most of their customers (musicians are notoriously conservative with their computers) nod in approval and go “yeah yeah don’t worry, I’m still on MacOS-from-8-years-ago anyway. F*** Apple always breaking stuff” (just look at the forums if you don’t believe me)

    It simply doesn’t have to be this way in most cases, and this is the real issue you should be talking about IMHO.

    • foljs

      Steinbeg, for one, only starts testing after the OS X version is officially released. They do no testing on dev builds and beta builds.

      That’s way when it comes to December, and you want your new OS X to support Cubase X that you have, they first put out a compatible Cubase X+0.5 (e.g. Cubase 8.5 to 9 this year), and only bother to release a patch to make Cubase X compatible with the new OS another month later. So that if you want to update OS X AND use Cubase, you have to fork for the update.

      • Yeah, that’s correct – and there is certainly a tendency of this among cross-platform developers in particular. The sync problem is real, and I don’t intend to let third parties off the hook. But…

        • Muzak

          Roland seems to wait for the final release as well . Many broken products at Win 10, and now with Sierra ! but, the blame is not only on Apple and Microsoft, but also with the software/hardware creators when their products not comply with standards (USB audio/ MIDI), check the version of the OS or do things specific to the OS. Adding to that, driver / software / hardware creators may have left the company and knowledge is gone , the chip-set company does not exists anymore or does not support (see the Virus access problems) or the company does not wish to support driver updates old products (Roland) due to their “priorities” (= “sales”) . In other words, if manufacturers of music hardware and software would more agree on standards, problems with new OS’es would be a whole lot less, and you would not need to throw your instrument (yes, read: instrument, not a ‘consumer product’ Roland !) in the garbage bin sooner or later.

      • CelestialTerrestrial

        I think Avid does the same thing with Pro Tools, they wait for the final release to do testing before they “bless it”. That’s fine, as long as they do it within a couple of months.

        I don’t blame them for testing with the final release because they have to support it, and it’s best to test the final version on many different configurations. But they still should do SOME testing with developer releases to get some of it done before hand.

        • Hans Schnakenhals

          Please let’s not mention ProTools, I can make it crap up asserts way too easily.

    • Right, but — a developer preview isn’t a gold master. Unless I’m misunderstanding the specific complaints, it sounded like there have been validation issues that are cropping up in later builds.

      And again, there’s some trust relationship here. If developers aren’t building to preview releases, if users are waiting forever to update, that’s a problem. This is the same Apple that prides itself on its upgrade rates.

      You know, the OS vendor is responsible at least in part for developer relations and the way those third parties are handling the platform. Are we really suggesting Apple should be held to a *lower* bar here, especially when the customers are invested in the platform because they have higher expectations for reliability?

      I do agree on the customers. But wait a second here… in this same article I’m talking about a showstopper audio bug that’s not only gone uncorrected through three years of updates, but even got worse.

      So now it does seem there’s a fix, and you would certainly understand why people are too scared to install it. That’s a problem.

      I don’t want to forgive third parties their sins here, but some of this is clearly stemming back to Apple. To be honest, those customers are likely to blame the third party before they blame the OS – even if the OS is actually to blame.

      • Renaud

        “a developer preview isn’t a gold master.”

        It’s true that final QA should be done on the gold master. But if you’ve done your job well, it should be just that (QA) remaining, and it shouldn’t take more than a couple of days.

        All major API changes for the year are here from day 1 in the first preview in June, and they are what breaks compatibility and requires work on developers part 95% of the time.

        If you care about your customers, there is absolutely no excuse for not starting work straight away in June when you notice an API change that’s going to break your plug-in in September. There’s usually a good reason for these changes, and about a 0.02% chance Apple is going to revert back to the old way before the final release, so it won’t be wasted work. It just gives you a 3 months headstart, and is a mark of respect to your customers (especially those buying new Macs who don’t have a choice not to upgrade).

        If you’re a one-person shop, okay, maybe you deserved to be at the beach this summer… but if you’re NI, Yamaha/Steinberg, M-Audio : WTF were you doing since June ?

        The thing is most non-audio developers are ready. Have you not noticed release notes in many of your favourite apps over the summer ? Fixes for Sierra this, update for Sierra that… why is that rarely the case in the audio world ? I can only guess that they’re counting on a very conservative user base, and find that blaming Apple just… works !

        So to be fair, in the remaining 5% of the time, Apple does break something that can only be fixed on their side, and developers are powerless. That happened last year with 10.11 apparently, it took 10.11.1 to fix many broken AU plugins. I don’t know if there’s something similar this year, but in my experience this REALLY is the minority case.

        “To be honest, those customers are likely to blame the third party before they blame the OS – even if the OS is actually to blame.”

        I don’t know, my experience reading FB comments or forums like Gearslutz in recent days is the exact opposite. Lots of people going “Take your time I’ve downgraded to 10.9 anyway, and damn Apple who keeps changing things !” (and of course they were hating on 10.9 too when it got released)

        • Damian

          The trust issue is present when considering developers as well. Apple has consistently burned developers when betas fail to exhibit the bugs often present in the gold master. How many times is a Dev shop going to get stung before it decides to wait and test against the final release?

          Precisely once.

          Its not like we should expect devs to test against the myriad betas that Apple drops. Sure some Dev shops are egregiously late to the game– but many others are approaching it from a risk management angle.

          Playing devil’s advocate, the dimension here that really baffles me here is when a partner like Apogee can’t get on the same page with Apple for entire iterations of an OS release. These guys only make audio interfaces for MacOS/iOS.

          • Well, that’s exactly right. And honestly, the fact that Apple-only vendors are also out of sync isn’t even playing devil’s advocate, that suggests to me some real problem behind the scenes. (An Apple-only vendor is obviously not going to talk to me on the record about that.)

          • foljs

            > How many times is a Dev shop going to get stung before it decides to wait and test against the final release? Precisely once.

            Engineering is hard. Sometimes you need to throw work you’ve done away, because something changed.

            That’s what we pay those “Dev Shops” for.

        • Well — look, with OS and app development, it’s easy to shift blame, exactly as you’re doing. It’s also easy for developers to shift blame to other developers. But at some point, not everyone can be blameless – there’s some actual reality behind it.

          Here’s the reality, as I understand it: Apple began making changes to the way the OS operates on a low level, presumably mainly to save battery life, starting with the release that came out in 2013.

          Failing to test an OS is a major offense, yes. But being able to create or reproduce a failure is not the same as being able to fix it. And third parties don’t have control over the operating system.

          On both OS X (sorry, macOS) and iOS, there are now power management routines that can’t entirely be circumvented by developers. Audio development has always been different from other kinds of apps, and we’re always locked in a constant struggle with hardware and software makers over security and power management. (I mean, the joke is if you really wanted an ideal high performance audio system, it’d have no security and it’d always be plugged in.)

          But that said, this is an atypically bad situation. I think you hit the nail on the head – gee, how is it that not one or two, not a few, but what seems like *all* music developers are failing to be able to fix their software if they’ve had access to developer previews?

          The only answer I’ve been able to find is that Apple gave them a set of problems they couldn’t fix, first in 10.9, then worsened in 10.10, then significantly worsened in 10.11. Developers were aware of the El Capitan issues well before it shipped, and warned users. But the ability to fix these showstopper audio failures didn’t come until Sierra, released this week – and then we still have issues like plugin validation holding us back.

          I can blame some third-party developers if things go wrong. But if I see the entire music ecosystem to blame, I really can’t. And that’s not just because I know them, and know for a fact that they’ve indeed been very busy since June (and since 2013) and not collectively all at the beach. It’s also because the evidence points to the source of the problem, and that source is Apple.

          And since there’s another operating system running on similar hardware that doesn’t have the problem, to quote an Apple marketing campaign, there’s a solution — switch.

          Now, maybe Apple will solve this with Sierra and get this back on the rails. If they don’t, switching will happen naturally … users and developers alike are not going to invest in platforms where they get burned. It may take time, though, because people aren’t typically investing in a new computer every year.

          • Renaud

            I’m not shifting the blame so much as politely noticing that yours is largely misdirected. And even if Apple should share, say, 20% of the blame (which is generous), I think you should have made a mention and asked questions about the unique attitude of developers and users in the music ecosystem, which as a developer I believe is the key reason for the problem.

            Also there are 2 entirely different technical issues here, which I think you’re mixing up :

            1. The audio dropouts / power management problem does sound like something squarely in Apple’s court, I completely agree. And because of their secrecy, they can be an extremely frustrating partner to deal with if you don’t happen to be part of their priorities. Good to hear it’s fixed in Sierra.

            That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we learnt that all along, macOS provided a mechanism for realtime-sensitive apps (like audio apps) to opt out of the power management thing, and nobody bothered to make use of it (maybe because it required rebuilding things in a proper OS-approved way, and not whatever fragile hack held the pieces together so far, and they think it’s too much work). It’s just a random thought, but I’ve definitely seen that before.

            2. Driver/plug-in incompatibilities with new OS releases are an entirely different matter, and yes you can blame developers 90% of the time for that (again, the 10% would be last year’s AUval situation which apparently only 10.11.1 could fix)

            I can’t see a technical reason why only audio developers would be affected by API changes more than others, every year. There are large changes across the board in all areas with every release, and everyone but them manages to cope.

            This is the moral contract between Apple and devs : “We (Apple) will keep innovating at a fast pace and we’ll never be afraid to deprecate old stuff. You’ll have great fresh APIs to build upon, compared to the competition. In exchange, we’ll let you guys in well in advance so you can keep up. Are you in ?”

            Again, the only likely explanation I can see is that users in the music ecosystem are more conservative and developers know they can largely get away with blaming Apple.

            Isn’t it a little telling btw that the 2 devs in this discussion, “Apoclypse” and myself, seem to say the same thing ?

          • Right, but that logically leads to two questions:

            1. Where are the benefits to users? Bottom line, the benefit is their machine is $#*(&ing blowing up in the middle of playing and there’s nothing they can do about it. And they paid Apple a premium for the privilege.

