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A Systematic Approach

OS X takes a systematic approach to handling professional audio By Frank Moldstad
Mac OS X has taken the podium like a new conductor with radical ideas about how the orchestra should play together. He tells the musicians that if they follow his system, they will find that making music has never been easier or more productive. And one by one, he wins them over.

While OS X is still in the process of converting professional audio users, its clear that the fundamental changes it brings to audio production on the Mac are hugely beneficial. Traditionally, the Mac OS has been a somewhat passive host for audio programs and interfaces, allowing them to find their own best path to getting audio data in and out of the computer. Many ingenious ways of doing this have been developed. In fact, too many -- ASIO, EASI, Direct IO, OMS, VST and RTAS, to name just a few.

With OS X, Apple is offering standardized system control over this process. Developers dont have to adopt Apples new Core Audio or Core MIDI protocols, but if they do, Apple says the benefits will include faster development, better performance and fewer configuration hassles for users.

?With Mac OS X we were presented with an opportunity to revise Apple's role in the total solution, in terms of configuring audio systems, says Dan Brown, Apples audio technologies manager for Mac OS. ?And historically our role has been that of providing stereo CD-quality services via the Sound Manager under Mac OS 9. But of course, a lot of considerably more sophisticated things have been done under Mac OS 9, and that's where we had to take a look at opportunities to increase the role of the system itself, with the objective being to increase performance and ease of use.

M-Audio's Delta 1010
?So, the first thing we noticed is under Mac OS 9, there are a lot of redundant protocols like ASIO, and EASI and Direct IO and VST and RTAS and all kinds of acronymns that confuse the configuration process, limit compatibility and also greatly complicate the development process, as software and hardware developers have to make versions of their products to support all these functionally redundant protocols. So that's were we saw an opportunity to clean things up a bit and deliver more in terms of system services than we've ever delivered before, Brown says.

Early adopters in the developer community are already reaping the benefits. M-Audio reports that its Delta audio interfaces are achieving throughput latencies as low as 1ms with its new OS X drivers. Traditionally, audio latency the time delay between a signal entering and then reemerging from a sound card -- has been about 10ms on the Mac. A reduction of this magnitude in latency time means real-time performance, for all practical purposes. And applications developer Propellerheads is touting that under OS X its software synth Reason doesnt need OMS or ASIO extensions, because it now connects directly to OS X-compatible MIDI and audio cards

?The trend here is to provide services which are not specific to an individual app, essential system services that have historically been provided by developer protocols and created a complicated experience for users and a difficult development experience for developers, says Brown.

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Related Keywords:OS X, audio, Mac, ASIO, EASI, Direct IO, OMS, VST, RTAS, Apple

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