Loopback from Rogue Amoeba

I’ve wanted to go “all-usb” with my podcast setup for years but was always held back by the fact that there was no such thing as a “software channel strip” that would work with applications like Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom.

At one point, I went so far as to hack one together using a combination of Soundflower (with Soundflower Bed) and GarageBand.

Soundflower is the audio routing software while Soundflower Bed is the configuration tool.

It worked, but the CPU on my 11-inch MacBook Air would max out, making the video capture almost unusable.

Wait, why is this a big deal?

Good question. When I record my own podcast, effects really don’t matter – I can apply a noise gate, compressor or Sound Soap in post production before I release it. However, when I’m participating in other podcasts, I have no control over the quality of my audio after it streams it’s way across the net.

That means that barking dogs, door bells and other noises that could be suppressed with a noise gate will get captured along with my voice.

On Hold

Eventually, I converted to The Church of Dynamic Mics and moved to Austin where my office is much quieter than my office was in New York. So, I just pulled the proverbial trigger and went all-usb by purchasing an Audio-Technica AT2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone.

It sounds great and, in a pinch, it also has an XLR input, so I can jack-it into my Tascam DR-60D or a mixer.

I always thought that I could probably build a software channel strip by experimenting with Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack, but the problem with Audio Hijack is that you can’t send audio to anything other than a physical output device or the built-in Audio Hijack audio recorder module – it still requires the use of Soundflower and Soundlower Bed.

Sending to a physical output device doesn’t work, since it will record all of my system audio along with the podcast. (Slack notifications, etc.)

Trying Again

When I upgraded to a more powerful MacBook Pro that could handle a software channel strip, and I got around to experimenting again, I found that Soundflower/Soundflower Bed were no longer supported by Cycling74 as they’ve put all their effort into their commercial products.

Soundflower and Soundflower Bed are now both open source projects (supported heavily by the developers at Rogue Amoeba) but Soundflower Bed isn’t available for the latest version of Mac OS X (El Capitan).

Now I know why.

Today, I received an email from Rogue Amoeba about their new software, Loopback.

Loopback allows you to create “virtual audio devices” – combined audio sources, including Audio Unit (AU) effects – that you can then route to the application of your choice.

If you think this sounds like Soundflower + Soundflower Bed, you’d be right.

And while Soundflower has been updated to support El Capitan (again, mostly by the devs at Rogue Amoeba), Soundflower Bed has not.

Instead, you can purchase Loopback for $99.

I have mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, Loopback looks like it’s much easier to use than Soundflower Bed – the Rogue Amoeba folks have spent some effort put a usable interface on what was a kludgy setup process for Soundflower Bed. And now, it’s commercial software, so it’s backed by Rogue Amoeba support for all the n00bs who want to use it.

I’ve already purchased Audio Hijack and Fission (my favorite audio editor, that I recommend to everyone) and the quality of both are excellent.

On the other hand, $99.

(If you read this post before the end of January 2016, use code LBNEWS to get $30 off.)

Part of my trepidation might be due to the fact that this capability used to be free and now, it’s $99.

But really, I think it’s just priced too high – $69 feels more appropriate, especially since Fission – which is far more useful – is only $29.