            2. Why isn’t this a problem on Windows, which has a much more complex ecosystem?

            Also, the fact that the third-party solution requires Sierra and doesn’t work on 10.9-10.11 … the fact that it impacts more than one vendor … yeah, you try to forgive Apple on this one.

            Actually, just in general, why are we all bending over backwards to make this not Apple’s fault?

          • Renaud

            Peter,

            I don’t own any Apple stock, don’t have any stake in this, and I’m not making any particular effort to forgive anyone anything. I just like fairness and based on my experience in the software industry, it’s fairly obvious to me where the blame lies.

            When it comes to providing advance notice and enough time to developers so that users are not affected, I genuinely think Apple is doing their part of the contract and the other side isn’t so much. I get annoyed when I see highly respected commenters like you go after the easy target, which always is the big guy.

            I do agree with you on the audio dropout / power management thing, but on the driver/plug-in compatibility side it’s simply unfair to blame Apple and at the very least, you should mention it’s *not the whole story* and leave some questions open. Here’s this summer’s movie as I saw it :

            Every year I watch WWDC keynotes in mid-June, and the first reports of the initial developer preview on Mac news sites in the following days.
            Within a week or two, and certainly by the time the first Public Beta is out (a few days/weeks after the first Developer Preview), many app developers have a notice up on their website/blog saying “Ok guys, our preliminary testing with Sierra shows that x and y is broken in our app. The new OS is pre-release software and we wouldn’t advise upgrading anyway, but in case you needed to know, well now you’re warned ! We’re hard at work fixing it in time for September, stay tuned !”
            Within a month or two, an update ships with “Fixes for Sierra”, and in the last few days before “Fully supports x and y [Sierra feature]”.

            Meanwhile in the back of my head, I’m nervously thinking of my audio software and notice it’s early September and I’ve heard *nothing at all from them* about the new OS, as if they live in a different planet or are cut off from the Internet.
            Then it’s September 13th, or even 25th (Sierra was released on the 20th), and at last the retarded child in the family wakes up : “OMG WATZ THAT? Don’t upgrade! Apple just dropped this on us, we just learned about it!! It will be some time, sorry guyz but hey !!!”

            I’m half-joking, but this is what it feels like. Like Apoclypse, I can’t see a good reason not to provide at least a beta version in the summer for early Sierra adopters, then make that an official release on day +7 max once they’ve had a chance to test with the final OS version.

          • Renaud

            Why doesn’t it affect Windows in the same way ?

            Simply put, it’s a more crude OS that doesn’t move as fast, and in its culture Microsoft values backwards compatibility much more than Apple, often at the expense of innovation and letting go of things that hold you back. Apple on the other hand gets rid of old cruft (hardware and software) as fast as they can afford.

            This does require more regular work on developers’ part to keep up (small updates each year, instead of huge ones every 5 years), but on the other hand this innovative culture is the reason OS X has had low-latency CoreAudio for ages (not clunky ASIO4ALL hacks), aggregate audio devices, MIDI Control Centre, native MIDI over Bluetooth, a native plug-in format (AU) that’s also cross-platform with iOS, etc… you name it !

          • Well, look – Apple made a low-level OS change in 2013. It broke audio compatibility for a wide range of devices. A subtle problem got worse in the 2014 and 2015 releases. They’re shipping the fix in 2016. You do the math.

            Third parties are responsible for what they can control. There are parts of the OS where they’re not in control.

            Also, your description of Windows simply isn’t accurate; they’re not on anything like a five year release cadence. That just isn’t true. And as for “innovation” – uh, I’d say there’s the same amount of dubious end user features on both sides right now.

            Otherwise, this is a fascinating description of Apple mythology, just one I can’t square with actually using the OS. The stuff I think even a lot of end users respond to most is really not stuff like Siri, it’s things that have evolved and matured over a long period of time. Some of that is great — and one way to make you realize how much you’ve taken it for granted is to use Windows.

            But let’s be totally clear about one thing: bugs don’t count as innovation. And bugs are sometimes an OS vendor’s fault.

          • Renaud

            Peter,

            Unfortunately, you keep conflating two technical issues that have absolutely nothing to do with each other in order to make your point.

            I agree with you that a widespread issue with audio related to power management seems to have slipped through and have been neglected by Apple for several years. You’re right to blame Apple for that lack of response, and maybe it does show conflicting priorities between different groups at this huge company, and maybe it means something for users.

            But then you jump to conclusions about the whole ecosystem, and blame Apple for everything else in audio that’s broken. And the part about blaming them for compatibility issues with new OS releases is factually wrong, plain and simple.

            Third parties are in complete control of whether they start the work in June, or wait until September. Apple is giving them very reasonable notice to adapt here.
            I have explained the whole developer preview timeline and what happened with most non-audio apps over this summer. There’s not a lot more I can say and you still haven’t explained why audio devs are just about the only ones who don’t AT LEAST keep their users informed with what’s happening…
            If they’re really busy and professional behind the scenes the whole summer, then they should really tell us because it certainly doesn’t look that way !

            Also, I’m surprised that you call CoreAudio, aggregate devices, MIDI over bluetooth, MIDI control center, AU… “dubious end user features”.
            These innovations are only possible, from a software development perspective, by constantly refactoring inner workings of the OS, and not being afraid of tearing down walls, even if that produces dust in the short term.

            The best (and only) way to completely avoid bugs is to avoid changing anything. Bugs come together with software changes, there’s nothing you can do about that (or you’ll revolutionize software development and become very rich). Apple is aiming for a high level of innovation, a high level of quality, but this can only be attained if everyone in the ecosystem is working hand in hand.

          • Rudolf Zorn

            Well, that dust thing you mentioned sounds a bit military, like “acceptable losses” or “collateral damage”.

            I am from the Windows world and I agree that the ASIO4ALL is a non-official solution that didn’t come from MS, but it`s from a great developer who give it away and updates it for free, and it’s definitevly far from being CLUNKY. It’s also far from being a hack.
            On the contrary, it is very old and is constantly updated for the last 10 years.

            Windows and Mac worlds are particularly different in the field of handling hardware devices, because non-Apple PCs can literally have hundreds of different hardware configurations (at every generation), beginning with Mainboard/Soundcard, while Macs can have only a few. So I think that MS gave up trying to support the ASIO community very early and left that part to hardware vendors, which was a poor decision, until ASIO4ALL saved us.

            So far, so good, but it should be mentioned, that Windows as an Audio platform with ASIO has some drawbacks that weren’t solved for years. WLAN and Bluetooth should be off on many systems while using ASIO, the driver takes complete control over audio, and so on. Thus MIDI over Wireless, which is all available for Windows too, cannot always be used properly. But at least, adding this functionality did not harm any other functions. So I say it’s possible to add features without having “collateral damage”.

            It is true, that Apple is a very inventive company (but also very conservative rearding their product support policy), and with, for instance, IOS and its Audio capabilities they outsmarted most of their competitors for a long time. Because they (I mean Android device manufacturers and Android core developers) did completely oversleep the app-demanding market of musicians, so that you have today most of the relevant tablet music apps on IOS.

            What the Android guys did, now Apple seems to do. Yes, Musicians are strange folks. They want the newest technology, maximum powerful, and very reliable at the same time. They do not need any problems during their performance or creative process (or expensive studio time).

            So, you will find enough of them running XP on the most possible modern computers, with the latest XP compatible versions of their DAWs and Vst plugins. Which, by the way, are often enough possible to run under Win7-10, even when from 1999. I would agree that that doesn’t help MS earning money, but backwards compatibility and stability are really important in that sector.

            To have your Music Applications not properly working anymore after some updates is not something many musicians can afford. To have your expensive headphones not working with your new device is not something people want afford. To have memory and battery of your expensive laptop not easily replaceble was already very customer-unfriendly.

          • Green

            As a windows only musician I’m trying hard not to look smug as I sit in my chair, stroke my white cat and rock out on my surface pro that has never let me down in the studio or on stage.

            (Whilst totally acknowledging MS isn’t perfect)

          • Don’t get too smug; there are definitely quality control issues on Windows, too. OSes are complicated beasts.

            But I think there is a fair point to be made about not making regular changes to kernel-level operations impacting audio. That’s just going to lead to tears…

          • foljs

            As someone who also uses Windows, I cannot but laugh, since they have been much more of a fuss and bugfest (especially with drivers) than OS X has been.

          • R__W

            It is a problem on Windows. NI drivers suck on windows too. We are really just talking about NI, right? I kid… but not really.

            In any case the notion that audio is more stable on windows is sadly hilarious.

      • foljs

        > Right, but — a developer preview isn’t a gold master. Unless I’m misunderstanding the specific complaints, it sounded like there have been validation issues that are cropping up in later builds.

        Yes, but the GM is too late.

        If you respect your customers, like Ableton seems to do, unlike Steinberg, you do your homework with the betas and developer previews, even if some things might need to change when the GM is out.

        Especially with the betas, when things are mostly solidified, they have no excuse not to test and start adopting new APIs etc.

  • pescolly

    OSX updates used to be something to look forward to, now it’s just an annual nuisance.

    • CelestialTerrestrial

      I signed up for the Beta, so I always see the next version before it gets released. I believe the 10.13 is going to be a kick ass performance improvement since they are moving to APFS, which is supposed to be much faster than HFS+. Time will tell, but I think it’s promising.

      • pescolly

        That takes some serious cajones. There’s no way I could beta test an OS.

  • foljs

    > Headphone manufacture appears to require a certain degree of expertise.

    Phones require a certain degree of expertise too, but Apple entered and pwned that market (influence and profits wise, and with a decent large user share) from scratch. Headphones compared to that are the crudest of technologies. Besides for what they paid for Beats they could buy Seiheiser, AT, Beyerdynamic and a couple others all together. If Apple doesn’t make good headphones is rather because they don’t really care about high fidelity there, the way enthusiasts do. If they put their minds to it, they could definitely do it, even with their own engineers, so nothing about expertise makes much sense.

    > Spotify and Pandora are adding new artist connect features

    Which nobody cares about. It’s 2016, we don’t connect with artists through such services unless we are 15 year old girls. And even those prefer social media, not Spotify.

    >Apple’s desktop computer strategy is a complete unknown. I don’t want to say too much about this, as some sort of announcement seems imminent. But the reality as I write this is, Apple’s desktop computer offerings are frozen in the past.

    Actually iMacs and Macbook had recent updates, with Skylake et al.

    The Macbook Pro Retinas are indeed stale, but then again there has been no significant new professors from Intel all those 3 years or so. PC laptops with Skylake used models unsuitable for MBPrs (heavy heat, etc), and the MBPr bound Skylake processors were marked TBD from Intel, and only became available in the summer.

    And even with those, Intel just delivers a measly 5-10% speed update over the 4 year old Hasswell and nothing significant elsewhere either.

    Apart from the faster TB ports and improved Bluetooth, one might as well keep their old MBRs because Intel has came empty (remember how they backtracked on their tick-tock process roadmap and changed it to tick-tock-tock).

    • Right, the Pro models are the ones that are stale.

      And I do suspect this is partly what we’re seeing from Intel by way of stagnation there.

      • Muziq

        I beg to differ , we have 8×12 cores in our studio and a couple 8 cores for our audio work stations specifically. If you work with these machines as much as I have. You really start to understand how powerful they are. In comparisons to the older 12 cores or anything out. The E5 is a powerhouse with a d500 dual 6gig card. Maxing these machines out gives you a very good understanding of where things actually stand on work horse stats such as 3d renders. only a few years ago these would take days to render scenes. It’s now down to hours….. The reality of the pro line is it’s only needed for heavy lifting such as renders/ real time work flow.

    • CelestialTerrestrial

      Here’s the problem with Apple going after the high end directly. It’s too small of a market. They have to first cater to the masses and the masses simply don’t give a rip about sound quality as long as it’s “GOOD ENOUGH”. if you want high end audio, you have to either RIP 24/96 or higher Lossless (ALAC) and dump it into another player and use something like the Audeze EL-8 Titanium headphones which do have a built-in DAC/Amp and have Lightning connectors. But those are simply not selling anywhere near where Beats or Bose or some pair of headphones that costs $250 or less. BTW, whether you like it or not, wireless headphones are outselling wired. That’s just the plain and simple facts.

      Now, for mobile use, hi res simply isn’t that big of a jump unless you have some really expensive headphones, external DAC, etc. and that’s simply not what MOST people are going to do with a mobile device.

      Does Apple have to care about high end audio as a high priority? NO. If you take a 24/96 file and use Mastered For iTunes mastering software and convert to 256kbps AAC, that sounds very close to Redbook CD quality, and most people are happy with that.

      Now, in terms of downloads vs streaming. Streaming is starting to take over and I believe it’s helping the record industry survive. Artists/bands don’t have to go through a record label to put their content on Apple Music OR iTunes music download and they can bypass the record label if they REALLY REALLY want to do that, and bypass paying money to them first. What’s wrong with that? Maybe people don’t realize that you can add music to Apple Music without going through a record label.

      Now, as far as them upgrading hardware? Yeah, it’s been a while. I think partly because Intel went to a Tick Tick Tock model and I think there are enough advantages (along with newer gen GPUs) that they decided to wait and make a huge performance jump and product redesign, than just a interim upgrade with the same product design.

      Yeah, I know, it sucks, but hopefully it’ll be worth the wait. I honesty don’t know what Apple’s going to do with the MacPro. Most people nowadays don’t even need that much power to run a DAW since the internal CPUs or Pro Tools DAW cards are doing enough processing for MOST people, unless you have tons of tracks with tons of plug ins and you are trying to run native. But the higher end pros are using Pro Tools cards and those don’t require much in terms of CPUs. They do it all with the cards themselves.

      Now, the advantage of Kaby Lake that previous gens don’t have is Optane support for Intel’s next gen SSD’s, which are supposed to be a HUGE performance leap over what they currently have, and SkyLake doesn’t support Optane, so if they sold you a SkyLake box, you’d be pissed off if you are a high end pro that wants ultimate SSD performance. Plus, KabyLake is supposed to have integrated Thunderbolt 3 (full specs) and full USB 3 Gen 2 support, all integrated which is what Apple wants, and they want to use latest gen GPUs, plus fingerprint technology, yada, yada, yada.

      The reason why Apple bought Beats is they figured they would have a huge market of the Beats products, which is profitable which recoups their investment within a few years, they get the Beats streaming services, which they THOUGHT was going to be ideal, and they could get Iovine to help navigate the Pop world, since he knows everyone and knows how the industry works. Personally I think he’s an idiot, but Tim doesn’t know any better, and they’ve been playing grab ass with people like Drake, etc. and they obviously are the people that are currently selling a lot of albums.

      KabyLake is the reason why Apple wanted to wait, and I’m sure we MIGHT still see some announcement this year, if not, first quarter 2017.

      • R__W

        Apple bought Beats for Beats Music, period. The labels would not allow Apple to have a streaming service, so they bought one. It just happened to come with a headphone company.

      • foljs

        > KabyLake is the reason why Apple wanted to wait, and I’m sure we MIGHT still see some announcement this year, if not, first quarter 2017.

        Unfortunately KabyLake was delayed too, it was just recently made available, and not in huge quantities.

        So I think we’ll see an update (MBPr) in October as Apple should definitely put out something for the “back to school/xmas”, but with Skylake instead . After all, if MBPr are to be released on October, they should have been in design and production for months now, before KabyLake made it to market, so they can’t switch at the last minute. Probably 2017 would see a KabyLake update to the new Late 2016 MBPr design…

  • Dubby Labby

    Apple doesn’t care on x86 anymore. They released the mac pro to keep the segment alive but not really worried about “pro” aside iPad ads.
    ITOH iOS is growing so fast as music environment and makes x86 useless for most creative tasks (for post production they are still the TOOL for sure) so I supose it’s related to “cars vs trucks” sales strategy.

    • Right, it does seem a non-x86 machine is due.

      • Dubby Labby

        They seem forced to made the “back to mac” (Mavericks seems a good name for the actual “waters”. Also naming other versions as mountains seems pointint “rock solid” as yosemite as el capitan as sierra…) so let’s hope they have this in mind.

  • Damian

    I have seen this issue firsthand in both my own studio and in a Tycho show I recently attended. Disclaimer– things seem to have improved with my Apogee interface on recent point releases to El Capitan)– but this has essentially crippled my trust in my Macbook Pro for all but the most casual performances.

    Tycho’s recent live show in Salt Lake City encountered no fewer than 4 audio catastrophic audio dropouts which caused the show to essentially stop while the tech team worked to solve the issue. Each audio dropout was preceded by the all-to-familiar crunching distortion in time with the music prior to complete audio loss into the ether– only to see the symptoms reverse with backing tracks fading back in– with the band literally standing on stage shaking their heads. While I cannot confirm if this is attributed to Apple hardware/software, I know that what I heard mirrored almost exactly my own struggles– which could only be temporarily remedied by killing the coreaudiod daemon on my Macbook Pro.

    As someone that has an active bug on file with Apple over the same issue, it was frustrating to hear on a recent SonicState podcast that the long running debate on OS X audio issues are completely baseless. A ridiculous, unstudied claim backed by a sample size of seemingly 1 uninformed person who should know better.

    Apple has more than a problem with Audio. Apple has a product strategy problem that, if left uncorrected, will be followed by audio professionals leaving the platform. For the time being, Apple seems far too pre-occupied with killing off audio interface technology that has worked– and worked well for over 50 years than it is in QA’ing CoreAudio on certified audio interfaces (Apogee). One can only hope that a Beyonce show crashes hard– perhaps then we would see some movement from an increasingly out of touch Apple that many of us have decades of experience with.

    • Yeah, that’s the bug.

      And it appears to have cropped up for the first time in 10.9 – in 2013.

      • DPrty

        I no longer have apple gear in the studio except for a lone ipad. Companies have failed pro musicians many times in the past and I have found its just better move to whichever platform is working when the fails start to compound. I had an Amiga and C64 then commodore went out of business, I had an Atari St and they went out of business. I really like the ipad but for the real heavy lifting Windows is doing an excellent job .

        • Damian

          ‘Real heavy lifting’ is an interesting point.

          Mac’s aggregate audio interface capability is a key feature that Im not sure Windows can replicate (outside of some non-ASIO contexts). If you’re rolling a boatload of outboard and you are unwilling to spend thousands on a single interface, Mac is still extremely pertinent.

          Admittedly, the current state of Mac hardware sits in the worst shape its been since the dank days of the PowerPC to Intel transition. Updates are no doubt in the pipeline but the current state of the Macbook Pro and even worse, the zombie that is the Mac Pro, are nothing short of embarrassments to the company.

          Couple that to the crippling CoreAudio bug that Peter and some of us have been trying to surface, and its hard not to detect patches of black mold where none should exist.

          • DPrty

            I kinda miss the PowerPC anyhow .. In any Aggregate device setup the audio driver performance and stability will only be as good as the worst interface you are using. So if one interface can only work reliable at say 512 buffer then that is the lowest buffer your Aggregate device will be.

            WDM will support multiple devices but as mentioned above the whole thing is only as good as the worst interface you are using.

            ASIO4All which acts as a WDM to ASIO wrapper has the same limitations. But because of the coding is able to work at latencies approaching the interfaces native latency. But again it will only work as well as the worst interface in the setup.

            Also these devices will all need to be clocked to each other so any device you use will have a free digital I/O or word clock I/O for syncing.

            Better interfaces allow you to add multiples of that device or other devices from the same model series and the ASIO driver will see them as one device.
            Many of the 16 ch interfaces already on the market will do this.

            On OS X you don’t have to have all devices synced to word clock. You enable Drift (the Core Audio HAL’s sample rate converter) on those interfaces that aren’t word clocked. You don’t get predictable sample accurate timing with Drift enabled though.

