Pro audio glitch with T2-equipped Macs associated with USB 2.0 connections

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited February 19
The dropouts plaguing audio interfaces on Macs with Apple's T2 chip involve an overload of a USB bus running in the slower USB 2.0 speed, according to an Ableton-certified trainer.

Arturia AudioFuse


The problem happens whenever the T2 tries to sync time and location, trainer Abid Hussain informed CDM. Toggling off "set date and time automatically" in System Preferences will reduce incidents, as will disabling location sync in the Time Zone tab, but neither setting will fix the glitch completely.

At present, the beta versions of macOS don't seem to fix the incompatibility. Listed solutions include buying new gear with Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 connectivity, switching to Thunderbolt on an existing piece of audio gear if available, or buying a powered Thunderbolt 3 hub that has its own USB controller that will be unimpacted by T2 polling of the time sync routines.

The T2 chip controls a variety of Mac subsystems such as boot and security functions. While it has benefits like faster disk encryption, it has already been blamed for multiple issues, including kernel panics, Mojave installation errors, and interference with third-party repairs. It can be found in the iMac Pro and 2018 models of the Mac mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro.

For musicians and other people working with audio hardware, the interface bug can render the gear unusable, especially during live concerts.

Read Hussain's full explanation below:
Unchecking the time sync only reduces the dropouts. You need to also uncheck the location sync in the Time Zone tab, but even then you're only reducing the dropouts. Any time the T2 chip tries to sync, it will overload the USB2.0 bus, causing dropouts. There is no way any musician should go on stage with a 2018 [Mac] and a USB2.0 audio interface directly connected to it. The only solutions are 1) Get a Thunderbolt or USB3.0 audio interface, or 2) Use a Certified Thunderbolt 3 powered hub (not a bus-powered or cheap non-certified hub) - Cable Matters has a solution for $169 on Amazon, but most of those hubs are at least $200-300. Using a certified TB3 hub creates a separate external USB2.0 bus, in which you can run your USB2.0 audio interface. The cheap hubs do not work because they don't run on the TB3 bus, and therefore they don't create their own separate USB2.0 bus, which means you're going to get dropouts.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    If you're a professional musician you sure as hell won't scoff at making sure your bus interfaces are being saturated. Sorry, but typical home studios are > $5k in equipment. Most quality Audio Interfaces are already USB-C ready 3.1 interfaces with USB-C to USB-A and USB-C to USB-C cables included. Example: Focusrite Clarett Lines. If you're a professional, the odds of spending < $600 on an Audio Interface for live performances seems non-existent.
    cat52racerhomie3
  • Reply 2 of 23
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,988member
    If you're a professional musician you sure as hell won't scoff at making sure your bus interfaces are being saturated. Sorry, but typical home studios are > $5k in equipment. Most quality Audio Interfaces are already USB-C ready 3.1 interfaces with USB-C to USB-A and USB-C to USB-C cables included. Example: Focusrite Clarett Lines. If you're a professional, the odds of spending < $600 on an Audio Interface for live performances seems non-existent.
    And how many professional musicians had atone of money invested in older equipment? Hussain's suggestion on using a TB3 powered hub is a very economical one but I've never heard of Cable Matters and when I look at their TB3 dock, https://www.amazon.com/Certified-Cable-Matters-Thunderbolt-Compatible/dp/B074G4X7CL?SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-osx-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B074G4X7CL, it says: Not compatible with a USB-C computer host. Isn't that what all current Apple desktops and laptops come with? I'd rather use a known and respected Apple VAR, OWC/MacSales, using their TB3 powered dock.
    MisterKitdysamoriaParne
  • Reply 3 of 23
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,199administrator
    rob53 said:
    If you're a professional musician you sure as hell won't scoff at making sure your bus interfaces are being saturated. Sorry, but typical home studios are > $5k in equipment. Most quality Audio Interfaces are already USB-C ready 3.1 interfaces with USB-C to USB-A and USB-C to USB-C cables included. Example: Focusrite Clarett Lines. If you're a professional, the odds of spending < $600 on an Audio Interface for live performances seems non-existent.
    And how many professional musicians had atone of money invested in older equipment? Hussain's suggestion on using a TB3 powered hub is a very economical one but I've never heard of Cable Matters and when I look at their TB3 dock, https://www.amazon.com/Certified-Cable-Matters-Thunderbolt-Compatible/dp/B074G4X7CL?SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-osx-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B074G4X7CL, it says: Not compatible with a USB-C computer host. Isn't that what all current Apple desktops and laptops come with? I'd rather use a known and respected Apple VAR, OWC/MacSales, using their TB3 powered dock.
    Bad labeling on Cable Matters' part. Should read "Not compatible with USB 3.1 type C computer host." However, the title of the product, and the details of the product do specifically spell out compatibility.
    edited February 19 dysamoria
  • Reply 4 of 23
    It is not a good thing to look at all my USB 2.0 audio/MIDI gear and think, gee, if I ever get a new Mac with T2 chip I’m going to need new gear or jump through some hurdles to keep things working the way they presently do. Fortunately I do not need any new Macs at the present time.

