Author Topic: DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach  (Read 375 times)

Offline MusicWorks

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DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach
« on: April 18, 2020, 02:43:32 PM »
Mere Mortals,

Here is a small piece of my mind today, while in quarantine, after going through several OS9/OSX installations in my (beloved) Pismo for a music project:

"If we were to solve the problems of our setup through a conceptual and analytical approach it should certainly start by understanding a fundamental concept: what is a program? It is an engine designed to process data and give an output. The language in which it's coded is insignificant to understand what I am trying to convey. Languages can be translated. Code can be ported. So, when asking ourselves the question: Which is the best version of X DAW for my Mac OS x.x?

The answer to said question is simple: the one which was written for your PROCESSOR. That is, the motor of your engine.

This introduces two different concepts in computing: the processors ARCHTECTURE and the processors SPEED. In terms of their architecture, when talking about new Mac ROM Macintosh computers (post 68k), that would clearly be 601, 603, 604 and 605. Or what is commercially referred to as PowerPC, G3, G4 and G5 processors. The processors SPEED is self-explanatory -how fast your car can go. It's raw power basically.

Understanding a processors architecture means understanding data pipelines, commands and execution of tasks for that particular processor. In cross-platform operations understanding incompatibility seems simple: everything is different (from the file systems, to the extensions, kernel and way of storing data...lost forks in Classic Mac anyone?

However in processors developed by the same company (Pentiums I, II, III, IV spring to mind) you can make commands and executions backwards compatible -often relying on emulation of processes that no longer exist in that processors architecture- to make an application run.

What does this all mean? It means that we can "cheat" and rely on a computers processing POWER to emulate a given architecture (Hello Sheepsaver, Dear Rosetta). When transitioning to OS X -still in its infancy, took a while to mature- Apple was quite aware of the fact that both operating systems woud need to co-exist for a while -probably even in the same computers- so they basically programmed Classic Mode as a way to emulate the Mac OS within OS X. Great for opening old text files, not so much for real life DAW audio work.

The open a text file and read it in a modern OS only requires all operations, tasks and executions to be properly translated into the new architecture -the result at the output will be perfect. Every time. With a DAW its different, it requires a huge real life interaction between the player/tape operator/aspiring musician and the software -in a way in which TIMING is crucial.

And with timing I think I have understood why OS 9 is still relevant, at least from a technical point of view. To understand this we need to understand how we interact with said engine, in this case our beloved DAW. We interact through vision, reading menus and looking at waveforms stacked vertically. We use our EYES!
So there is of course a UI (User Interface) that is designed by graphic designers (woooo, faders...how they have changed).

If you look at the UI of Pro Tools 1.0 to Pro Tools 5.2 (that is more than a decade of development of a product that became an industry standard and a milestone in recording technology) little had changed. It's true that the faders were slightly improved from those square boxes with stripes to a more "fader like" design. But the background elements remained unchanged (none), button design was kept simple (or were simply designed that way, the standard way it was done back then). Because no one cared about how nice the UI looked, they worried about making GREAT tunes. They were listening to the music.

UI in DAWs have increased in complexity (and size) over the years in this 21st century. And it was all started by OS X.

To understand OS X we need to understand that Apple did not ditch Mac OS 9 -a code they had been working on for 20 years and a milestone in itself. OS X is a unix based graphic UI (called "Aqua) that is layered on top of original Mac OS code with a few added perks -rewritten Finder, different ways of handling RAM memory, etc....the latter were vastly "improved" in OS X 10.3.

So, to put it simple: Mac OS X is nothing but a barebones Mac OS with a HUGE graphical interface on top, and in spite of it looking good indeed (Apple could pay the best UI designers)  it is an immense hog on the computers computational power AND memory allocated to the UI (also knows as V-Memory, or video memory).
What have programmers relied on ever since the introduction of OS X and after a brief transitional period: computational power (processor SPEED).

Ever wonder why Apple computers had 80Mhz processors in 1992 that reached 500Mhz by the year 2000 (a six-fold increase in almost a decade), and G4/G5s went from 350Mhz to 2.500Mhz (a seven-fold increase in FIVE YEARS). This is a dark period in Apples history, one many choose to forget. But most pros were running away from Macs like the plague, and most migrated to Windows systems when they reached stability (around XP SP2). Wonder why Samplitude (windows only) and Nuendo (for Win) were big players back in 2002-2005? There was a Mac exodus, mainly because Mac forgot the key element for its user base: how well the hardware worked with the software. Leaving developers speechless when they decided to abandon Mac OS 9 in pro of a much-nicer looking blonde....after 30 years of research and development (and when the software had reached a maturity that allowed them to be incredibly reliable, hard to come across in the days of early computing).

So, where does it all leave us in terms of choosing the best VERSION of the programs we want to use, 3 KEY ELEMENTS:

Processor Architecture
Speed
Video RAM (V-Memory)

And to choose which version:

Optimization of the code for that processor (G4 Altivec enhanced anyone?)

Taking this into account, the best version of Pro Tools for a 68k computer would be up to 3.2. Pro Tools v4.0 was a partial rewrite, and the first FAT version of the application (68k code + PPC code, very similar to how apple "carbonized" apps in the early OS X days....PPC+Cocoa code). Yes, the applications have double the size -but it greatly simplifies things. The OS will know which code to execute and will open that "part" of the FAT application.

The difference is that in the transition from 68k processors to PPC the code was simply appended (so in OS 9 most apps are "hybrid", that is there is remant code from the 68k version included with the PPC parts that were rewritten). This were the magic happens. Pro Tools 3 has "bits" of Pro Tools 2 and 1. The same goes for the latter 4.0 and 5.0, probably very little 68k in v5 if any.

When transitioning to OS X the entire apps had to be rewritten for Coco, so there was not any "magic" left. Just a rewrite pretty much, specially of the engines to be able to be useable in OS X. That is why Pro Tools for OS X (6.0) took a while to arrive....a lot by software development standards.

In this quest for the perfect DAW I have come to realise that what we are really looking for in this Mac OS9 apps is a bit of magic , that bit of code...that made a program useful and relevant. That is what makes a milestone. Stability, usability, responsiveness AND TIMING. When recording music timing is crucial, and lets face it: OS X has a lag. Of course it does, that huge UI has to move its ass and everything is virtualized. In a classic Mac you got an actual engine, a program that interacts directly to the processor with a minimized graphical layout. Because its a TOOL.

Lets not forget that DAWs are simply TOOLS. You can make your album cover art pretty  8)

Maybe this way we wll get back that great 90s/early 2000s music


Maybe I will write some more, make it into an article. Or a book.

Bottom-line: avoid G4-optimized apps in G3s, avoid G5 optimized apps in G4, if your Mac has 8MB of V-Memory or less avoid later versions of 9.2 and avoid OS X like the plague (if you are recording music). Timing and responsiveness are better in OS9, period. If not try a tape deck, it has no processor or operating system. OS9 in my opinion is more like a tape recorder.

And avoid plugins, great music needs NO FUCKING PLUGINS, just good microphone placement. If not, go learn a fucking instrument.

Best,

- MusicWorks

P.S. There is a reason why if you visit a big-shot producer in L.A. or London he will probably have a Power Mac G3 lying around...and that is probably because it is the last Mac that allows them to use Logic and Cubase properly: G4s suck ass. There! i've said it!!....and there was that lost ADB port, timing is everything. Specially when it comes to MIDI ;)
« Last Edit: April 18, 2020, 03:17:15 PM by MusicWorks »

Offline FBz

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Re: DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach
« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2020, 04:30:17 PM »
W-O-W.

“Everyone knows that only unicorn hair can convey all frequencies at the same time.
That, and a feather from a red dragon’s back dipped in silver moon paste.”

Offline IIO

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Re: DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach
« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2020, 04:52:36 PM »
what a long detour to explain that "OS9 is a taperecorder and a taperecorder is all you need". :)
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Offline GaryN

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Re: DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2020, 08:35:03 PM »
… and they say I'm pompous and long-winded…

This feels like I just finished watching a college professor deliver a lecture that has left me wondering why I signed up for this class.

While some of it it true - obvious in fact, the prof fails to appreciate the real-world realities involved with the interactions of hardware, operating systems, 3rd party software and the sometimes amazing, sometimes staggeringly drunken changes caused by the constant evolution of all of them.

There are many, many incorrect premises:
"But most pros were running away from Macs like the plague, and most migrated to Windows systems when they reached stability (around XP SP2)."
That's just flat-out untrue. If you believe that, you probably think Nixon was a great President and Britney Spears really can sing.

"So, to put it simple: Mac OS X is nothing but a barebones Mac OS with a HUGE graphical interface on top"
That statement is a perfect description of Windows 95.
To use the prof's style: Pre-emptive multitasking, anyone? What the two (and practically every other modern OS) have in common is the basic graphic UI: icons anyone?

"great music needs NO FUCKING PLUGINS, just good microphone placement."
Great music needs great musicians, not microphones. The fact he conflates music with recording is reason enough alone to drop the class.
Anyway, there are mic'ing situations that absolutely require limiting, compression, gating etc. Plugins are simply software version of hardware accessories.

There are other points of contention but many of them flow from his basic "missing" of the fact that the UNIX foundation of OSX is nothing at all like the primitive C+ -written cobbled-together mass of files and extensions that were the original Mac OS. That it worked as well as it did is no small amazement.

I understand how attempting to run OSX for recording use on a Pismo might make one tend to blame the OS for poor results caused by one's unfortunate choice of inadequate hardware to run it on. However, as advanced and sophisticated modern computer software might be compared to a hammer, using it effectively remains a simple, logical constant:

If your hammer isn't big enough to do the job, get a bigger hammer.

Offline MusicWorks

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Re: DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2020, 09:43:48 PM »
I don't know who is more pompous and long-winded...however I do know which one of us writes better  :) Anyway, I find it amusing when simple minded individuals like yourself attack people like me, the reason is so blatantly obvious....

Five points for the use of the verb "to conflate", hope you didn't have to look it up.

1. In the CONTEXT of recording engineering, microphone placement is essential to making good sounding recording. We are clearly not talking about playing a harp in the wind. You took it out of context to make a point and belittle me without arguments: simple, yet effective. This one is a classic with people with IQs under 90.

2. I will only answer the "if you need a bigger hammer get a bigger hammer". By that comment I presume you are nearing your 70s and quite clearly past it.

Just listen up: original Pro Tools systems had 68k processors in the range of 10Mhz to 33Mhz and slow SCSI drives. Clearly they didn't need a bigger hammer, just good recording techniques, microphone placement and excellent session players.

They had no plugins, except for a very precise low-cut filter.

I have nothing more to add.


Best,

- MusicWorks


« Last Edit: April 18, 2020, 10:24:03 PM by MusicWorks »

Offline IIO

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Re: DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2020, 10:47:11 PM »
people like him. now i am impressed.  8)

dont get me wrong, MW - great post (great as in much better than the usual tech talk here) - but if you start philosophy you should also be open for opposing ideas.

i am building custom surround mixing software, custom synthesis methods, and custom sequencing and composing enviroments using MacOS.

could you explain me how to do that with only a microphone and protools please?

(and while we´re on it; could you name at least one well known pop producer who reduces mixing to gain staging like you propose?)

« Last Edit: April 18, 2020, 11:15:18 PM by IIO »
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Offline MusicWorks

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Re: DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2020, 11:17:16 PM »
What I mean is that there is usually a naysayer after a brilliant exposé that adds nothing but is usually quick to criticize.

I am frankly open to discussion, that is why I posted it in the first place. In any case, many thanks for your positive feedback -it is much appreciated indeed. I am neither a computer engineer nor a music producer and I am only throwing in my opinions based on observation/setup of the different platforms and software.

My whole post is pretty much about RESPONSIVENESS of a DAW software, and how it affect multitrack recording in the tracking stages. Thus, going in to USABILITY of the software as well. It is pretty simple really: the more cool graphics and buttons, the more resources allocated for UI. The OS takes a big chunk of memory as well, as music-makers we should aspire to a system that takes the LEAST computational resources so we can multitrack.

And yes, I do believe all this affects the timing. Plugin delay compensation was introduced in the early-2000s, to offset each track by the amount of latency introduced by the plugins. This added to lagging OS and huge graphic UIs *has a an impact on the actual timing and latency of the system". There is no wonder DSP based hardware-software solutions like Pro Tools sounded and worked better....they had HARDWARE acceleration written for that particular software and architecture...

The truth is digital audio was used mostly for EDITING up until the whole VST crazo introduced by Steinberg. You need to understand that people with thousands of dollars worth of compressors, EQs, pres....don't want your plugins anywhere near them. They have the "real" gear, they can patch it in without latency and have AMAZING sound. No pros were using plugins back then.

Pro Tools was designed as an EDITING system, no one was mixing back ITB until the earty 2000s. People in studios with 50.000 dollars SSL mixing boards had no need to use PT as mixer. What you PUT IN PT was exactly what you got at the output. That was the premise -and that is why everything was calibrated to -20dbFS at nominal level (0 VU). That means a +4dbB signal was encoded as a -20dbFS digital file. that would play out as exactly +4dB at its output. It was used for editing without introducing any processing of the signal (aside from A/D and D/A of course). That was the beauty of it.

In come VST studio system, TDM plugins (started being useable by the late 90s, in the Pro Tools Mix era) and plugin latency compensation. The overall TIMING of the music being recorded turned to shit....if you ask me. The same goes for software VSTis and samplers.....a guy in a pro-studio in the 90s with 5 stacked Akai S3000 hardware samplets had absolutely NO NEED for a shitty plugin. They had amazing outboard. Period.

Now, VST was  great as a concept for the home-studio musician. But certainly not for the pros, for fucks sake....and don't get me started on this "analog modelling" shit that is HUGE nowadays. My head will explode. "Analog tape emulator"....the end of music as we know it.

Simple things work well.

And of course, if you want to build custom software maybe these platforms are not the easiest to program for. There is a reason all this amazing programs took years of research and development and thousands of dollars in beta-testing, hardware DSP design and integration into the system....they really were Digital Audio Workstations. A tablet with Garageband for iOS? That is just a fucking gimmick IMHO.

Have a great day you guys, making music is about having fun. Not about optimizing extension sets :)


- MusicWorks

Offline IIO

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Re: DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2020, 03:20:58 AM »
damn, i knew it, it ends up in tech talk. :)

Quote
My whole post is pretty much about RESPONSIVENESS of a DAW software, and how it affect multitrack recording in the tracking stages. Thus, going in to USABILITY of the software as well. It is pretty simple really: the more cool graphics and buttons, the more resources allocated for UI. The OS takes a big chunk of memory as well, as music-makers we should aspire to a system that takes the LEAST computational resources so we can multitrack.

there are pros and cons to that.

while i agree that graphics should not be overwhelming, and GUIs as small as possible (both for usability) and that there is unfortunately a tedency that stuff is getting bigger and more complicated (so that there is no benefti for you that monitors are getting bigger) i must say that the interface of protools 4 simply cannot stand against nuendo 1.5. - and now guess which one requires less resources(!)

and it makes a huge difference if you compare OS9 vs OSX apps on a G4 or if you compare it against a more modern machine.