            I do expect sync issues using any form of aggregate device on any OS. It is already hard to write a good driver for any device, but getting 2 different interfaces to run in perfect sync with a global driver comes close to magic IMO.

            Feel free to slap me with screenshots of perfectly aligned signals on recorded tracks from different interfaces.

          • Dubby Labby

            I strong believe we are in the same momentum but with x86 >> ARM.
            I even think all this mesh comes from rebuild kernel from mavericks to be full runable in next iPad pro release (and backwards with actual hardware) ala Rosetta style back in the days…
            It makes all the sense to keep x86 machines outdated to let ARM platform go side to side in a possible transition.
            Apple says the OS aren’t merging but what about run macOS on ARM only? The rumoured macbook, the Metal Api, the trucks vs cars post-pc, the iPad Pro ad…

          • Yeah, cause for concern there, though — we’re already seeing some weird issues with CPU throttling on iOS, for example.

            In short, I don’t have a lot of faith in a transition off x86 making things smoother…

            You really want to balance incentivizing transitions with minimizing pain, not do the opposite. I’m not saying the ecosystem is doomed, but there’s definitely cause for concern…

          • Dubby Labby

            Agreed. I have in mind the devblogs from atastypixel (loopyhd) about its new “masterpiece” which should be viewed by any developer facing the audio developing on iOS. If you didn’t see them it worth the time.

          • PaulDavisTheFirst

            The aggregate audio interface is not something any pro-audio person should be using. It implies resampling one or more device streams to match the clock on the other(s). It is a handy hack for desktop users and users who can’t or won’t spend on the interface they need. But for pro-audio? Even if the h/w shares a sample clock, CoreAudio doesn’t know that.

  • Kyle

    I really am not terribly upset about the headphone jack. I suspect for many users it is a glorified lint trap…

    I like OS X in general. Otherwise I wouldn’t own macs. But the professional side is driving me crazy, seemingly every release dumping certain hardware or software I use. I feel like pretty soon I’m going to just need to lock down and keep my (2010) Mac Pro at a certain level and never change it, just to keep Apple from breaking my system.

  • squirrel squirrel squirrel

    This hit the nail on the head for my experience. A few friends of mine have actually moved to Windows as a result of the last few years of Apple waning.
    Logic Pro’s updates have been middling at best. As a daily user of Logic for my day job, there are show-stopping, crashing bugs that have been plaguing Logic Pro for _years_ now.
    That’s one of the reasons that I’ve moved to Live for my personal work 80% of the time. And that 80%… hell, it could work on Windows just fine.

    I’m one of those users that pushes my CPU to the limit in terms of DSP. I can never get a fast enough computer. And for Apple to just completely ignore pro users who need CPU power just boggles the mind. At time of writing it’s been over 1000 days since Apple updated the Mac Pro. 1000 days. And a year and a half since the MacBook Pro was updated. Here’s the thing: even if they do update the Pro hardware soon, they have not shown us the good will that we can rely on them to keep the hardware up to date. What they have taught us to expect is uncertainty and speculation. They have not taught us to expect regular updates.

    Point is, even if they update stuff soon and start updating the software stack in a more regular, serious fashion, doing it once isn’t enough. Doing it twice isn’t enough. Only when they keep up with the work will they earn our respect again.

  • MrE23

    10.9 and beyond broke my 2011 iMac’s display. It appears the GPU is not quite up to the task. I paid $185 for out-of-warranty replacement of the GPU and the problem (multicolored pixels, image tearing, etc to the point it is useless) persisted. Many iMac owners with the same GPU reported the same issue. This is aside from all of the issues you report on above, which also cause me headaches and hassle.

    Thank you for writing this. I can only faintly hope that it gets retweeted enough that Apple notices and gets its act together. I’ve been an Apple user since 1986, and am finally considering switching platforms. More and more Apple seems to mostly pay lip service to creative professionals, while delivering less and less with their tools. I use a 2013 Mac Pro at work and I have to say that in many ways I am less than impressed with it. I prefer to use my Retina iMac for most tasks (video and audio production).

    You nailed it with the trust issue. Apple has been losing mine for several years now.

  • bassling

    Thanks for raising this subject. As a consumer I find it incredibly frustrating to be corralled into an operating system that doesn’t work.

    At various times hardware and software upgrades have left me with no choice but to update and suffer the results. In the past I’ve found that developers including Native Instruments are guilty of leaving me no choice but to update the OS if I want to install their software.

    Both Apple and developers should make earlier versions of programs available to consumers with caveats.

    • Migari

      Yes! NI drop support for older OSes and then THEIR products break in the new one. Nicely played Native!

  • Axel

    I’ve been on the verge of selling my Mac mini. The only thing that’s been holding me back from switching to Linux for music making has been the unavailability of a couple of plugins I have paid money for. But if the pain keeps growing, I will eventually have to learn to live without those plugins.

    Over the weekend, I put an ssd into the Mac and installed Sierra. It took me about an hour of reading and switching off all of the new “features” (feels like back on windows), but now it seems to run fine with the RME beta driver, although I haven’t done much with it yet.

    The day when my computer does something “smart” that I can’t switch off and/or that makes me lose data will be the day it goes on Ebay. I suspect, it won’t be long.

  • I pray that your statement of “an announcement being imminent” is accurate — it’s not just in terms of music, as a photographer I can attest that things are tricky in our quarter too. I’ve long had sufficient power for my music production needs (2012 MBP, last one before Retina but essentially the same specs as the latest models), but now with 50 MP plus cameras (multi layer files 16 bit getting upwards of 4 GB each) things are not so good. So I need a new computer and have done for some time. I’m not prepared to buy a new Mac Pro for >$5000 here in Aus when they haven’t updated them in such a long time, and the MBP doesn’t offer much more than I already have.

    It’s a rock and a hard place. Not to mention the OS issues. I had such a hard time getting all of my music software to work again after the last upgrade — I had to update to El Capitan for various work reasons — that I couldn’t make any music for > 6 months. That was really NI’s fault to be honest since their installer for Komplete 6 wasn’t updated: even though all the apps were current (I had to drag them all out of the install packages and install manually, and then trick the service centre).

    Remember when Apple had that ‘Pro’ page on their website … if it’s still there it’s not obvious. It used to be front and centre: articles and interviews with real professional musicians, photographers etc. in the industry. Now it’s a ‘phone’ for better or worse. MacOS is a footnote on the site, and I can’t see any useful new pro feature when I read through the OS Sierra page anyway.

  • Ed

    Couldn’t agree more with this, from both sides. Apple hardware and iOS are indeed great: my mid-2010 MacBook Pro is a beautiful machine, and continues to run smoothly even after 6+ years of solid use every day. Had I bought a Windows PC back then, the odds that I’d still be using it now without any appreciable slowdown, running an OS released this year, would be slim to say the least.

    And yet I suspect that this laptop & my current iPhone may well be the last Apple devices I own, for all the reasons you’ve listed. If their products are no more enjoyable or effortless to use than their Windows / Android equivalents, then what’s the justification for spending so much more on them?

    I think Apple’s locked-in ecosystem is relevant here too. Dropping the headphone jack is an absolute dealbreaker for me: if that means my next phone is definitely going to be non-Apple, I’m resigned to losing that tight integration between all my devices, and it inevitably becomes harder to put up with macOS’ various foibles or find reasons to spend crazy amounts on an underpowered, non-upgradeable laptop.

  • CaptainHowdy3

    Let me simplify matters… Tim Cook is an incompetent buffoon, who like most modern CEOs, manipulated his way to the top of the company via politics and not merit. He is going to eventually destroy Apple if he isn’t replaced in the near future.

    • Random Chance

      I cannot comment on Tim Cook, but I would like to add that a company like Apple also has a board and shareholders. I don’t know how much influence they have compared with the current CEO who is not a tech industry legend worshipped as some kind of demigod by many. Remember that even the almighty Steve was once let go? Perhaps Tim Cook is fully aware that he is not by any stretch of imagination demigod material and will be dropped like a hot potato if he rocks the boat (i.e. does something that shareholders and fund managers don’t agree with like focusing on “pro” hardware and productivity instead of phones, watches, and lifestyle products).

      • Okay, let’s not get carried away.

        Pro audio is always something that exists because of the passion of the company, and not the shareholders. And things like subtle changes to the OS that serve the audio market — I mean, shareholder interest is not going to understand or care either way.

        We’re really talking about low level OS engineering and developer relations. Apple is actually a company that understands extraordinary levels of detail around things like manufacturing process and engineering in some categories that their shareholders are never going to understand. Tiny details of things like how camera sensors work do ultimately impact their bottom line, but that’s just down to them being committed to doing it. It’s beyond quantification. And it’s not even obviously a “consumer” issue (even with that heavy use of the camera).

        Can they do this? Absolutely. Can they do this and still be a consumer products company, and still make a watch? I don’t see why not.

        It’s just down to whether they do actually do it.

        • Migari

          I wish the article reflected this comment more. Write another one? You do address some really important stuff.

    • I’m not going to knock Cook directly. The reality is, these issues occur at a fairly low level through lots of layers of management. It’s actually a fairly complex conversation just talking to *developers* about something like low-level OS audio glitches.

      I will say, Cook seems to be an intelligent and humble person and has been open about admitting mistakes.

      Here’s the hope: you hope that somehow, there’s a message that Apple products are letting own some of their most valued users, the people who use them to make music. And that it could hit a bedroom producer or Beyoncé – literally. A CEO is not going to understand, or want to understand, some of the technical specifics of how that happens. But you hope someone in management does get the message and investigates how the company can do better.

      Steve Sinofsky was someone who was a really strong advocate of audio — and he was running the Windows division when it shipped Vista. (Uff.) In the end what was important actually wasn’t that you had a CEO who valued audio, but that they learned from mistakes and made the OS better.

      What concerns me is that Apple may now have a religious devotion to things like battery life, and that’s almost certain to clash with audio needs — even before you get into the way they roll out updates and how they handle the relationship with developers. So reducing power management on hardware is another story — you control the whole box. On a computing device (even an iPad), you’re managing an ecosystem of stuff that can drain power. If you decide you as the OS vendor knows better than the developer when to do things like cycle down the CPU, uh… well, long story short, audio is screwed. And even if you fix one problem today, you’re likely to have a new problem tomorrow when the OS vendor comes up with some clever new way of saving power.

    • wms

      Captim Cook. 🙂

      Sorry it had to be said.

    • R__W

      Tim Cook is (was?) amazing at what he does best, which is supply chain management.

      His aptitude as a CEO is at best orthogonal to the needs of CDM readers and at worst is in opposition. Catering to a tiny subset of your users who use super complicated, resource intensive software yet also tend not to have any money is not really the way to win, from a business perspective. This article raises valid points but doesn’t give Apple very much credit. They actually do quite a bit for pro audio users and musical hobbyists even though they don’t really need to do so.

  • Sin Sentido Comun

    It is time for musicians to realize that Apple has abandoned them. They are a different company with different customers. The way they are updating the OS is also very unhealthy for developers, seems Apple wants them on the planned obsolescence.

    Developers can’t keep with the maintenance cost of hardware and software which require yearly updates for MacOS compatibility, NI is dropping stuff and other as Apogee have done it in the past. It is not sustainable.

    • Migari

      I’d love for Apple to slow down myself. Every 2 years for starters?

  • nazihitler

    “worlds best phone”
    lmfao
    overstatement of the century

    • Migari

      Oh, yeah? Then you have not made any detailed comparisons. If you do deep analysis of the iPhone 7 you will find that in the short-term it’s hard to top everything it brings, especially with a focus on battery life. If only MBPs were in the same position towards the competition. They’re not.
      This is the wrong forum for iPhone focus though as this is foremost a Mac discussion, so no further comments about this here from me. You just keep laughing.

  • Bob

    I know you probably smashed this out in a hurry – and I hate to be that guy – but you might want to proof read this one and apply some edits – it has numerous grammatical errors.

    • Danny Valentino

      You do realize that this is a German website and that the author’s first language might not be English right?

      • Bagels

        Actually Peter Kirn is american, and only moved to Germany from the US in the last few years.

  • Tim Brierly

    I couldn’t agree with your article more!

    My late 2013 Macbook Pro is running Yosemite (10.10), which doesn’t seem to drop audio. I refuse to upgrade the OS for fear of making my audio interfaces useless…
    NOTE (after a certain point release my laptop now fails to recognise when an audio interface is disconnected, freezing apps that try to use the non existent audio interface until you’ve managed to change the app’s audio interface setting manually!!!)….

    At work we have a newer mac running El Capitan (10.11) and it won’t work with USB audio interfaces at all… Many people suggest resetting NVPRAM but it doesn’t help with this one… It worked fine with the previous OS.

    This is getting ridiculous! I can’t believe how long it is taking them to fix this!

    • Renaud

      Either your work Mac is defective, or you should ask your audio interface manufacturer for help. Do you really believe El Capitan dropped support for USB audio overnight ?

      Your description “laptop now fails to recognise when an audio interface is disconnected, freezing apps that try to use the non existent audio interface until you’ve managed to change the app’s audio interface setting manually” screams “S*** THIRD PARTY DRIVERS!”

      • Tim

        I should point out that there are numerous massive threads on Apple support forums regarding this exact issue. All three macs I’ve used with El Capitan have the same problem. This applies to almost any USB DAC, Audio Interface. It’s a well known widespread problem. It’s not just to do with third party drivers.

        • Migari

          This is not correct. I’ve seen close to zero of these issues with RME Audio Interfaces. Why? While I’ve seen drop-outs these have been on overloaded CPUs and were expected. What this article is about is drop-outs with non overloaded machines.

          If this is well-known and wide spread then people are very, very bad at communicating about it. Apple support forums are full of people knowing very little about how to diagnose even the simplest problems and typically believe in “magic fixes” that they apply and share as gospel.

          There certainly have been issues from time to time with drop-outs and MOST are related to certain manufacturers hardware and software to a much larger degree than others. Why?

      • Tim

        That work Mac is having issues with driverless devices (core audio), which worked perfectly on previous installs…

  • Control-Z

    Please remember, last year Apple decided they would not pay royalties for those three introductory months of Apple Music, and it took scathing letters from Taylor Swift, Beggars Group, and the outrage of all to make them renege. The hubris & utter disrespect of this initial decision was just baffling. Steve Jobs would never have even considered such a thing, as he had a deep & genuine respect for music, something which seems lost in the current management. Please Trent Reznor, sort this out.

    From that royalty announcement day forth, like most of my peers, I have been covering my MacBook’s logo with tape, ashamed to have been advertising such a company at my shows.

    You lost us music people, Apple. In one moment you showed your true intentions. How long the fall takes to play out, I don’t know… But I feel it’s certainly started.

  • It is entirely due to the issues raised in this article (and the comments) that shortly after upgrading to 10.9 (and a couple of highly embarrassing live performances involving an NI interface) i returned to using hardware.

  • Tom

    Well, the gist of this article is my impression for years now. A more and more gated society with less and less real benefits and more and more “in theory it would be great, but…” sides to it and more problems than it’s worth.
    I mainly do 3D graphics and for that, there isn’t a worse system than the mac, since you simply can’t select or replace your graphics card freely – and GPU rendering and calculation is honestly one of the most brilliant things ever (see Thea Render, Redshift, Octane). I can buy a very affordable motherboard that can hold 4 Nvidia Titans and work in almost realtime with perfect results – ATI and OpenCL so far are not as capable and well supported by software as Nvidias CUDA.
    So choice DOES matter and – at least to me – Siri does not.
    Apple had it’s time, but I haven’t seen anything new or innovative from them in years that would be a real benefit to my work. I only tried a Mac once in 2008 to see if I would like it, ironically the MacPro I bought then is no longer supported by Sierra.
    But I didn’t like MacOS anyway and it runs with Windows 10 just as fine as it did with XP, Vista, 7, 8… 😉

    Cheers,

    Tom

  • Schwifty

    I think the problem with Apple is that they have little to no interest in making “professional” machines or operating systems any longer. The new Mac Pro is an oversized iPhone with more connectors. I haven’t upgraded to Sierra yet, but it seems like they’ve finally turned OS – er macOS – into iOS. Even their MacBook Pros have become iPads with keyboards. Most people I know rarely even use a computer anymore; they just use their phones to get online or watch videos or listen to music. I get that the bottom line is money, and that they’re making most of their money off of phones and tablets these days, not computers, but there was a time when people purchased Macs for (artistic) professional purposes, leaving people who wanted to buy a cheap laptop to get online with to the PC crowd. That customer base still exists, but the computer they were planning on buying no longer does. And I don’t think it will — either Microsoft will pick up the slack or another company will come along with Jobs’ mindset and create a professional computer/OS addressing that base.

    I myself have a 2011 MacBook Pro, after being forced to upgrade from a slower (but still perfectly capable of running Mavericks on up) 2008 Nehalem black MacBook. I went from Lion to El Capitan without backing up first, then was forced to reinstall Lion after 2/3rds of my audio software became instantly obsolete. After months of reinstalling, updating, deleting what I couldn’t upgrade or finding less-than-satisfactory replacements for software that just wasn’t going to work (and both TMing and cloning my Lion drive), I finally re-upgraded to El Capitan. So far, I haven’t noticed many problems with audio — I don’t use Logic, but I do use Pro Tools 12.5.2 and Digital Performer 9.12. The most glitches I’ve encountered so far have been with Arturia. Some of their soft synths clip or experience dropouts, even though the CPU bar is about tenth of the way full, and not on all of their stuff. It would be great if Sierra fixed some problems, instead of creating new and more exciting ones, but I think I’m gonna wait for a few point releases first. And maybe consider investing in RADAR instead of a Mac Pro.

    • well I guess radar could be a good alternative, plus it seems to be more upgradable than apple mac, and this was the first strong point where i thought apple was lacking. And even for iphone and ipad, I mean the fact that you can’t upgrade the memory is a waste of materials. These devices are what we call smartphones or tablets, suppose to run apps, to take pictures and run videos. And they become so rapidly obsolete by the lack of memory storage capabilities….and the same apply to apple computer for not being upgradable anymore, and this just for their profits.
      So the bedroom producer will become soon a forgotten dream, as the cheap way to make music won’t be affordable anymore, maybe microsoft will launch some computer line, music orientated, who knows, there is definitely a niche there, i mean there is many midi controlers of so many brand these days, but only 2 main companies to answer to the musician needs.
      And it seems strange, when you know that, both of these companies are/want to be part of the music streaming industry, but do not value the need of that industry source.
      Well to finish and make that shorter, F….k the shareholder and their profits mentality ;D

  • Microwave Prince

    “Think different” and buy a PC and forget all problems. Nowadays windows just works and plugins doesn’t brake after os updates. We come full circle.

    • Migari

      Yeah, right. It’s actually about exchanging on set of issues with another set. No OS is perfect and CERTAINLY not Windows (any).

  • Elekb

    I became an Apple user in the past decade when I began performing with live electronics. The hardware was excellent and OSX was remarkably more stable than Windows. During the past few years, however, I’ve had to deal with way too many annoyances:

    – forced OS “upgrades” that add no benefit to professionals’ workflow and whose main purpose seems to be to artificially obsolete perfectly working software; in other words, planned obsolescence at its best; as far as my own situation is concerned the only thing Apple have achieved has been to push me away from using Logic and Garageband and stick with platform independent stuff (Ableton Live, Reaper, etc).

    – the Firewire disappearing act in an attempt to force people to use Thunderbolt (it didn’t work and left music professionals with Firewire devices out in the cold, dealing with crappy adapters and audio glitches);

    – decreasing audio driver stability (I’ve had to skip 10.9 and will hold on to 10.10 in order to be able to work with my 5 year old audio interface – which, by the way, works fine with Windows 10; go figure) and system crashes which have become more and more frequent.

