Saturday, November 23, 2013

How to use your Tascam US-1800 with OS X Mavericks

Tascam Support: just sayin' ...

The Tascam US-1800 does not have drivers for OS X Mavericks (10.9) nearly a month after Apple released the new OS. Here is the press release from Tascam support, should you be ... as I was ... in utter disbelief.

However, I have discovered a pretty easy work around, read on to get the deets my friends.

First, let me say that the US-1800 is really not a bad interface at all. In fact, if what you need is a boatload of pretty decent inputs and more than one stereo output, you really can't do a whole lot better for $250, which is about what thing will run you. For instance, say you wanna mic up a drum kit, and you'd like to take a DI off a bass and keys, and maybe mic up a guitar amp or two ... this will do the job pretty well.

However if you're asking yourself "why is this thing so cheap?", let me answer those questions for you:
  1. It is not class-compliant
    On OS X the thing needs an actual bonafide driver, and it is not coded very efficiently. The driver uses an insane amount of CPU for what it's doing. So, if you've got beef ... for instance on my 4-core xenon ... it's not really a problem. On my core-2 duo laptop ... you'll be bouncing software tracks down all day 'cause you're gonna hit that CPU wall quickly.

  2. there are actually only 4 outputs, not 6
    Output 1-2 is a hard-wired copy of the L-R monitor output. Output 3-4 is actually a separate output though. The manuals and marketing go to great extents to obfuscate this fact. boo.
Well anyhow, it's not bad, if you've got the beef to run it. Which I do, and I presume you do also, and so ... you want to know what the deal is, because you just installed Mavericks and now your OS either can't see your US-1800 or simply refuses to play sound through it ... here's the deal:

  1. If you already had the driver installed and upgraded your OS in place, skip this step, otherwise: Trick the driver installer into installing anyhow:

    1. download the 10.8 driver from tascam such as it is.
    2. unzip / mount the disk image (duh)
    3. the trickery, right click on the installer and select "show package contents"

    4.  install ./Contents/Resources/104/TASCAM_US1800_2.10.mpkg

  2. download SoundFlower and SoundFlowerBed
    Let's be honest ... if you don't have them installed already ... because they are pretty much the ubiquitous duct-tape of OS X audio. If SoundFlower is new to you, you're going to love it. What it does is set up two fake audio interfaces on your computer, one is a 2-in-2-out stereo interface, the second is a 16-in-16-out interface. You can use these fake interfaces to route audio internally between applications on your mac. In the case of the US-1800 we're lucky, because soundflower can see it, even though OS X Mavericks can't. Oh, and it's free.
    1. Get soundflower from Cycling 74 here
    2. Oh sweet. SoundFlowerBed is bundled with it now. Used to be a separate download. SoundFlowerBed, is status bar app that installs next to your wi-fi widget thing and the clock. It looks like a flower.

  3. set OS X's sound output to SoundFlower (2ch)

    Set OS X's output to Soundflower (2 ch)

    Pretty simple stuff. Open your system preferences -> Sound -> Output, and select "Soundflower (2ch) as shown above. OS X is now sending it's audio output to the Soundflower 2 channel pseudo-interface. Next step is to tell soundflower to route the 2 channel pseudo-interface out to your US-1800 ...

  4. use SoundFlowerBed to route audio out to US-1800 (1-2).

    As mentioned, SoundFlowerBed is a tiny app that runs in your status bar. You have to manually launch it. If like me, you find it to be very useful, you might want to set it to run on login (System Preferences -> Users & Groups -> Current User -> Login Items):

    Set SoundFlowerBed to launch on login ... if you want to
    Now just tell SoundFlowerBed to route "Soundflower (2ch)" to your US-1800 on Output 1-2:

    That ought to do it
  5. Logic sees it too, so you're back in business on Mavericks:


    Gosh Darn it, Donchaknow ...