while it is true that plug-in GUIs are now coming with 8x oversampling, are 2 times bigger and OSX occupies 4(!) layers of graphics buffering and most grahics stuff runs on high level abstraction layers, you shall not forget that a modern GPU also has 350 times the RAM and is like 1000 times faster than in 2001.

so the benefit of OS9s more direct drawing method or short audio latency of ASIO (compared to OS 10.0 - 10.2) is long dead, modern windowss or OSX amchines offer far better performance by now.

so, what is left? .... is that one should compare the what-you-get in relation to the economic factors - price, energy consumption, how wmuch space uses it on the destk, is it portable, how long will it last.

that is - beside a handful of certain applications and my love for the finder - my main interest in OS9. it is affordable when you are not rich.
if i would have to replace my current computer setup with 3 monitors, 30 Tb storage, two PCI cards for audio plug-ins, a midi and an audio interface, and 3 of my most important commercial and legally owned applications, i would have to search 8 weeks but would be able to buy it again for about 2000 USD.

if i would like to upgrade to a new system, currently i would get an apple monitor stand, 4 rolls, and one of the software packages for these same 2000 USD. lol.

Quote
And yes, I do believe all this affects the timing. Plugin delay compensation was introduced in the early-2000s,

hm, not too fond of this idea. latency compensation is great and i really missed it in the group channels of cubase VST. it is also one of the reason why i hated protools in OS9.

an effect on latency does it only have when you slave the machine to something else. otherwise it only eats up a bit of CPU. most non-industry pros dont really need to have live input while cueing, you know? and big buffers are always a good idea, because it leave more CPU for other things.

Quote
they had HARDWARE acceleration written for that particular software and architecture...

a closed system has benefits. but i find DAE unusable. it was ok for TDM but otoh it binds you to digi converters for no reason than marketing. ASIO is basically the same. the biggest difference is that ASIO supports float formats and has more input channels.

Quote
You need to understand that people with thousands of dollars worth of compressors, EQs, pres....don't want your plugins anywhere near them. They have the "real" gear, they can patch it in without latency and have AMAZING sound. No pros were using plugins back then.

i´d rather prefer the current solutions to OS9 possibilities than the ones back in the days.

it is totally clear that noone used the very first spectral designs reverb on TDM in 1996, because it sounded like shit compared to a 3000 dollar hardware.

but ITB you can today have denoising or deconvolution plug-ins which support dolby atmos format and render it directly to RAM in float64. if you w ant the same workflow and application with hardware you have to spend one million dollar and the deconvolution reverbs will have 700 ms latency.

ITB you can put a denoiser on every stem. impossible with hardware unless you buy several pieces.

and that analog dynamic effects wouldnt have latency is probably the most widespread rumor ever. you can never look in the future, not even with fancy frontpanels and expensive tubes. :)

parallel processing (are you an east coast guy? ;) ) ... much more fun on computers. same for M/S. or for comparing different versions.

what i hate in modern DAWs is that they now start to remove the option to turn delay compensation off. :/ it should really be at your hands all the time.

Quote
What you PUT IN PT was exactly what you got at the output.

yeah maybe for pop and rock. not for dance and techno. i know nobody who would not have bought the waves plug-ins when RTAS came out.
and seriously, it does make much sense to record stuff multichannel when you are not going to do any edits to the channels anway, isnt it? then you could have recorded it with quicktimeplayer, too.

Quote
a guy in a pro-studio in the 90s with 5 stacked Akai S3000 hardware samplets had absolutely NO NEED for a shitty plugin. They had amazing outboard. Period.

jaja, in 1995. now it is 2020 and every 50 dollar interfaces sounds better than the s-3000 converters. and you have 128 gb of RAM and 1000 tracks. and total recall.

Quote
and don't get me started on this "analog modelling" shit that is HUGE nowadays. My head will explode. "Analog tape emulator"....the end of music as we know it.

totally understand that when i keep in mind your microphone statement from above.

yet it is cool to have a variation of effects in petto when the sound source is also already ITB.

in my opinion those externals summing expanders are even more idiotic than the attempt to emulate non digital coloring ITB. the SPL mix bus for example totally fucks up your signal, it is not even able to sound clean.

