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The LiquidSonics Roadmap – macOS Updates And The Apple Silicon Transition

By 13th November 2020April 23rd, 2022No Comments

News on how the the Apple Silicon transition affects LiquidSonics plug-ins are available from this blog post – for more details please check back for updates if these matters are relevant to your system or workflow.

Update 7: 22 April 2022

The sixth release of native Apple Silicon compatible software for all LiquidSonics products has been made available drawing to an end the public preview phase. The transition is now complete.

Update 6: 4 March 2022

The fifth release of preview builds containing native Apple Silicon software for all LiquidSonics products are now available, for more details see here.

Update 5: 26 January 2022

The second release of preview builds containing native Apple Silicon software for all LiquidSonics products are now available, for more details see here.

Update 4: 27 December 2021

Public preview builds containing native Apple Silicon software for all LiquidSonics products are now available, for more details see here.

Update 3: 31 October 2021

Pace has made available additional information about the state of their tools via Pro Tools Expert, which we previously could not discuss due to NDA. The higher grade Fusion protection (not related to Fusion-IR or advanced power generation) is the one we and probably most clients use. This is not yet available for Apple Silicon but Pace is aiming to release beta tools in November (it is not clear if those will be safe to use externally for beta test purposes) and a final release towards the end of the year.

This means if tools are made available soon, and if those tools are easy to integrate with the port work undertaken so far, it is feasible to see beta software towards the end of the year or more likely in Q1 2022.

Update 2: 16 October 2021

Monterey 

A fuller statement on Monterey will be issued on release, but at this stage only one plug-in appears to have a problem specific to Monterey which is Lustrous Plates – an update to correct this is in test and an update is planned before the new OS ships.

I have also found more widespread problems with iLok plug-ins in Garage Band running on Intel Macs in Monterey, but this seems to be an issue affecting the protection scheme generally so I simply hope for a fix from Pace or Apple soon.

Apple Silicon Plug-ins

Since the last update a lot of time has passed with no news, and honestly not much progress, so it is time for an update!

Many of you have noticed that a small number of vendors using Pace iLok for their licensing and protection needs are now providing Apple Silicon builds of their plug-ins. This has led many to assume the shackles have been lifted. Regretfully I still cannot release Apple Silicon builds without compromising the protection, so it has not been possible to begin a beta test yet despite doing most of the major work on the port in summer last year. With any large or complex third party suite like the one provided by Pace it is natural that some people will use parts that others don’t want or need. With a major transition it’s also natural that some parts of a dependency can become available sooner than others. That releases some while others are still held up. This is why we do not yet have broad access to native Apple Silicon plug-ins amongst Pace’s clients – the LiquidSonics portfolio uses most of the protection tools that Pace has to offer.

Without violating an NDA by getting technical it’s really difficult to explain properly to help people see the full picture though, so please be as kind to us developers as you can be even if you’re frustrated that it’s taking so long to support these fantastic new systems properly.

I continue to test the unprotected versions of the plug-ins in Apple Silicon native hosts as they materialise, so hopefully this will make the beta phase as smooth as possible. I am hopeful for more progress on the actual availability of plug-ins in the first half of next year, and maybe sooner than that, but I don’t have enough information to make any commitments just yet and more delay is certainly possible. Thank you for your patience. And thanks to Apple for Rosetta 2!

Update 1: 13 November 2020

Big Sur

No problems have been found during preliminary testing of all in-service LiquidSonics plug-ins with Big Sur on Intel Macs.

Testing will continue over the coming weeks, please get in touch if you discover any problems.

Apple Silicon / Intel Plug-ins

No problems have been found during preliminary testing of all in-service Intel-only LiquidSonics plug-ins on Apple Silicon Macs where the host can run as either a native Apple Silicon binary or if the host can be run under Rosetta 2 translation.

The following hosts have been used for testing the Intel-only versions of LiquidSonics plug-ins:

  • Reaper 6.14 beta native (native host to Rosetta plug-in via host bridging)
  • Apple Logic 10.6 native (native host to Rosetta plug-in via host bridging)
  • Apple Logic 10.6 under Rosetta
  • Cubase 10.0 under Rosetta (Cubase 10.5 was not found to be functional on the test system)
  • Ableton Live 10.1 beta under Rosetta

LiquidSonics plug-ins make extensive use of Intel AVX extensions to optimise their performance where available. Rosetta 2 does not support AVX, so a less optimised execution path than would usually be the case is used by the plug-ins. For this and other reasons there is some overhead associated with running plug-ins under Rosetta 2 translation versus natively. I consider the performance of the plug-ins to be reasonable under translation so working in this manner appears to be feasible while the task of porting to Apple Silicon is underway.

