If you really must stare at a beachball, might I humbly suggest it look more like this? Photo (CC-BY) hadleygrass.

Slow down, Mountain Lion early adopters.

Okay, remember how a few weeks ago we made note that a number of audio interfaces weren’t working with USB3 ports on new Apple laptops?

And remember how last week, Native Instruments released a statement about USB 3 issues?

Funny story. It seems that it’s not just new Apple laptops with new USB3 ports suffering from sound problems. Now, Apple’s just-released OS update, 10.8 Mountain Lion, is prompting reports of audio interface problems. As with the new USB3 laptops and OS 10.7, your mileage may vary – some interfaces work, and some don’t. (This isn’t just an NI problem; some other brands have issues, too. And something is going on with Windows drivers, too: PC vendors reported similar issues with USB2 devices connected to USB3 ports that were resolved by connecting to USB2 ports.)

Here’s the latest official statement, updated minutes ago, from Native Instruments support:

Native Instruments has conducted compatibility tests with its hardware products under OS X 10.8, connected to USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports of both recent and current-generation Mac computers. Some NI products are experiencing a degraded audio signal caused by USB driver issues present in Mac OS X 10.8. The same issues are also present under Mac OS X 10.7.4 on current-generation Macbooks with USB 3.0.


Note the mention of “10.8” and “USB 2.0” as well as “USB 3.0” – this could be an issue for those of you with older laptops, too.

It’s hard to place blame. Issues are now confirmed with Apple’s own software. But the reality of this cluster of problems may simply be that implementing USB 3.0 is a complicated task. In fact, if I were to blame anyone, the overly-optimistic claims of seamless backwards compatibility from the backers of USB 3.0 would be worthy of some criticism. You can add this latest episode to a long pile of issues with USB and sound over the years. (So, how about that Thunderbolt?) But, again, it’s a complex issue, mutter, mutter, blah, blah – at least it appears that we could see things fixed.

Yes, some good news – there’s a fix you can beta-test right now, and early reports we’ve heard are actually quite positive (as in, this appears to be a working solution):

Native Instruments is currently in contact with Apple in order to find a solution. To address the issues in the meantime, Native Instruments is providing a set of beta drivers that circumvent the problem.

You can grab the drivers, and presumably be happy with a new MacBook and/or a new OS release. Of course, if you haven’t gone out and gotten those two things, I really do recommend you wait. For instance, I hear for the Northern Hemisphere, the beach is a beautiful place to visit, with a large body of water in which you can swim and sun and sand and things.

No? Okay.

Since NI isn’t the only vendor impacted, keep an eye out for compatibility reports and possible driver updates from other makers, too. But thanks to NI for providing us some speedy information and software.