Turn on, tune in, drop out: Apple's whizz-bang T2 security chips hit a bum note for Mac audio
Sm... ck m... glitch up: Coprocess... has nasty... USB ...oun... outp... rruption... roblem
Audio professionals are complaining that the T2 security coprocessor in new Apple Mac models causes annoying audible glitches when using USB-connected recording gear.
According to a report from professional audio site CDM, the T2 chip Apple uses for secure boot and storage encryption in last year's iMac and MacBook models has a tendency to take over the USB 2.0 bus when it synchronizes its time and date clock, which introduces delays to audio streams. This results in audio equipment connected to the Mac via USB 2.0 interfaces to occasionally drop audio streams.
"The problem is, it appears that this new chip has introduced glitches on a wide variety of external audio hardware from across the pro audio industry, thanks to a bug in Apple’s software," CDM's Peter Kirn notes. "Issues with the way the new chip synchronizes timing causes dropouts and glitches in the audio stream."
The sound interruptions are frequent enough that users on multiple support forums say the new Macs are "pretty much useless" for either studio work or live performances via the affected interfaces. The issue impacts virtually every major hardware vendor and device that connects via the internal USB 2.0, which includes a vast amount of legacy hardware that people don't want to or can't upgrade.
Gear that uses other interfaces, like Thunderbolt or USB-via-Thunderbolt, is not impacted.
The audio problems should be particularly embarrassing for Apple, as the Cupertino giant has for decades fancied itself a champion of creative professionals and has featured musicians extensively in its recent advertising campaigns.
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"It frankly astounds me that Apple, a company that was and still is considered by the industry the pinnacle of stable work tools, did not care to test their products in environments where they will be used," writes one user on a Reddit thread about the issue.
"Now, were I talking about some fringe product with non-documented compatibility, I wouldn't be writing here. But this isn't that. This is a widespread issues that doesn't affect one manufacturer or product, but a whole class, used by both video and audio professionals alike."
The problem has also been reported on Apple support forums, though those threads have largely been abandoned without any resolution. We're told that turning off “Set date and time automatically” in your Mac's System Preferences will mitigate, though not fully resolve, the issue.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the matter. Meanwhile, many forum posters appear to be coming around to the idea of switching to Windows to support USB 2.0 legacy kit. Way to shoot yourself in the foot Cook & Co. ®