Measurement Applications
Control Applications
Playback
Office Applications

Assorted links

Macintosh applications and info for Live Sound

This web page is devoted to providing a resource to those people working in the live sound business who are using Mac computers. While Macs are widely used in the production side of music for editing & sequencing the live sound industry appears to be largely based on Windows based computers. This has resulted in a dearth of choices in both sound specific software as well as ' vertical market' business software. This is made quite clear by the occasional but repeated requests on various sound related mail and web message lists for help in finding Mac applications for use in live sound - thus this web page.

While I have been using a Mac ( starting with a Mac Plus in 1988 ) to run a small sound company I am not otherwise plugged into the computer business or the retail or install side of the sound business. As a result the contents of this page are simply the bits & pieces of information I have picked up as an end user and small business operator over the years. Anything you find here beyond plain old web links are entirely my personal experience and opinion or that of other Mac using sound people I have corresponded with. PLEASE if you find something here that needs to be updated, corrected, expanded or otherwise adjusted email me, RileyCasey@espsound.com and let me know.

There is a section on business applications for Macs as well. We run our shop on Macs entirely with our Filemaker Pro based show & rental bookings networked together, inventory and repair records shared, incoming faxes stored on a shared computer and a message achieving system between computers. All running on a variety of Macs, some as much as ten years old. Thats a good return on investment!

 

Sound and signal measurement applications

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Spectra Foo - is a superb measurement application with a wide ranging set of functions far beyond an acoustics only program. This screen shot is a combination of the meter, spectragraph and spectragram instruments saved as a set that I normally run during soundcheck connected to the monitor output of the console so that I can see a visual representation of the headphone output. The spectragram allows me to catch a display of a feedback frequency as much as ten seconds after it happened. This transfer function display shows the outputs of a BSS366 digital crossover with each output band saved in a different color showing output level and phase angle. A great tool for testing the electronic output of your gear to track down problems before the speaker. Foo also has a dual trace oscilloscope, a sweepable tone / noise generator and more ways to monitor a music signal than you thought possible. When your not actually using it to analyze a system you can just let it run in real time rack mode and it will put on a better show than a truss full of Cyber Lights. Foo now runs as an Intel native app with increased speed and it is compatible with OS 10.6. Ask them to send you a demo - it's the coolest two weeks you can spend trying out software. One caveat - transfer function is only available in the complete version. This is a screen shot of Foo running a transfer function of a pair of EAW kf853s. The distance to the measurement mic is shown in the delay window. One nice feature with Foo is the ability to display the coherence of transfer function data as a lighter colored line than the rest of the curve. It makes for a much clearer curve than the over layed coherence trace. Metric Halo is focused primarily in the recording market but Spectra Foo is an excellent live audio tool and they are always open to suggestions - except for Fixed Point Per Octave display. I can't get BJ to go for that one.

Smaart 7 - Smaart 7 has been released in the spring of 2010. Unlike Spectra Foo Smaart is targeted squarely at the live sound and acoustics market and the depth of control is suitably deeper. It is the same app on the Mac as on Windows and it runs up to 18 simultaneous inputs. One enormous value to Rational Acoustics that they are carrying forward from the previous providers of Smaart are the training classes and applications documents available for Smaart. The theories are the same regardless of the sound anaylsis program you use and I cannot recommend their classes highly enough. Here is a screen shot of Smaart 5 running a transfer function of the same EAW kf853s described above.

Mac Scope - This app has an oscilloscope and additional signal test features in addition to acoustic measurement. It does have transfer function. They also offer the delay locater function as a stand alone freeware app.

FuzzMeasure - Is an MLS analysis program designed for use in measuring speakers in the near field. It generates a 'known' test signal and measures the resulting response. It's now at version 3 and as far as I know is the only Mac native MLS app that will generate a a 3D time, frequency and amplitude graph.

Spectre - A very capable real time signal display application with a pair of good old VU meters for old geezers like me. Spectre does not include a transfer function but does include a variety of waveform displays and seems quite capable for the relatively low cost.

FFT Analyzer - A simple, easy to read bar graph RTA

SignalScope 2 - As of February 2008 a Leapard compatible and very wide ranging signal analysis and generator program tageted toward electronics measurement. Faber also makes a signal generator and spectrum analyzer for use on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Electroacoustics Toolbox - Also from Faber Acoustical and targeted more towards acoustic analysis.

Lama - This app has a very nicely presented user interface, very readable graphics and includes transfer function, frequency spectragram and spectragraph as well as a level history window. With a calibrated input gain this is a valuable tool for establishing compliance with noise ordinances - and some clients. It requires OS10.5 minimum.