Although I have no plans to share performance metrics based on the Apple DTK system, no doubt DAW performance will be the subject of much discussion and testing online with shipping Apple M1-based systems.

Apple Silicon (DTK) – Native Plug-ins

There are currently no native Apple Silicon versions of any LiquidSonics plug-ins available as a beta or general release.

I rarely comment in public on incomplete development activities, but this is a special case as I recognise that there is some anxiety around plug-in availability for the new platform so have decided to make an exception.

Alpha builds of Apple Silicon capable software for all in-service LiquidSonics plug-ins have been in development since the summer and are presently working on the Apple DTK. These early development versions are not suitable for release yet, and I am waiting on some non-trivial third party dependencies before work can continue. It is not presently possible to provide much of a projected release date for native versions of LiquidSonics plug-ins (although it won’t be in 2020 for sure), but I hope it is of some comfort to know that it is a high priority and that the work is under way if you have plans to use LiquidSonics reverbs on an Apple Silicon system now or in the future.

The following hosts have been used for testing the Apple Silicon development versions of LiquidSonics plug-ins:

  • Apple Logic 10.6 native
  • Reaper 6.14 beta native

This is a very short list, and I will be waiting until alpha testing can be undertaken on many more DAWs before proceeding to a beta test phase. When beta grade versions are available I anticipate inviting customers with Apple Silicon hardware to participate in a new beta programme especially for these updates before their release.


Original Post: 11 October 2020

Over the last few weeks I have been receiving a steady increase in emails asking about plans for the Apple Silicon transition and the state of play for the older LiquidSonics products available in store, so I would like to share some thoughts.

Apple Silicon

The move Apple is making to transition from Intel CPUs to processors of their own design presents some challenges for many of us in the audio industry. It is a complex ecosystem of devices, hosts, and plug-ins with numerous interdependencies. All of these will eventually need to be ported to work natively on the new hardware, some will work for a period of time under emulation, and some will be sunset to make way for newer technologies and products.

Some parts of the ecosystem will be ready quickly, and others will take a bit more time.

All LiquidSonics products require significant changes to their DSP routines to accommodate the transition, and some require a comprehensive re-write due to their use of deprecated underlying technology. Like many in the industry I have been anticipating this for years with some degree of anxiety of the unknown, but finally we have been shown the lay of the land and can plan for the future.

The outline for a move away from Intel dependencies has been planned in my mind for some time, so following Apple’s announcement I downed tools on other projects and started work on this the very next day when the the tools became available to developers. I am pleased to report things are progressing well.

So far preliminary builds of Seventh Heaven, Illusion, Cinematic Rooms, Reverberate 3 and Lustrous Plates are all working on the Apple DTK (Developer Transition Kit), albeit without any protection, and without very much real-world testing in native DAWs, and some optimisation work is still needed. Fortunately I do have one DAW available to test native builds in and am pushing that as hard as I can. Although we developers are not allowed to share any performance related information with you, I think it is permissible to say that I am encouraged by the performance of the plug-ins on the preview hardware.

Many of the LiquidSonics plug-ins use complex convolution routines that require multi-threaded real-time critical processing to ensure good performance. This requires careful tuning to ensure they are working well under heavy system load across a wide selection of DAWs. These are complex plug-ins. It is important to test changes like this in a wide selection of hosts (Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools, etc) before concluding that the work has been successfully completed, so I must wait for the right tools to become available to me.

I have taken the decision, somewhat reluctantly but pragmatically, to accept that the LiquidSonics plug-ins will not be first out of the gate with native Apple Silicon support on day one despite starting work on this very early on. It is extremely unlikely a wide selection of DAW applications will be available to test them in naively on or before release, and I expect some parts of the full build chain will not be ready for some time.

I plan to issue free updates supporting Apple Silicon for all versions of Seventh Heaven, Lustrous Plates, Cinematic Rooms, Reverberate 3 and Illusion as soon as I feel they have been sufficiently tested in a wide selection of native DAWs.

I will also be keeping an eye on the performance of plug-ins and DAWs in Rosetta 2. If work is needed to support that I will accommodate some degree of change if it is offering a good return on investment of time (taking into account it is not likely to be around forever like its predecessor).

Product Roadmap

I would like to discuss the future for some of the older LiquidSonics products.