    If there is no fix on the Apple hardware/software side, I guess it’s move forward or move over.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 5 of 23
    MisterKit said:
    It is not a good thing to look at all my USB 2.0 audio/MIDI gear and think, gee, if I ever get a new Mac with T2 chip I’m going to need new gear or jump through some hurdles to keep things working the way they presently do. Fortunately I do not need any new Macs at the present time.

    If there is no fix on the Apple hardware/software side, I guess it’s move forward or move over.
    Does it affect MIDI too or just audio? 
  • Reply 6 of 23
    MisterKit said:
    It is not a good thing to look at all my USB 2.0 audio/MIDI gear and think, gee, if I ever get a new Mac with T2 chip I’m going to need new gear or jump through some hurdles to keep things working the way they presently do. Fortunately I do not need any new Macs at the present time.

    If there is no fix on the Apple hardware/software side, I guess it’s move forward or move over.
    Does it affect MIDI too or just audio? 
    I really do not know. I based the statement from just glancing at all my gear where audio and MIDI are in the same USB 2.0 unit.
  • Reply 7 of 23
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,328member
    I know I’m a small sample, but I use both MainStage 3.4 running over USB-C to USB-B (printer cable) to a Radial USB DI box on stage with ZERO issues. I’ve also connected to a small Yamaha mixer for recording and playback again with ZERO dropouts.  I’m not saying there is an issue, but I have not experienced any in this small sample subset ;)
    fastasleeppscooter63
  • Reply 8 of 23
    If you're a professional musician you sure as hell won't scoff at making sure your bus interfaces are being saturated. Sorry, but typical home studios are > $5k in equipment. Most quality Audio Interfaces are already USB-C ready 3.1 interfaces with USB-C to USB-A and USB-C to USB-C cables included. Example: Focusrite Clarett Lines. If you're a professional, the odds of spending < $600 on an Audio Interface for live performances seems non-existent.
    Maybe yes if you're fully pro but I suspect the much larger category of semi-pros using Mac gear and (probably at least $5k gear live) will be most affected by this. Many many MainStage users..
    dysamoria
  • Reply 9 of 23
    There are plenty of pro level interfaces that still use USB2 and cost “more than $600”. That’s beside the point anyway. I think the larger issue is that such an obvious pro audio use case was not tested for nor caught by beta testers...which makes me wonder if pro audio apps and use cases are even considered as Apple “innovates”.
    dysamoriaIreneW
  • Reply 10 of 23
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 584unconfirmed, member
    gnapier said:
    There are plenty of pro level interfaces that still use USB2 and cost “more than $600”. That’s beside the point anyway. I think the larger issue is that such an obvious pro audio use case was not tested for nor caught by beta testers...which makes me wonder if pro audio apps and use cases are even considered as Apple “innovates”.


    Oh the dead "Apple isn't innovating" trope. You had to sneak it in there huh?

    If you're a professional musician you sure as hell won't scoff at making sure your bus interfaces are being saturated. Sorry, but typical home studios are > $5k in equipment. Most quality Audio Interfaces are already USB-C ready 3.1 interfaces with USB-C to USB-A and USB-C to USB-C cables included. Example: Focusrite Clarett Lines. If you're a professional, the odds of spending < $600 on an Audio Interface for live performances seems non-existent.

    No excuses. They shouldn't have to buy new gear. A lot of USB 2 interfaces are absolutely great. Some people might actually have to downgrade sound quality for USB-C.