Trend - This app is a "found on the Web sort of thing. Really comprehensive level recording and data aggregation. Just the sort of thing for keeping the loudness police off your back. There are several iPhone apps with the basics of this program but nothing with the depth of options included here.

Sound control applications

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This section is pretty slim. There just isn't much out there that I know of in the way of Mac native software that will control the ever growing array of digital audio consoles and signal processors on the market. HOWEVER the advent of Intel Macs and Boot Camp and the various virtual machine virtual machine programs are game changers to say the least. I am currently running VMware Fusion on an Intel MacBook Pro with two Gig of Ram and am able to run the Windows only control programs for Yamaha M7CL and LS9s and the Digidesign Venue. Connecting to the Ethernet port on the Yamahas successfully requires turning off the Airport connection and restarting the computer with the network set to Ethernet - simply making the change in the control panel is not sufficient to wrest control of the network connection for the virtual machine. Once that is don I can easily control the Yamaha console from the MacBook while switching back and forth to the Mac OS side for input lists, Spectra Foo analysis and even show playback. The Mac handles it all gracefully. One grey area which I understand is also problematic even for native Windows users is the issue of USB to to serial port adapters. The adaptor I was able to use with the old Softwindows program with Windows 95 and Windows 2000 will no longer work with Windows XP on the MacBook in either Fusion or in BootCamp. Some things about Windows are simply too entertaining for words.

Shure Wireless Work Bench Wireless Workbench has been available for Windows for years and version 5 now works with OS X.3 and above. WWB 5 will control Shure UHF and UHF-R series wireless mics via Ethernet. You will need an ethernet router to connect multiple units to your Powerbook. It is a bit creepy seeing the Windows style installer process but the app works fine.

Yamaha Studio Manager- This link goes to the software download page for the PM5D, 01V96, DM1000 & DM2000 consoles. The Studio Manager software runs on OS X and has been updated to run all of the USB connected consoles ( PM5D, DM1000, DM2000, 01V96 ) as well as the Ethernet connected consoles ( M7CL & LS9 ) as Mac native software Be sure to read in detail the set up and connection voodoo required for the Ethernet based consoles as it can be tedious. You may find that a small WiFi router in the doghouse, in addition to the fun of adjusting the console from the front row, also makes connecting the software to the console much less aggravating.

 

Playback

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iTunes is the default option of course. It can easily store standard .AIF files for CD quality playback and the compressed formats, MP3 and AAC can be set for much better import quality than the default setting. Apple lossless can cut a sound file to about half it's original size while still sounding transparent for those critical listening tracks. It's very handy to record 30 seconds of pink noise and some limited band sinewaves sweeps such as 50 - 250 hz, 200 - 1Khz, 800 - 6 kz as MP3 files so that they can be used for testing at times or in locations where you have your Powerbook but no tone generator. Simply set iTunes to infinite repeat. For playback of tracks from multiple CDs simply load into iTunes and create a show specific playlist.

QLab - Has arrived at version 2 for use with OS 10.5 Leopard and has similar functions to SFX in the Windows market. QLab is very well supported with an active user base. It has a very good user interface, a well thought out 8 x 8 output matrix and is a real soup to nuts solution for theatre sound cue building. Version One is still available for use on OS 10.4 Tiger machines.

Cricket - is a playback program designed for cued theatrical shows. It allows building cue lists with fades, paning, MIDI control and multi channel outputs. Runs on OS X & 9 and they have a free demo on the site. Fair warning - the look of the user interface is a bit bizarre.

Macs Cue - is a much more simple playback program that only plays stereo files but it's ideal for creating mixed, crossfaded and timed cues for theatrical and corporate shows. Get rid of that pile of CDs for your corporate show walk ups and stingers and load them into this program.

DJ 1800 - is an on screen emulation of the Denon DJ or broadcast style CD decks ( hopefully more reliable than the Denons ). The program allows two or four CD decks on screen with all of the same CD deck functions created exactly as they would be on the front of the hardware deck including pitch, search and tracking. Great for not getting lost in the menus and cues of a more complex program. The program uses iTunes as it's library source. A caveat: while this is not listed as a beta program I have had the demo crash on me once while

Insta Cue - Another computer based replacement for the Instant Replay with some very useful features. Made by the same people who make the Playback Pro Plus video app that is taking over the high end video market.

Soundboard - has a user interface something like the cart machines from broadcast radio days. It requires OS 10.5 and is another replacement for an Instant Replay machine.

