Friday 3 January 2014

Fixing FireWire audio interface instability under OSX Mavericks

A variation from my usual blog topics today, but hopefully this helps someone. I have been a happy user of the Tascam FireOne FireWire audio/MIDI interface ever since picking one up for a bargain price a couple of years ago. As a recovering music-gearaholic, I embraced its minimal dimensions, and together with GarageBand on the Mac, it has allowed me to eBay vast amounts of outboard equipment while actually improving the quality of the music I create. Thus confirming a suspicion I had at the peak of my gear-hoarding tendencies:
More Music-Making Gear == More Distraction From Making Music
But I digress. Despite being technically unsupported since OSX 10.5 Leopard The FireOne worked perfectly for me right up to (and including) OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion, so when 10.9 Mavericks was released I gleefully jumped aboard.

And was horrified when within a few seconds of playback in GarageBand, the entire hardware-software combination locked up, sounded garbled and/or complained about sample-rate problems. This was not good and I thought that either Apple had broken FireWire timing accuracy in Mavericks (perhaps as part of their timer-coalescing improvements) or I was just SoL and would have to shell out for a new audio interface.

As it turns out, neither was true.

If you are experiencing problems working with external devices under audio applications (my particular combination being a FireWire interface and GarageBand) your first action should be:
  • Open Finder/Applications
  • Find GarageBand (or the app giving trouble)
  • Right-click -> Get Info
  • Check Prevent App Nap
This is slightly counter to the Apple's own statement on App Nap which states:
if that app isn’t currently doing something for you — playing music, downloading a file or checking email, for example — App Nap conserves valuable battery life by slowing down the app
But I'm not too upset - it's an easy fix and the extra battery life is definitely worth the upgrade.