  • Reply 11 of 23
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,958member
    No, (musicians, pro or hobbyist) should not have to dispose of exciting equipment and buy new equipment just because Apple failed to test their USB bus behavior. The bus is not operating properly. That’s a flaw that needs correction.
    MisterKitIreneW
  • Reply 12 of 23
    One thing is certain. This problem cannot exist in the upcoming modular MacPro.
  • Reply 13 of 23
    [...] Most quality Audio Interfaces are already USB-C ready 3.1 interfaces with USB-C to USB-A and USB-C to USB-C cables included. Example: Focusrite Clarett Lines.
    I don't think it's accurate to say "most" pro audio interfaces are USB3. There are some, but the vast majority are USB2. None of the digital mixers I've been looking at use USB3 for the computer interface. They're all either USB2 or AoIP like Danté.

    Besides, you shouldn't have to replace your audio I/O because you bought a new Mac. It's one thing to retire devices with outdated connections because modern computers no longer support them, but it's a different matter when they use a still-current standard and work fine with every other computer on the market. Apple hasn't said it's no longer supporting USB2, so I think it's reasonable to expect USB2 devices to work properly.
    edited February 21
  • Reply 14 of 23
    xgmanxgman Posts: 150member
    I would have to agree it's time to move past usb 2 audio, but it should work regardless.
  • Reply 15 of 23
    xgman said:
    I would have to agree it's time to move past usb 2 audio, but it should work regardless.
    What is it about audio over USB2 you want to move past? What doesn't it do? What production scenario is under provisioned with 32 channels of input and another 32 out?

    I've got no objection to more bandwidth, but I'm not losing any sleep over being restricted by USB2.
    sphericIreneW
  • Reply 16 of 23
    If you're a professional musician you sure as hell won't scoff at making sure your bus interfaces are being saturated. Sorry, but typical home studios are > $5k in equipment. Most quality Audio Interfaces are already USB-C ready 3.1 interfaces with USB-C to USB-A and USB-C to USB-C cables included. Example: Focusrite Clarett Lines. If you're a professional, the odds of spending < $600 on an Audio Interface for live performances seems non-existent.

    Most people who are likely to use this equipment to a professional standard already own it. They don't need to replace it other than this problem. At some point in the future they will need to replace it, at some point in the future I'll need to replace my 2015 macbook, and when I do, for a wide variety of reasons, I'll be really tempted not to get a mac. That is ultimately the issue here.

    Should I replace my £100,000 Digico mixer (if I'm the Barbican, for instance) As a mixing desk, there is pretty much none better in the world than a Digico SD7; that's what they thought anyway, and they have basically an infinite budget. Digico don't do USB3. Or should I just replace my mac with a pc? Below the stratospherically wealthy level, most venues I'm aware of, other than the big arenas, are perpetually on the brink of financial collapse, or some way over the brink; they don't want to be forking out more than they need to. Any users in the arts, (outside the commercial music industry, are very likely skint; Theatre doesn't have much money outside Broadway and the West End; Dance only in the big national theatres; to say nothing of art. Students, of course, and also many academics, are skint. And yes, the semi-pros you're implicitly sneering at, who make up the large majority of the customer base for a lot of Apple products. But by the way, where do professional users come from? Do they pop into existence fully formed and fully funded?

    Also, though, I don't only do live sound engineering, and music performance. I also do lights using a cheap USB-DMX adaptor. And video stuff, which at the moment can go through thunderbolt, or hdmi, but on the new laptops they took those sockets off, didn't they, so it's not enough that I'll have to have chains of dongles hanging precariously out of my laptop, live, with an audience in the room; but also I'll have to replace ALL my equipment.

    Uh no. I'll just hang on to my current mac and equipment, not accept any updates, and switch to PC when it all gives up. I may well disconnect this one from the internet, and keep using it until the hardware fails.

    I assume this is a glitch that they'll get round to at some point. I mean, I wouldn't be certain... this does fit with the intransigent way they have always abused and insulted any customer who wants to plug equipment into the computer. What I'm saying is, they better fix it. This might be the last straw, or they may be already beyond the last straw.

    ...I mean, the power supply, for God's sake; if you are professionally using a macbook live on stage, ie constantly moving it, connecting it and disconnecting it, you will get through one power supply a year at best, unless you do a simple operation with a cable tie that Apple could extremely easily build into it if they didn't want to milk us for £80 a year. It's not a big deal, in a way, apart from the £80, but it's insulting, and it shows us what Apple thinks of us, and it makes us think, do we really want to tie ourselves into more of this?


    edited February 23 lorin schultz
  • Reply 17 of 23
    amos2000 said:
    [...] on the new laptops they took those sockets off
    It's Step 1 of weaning you off dependence on ports so Apple can finally eliminate them altogether. All of them. You'll connect to your various peripherals wirelessly.

    I'm kidding, of course, but as I wrote that it occurred to me that it's already partly true. One can mount a mixer with processing engine and I/O but no control surface in a rack, and control it wirelessly with an iPad. The talent can even manage their own monitor mixes with an iPhone. It's not difficult to imagine I/O, processing, and storage being external with the computer providing only control functions, delivered over the air. Even Pro Tools has iPad remote capability. Maybe that really IS where we're headed.

    amos2000 said:
    [...] ...I mean, the power supply, for God's sake
    That's an area that's improved with newer models. Having a connector on the brick means only the inexpensive cable has to be replaced when it eventually frays into spaghetti. 
  • Reply 18 of 23
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,719member
    Having played some 200 gigs with MacBooks Pro over the years, I can safely say that alone the benefit of being able to wire the power supply to either side of the laptop actually outweighs the benefits of MagSafe. 


    fastasleep
  • Reply 19 of 23
    I'd just like to say, in apology to anyone who has the misfortune to read the following: I hope this doesn't come across as ranting, it's much more rambling and waffling.

    spheric said:
    Having played some 200 gigs with MacBooks Pro over the years, I can safely say that alone the benefit of being able to wire the power supply to either side of the laptop actually outweighs the benefits of MagSafe. 



    As a technician who plugs at least one macbook into something most days of my professional life, and a musician who plugs it into something most other days, and I've been doing this at least a decade, I can say that the pain in the arse factor, and cost, and the "Shit, it's 6pm and my artist has lost their dongle, what time does the Apple Store close, can I get there and back to still allow time for the tech before doors at 7.30, who's got the cash, am I getting repaid for this?" factor, of doing everything through dongles massively outweighs any possible benefits derived from being able to plug the computer in on either side. If your cabling is so tight that which side the socket is on becomes a problem, then you're doing it wrong. Just run an extra foot on the 13a extension. I can honestly say that I have never in all my days had more than ten seconds inconvenience related to the side of the computer the power lead goes in, but as exemplified above, dongles cause me distress on at least a monthly basis. You might say, just keep a box of them, but as soon as you become known for reliably having dongles, you start losing dongles.


    It's Step 1 of weaning you off dependence on ports so Apple can finally eliminate them altogether.


    It's step n of n in Apple trying to take proprietory ownership of everything you do with the machine, so they can charge you more for it, or control it in other ways which benefit them. Why would I pay a premium to buy myself into that situation?

    Yeah, in terms of control-level data connection, you can do a lot wirelessly and people do. As you say they can insert their own stagebox before my stagebox, and do a lot of the EQ, compression etc at that stage, and control that off a tablet. That's what Cara Dillon's accompanist was doing last Friday for instance. They can do their own monitor mix off their own tablet too. But that's control data, with a far lower amount of data than travelling the pure audio for every channel (and video for that matter; imagine the amount of data involved in all the 4k (or more) cameras in a TV studio). The audio still goes through the stage box.

    When you get to audio-level data, for more than a few channels, the amount of information is too much. It may even be too much to fit into the radio spectrum. We're all now having to fork out hundreds of pounds just to get enough bandwidth for all the radiomic channels we need, if every single thing in the space was going over the airwaves there'd need to be a revolution in the tech just to fit it all in the frequencies available. As I say, we've had to pay a fortune for about 20 channels. A big stage musical in a west end theatre could have a hundred channels easily, and they all need to be rock-solid reliable with no interference or dropout. You can do that very easily with a series of pieces of metal running continuously from one end of the chain to the other, but not over RF.

    It also uses far more energy; we would then also as individuals and as a society want to be really sure there's nothing in this EM sensitivity thing, for humans or animals. I have a colleague who strongly believes that's a thing. After one gallery install in the Tate where he spent a couple of weeks surrounded by lots of tvs and computers and robots interacting over several wifi networks, he became convinced that his health was affected by radio frequencies, to the extent where he's had his house rewired with shielded cables, and makes his girlfriend turn off all the electrics in her house when he goes round there (and she does, bless her!). If nobody minds, he switches off wifi routers when he comes in a room. I can't say that he's right but he isn't a nutter in any other regard, he is a technical man, and he doesn't have thousands of pounds to frivolously pay electricians. He carries around a meter, and the amount of saturation anywhere near a town or city, is impressive the first time you see it. If we're going to be pumping every bit of data we currently send over cables, through the airwaves, that is a colossal increase. There's ecological types who think it's already having a catastrophic effect on the way birds and insects navigate; if it is now, it certainly will be in a totally wireless future.

    Even if it's theoretically possible and advisable: the equipment across the whole industry, and the legal situation, and our amount of scientific knowledge, isn't there yet, so if Apple go too soon, they'll be going on their own.


    That's an area that's improved with newer models. Having a connector on the brick means only the inexpensive cable has to be replaced when it eventually frays into spaghetti. 
    Really? Well good on them, finally, then. It's telling that I don't know about it. I haven't seen a single new model macbook appear on my stage. I've only ever had to connect one phone without a headphone jack, too, a student, who had lost her dongle, was really angry about the whole situation, and will resolve it by not getting an iphone next time.

    It has resonances with the thing that happened with Final Cut X maybe ten years ago, where the new version removed the option to connect an external reference monitor, which means it flatly could not be used in a professional context. A lot of video editors (independent professional level, people whose small businesses completely depended on the combination of equiment and software they'd invested all their money back into) were really angry about that too. I know that a lot of them just stopped using Final Cut. (Don't know whether that situation still persists, admittedly).

    For a company which lured us all in with promises of being optimised for creative use, marketed exactly at people stepping up from amateur to pro, giving them the equipment they need to become pro, this feels concerning. It's as if they've completely abandoned professional users. It's only really Logic which is keeping me with Apple, now, and I am looking at learning other environments.
    edited February 24
  • Reply 20 of 23
    amos2000 said:
    Yeah, in terms of control-level data connection, you can do a lot wirelessly and people do. As you say they can insert their own stagebox before my stagebox, and do a lot of the EQ, compression etc at that stage, and control that off a tablet. That's what Cara Dillon's accompanist was doing last Friday for instance. They can do their own monitor mix off their own tablet too. But that's control data, with a far lower amount of data than travelling the pure audio for every channel (and video for that matter; imagine the amount of data involved in all the 4k (or more) cameras in a TV studio).
    I neither advocate nor protest the use of wireless in general (though I still fail to understand why some people use wireless mics in situations where wire is not an obstacle), but just to expound on the concept: Why does the audio need to travel through the computer? If the I/O, processing, and storage can all be made outboard, the computer only needs to provide control functions. The scenario I'm thinking of would involve creating what is essentially a task-specific computer in an outboard unit, so whether it would offer any advantage is questionable. I'm just saying it's easily done, and might offer some minor advantages in terms of not having to worry about traditional computer housekeeping and software conflicts.

    amos2000 said:
    It has resonances with the thing that happened with Final Cut X maybe ten years ago, where the new version removed the option to connect an external reference monitor, which means it flatly could not be used in a professional context. A lot of video editors (independent professional level, people whose small businesses completely depended on the combination of equiment and software they'd invested all their money back into) were really angry about that too. I know that a lot of them just stopped using Final Cut. (Don't know whether that situation still persists, admittedly).
    At the risk of further angering mdriftmeyer, I mentioned in another thread that none of the clients for whom I provide audio post are using Final Cut.

    That surprises me because it's now a quite capable editor. I don't know if they use something else because of a resentment hangover from when Apple crippled it in the transition from 7 to X or some other reason, but at least one editor told me he just doesn't like the interface, particularly with respect to how it presents audio. Maybe editors just prefer the old tried and true timeline over the new-and-improved Apple approach.

    Which, as you said, is a recurring theme. I happen to like Final Cut and the new ports. I see lots of advantages to Apple's approach. However, it's pretty obvious that many other people do not. That brings up a philosophical question: If a computer on the shelf adds a feature but there's no one there to use it, is it still a move forward? If no one buys the computer, the benefit of the new feature is never realized. And that's assuming the new feature really is an improvement in the first place and not an obstacle to productivity.
    sphericfastasleep
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