    – decreasing audio/MIDI peripheral compatibility: MOTU, Focusrite, and other companies are increasingly having trouble producing drivers for their professional grade devices on which musicians and producers rely on daily;

    i.e. “no, I don’t want to connect to the App Store and update to El Capitan, I have a string of concerts with my band over the next few months and I don’t need my audio interface crashing mid-gig or my Mac telling me it doesn’t recognise my MIDI controller. Thank you”.

    Because of this and all the other reasons listed in the article and comment section, have come to dread Apple’s OS yearly updates and announcements and have decided that, once my current Mac is no longer usable, I will fly back to Windows-based machines, which currently, (depending on the hardware manufacturer and specs, of course) are at the same performance and stability level as Apple machines. This isn’t 2005 anymore.

    Financially-wise, I’m sure Cook is not worried about the professional market, but Apple might come to regret its fixation of walled gardens and smartphones. There’s still time to turn back, anyway.

    • Bagel

      “no, I don’t want to connect to the App Store and update to El Capitan, I have a string of concerts with my band over the next few months and I don’t need my audio interface crashing mid-gig or my Mac telling me it doesn’t recognise my MIDI controller. Thank you”

      At least on a Mac, you can still say no. Try that on a PC with Windows 10. There are tons of accounts out there of people complaining that their PC gets its OS updated whether they like or not, Windows downloads and install the update without asking you, and the only way to stop it is to buy the much more expensive “Enterprise” version that will allow you to turn the updates off. I’ve seen people have their laptop with Windows 10 restart for an update while doing a public conference…

      On OSX, just say “bug off” when it asks you if you want to update , and it will leave you alone.

    • Migari

      ‘forced OS “upgrades” ‘

      There exists no such thing on OS X. You simply don’t know how to handle system updates. That the OS keeps reminding you isn’t “forced”. Ignore!

      • Elekb

        Last year I had to update from 10.8 after security updates were
        discontinued and my computer was attacked on my workplace network. I
        logged into the App Store to get 10.10, which was a stable enough version of OSX, and I found that only 10.11 was available –
        an OSX version that had several known issues with audio interfaces
        from MOTU, Roland and other brands.

        Basically I felt that Apple were blackmailing me into updating to 10.11, a system update that had several serious issues for audoi and music professionals, which have been documented on this blog and other sites.

        In order to carry on with my work without having to disconnect from the Internet altogether, I had to ask around for a copy of the 10.10 installer – and I’m still holding on to that. Fortunately it appears that MOTU have finally managed to produce new USB drivers for my device, after nearly a year of warnings on their website not to update to 10.11 until a stable driver was achieved.

        Apple pushes system updates that break drivers and prevent software from working, does not give enough data and support to third party developers AND at the same time discontinues essential security updates on 3-year old OSX versions AND makes working, 1-year old system versions unavailable on their store.

        Well, I choose to call that a “forced update policy”. It’s my prerogative as a professional power user – and a frustrated paying customer.

        • Renaud

          Are you f**** kidding me ?

          You’re demanding that a software publisher keeps providing fixes for free for 3 OS versions in parallel (why not 5 ? why not 8 too ? I heard luddites are still in love with 10.6 “the best ever” !), when the latest one is available to you *at no charge* and still supports 6-7 years old computers ? Do you have any idea of the kind of resources that would require (when it’s even possible), just to accommodate a few outliers ?

          And you go on to say that when you finally do upgrade, you do so to last year’s version (which is btw notoriously less polished than 10.11, which was more of a “less features, more stability” release), and complain that it’s hard to obtain ?

          Look, software is a living thing. Apple can’t afford not to move forward. It doesn’t “break” stuff or “prevent” it from working. They refactor, evolve, change APIs as appropriate and necessary, and developers are given AMPLE time and support to keep track… but not all of them are willing to play the game. Blame them, not Apple or the software industry as a whole.

          • Elekb

            Seriously? You want to go there? Do I really have to spell this out for you? Or maybe I’ll just let CDM spell it out for you.

            http://cdm.link/2015/09/os-x-el-capitan-update-breaks-some-music-software/

            Also, refer to Peter’s post above, which you apparently did not bother to read.

            Much like 10.9, 10.11 was a orgy of audio bugs, broken plugins (including AU) and broken interface drivers. It took developers such as MOTU and Native Instruments months to come up with solutions.

            So, for audio professionals to carry on working, they were advised by developers and software houses to stick to 10.10. I tried updating to 10.10, which was then 1 year old, and it was *gone* from the App store. Seriously, why not go all the way and drop support after one year. Or 6 months? Or a month? So they prefer to “update” rather than cooperate with third party developers and help them fix issues caused by Apple’s own code? Unacceptable.

            “You’re demanding that a software publisher keeps providing fixes for free for 3 OS versions in parallel”
            Gee, you’re right. I guess those rumours about Microsoft providing updates for Windows 7, 8 and 10 simultaneously are not true at all. Also, Roland, MOTU, Focusrite, etc. are definitely not updating drivers for Windows 7, 8 and 10, and macOS 10.7 onwards. Nope, just for the OS released in the last 5 minutes. Bummer.

            “Software is a living thing”
            Which is a lame excuse for planned obsolescence and lack of respect for professional users who invest money and resources on their setups and expect at least a few years of stability.

            “They refactor, evolve, change APIs as appropriate and necessary, and
            developers are given AMPLE time and support to keep track…”
            Maybe I’m wrong. What the hell do I know, I’ve just been producing music and audio for over a decade. Maybe Peter Kirn is wrong. Maybe MOTU, Focusrite, and NI have no idea what they’re doing.
            Or maybe… you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

        • Migari

          That’s only because you never had downloaded 10.10 on that Apple account. Updates are not enforced, but accounts that never have used a specific major version can’t get them from Apple as they never had them. If you had just downloaded that version you wanted once you’d have them even now. You can get 10.10 from a friend that have downloaded it before as they can do it again. Needs some simple adjusting and it will install.

          All OSes evolve and Apple isn’t looking in the back mirror. No-one is forcing you as you can stay on old hardware and an old system as long as you want to. In fact, that’s what many people do.

          New hardware always meant you had to update the rest. It’s actually the driver developers that are driving this as they are too unmotivated to support older major versions of OS X. The fact that SOME DO means it’s possible if a developer wants to. I guess most, especially Native Instruments, don’t want to.

          • Elekb

            I understand where you’re coming from. But there is a major problem with this update time frame / cycle that you – and many people – are refusing to acknowledge.

            When you spend thousands of dollars on a computer, a professional audio interface and professional music software, it is your right to expect that you will have support for your current configuration for more than 2 or 3 years. And the market – and in this case, Apple – constantly pressures you to buy new gear and update your software, usually, as I’ve said, by discontinuing essential security updates and blocking recent working system versions.

            As for the 10.10 issue – there is absolutely no logical reason for Apple to not grant me access to that system version – which is still getting updated, by the way – apart from the obvious one, which is they wanted to push me to 10.11 whether it worked for me or not, regardless of all the known audio issues and bug reports and complaints.

            I understand software development cycles, but an *ethical* developer would maintain some degree of backwards compatibility before discontinuing a system version.

            As for your last point, I have no idea why some developers manage to come up with drivers faster than others. Maybe the driver code is more compatible with the new OS version by coincidence. Maybe some companies have closer business ties with Apple and can get more information about the new OS issues quicker. And yes, maybe some of the companies that cannot ship drivers quickly are being incompetent.

            But saying that developers that cannot immediately ship working drivers for bug-riddled operating systems are “unmotivated” – sorry, that blanket statement is just too simplistic. Also, it drives me crazy that people are so quick to fault third party developers but never ask themselves whether the problem might be with an OS developer with a major market position that is not known for being forthcoming with information, listening to complaints from consumers and professional users, or simply being transparent.

  • R__W

    It remains to be seen if Apple can make “good” headphones. They haven’t really tried. Beats phones are only technically Apple products. Their earbuds are fine for what they are and the air pods look very interesting. That said the intuition seems correct and Apple probably has no plans to compete on flat response studio monitor phones.

    If you are “pro” you’re already invested in headphones that the iPhone doesn’t drive well in the first place and plugging them into a sound card connected to your computer. I know CDM is the on the vanguard of mobile music but I wouldn’t say making jams on imaschine or Korg gadget is the purview of “pros” yet. AIAIAI phones and even most new Sony and Sennheiser phones are as much fashion phones as Beats are. “Pro” phones that can be plugged directly into an iPhone phono jack and sound the way they are supposed to … that’s like 2 models of headphones.

    That was a long winded way of saying I’m not sure the iPhone headphone jack discussion is relevant to other “pro” audio issues Apple may have.

  • SomeGuy

    About the whole “Apple isn’t making good headphones” : So what ? They’re not supposed to be competing with Senheiser or AKG or Audeze ,etc or be the only provider of headphones for your iPhone .. . They only provide you with a basic headphone in the box to get you started. It’s up to you to go and buy a better pair of headphones. ( or any other accessories). I don’t even understand why is this an issue…
    The real issue should be: Why are people content with the basic Apple earbuds ? Why don’t we see more people buying better headphones ? Do they think you need an Apple branded earbud to plug it into the iPhone’s headphone jack ?

    Now about the whole phone jack issue : Yes it sucks. Agreed. But Android manufactures started this trend BEFORE Apple, in the pursue of thinness. the Oppo pm3 is even thinner than the iPhone. There are plenty of rumours about Samsung dropping the jack for their next Galaxy, to make it super-thin. It’s naive to think that Apple wouldn’t do it too and just let themselves be outdone by Android Smartphones when it comes to who makes the slimmest thinnest phone. They don’t want people to go “Oh wow, that iPhone looks so fat next to the Samsung ! “. Yes, i know it’s silly, but the masses are influenced by looks. I’d say blame the masses shallowness.
    On the other hand, digital-only audio Androids are switching to the more standard USB-C , unlike Apple’s proprietatry Lighning. So that’s an advantage. But expect ALL smartphones ( at least the high-end ones) to go digital only very soon.