Sound Byte - is based graphically on the old cart machine concept as used in radio stations until CDs finally took hold. It can to replace the venerable Instant Replay machine since it can be triggered by either clicking on the screen or by pressing a key assigned to that cue while still keeping your playback files on your Mac for editing in your editor app of choice. If you have ever edited files on an Instant Replay no more need be said.

Office applications

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It's hard to imagine having too much information but it's very easy to see people everyday who don't have a good handle on their information. In the Windows universe there are several ready made database applications that handle client info, equipment, vehicle & crew scheduling. Hire Track , HirePoint & RMS are full production apps while RPM is mainly an equipment rental app - light on the other elements needed to book & track full production shows.

ProjectMaker - This is a very full featured rental and production booking system built in the Filemaker Pro 6 database. It will run in OS X or OS9. It tracks equipment bookings, crew scheduling, multiple sales taxes, invoices and the myriad of details that go into running a successful sound company. They have a downloadable demo on their website.

Totally Brilliant Software - in England does have an equipment rental database that they have developed for Dreamhire and it is based on a cross platform ( Mac & Windows ) database engine.

FileMaker Pro - The longtime peoples choice in Mac databases it's very easy to get a useful but limited custom database running quickly with FMP. There is also an entire cottage industry of FMP developers with low cost ( $250 - $500 ) ready made basic business databases that will track your clients names and contact info and even make invoices for you. None of them however will tell you that you've booked out thirty two kf850s next Saturday when you only own twenty four. For that kind of custom design work expect to pay from $2000 to $10,000 additional.

AppleWorks -Everybody lives & breathes MS Word and Excel but I have found that the integration of the various elements of drawing, spreadsheets and text manipulation are just better in Appleworks than anything else. This is an Appleworks sample input list with stage plot -. right click or control click to download it.

Vectorworks - Formerly MiniCad this is a popular drafting program among lighting designers. The current version 2011 is two versions above my version 12 but does a good job of importing AutoCAD files which is a real litmus test for getting along with the world of facility management and any sort of major design drafting. It started life as a Mac program and is currently cross platform.

MacDraft - A much lower cost, lower learning curve drafting program. If you are used to Claris Draw then MacDraft is a breeze to learn.

Bean - A handy little freeware program that reads and creates .rtf files. It also does a fair to middlin' job of opening MS Word .doc files minus any graphics.

eDrawings Viewer Plus - If you don't have a full CAD program or if you receive a show drawing in some version of AutoCAD that your CAD program won't open there is a program of last resort. eDrawings is a free viewer that allows a limited amount of interaction with the drawing but you can see enough to call the client back and say that yes, you really do need to hang your arrays where the screens are supposed to go now.

Feedback Trainer - An on screen graphic EQ display that responds when tones are played by the app. Not sure this counts as an office application and I have not tried this but it looks like fun for the beginner and useful off line even for a pro.

MYOB - I list this only because Quickbooks for the Mac is a sorry app . It's not a great program or even a good one, it's only an alternative to QuickBooks 8 for Mac. Accounting software is clearly one area where the lack of market share has really diminished the software options to Mac users. With both MYOB and QuickBooks be prepared to endorse the concept of rented software. The programs are so dense and the printed support so poor that buying a service contract for several hundred dollars a year is an essential part of the initial purchase. The Windows versions are noticeably better in their features and in the depth of their support.

 

Links to Mac & sound related sites ( more or less on topic - you be the judge )

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Live_audio WWWBoard - Ground zero for live sound discussion on the web

Theatre-Sound mail list - Home of the Theater Sound mail list with plenty of other useful files and links

Kai's Sound Hell! - Theatre sound related topics and links

Mac Windows - Help for eeking out a living with your Mac in a Windows world.

Digital Audio Workstation - Mac - A mail list for users of Pro Tools, Peak and similar sound editing on Macs

Studio Suite - This is an example of what can be accomplished with Filemaker Pro. It's a real soup to nuts application for scheduling engineers, equipment, blocking out time, billing customers, keeping track of phone numbers and other details - all for recording studios use. Great if you need to book things down to the nearest 15 minutes. All networkable which is always important to keep in mind for expansion even if you are currently working out of your garage.

Tod Nixon - Has the framework of a dedicated rental and show booking application built in the 4D database. It can be customized for any companies style of operation. He also has a couple of Midi control apps that run on Macs.

 

Entertainment Sound Production - return to the ESP homepage


This page was created on Feb. 20, 2000 and last updated on 16 March 2011. Made ( not surprisingly ) on a Macintosh.