Reverberate

Reverberate was the first LiquidSonics product, and it still plays an important role in the lineup because so many of you have bulging libraries of third party impulse responses. I am happy to admit it was showing its age though and had wanted to comprehensively update it for years – I am very pleased with the recently released update to Reverberate 3. All of the versions of Reverberate available before this were originally built in the VST 2.4 SDK, and even the AAX version of Reverberate 2 uses the VSTGUI 3.6 SDK for graphics. All products released from 2017 and on use Juce, and with that comes high DPI support, VST 3 capability, and many other benefits.

It became increasingly difficult to build prior versions of Reverberate with modern tools because of the older SDKs it uses. Unfortunately it will never be possible to provide an Apple Silicon build of Reverberate 2, Reverberate Core or Filtrate without fundamental re-writes (either in Juce, or newer versions of the VST SDKs). It is time to move on, and for some of these products the sun is setting.

Reverberate 3 also falls in to line with all LiquidSonics releases since 2017 and move to licensing via iLok (cloud, USB and local host activation). I am aware people will have a variety of feelings about that, some that enjoy the convenience of iLok licensing and have been asking for it for years will be delighted, and some that prefer other licensing approaches will be less enthusiastic but I do hope the non-USB options will be suitable for many and it does at least provide better ways to accommodate license resale and dual activations.

Filtrate

Filtrate was originally conceived when I could not find a good and reasonably priced linear phase equaliser that had parametric controls, but the plug-in landscape has evolved dramatically since then. As with Reverberate, I can see it is in need of a comprehensive update.

I always prefer to focus my time in areas where I can provide something that moves the state of the art forwards, and to be absolutely truthful, I cannot envisage an update that would put the leaders of the field (Pro-Q 3, Infinity EQ, and so on) in the shade. At best, I would be following a well trodden path. After much thought I have decided it is time to sunset this product to allow me more time to focus on new endeavours. It has been removed from sale, and is unlikely to be updated in future.

Reverberate Core

Reverberate Core finds itself in a challenging position. When it was released there was simply no zero-latency low-CPU consumption convolution tool available in the market. That has changed – many DAWs include a basic convolution plug-in and there is much more competition at the low end than there used to be.

It lacks the lead features of Reverberate 2 which give that product a unique place in the market. To move those over to Core would need a comprehensive re-write and would blur the lines between the standard and core versions. Given it lacks its original purpose, the product’s segmentation now feels outdated. For that reason, I intend to step away from this lower end segment of the convolution market that is well served elsewhere so this has also been removed from sale.

I understand that there are a large number of Reverberate Core users that could be disappointed with the move, but I hope to provide a reasonably financially appealing upgrade path to Reverberate 3 if they would like to move over to the new version in due course.

Reverberate LE 

Originally released in support of charitable causes, again the situation around this product has evolved. Since LiquidSonics has grown and become financially more successful it is clear there are better ways to support charitable causes than a donation-ware product in this way. Reverberate LE is the oldest LiquidSonics product still available, and as it only supports 32-bit, is it largely not a useful tool for working musicians today so has been sunset.

32-Bit Support

Around the time of macOS Catalina’s introduction it became more difficult to distribute 32-bit binaries due to notarisation, and early in 2020 it became impossible without a separate installer for macOS. Other libraries and build chain components that are used in LiquidSonics products are beginning to end 32-bit support as well, so as the plug-ins are updated in the usual course of business all 32-bit support is gradually being dropped. It will eventually disappear from the lineup entirely.

Availability of Sunset Products and Final 32-Bit Versions

You may download the last versions of all discontinued products and the most recent version of in-service plug-ins with a 32-bit build from the discontinued downloads page. Although these will not be supported, I will ensure they are still accessible for those with the means and desire to use them for the foreseeable future.

macOS Big Sur (and beyond)

All LiquidSonics products have been tested under the beta versions of macOS Big Sur. Although the state of play has been somewhat fluid throughout the beta period we have found all current products are performing well on the most recent beta versions although further testing will be required when the final version is available.

I anticipate that in a future release of macOS the Audio Units for Filtrate and Reverberate 1, 2 and Core will cease to operate as they require the deprecated Carbon Component Manager (the VST2 / AAX builds will be unaffected by this). Although there were signs that this would be removed during the Big Sur beta it appears to have at least another year of life left in it before Apple moves on from that AU technology entirely.

In Conclusion

It is an exciting time for the Mac, and I am keen to see what Apple does with their new technology which they presumably could not achieve before. It will be good to embrace the changes as quickly as we all can. For better or for worse, changes that Apple make such as forcing a withdrawal from 32-bit eventually tend to drag the Windows platform in the same direction.

For anybody peering into what may seem an uncertain future for the industry, and those that may be wondering what the changes mean for LiquidSonics, I hope you have found this post helpful.