    • Fine, but the options are now:
      1. Bluetooth connection
      2. Analog passthrough via Lightning
      3. Digital connection via Lightning

      #1 has new functionality Apple aren’t (yet?) opening to third parties.
      #2 is seriously degraded.
      #3 means, if you have a dedicated connection, incompatibility with other hardware (like the Mac!) and having to deal with Apple in order to certify your hardware.

      And #3 doesn’t appear to offer any significant advantages yet.

      And it blocks charging the device.

      So it’s a regression. 🙂

  • Muziq

    My 8core with 64gigs of ram and 1tb ssd w/ d500 will keep me set for a few years. …. if you actually have a Mac Pro then you really should be content hardware wise…..

  • 77ven

    Interesting article – agree.

    On the pro front, I think Apple is making a huge mistake in the long term by ignoring that segment, particularly media (audio / video / etc) users. The Apple brand gained much of its cool factor and has benefited tremendously from the top-of-mind exposure that they get when every laptop on a stage is a MacBook, when every time any creative environment (recording studio, video post, etc.) is exposed to the world you see Macs. I think this ubiquity has declined tremendously as Apple has made it more difficult for pros and as their arbitrary and secretive product roadmap is forced upon professional and commercial users with no warning.

    I had a friend who ran a medium sized editing facility who had just spent a LOT of money on upgrading their facility to Final Cut Server. Several months later it just disappeared from Apple’s lineup when Final Cut X appeared. Needless to say their next major upgrade was to PCs and Adobe CC. I’m sure there are similar stories across industries, and the whole mantra about not being able to plan upgrades for commercial facilities because the roadmap is private had already been discussed. Shake, Server Hardware, etc., all EOL w/ little warning, leaving people who had made very large investments in Apple products high and dry – Shake at least could have been open-sourced.

    Let’s look at the Mac Pro – I would not be surprised if they drop it, citing low sales, and completely exit the “Pro” hardware segment. The trash can IMHO was a tremendously regressive step that not a single user wanted. Users wanted cheese grater Mac Pros with upgraded innards, Thunderbolt, SSDs, etc. If Apple had just made this they would have sold a ton. For an existing Mac Pro user to invest in a trash can Mac Pro they would have to spend potentially a whole lot on extra accessories – so it is the price of the computer, plus the price of various thunderbolt PCIe chassis, external drive enclosures, etc. With that come a nightmare labyrinth of cables and boxes, destroying any supposed aesthetic value of the new machine, which BTW is also a poor design to try and stick under your desk.

    On the software side, I’d like to ask developers how much direct communication they can have w/ Apple engineers, esp during alpha/beta phases. Releasing a beta 3 months prior to release is one thing, but in my limited experience w/ Mac specific development the docs are kind of poor and you’re left guessing about a lot of stuff – but I primarily do server-side dev in Java and Python, so I may be wrong on this count.

    It seems to me that a company with the resources of Apple could completely own the pro hardware and software market w/o it even being a blip on their financials, thus keeping everyone happy. Why alienate a segment of your customer base unnecessarily?

    Final thought re. the iPhone – headphone thing is awful, but again it is something no one asked for. Consumers want more battery life – I don’t think anybody was complaining that the iPhone was too thick – in fact just a bit thicker so the camera was flush would be perfect – fill the space w/ more battery! I can’t image Steve Jobs letting that protruding camera out into the world.

    Ahhhh sigh – thank goodness for hackintosh at least.

    • Migari

      What makes you say Apple didn’t fill up that space?

      • 77ven

        make the camera flush, therefore making the whole phone a bit thicker, and fill the extra space w/ more battery

  • “Now, Apple very likely will have new machines out soon. So part of what we need to see is what those look like. It might be a longer transition, but I’d like to see Apple leverage its hardware advances from iOS. (Update – commenters agree, that part of the stagnation of the desktop Mac line parallels stagnation on Intel’s side. So maybe what we’ll see is a non-x86 hardware platform from Apple. The last big lag like this was actually just before the move from PowerPC to Intel. Bet you temporarily forgot about that – which also demonstrates how effective it was.)”

    I’m not sure what Intel stagnation you are referring to, the Broadwell-E Series CPU’s are kicking plenty of ass!
    And I think “The last big lag like this” was actually just before the move from the silver tower “cheese grater” Mac Pro to the current cylindrical “Trash can” model. During this “lull” we launched our own product (a PC designed and supported by us specifically for use with Pro Tools) which had the added bonus of being incredibly “hackintosh” friendly. Although we (for obvious reasons) were unable to sell turnkey units with OSX installed (customers followed the publicly available easy online guides to great success) . We sold systems off the back of that fact to Mac users who couldn’t hang around waiting for Apple and had also heard the rumors of Apple dropping the availability PCIe slots. With Thunderbolt in its infancy the peripheral product line choices were way too limited to switch away from PCIe immediately. Our system also sported dual thunderbolt ports which worked in OSX anyway so the best of both for the customer.

    To me what we are seeing now is very much like that time, the current offering has stagnated to an embarrassingly low bang for buck compared to what is available on the wider PC hardware market, it perhaps wouldn’t be so bad if the Apple prices dropped to a more justified level for what they are offering but Apple don’t seem to ever work like that.

    • No, sorry – you’re right, that’s fair. I mean there’s some sense to non-x86 alternatives on the low-power / portable end; that is, you might see Apple’s systems outpace Intel there. On the other hand, what seems to have died with the Mac Pro was competing with the high-end desktop systems. It’s easy to forget that when the Mac Pro “trashcan” came out in 2013, it was competitive on speed – maybe not on price, certainly not on upgradeability (since there was none), but on price. But three years in computer terms is an eternity.

  • freqn

    Took you long enough to acknowledge the “mending” needed, CDM.

  • Pop

    Spot on Peter!

    iOS is cool n all, but I can’t work with it. Still, when iOS products started gathering pace, I hoped and somewhat expected that iOS would become Apples consumer OS, and Mac OS X would become the pro OS. What a shame that didn’t turn out to be the case.. Instead OS X got worse as a Pro OS.

    Apple sure is in a strange place these days. I do hope they sort themselves out soon.

  • Clea Rup

    Well, I for one never thought I’d read such an article from Peter; kudos!
    Gutsy as well considering your Apple “ties” (mentioned in the article).
    I agree with pretty much everything.

    One issue I have though:
    You seem to insinuate that the problems began with Mr. Cook. I disagree.
    I abandoned the Mac Platform under Mr. Jobs as it did not “just work” anymore.
    The GPU issue was a large problem, but stuttering and freezing were the last straw.

    I was a Windows “hater”, but was driven to Win 7.
    My Ableton set would not load on my new Macbook, and my “experience” at the Apple store was being asked why I needed so many tracks. “You don’t need that many for a live set”. Um ok….
    But wait 😉 my set loaded and ran perfectly using only ASIO4ALL (danke Michael!) on a Lenovo Laptop that cost half the price of my Mac.
    That sealed it for me sorry.

  • Ray Palagy

    I’m an old timer and actually consider 10.8.5 to be the ultimate Mac OS. I’m using Mavericks on a system for Logic but I’ve moved ahead to El Cap for Pro Tools and must say – it’s a step backwards. I’ve been on Pro Tools since it first started as “Sound Tools” and have run it on every variation of Mac since then. I’m clinging onto the last “real” pro machine…a 12 core Westmere from 2012 but I’ve reluctantly begun to investigate Pro Tools on PC because there may come a day when Apple just doesn’t support a pro option at all.

  • pinta_vodki

    While I agree with Peter that it would be nice to see some affirmation of Apple’s love for musicians, I’d like to provide a more positive perspective.

    My early 201113-inch MBP has been working great with all the versions of OS X. I’m a part-time Apple blogger, so I have to upgrade on day one, and I’ve had zero trouble with audio, plugins, hardware or Logic Pro X (which is still amazing, come on, they added Alchemy last year!). Neither have my friends had any issues. Aside from Focusrite failing to update their audio interface drivers for a few days and – as some have correctly pointed out – that was clearly the developer’s fault. I don’t see any degraded performance or life-treatening bugs in Sierra either.

    To put it succinctly, Peter’s “biggest and only existential issue” that “macOS updates are fraught with problems” boils down to:

    1) Single audio distortion/dropouts bug, and we don’t even how wide-spread it is. Single bug in three years that merited a mention.

    2) Developer’s laziness to update plugins during the beta, which is indeed oddly special to the audio industry and is likely the result of users being used (not unlike Peter!) to blaming Apple for those plug-in problems.

    • Right – so based on a single use case with a single DAW and a single audio interface, you’re extrapolating the state of an entire OS and developer relations between third party developers and the OS vendor?

      I mean, I remember when some of us were complaining about the first build of Vista, invariably someone would say “hey, my machine is running fine.” Which is great! Of course! But… uh…

      First – no, actually, we *do* know how widespread distortion/dropout problems were based on conversations with developers. And while fixed, that’s a serious problem that lasted three years.

      Second, my concern is that this particular issue symptomizes two other worrying problems – prioritization of battery consumption and “responsiveness” in particular at the expense of audio reliability, and OS rollouts that are mandatory for a wide range of Apple hardware but don’t provide ample tools for developers to adapt. This could be said both of macOS and iOS at the moment.

      Finally, I don’t know where you’re getting your evaluation that Apple, the ones supporting the AU plug-in format for its developer ecosystem, is blameless for plug-in validation problems, while developers are “lazy.”

      Unless you’re routinely having piña coladas with those developers on an island somewhere, in which case I guess this is fair.

      Look, I’m not saying I’m letting third parties off the hook. But there’s an issue here, if Apple can’t create an environment where they can keep pace with these releases.

      And there’s a larger picture here — one where Apple is rolling out a series of OS updates none of which is entirely stable for audio work, all to support a hardware lineup that is largely stagnant at a number of price points.

      I mean, yeah, let’s assume the developers are lazy. Then some users are being asked to pay more for a computer with less performance and storage capabilities, in order to get an OS with … more compatibility problems? Where’s the payoff?

