My favorite type of problem to troubleshoot is the intermittent problem.
I'm sorry, did I say "favorite"? I meant, the type of problem I absolutely despise troubleshooting.
I've already had problems with audio glitches, but in the past few days, things have really started to get bad. Intermittently bad of course. Making it seemingly impossible to troubleshoot.
A sample of the audio problems I've experienced so far:
- electrical interference from the wifi - made obvious when you click on the wifi icon in the menu bar and it goes into some sort of super scan mode that becomes quite audible on my audio device
- digital distortion - I've experienced this on both my main audio device and on a USB headset, a reboot has cured this issue
- random pops - I'm pretty sure I've had this before, but this is what's getting really bad (again, intermittent though) in the past few days
I get to experience all of this as part of a daily screencast that I've been doing for the past couple of years.
My problems started when I got a new macbook air. See, I was previously using a 3rd-party iphone headset to do the screencast but the latest Airs have a different headset port that's incompatible with these 3rd party headsets (the headphones work, but the mic doesn't).
So I had to switch to using an Apogee One. I had bought the Apogee for use with my then new macbook air, but never really needed it because using the 3rd party headset (that I also bought around the same time) was so much more convenient.
The Apogee One seems to have serious issues with interference. I wouldn't say I've isolated the problem to wifi intererence, but I can definitely say that wifi is causing problems.
As previously noted, the easiest way to test this is to click on the wifi icon in the menu bar. This initiates some sort of scanning mode on the wifi adapter which then causes definite audio issues. Before then, it will be stuff like little pops and glitch noises.
So there's already been stuff like that.
But here's the new one.
It got bad the other day such that I went as far as completely disabling my wifi while recording the screencast (this was impractical as I tend to need an internet connection during it), but I'm pretty sure I still heard a pop at one point.
Today was even worse, but before I describe that. Let me describe my audio setup.
my setup for screencast recording
I have a new Macbook Air running 10.8.5 (upgraded as of a few days ago).
I have an Apogee One audio interface. I have a Shure SM58 connected to it via the XLR input.
I use Propellerhead's Reason to both monitor my audio signal and to apply some effects. This is the copy of the audio that I use officially for the recordings.
I use Screenflow 3.0.8 to record my screen and my audio. I have Screenflow itself record a copy of the mic's audio and then I also capture computer audio, which then means I have a copy of the audio produced by Reason.
why I think it could be the 10.8.5 OS upgrade
Here's where it gets weird.
Today, I was getting the audio glitches and pops occassionally. I wrapped my audio device in foil because I found that it did seem to help with the wifi interference. I tested this by using a wifi phone and making a call and putting the phone right next to the device. The foil definitely seemed to be helping.
So in what ended up being the final take of my screencast today (I tend to record them in one off-the-cuff take), I think I heard a glitch maybe once or twice as I was recording.
But when I went to play it back, it immediately sounded weird. There were tiny little glitches in it that I didn't hear at all when recording.
I had also experienced a case earlier where a pop showed up on the audio produced by Reason, that did not show up in the direct mic audio captured by Screenflow.
Two things have changed recently: one I upgraded to 10.8.5. Two, my wifi router / modem apparently got auto-upgraded without my knowledge (as evidenced by the fact that my internal admin page has changed and the uptime indicated that it had recently rebooted (like a day or two ago)).
I initially thought it was the router upgrade that was causing the issues. See, this could maybe explain why shutting off the wifi on my laptop didn't solve the issue yesterday. Because maybe, just maybe, the newly upgraded router software was somehow causing it to produce my wifi interference. Frankly, I don't know how feasible that is.
But with today's weirdness, I'm thinking that it's the OS upgrade.
See, if the weird glitchiness today was wifi interference with the Apogee One, both the direct mic audio captured by Screenflow and the audio produced by Reason would've produced similar glitches. Also, I would've heard the glitches immediately via live monitoring.
But instead, I ended up with something that sounded mostly fine while I was actually recording and then sounded much worse on playback.
Not only that, but I'm pretty sure I encountered a few instances where a pop would show up on one track and not the other. If it weren't the Apogee One, it would be on both.
where to go from here
Frankly, I have no idea.
Even if it is the OS update, is it:
- an OS problem itself?
- incompatibility between 10.8.5 and the Apogee One?
- incompatibility between 10.8.5 and Reason 6.5?
A web search does seem to indicate that audio problems have been happening to people with 10.8.5, but there's not really a good way to know for certain if it's the same thing.
Here is what I at least plan to test:
- a similar setup with my older macbook air (though sadly, I'm pretty sure I upgraded the OS on that one too, so it may well be hosed as well)
- a USB headset - the fun thing is that I'm doing a game recording project where I use the USB headset and I'm pretty sure I haven't recorded anything since the OS update - so I may well have to put that project on hold for the moment too (things just get better and better!)
- my other USB audio device - it will be hella inconvenient because I'll be borrowing it from my studio - a studio where I need it every single days
- the internal condensor mic on the Apogee One - I am decently certain that the internal mic wasn't prone to all of the wifi interference, but if this is indeed an OS problem, using its internal mic probably won't help at all
In summary, I hate computers.
And I guess I've only managed to make myself look smart by not upgrading my studio computer these past few years. I just want the bleeding thing to work. I don't want to futz with upgrades and compatibility issues.