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mac 10.8.5 glitchy audio

17 Oct 2013

2013-10-17 22:42:45 -0500

So I'm now going the route of a reinstall to get back to 10.8.4 to solve my audio issues.

Here's why I'm now pretty convinced that the problem is the OS upgrade.

First, I do have problems with the Apogee One and wifi interference, but that stuff sounds different. It's also predictable. I've discovered that I can trigger it when I click on the wifi menu and the wireless interface goes into scan mode. The interference becomes painfully obvious at that point.

When I'm working with the Apogee One, I'm almost always working on a laptop stand that doesn't have all that much space, but I have figured out that if I put the laptop as far to the left as possible and the Apogee One as far to the right as possible, then it's just enough distance that I don't get the wireless interference.

But what I've been experiencing after the 10.8.5 upgrade is random audio click/pops. I don't know how else to describe them. It's not quite as loud or "sustained" as a pop (like tapping on the mic stand for instance), but it's also not as quick or staccato as a click.

But these click/pops occur randomly as far as I can tell. I can be fine for minutes on end and then suddenly, I'll have a glitch.

And I've now definitely experienced it on two different audio devices: the Apogee One and a Turtle Beach headset. Before, I didn't know if it was just the Apogee or not.

Next, this one is unconfirmed, but it also doesn't seem to affect the applications equally. Like, if I'm simultaneously recording from Reason and Screenflow, or Reason and the Elgato Game Capture software, I've heard a few examples where one track will have a click/pop and the other won't. This is when both pieces of software are capturing the exact same audio device. If it were a hardware issue, it should always be present on both copies.

There is one somewhat murky issue where I wonder if it might be the fact that I'm often running a noise gate on my signal in Reason. So maybe somehow, the noise gate is intensifying the click/pop. So point being, maybe the click/pop actually was on both recordings but the noise gate somehow made it more obvious. I don't know.

What I do know is that today, I did some recording with Reason without a noise and with the Turtle Beach headset (which is its own USB audio device) and I was absolutely picking up the click/pops on the recording.

Oh, I should also mention that I upgraded to Reason 6.5.3 today and that did nothing to solve the issue. I kinda figured it wouldn't but I wasn't yet willing to try the hail mary pass of a reinstall.

On top of all things, the timing of this coicides when I did the 10.8.5 upgrade. At the time, I didn't put two and two together because I had already had audio issues with the Apogee One, so I just assumed that this was a progression of that, instead of immediately pointing the finger at the OS upgrade.

FFR baby!

So now we're up to what I considered to be the windows fix for everything: fdisk, format, reinstall.

So what I've done so far is to back up my most important files separately and as I write this, I'm cloning my hard drive.

I've never tried an archive and reinstall, but that's probably going to be the route that I go when I try to do a "fresh" install of 10.8.4 off of the recovery partition.

Personally, when things get this far, I tend to just prefer to go the whole way and do a completely clean install, but since this is an on-a-whim sort of reinstall, I'm paranoid that I've forgotten some crucial step, so I'd prefer not to blow the whole partition away just yet.

the future

I'm really hoping this works. I mean, in retrospect, the timing of all of this is just far too perfect to be anything else. Especially now that I've confirmed it's happening on two different audio devices.

But really, this is going to scar me.

At some point in my history, I changed from being the person who really liked to dig into everything and instead into a person who just wanted the bloody thing to work. I also have a whole lot of projects that I do on a daily or quite-regular basis that require a working computer. And more importantly, I do a lot of off-the-cuff type stuff where the computer needs to be working the first time; there are no retakes.

It's sort of like writing. Say, in one scenario, you've written a draft of something by hand and then you're typing it up. Your computer hard locks. You lose all of your work. It's annoying. It's frustrating. It's a time suck. But you still have the original work.

Mine is much more that you're writing something from scratch and the computer crashes and there was absolutely no files to recover. Now, granted, some of the time you might be able to recreate what you had worked on somewhat from memory, but that's painful, and a huge motivation killer.

But worse than that, I have projects where you either capture the thing live or it's gone forever.

See, having a computer I don't trust is a huge problem for me. It sucks the joy out of projects because there's always a voice in the back of my head wondering if the computer is going to crap out on me in the middle of my work. It's not fun.

So what I suspect is going to come from this is that I'm either going to stick with 10.8.4 for the rest of the 10.8.X series, or I'm going to absolutely demand a full backup before any OS minor upgrade. Backing up before something major like a 10.8 to 10.9 upgrade would be a given, but I've never been burned before by a minor OS upgrade.

And the timing on this sucks. I've got a project with a due date that depends on getting non-glitching audio. And the Rails Rumble is tomorrow.

And the more I think about it as I write this (and given the fact that the backup still isn't complete), the more I think that I might just skip trying an archive and reinstall.

For one, I'm always running low on local disk space (I tend to produce a lot of big video files), so I don't really care to have two copies of the OS sitting around.

Plus, I feel it's quite possible I'm going to have to reinstall app/tools to get them to work again anyway. So again, why not just do it from scratch.

Somewhat luckily, most of what I'm really paranoid about losing (or what I can remember to be paranoid about losing) is actually controlled by apps that are syncing via icloud or they're files in my dropbox folder. In other words, they're already backed up.

Finally, the more I think about it, the more I think that I will never fully trust that archive and reinstall option anyway. My "new" copy of the OS will always feel dirty to me, even if it's just fine in reality.

So perhaps I should just save myself the eventual hassle and go ahead with the FFR option now instead of growing to slowly resent my computer.

Frankly, I think that's going to be the smarter option in the long run.

And times like these are when I wish I were mega-rich because I'd totally have a thunderbolt harddrive enclosure with an SSD.

Because waiting on this backup is murder.

Or maybe I'm just being over dramatic.