OS X Music and Audio: When will it be Ready to Rock?

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Date: Monday, February 1st, 1999, 00:00
Category: Archive

Sure, you can load up iTunes and listen to music on OS X. But when will OS X be a tool for writing and recording your own music and audio on your Mac? I polled major music and audio developers, and word is, it’s still too soon to say.

Sure, you can load up iTunes and listen to music on OS X. But when will OS X be a tool for writing and recording your own music and audio on your Mac? I polled major music and audio developers, and word is, it’s still too soon to say.

Rumors that OS X “isn’t a real time operating system” and that no music and audio developers are committed to bringing their apps to X are simply misinformed. Every single developer I spoke with plans to bring their applications and drivers to OS X — it’s simply a matter of when. If anything, developers are impatient to begin work on OS X, but need Apple to finish its audio and MIDI drivers and documentation first.

Emagic, maker of the audio and MIDI workstation Logic, is very optimistic about OS X development. Emagic hasn’t formally announced a release date for a Carbonized version of Logic, but according to Clint Ward with Emagic public relations, they are hoping for this fall, and we can also expect OS X-native drivers for their hardware audio and MIDI interfaces. Apple has even used Emagic MIDI and audio interfaces in testing and development of MIDI and USB audio drivers, according to Markus Fritze, Emagic Chief Developer, New Technology Integration, MacOS.

”It sounds like in general Apple is moving in the right direction,” says Jim Cooper of Mark of the Unicorn. “They seem pretty committed to getting MIDI and audio supported at a level that’s never been seen before.” MIDI integration and multichannel audio support at the OS level is good news, says Cooper. Like Emagic, Mark of the Unicorn plans to bring its Digital Performer product, a MIDI/digital audio workstation, as well as hardware support to OS X, though they said it was too early to establish a time line. Digital Performer 3.0’s summer release is also too early to ready it for OS X; users will have to wait for a later upgrade.

Steinberg has already Carbonized Nuendo, its host-based digital audio workstation (DAW), and plans support for Cubase VST in Cubase’s next major upgrade, though it’s too early for a definite release date. “Right now there are no drivers for audio and MIDI interfaces from the hardware manufacturers and therefore it seems not very sensible to publish a Mac OS X version which the user cannot use,” said Katharina Kuehler, Steinberg Media Public Relations in Hamburg.

Digidesign was unavailable for comment, but has already publicly announced Pro Tools will be compatible with OS X, again with no release date. As many users have observed, Apple has already reserved a place in the Library folder for a Steinberg folder and a Digidesign folder.

Music notation, too, is likely to appear in OS X form from both major notation software vendors, Sibelius and Coda (maker of Finale). Finale “will run fine in Classic mode” according to Coda, provided MIDI drivers are compatible with OS X. (A curious statement, given that there currently are no MIDI drivers for OS X, and certainly no MIDI support under Classic, but Finale users have reported functional, albeit MIDI-less, operation of Finale under Classic.) Unlike Finale, Sibelius will not run under Classic. Sibelius is already working on a fully Carbonized OS X version but has not announced a release date.

I also spoke with two smaller developers that have long been committed to the Mac and make Mac-only applications: U&I Software, maker of MetaSynth Studio, and Cycling `74, makers of a wide variety of audio tools including Max/MSP. Both these houses are working on Carbon versions of their software, and, like the bigger software shops, are awaiting the resources they need from Apple. Likewise, the software synthesis magicians at Propellerhead have confirmed they intend to bring products like Reason to Carbon, but can’t set a release date.

Why the delays from all these developers? Apple simply has more work to do on building essential audio and MIDI driver support into OS X. These services are currently unfinished, likely to appear in an OS X upgrade this summer. They’re also largely undocumented, which means music and audio developers can’t start work yet. There are similar delays in other parts of the OS, notably the evolving I/O services which allows a CD burning program like Toast or backup utility like Retrospect to work. Audio and music applications, however, are disproportionately affected by the unfinished state of OS X.

Stay tuned to Go2Mac through Macworld Expo next week for more news on OS X and music and audio. I’ll be live on the floor each day bringing you the latest.

And in the meantime, there is at least a handful of OS X applications that give you some reason to boot into X. In addition to Steinberg’s Nuendo, there are smaller applications like the elegant waveform recorder/editor Sound Studio from Felt Tip Software. There’s also the latest release of a longtime Mac standby, the indispensable Sound Hack by Tom Erbe, a sound processing and audio utility program with unique effects like convolution. Not to mention, more than a few simple audio programs will run under OS X in Classic mode.

Here’s to the bigger developments still ahead. I’ll close out with some words from the “big three” of MIDI/audio workstations:

”We’re a Mac shop. You’ll be seeing all-around strong OS X support eventually; it’s just a matter of how long it will take to get there. It’s a new OS and it’s a lot of work.” - Jim Cooper, Mark of the Unicorn (Digital Performer)

”The new MIDI support is very promising and all the general enhancements of the OS lead to a better, efficient and more stable work environment. It’s really too early to tell. Overall we always are very committed to supporting any new Mac OS development. OS X is no exception.” - Clint Ward, Emagic (Logic)

”Of course [OS X] is good news! :-)” -Katharina Kuehler, Steinberg (Cubase VST)

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