Quote
And of course, if you want to build custom software maybe these platforms are not the easiest to program for. There is a reason all this amazing programs took years of research and development and thousands of dollars in beta-testing

development might be 10% more difficult on OS9, but in OSX today you spend 250% of the time with deployment instead of development. not for me.

and i just wanted to say with this example of what i do on my mac, that you can not reduce the use of the machine to 2 or 3 things (voice, guitar, and gain staging), simple because there is a bit more to do when it comes to music.

even on a OS9 G4 can do far more than that, and not all of that can be replicated (oh sorry, seems i mixed the context :) ) using hardware.

your 500,000 dollars SSL mixer will not print sheets, it will not correct a bad singer, it will not be possible to automate its faders for mixing multichannel formats, it wont let you do algorithmic composition, and from what i know it doesnt even let you play wolfenstein.

and dont forget that music producers are a small minority among the industry pros. most people produce for TV, cinema, radio, and web formats, and that means to obeye various standards which can only be reached using software tools.

try offering a sony dance label remastering work - but your format is fostex 8-track. they dont even know what that is. you need the latest protools to be compatible here, because everyone in the industry uses it.

there are whole genres of music which are more or less ITB-only...
« Last Edit: April 19, 2020, 03:43:27 AM by IIO »
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Offline IIO

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Re: DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2020, 03:23:03 AM »
wholy crap i wrote far too much. but at least i got the quotes right on the third attempt.
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Online Protools5LEGuy

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Re: DAW & the Mac OS: A conceptual approach
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2020, 12:59:25 PM »
Some Digital facts...

Pioneers are on this post

https://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=7018485

That talks about a ATARI ST (I guess a Falcon) mixing




First Recorded/Mixed/Mastered? In The Box (No mixer+Multitrack) production Desmond Child work for Ricky Martin Living La Vida Loca

https://www.mixonline.com/recording/recordin-la-vida-loca-making-hard-disk-hit-374667/374667

For sure was Mixed In The Box by Charles Dye on a Digidesign DSP on steroids TDM Mac G3 or G4 Protools Rig

Not sure if it were mastered.



In my opinion, most times you need at least a reverb and a delay bus for mixing, aside proper EQ and Dynamic on Most/Each channel. It is an added value if you can make groups and sub-Mix busses for Drums (To make parallel compression) and a good  dynamic, EQ and Reverb on the Master Channel.



In my band´s recording, sometimes you cant make a proper mic placement and proper compresor/gain adjustments, so that is something you need to setup in every session

Unless you make an "Industrial" recording rig with more than 8 mics PREamplifier adjusted for the same Input and instrument every session is going to be different, and that became worst if you have unsorted recording sessions and a more limited number of inputs or "Chains" (Tech name for Mic+Pre+Dynamic before Analog to Digital conversion).

Every session is different. Every take is unique. Unless you exercise you recording engineer muscle every month you get rusted as a recording engineer.

Mixer engineer have a different task and normally his/her skill is to glue Producer+Songwriter+Musician errors.

Then is the Mastering engineer that blames the recording engineer and mixer engineer work and try to make miracles with most times overcompressed stuff.



Are you a
Musician or
a Musician+Recording Engineer or
a Musician+Recording Engineer+Mixing Engineer or
a Musician+Recording Engineer+Mixing Engineer+Mastering Engineer?

That is/was my culture on Music. Music before 2000 year

Then it came Napster+myspace+Power Mac G5+Facebook+Youtube+twitter+Instagram and the Music business changed radically pivoting from Records Labels to a guy in his/her room using FLStudio...
« Last Edit: April 19, 2020, 01:27:54 PM by Protools5LEGuy »
Looking for MacOS 9.2.4