Audio interfaces

Ah, what audio interface to buy for doing some simple 2 channel recordings into my MacBook Pro?

There’s the Presonus Firebox ($300), which I borrowed from a friend. Sounds pretty good, although the preamp gain (45 dB) is not stellar and no inserts for sticking something like a compressor. It seems to work pretty well in Leopard, although it sometimes disappears and I’ve had to replug it or reboot the computer to get it to show up again. Bus-powered, but you have to plug it in when you first connect it; otherwise it flashes and makes a loud, disturbing clicking sound. No meters; just clip LEDs. Most annoyingly, sometimes when I plug it into my MacBook Pro with OS X 10.5.2, I get a kernel panic:

      Kernel loadable modules in backtrace (with dependencies):>0x5b493fff

Presonus has a higher-end model called the FireStudio Project, which looks nice on paper. Goes for $500. More channels (more than I need). Better preamp gain (60 dB vs. 45 dB for the Firebox) and dynamic range on the A/D converters (114 dB vs. 108 dB for the Firebox). Has inserts and meters and an interesting-sounding software bundle. Unfortunately, it seems to have a lot of problems with Leopard and/or the new Firewire chipset on newer Macs:

Another option is the Apogee Duet ($500). I can’t find reliable-looking specs on the preamps or A/D converters (BSW claims the preamps have 75 dB of gain), but there seems to be a favorable impression of the sound quality (similar to its big brother, the $1900+ Ensemble) and the usability and aesthetics. Haven’t heard any complaints about Leopard or general stability. It looks pretty nice and even has meters with 7 LEDs. No inserts though. And it’s Mac only and Core Audio only. I have a Mac, so that’s not too bad, though it might be nice to have something that works with a PC in case I’m out of the house and jamming with other folks.

Leopard X11 update

I was having a problem or two with the new in Leopard. It turns out that are some new versions of Xquartz that you can install that fix a lot of problems.

The instructions, including a handy-dandy shell script that makes it brainless, are here. If you want a whole lot more info on X11 in Leopard, check out some of my links from a few days ago.


marc@promc-2n-dhcp155:~/sw$ ./Xquartz -version starting:
Xquartz server based on Release 7.2, built on 2007924

After installing the 1.2a11 version:

marc@hyperion:~/sw$ /usr/X11/bin/Xquartz -version starting:
Xquartz server based on Release 7.2, built on 20071116

What I’ve noticed after the update:

  • When I Cmd-Tab back to X11, my xterm now pops to the front, like it should. IIRC, this “xterm not surfacing” bug was a bug in in Tiger that was fixed in 10.4.3. Ah yes, here it is. Then it broke in Leopard and now thankfully, this update fixes it.
  • I couldn’t paste into an xterm with Option-Click in the shipping version of Now I can after this update.
  • Oddly, running Xquartz -version doesn’t output the 1.2a11 version that is denoted on the web page. Nor does running ident on it show that version number. Those would be nice additions. Update: Apple’s Ben Byer kindly informed me that you can get the version number from…are you ready for this?…the About dialog. I guess I am officially a command-line guy.
    🙂 version 1.2a11

I’m happy. I have no other complaints about at the moment, though it seems from the links that I looked at (mentioned above), there are quite a few known issues with and so there are likely to be a few more updates over time.

I will also note that the recently released 10.5.1 update does not seem to have these fixes as it did not clobber my new version of Xquartz.

Still pretty happy with my new MacBook Pro, though I keep accidentally knocking the MagSafe power plug out, which is getting a tad annoying.

MacBook Pro

My new MacBook Pro arrived yesterday. I expected that it was going to come with Leopard pre-installed, but instead it came with Tiger and a Leopard DVD. Perhaps this is better in case there are enough bugs and incompatibilities, that I’d rather use Tiger until Leopard matures a bit. I have installed Leopard and haven’t played with any of the new features like Spaces or Time Machine, but I have run into a minor problem or two with

MacBook Pro 15-inch - 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo