David Lewis Talking Tech & Audio
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Mac and audio production – 2 perfect partners

Music is in Apple’s DNA – and their MacBooks prove it

Mac and audio production - perfection!

Macs and me go back a while – longer than I’d care to remember!

When I first got into using a Mac as my daily machine there was never an idea that I would get into audio production – at that time it wasn’t even an interest of mine.

It all changed when I started to host radio shows. The station I worked for was more than happy for us to home broadcast – long before the events of COVID made it a standard practice.

Of course, to make that a reality meant having a home studio space and at the core of that would be my Macs. Oddly, although the recording industry is very Mac-centred, radio isn’t. Radio and much of the industry-standard software is all PC. In a radio studio, it’s rare to see a Mac which meant I’d have to find a few workarounds. There was no way I was going to start buying and learning PCs – nope, for me I’d be broadcasting from a Mac.

Streaming from a Mac

As I said the station had no idea about Macs and the first hurdle I had to cross was the most basic – getting my show out from my studio to their servers – streaming in other words.

The way it worked was that the studio had two ‘players’ – one of those would be used by the presenter currently on air and the other player would be used for the show & presenter that was about to follow. So, I would sit logged in looking at the studio clock and with 20 seconds to go, allowing for the delay, would launch my stream.

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The best tool I found for that was a go-to for many Mac users and came from Rogue Amoeba , an Australian-based company that specialises in macOS audio apps & tools. I’d first come across them when I bought LoopBack. That allows you to create ‘virtual’ audio interfaces and re-route audio in various applications.

For instance, when I used to want to record audio from guests in a multitrack session which meant I could edit our voices individually in post, I’d create a virtual interface that Audition could see using their Loopback app.

Rogue Amoeba apps are just fantastic ranging from Farrago which is a soundboard app, to AirFoil which lets you stream audio around your network to the app I needed for streaming – Audio Hijack.

Even though I’m no longer on the radio, I still use Audio Hijack – basically, if you can hear it on your Mac with Audio Hijack you can record it with Hijack!

It’s both powerful and simple. It’s a block-based system and you just move from left to right systematically building up the session you need – the source or application i.e. Safari, Apple Music or a mic, then the recorder which allows you to record 24-bit wavs – they even have compression and de-essing blocks in the app. This one app is a complete recording studio.

But the bit that got me to sign up was the broadcast capabilities – this would connect my Mac and show to the world via the station’s servers. Simply by adding the port and normal password/user ID, you’re ready to broadcast.

You get to choose your stream quality and sample rate – Audio Hijack is a robust, fantastic tool whether you’re streaming or just recording local audio from your Mac – I can’t recommend it enough.

Back in time

One other hurdle I had to overcome was a Mac FTP client. Yup, believe it or not, they are still a thing.

The reason I needed one was to access the ad database and also for the odd occasion that I would pre-record a show, to upload that ready for airplay.

Until I was involved with the station I hadn’t used an FTP client for years – I think I even had an FTP site of my own at one time where clients could upload large files – but for Mac, should you need one try Cyberduck.

Cyberduck is a server and cloud storage browser for Mac with support for FTP, SFTP, WebDAV and Dropbox. It’s free & open source.

Audio editing

I know being a Mac user the obvious choice would have been Logic. I’d played around with GarageBand its little brother from time to time but as I was already a Creative Cloud user and Adobe fan, the editor I chose was Audition.

Whilst Logic and Pro Tools may be better when it comes to music creation work, I’d argue with anyone when it comes to podcasts and the spoken word that Audition isn’t the king of them all.

Audition although not solely for Mac is a DAW that allows you to work destructively in the track view or non-destructively in the multi-track editor. It has everything you’ll ever need for recording, editing and exporting a podcast.

Audition has an awesome amount of native tools shipped with it – de-noise, compression, de-essing, de-reverb and loudness meters helping you export the final podcast set to the correct loudness standards.

When Apple first switched to Apple silicon, the experience with Adobe’s apps wasn’t always a walk in the park – there were some teething issues, but now, Audition works brilliantly on Mac.

Initially, I simply used Audition to record the show so that I’d have a file to upload to Mixcloud as a podcast for playback purposes. But as time progressed I started to use Audition more and more and began to fall in love with audio editing.

I think I actually prefer audio to video editing even though I spend way more time these days in Premiere.

The more taxing or elaborate my sessions got & the more complex my projects became and I started to add some plug-ins to Audition – but that was only after a good few years. Audition honestly ships with everything you’ll ever need until you start to need side-chaining or very particular kinds of compression etc.

The Mac just works

If ever you are told that a Mac won’t work in a given environment, think again – there will normally be a way to work around it and stay Mac.

Radio and streaming have traditionally been the realm of PCs but I was hell-bent on proving that a Mac could do it and you know what for ten years it did! The only issues I ever had were the connection – nothing to do with the Mac. Streaming consistently at a high bit rate was a dream – the Macs never broke a sweat.

It was actually an even better experience with Apple silicon…as it was silent! As you can well imagine a fan whirring up during a live show is not exactly desirable – but with the seemingly endless power resources of Apple silicon, streaming a show from them is a breeze.

And to give you an idea of just how powerful these new Macs are, my weekly live stream on YouTube now comes from my M2 MacBook Air – it still amazes me how good that Mac is!

And if you want to hear how a spoken word podcast sounds – check out the most recent Minus Sixteen podcast here. Recorded, edited and uploaded on a MacBook Pro. Oh – why’s the podcast called Minus Sixteen? Because Apple Podcasts prefers the loudness of podcasts to be set to…16 LUFS!

There’s a logic in everything I do!

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