  • alamilla

    What no one talks about is how people’s devotion to Apple is holding the entire industry back.
    From Thunderbolt 3 audio interfaces to the latest PCIe SSDs for direct sample streaming; music technology seems to be excruciatingly slow to adopt new protocols

    • Renaud

      Apple was amongst the first (if not the first) to make use of the technologies you mention. How is this holding the industry back ?

      • alamilla

        I would suggest you research the Thunderbolt 3 protocol & Samsung NVME SSDs.
        Apple’s hardware/software integration is certainly class leading in the mobile space – but for bleeding edge performance are ALWAYS left trailing by enthusiast & gaming PCs.

  • I’ve used Apple for music production since 2008. My first MacBook was so far ahead of the Dell I had been using up to that point (the Mac had a 250GB hard drive and 16GB or RAM, the Dell had a 32GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM just for starters). Everything worked well until I was forced to upgrade to Lion so I could upgrade Reason and switch over to Cubase from Logic. My desktop crashed and needed to be wiped, the OS reinstalled from scratch. Then the Lion upgrade caused my fans to stop working, so two years later the HD got cooked and needed to be replaced (a nightmare when your screen and components for the computer are all one unit, my tech guy had to rent automotive glass repair kits just to install the new HD!). My MacBook survived Lion’s install, but now it takes five minutes to boot, then sits on the desktop, unable to do anything for another five minutes before it starts working.

    I’ve already decided that I’m getting a custom PC from PC Audio Labs as soon as possible, even with a fully decked out Rok Box with six internal HDs (1 to 2TB a piece) and 64GB or RAM (plus the ability to add RAM, monitors that aren’t part of the CPU which creates more heat and can be purchased third party, etc.) the whole system costs less than the severely outdated MacPro for the features that system should be providing for audio/video production work.

  • Martyn Swain

    …I’ve long felt that pro composers, songwriters, producers etc. deserve to have an OS to themselves, developed with the virtual instrument developers (like Native Instruments) as repayment for their loyalty over the years.

    Instead, many composers, as has been said here, see updates as an annual chore in a constant search for stability.

    I had absolute stability as a composer … under OS 10.5 and Logic 9 … but that was … some time ago and got ditched as it became a ‘vintage’ set-up.

    Come on Apple – you can’t say you can’t afford to service the music high end properly … or should we all go the ‘PC Cubase’ route, which is already beginning to happen?

  • Craig Albright

    This article is conflating consumer audio and pro audio. Most of the points made in this article != pro audio concerns. I DO NOT CARE that the 1/8″ jack is missing from the new iPhone and that has nothing to do with pro audio. I never looked to apple to make studio reference headphones and if I ever used them, it would be to check a mix to make sure that the music sounded ok with the typical users headphones.
    Ive used various mac/windows based music platforms over the years since around 1997 and still think Mac is the better platform for audio. Heres why: 1) ios/osx has a baked in low latency audio framework in Core Audio which means even on board audio can run at < 10ms round trip latency 2) Logic is still the most solid DAW Ive ever used 3) Windows has yet to offer a compelling Audio experience with out serious hardware.
    I will agree that the new mac pro was a big step backwards from the previous version. I had an 8 core mac pro from 2008 and that was the perfect music pc. Im sure the new one is fine, but I dont care about the aesthetics of the computer as long as I can depend on it to record a session and not fail.
    The Native Instruments issues dont really surprise me and in my experience with that company their software quality ranges from buggy to mediocre (Komplete 1-8) to the point were I could not find a compelling reason to continue using their software. I could certainly understand a company acting defensive and blaming the OS manufacturer when they are flooded with bug reports.
    To that I would also offer a counterpoints of Propellerheads Reason. Their software is consistently bug free and solid performing. So it does not seem to really be a "Mac" problem. I currently use a universal audio apollo 8 and that also performs solidly via the lightning interface at near real time latency. Point being, its possible to make solid software for mac.
    Anyway, I don't think that the mac is perfect for audio, and the situation may be worse for video, it sounds like the new mac pro is a dud for pro users, which is disappointing.

  • Frikandel_Kroket

    A few thoughts on this. Apple’s half hearted effort in offering a lightening to analog 3.5mm adapter just leaves the door open for a third party Apple developer to offer better. Also, you hit it on the head… video always trumps audio issues in the industry and Apple’s OS update cycle pays no attention to their audio and video teams special needs. Their fixes get included in the OS updates on schedule – never before. It’s really always been this way. Nothing that new here. The laptops, desktops, and pro computers will get updated when they’re ready as well. Never before. It’s a different part of the company now, and you’re probably right that they don’t get priority at the moment. But the refresh will come.

  • Freeks

    But hey, Rich Hilton says Sierra has no problems then it’s like that. No really, that comment by Mr Hilton in Sonic Talk was just stupid.

    I just leased new 3,500€ iMac. I was really on the fence should i switch to PC. But for now i still need Logic. After reading this i will try out some other daws like Cubase. After my 2 year lease runs out i might switch.

    I was highly disappointed on performance of this top of the line iMac. It runs FCPX just fine, but fine is not enough anymore. My previous iMac was non retina 28″. I don’s see much performance boost on this over the older machine. 4GB M395X GPU is mediocre, but still priced with premium price tag by apple.

    But have to say that it’s really nice computer to watch youtube videos 😀

  • Richard Liggins

    What audio pro updates an OS, Apple, Microsoft or any variant of Linux etc., without first checking for compatibility issues and waiting for the bugs to be squashed? Many pros will work on older OS and V builds of DAW’s precisely because they are stable and reliable, only updating to gain access to a feature set in a new DAW V build. Once the need for an OS update is recognised, it becomes a round of research and planning, and you absolutely do not install in the middle of a project, but wait or plan for a quiet week where testing and problems can be fixed without inconveniencing a client. You wouldn’t change your audio console in the middle of a mix in the old days, why think about doing the same thing now?

    OS updates are a reality everyone deals with, but you have a choice when you do it. Older Mac Pro’s are still potent machines in the audio environment, as are iMacs and older MBP’s. My 2011 17″ MBP with 16Gb RAM and a 1TB SSD still allows me to mix 30-40 tracks of audio from a TB HD. Sure I’d love to see an update from Apple that doubles the power and halves the cost, but then I’d like a Veyron and to be dating the 1983 version of Kate Bush, what you gonna do?

    • Sin Sentido Comun

      Of course, the problem comes when you get a new machine, or when you want to update software and it only support latest OS. or if you get new HW and requieres new DAW version or OS. So the peoblem is that at some point something in your set up will require to update.

      • Richard Liggins

        Agreed, we’re all gear sluts of one shade or another, point is that we are in control of when and how we go about these things, and upgrading should be a planned, researched and protected activity when your reputation and/or livelihood is at stake. I run 20+ Protools, Logic X etc equipped studios and we will never consider an OS upgrade till we know the bugs are dead. Mac, PC, Linux, it doesn’t matter, you don’t compromise your ability to work.

  • Sal Paradise

    Just a note re my experiences in this arena..I run Logic 9 on Macbook air, do movie music etc,…and was running Mavericks for three years no probs… when something went horribly wrong (I was on Google Cloud, a net virus?) Anyway after trying all the usual fixes..the computer still wouldn’t budge but fortunately the internet part was still working so I bit the bullet and downloaded El Capitan,…and it worked brilliantly..and faster., with no upset to any third party plugins whatsoever (maybe it helps that Logic is apple? ).. I did note that they were just about to change up to Sierra so maybe that’s the way to do it..change at closing time.

  • What about that whole thing of itunes deleting files it doesn’t recognize? You know – musicians who create their own stuff have renders disappear because they were not purchased… is that still happening?

  • Miguel Marcos

    I am completely in agreement with this article.

  • Made In Machines

    Apples relationship with everyone who buys their computers needs mending. They need to do some self reflection and sort themselves out. Low innovation, overpriced with weak specs and limited functions…but at least it’s thin and looks good.

  • gLOW-x

    “Think different” became “Think mainstream” when the first iPhone reached the market.
    Or may be back to iTunes/iPod 😉
    See recent Apple decisions as “mainstream” user, and you will see they are not that bad…for Apple 😀

    Apple just don’t care about pro/power users anymore. Because when we are thousands users…mainstream ppl are million users.
    Final Cut Pro will die soon, “merged” with iMovie. And Logic will follow in some years, “merged” with Garage Band.
    The same way Aperture (and more) died, for years.

    For now, OSX still a nice OS for third party softs/drivers. But soon, third party will drop the ball.
    They already started, in fact. See how many softs/drivers break each yearly update (like you said) 😉

    Apple fanboys try to hide this under the carpet, saying “ALL those third party makers are just LAZY ! They had 3 months (LOL) to check ALL their softs !” And this, every year…
    Just LOL.
    Third party makers are not Apple’s slaves. And soon, Mac users will understand they ,also, don’t need to.

    I already see DJs jumping from Mac OS to Windows…it was almost impossible to see this years ago.
    Now, it is a trend. Take it or leave it.
    Music makers AND all medias makers are raising their voice every year…and Apple still “think mainstream” more and more every year.

    Mac computers nowadays are just iPhone accessories. That’s not my vision : it is Apple’s vision 😉

  • viridisvir

    I’m done. My love affair with iOS is officially over.

    Got an iPhone 7 and attempted to restore the full backup from previous device (6): it kept telling me my password was incorrect, but… I know my password. I’ve only ever had 2 passwords for all iThings. Same attempt using 2 different PC’s and a Mac: fail.

    I even reset the password (twice), uninstalled/reinstalled iTunes (per Apple advice) – no dice. All of my NanoStudio project files – basically gone unless I want to export every single one individually.

    The last bit of advice they came back with?

    “Buy a new computer… ” except that I still lose my full backup.

    So yeah. It’s been OK while it lasted, but now I supremely regret spending a single fucking cent on this company. My old Apple-hate has resumed with a vengeance. Not like Android is a viable option… just want something that really just works.

    Because Apple is officially no longer the “it just works” company.

    {fuming}