Control Headphone and Speaker Volume Independently on a MOTU [solved]

I have successfully extended the life of my MOTU 896 audio interface. This solution required buying a new product, but I am so happy with the result that I wanted to post about it anyway.

I had two problems with the MOTU. One was that the volume knob is on the unit which I had to keep nearby my seat at all times, which even with a custom rack makes my room layout cluttered and makes me reach awkwardly for it to adjust the volume. The pot was also dirty and created scratching noise when I turned the knob.

The other problem was that if I wanted to record microphone audio with headphones, the volume knob would control both the headphone levels and the active monitors, and I would have to turn off my speakers in order to set the levels in the headphones to prevent track bleeding and feedback. This was a major pain.

I found a solution by getting the TC Electronic Level Pilot. At $80 it’s fairly pricey but it’s much cheaper than getting a new audio interface or outboard mixer, and I’m quite happy with it. It’s a high-resolution analog volume control with two XLR inputs and two XLR outputs.

The speakers are still going through MAIN OUT, but the signal runs through this new volume knob first. I switched the rocker switch next to the volume knob from “Main Out & Phones” to “Phones Only”. This causes you to have no volume control through your speakers and a line level signal blaring through them, but now with the Level Pilot I can set the level on the phones with one volume knob and the speaker levels with the pilot.

The knob sits happily next to my keyboard for easy control, and I’ve rearranged my whole studio now that the MOTU rack doesn’t have to sit right next to me. I’m very happy with the Level Pilot. It feels very durable and I have a much finer control of audio levels. My only complaint is that sometimes the base pivots on some surfaces making it harder to control. Placing it on a wood surface or putting some double stick tape underneath it solves this problem.

Override USB or Firewire Volume Level in OS X with Soundflowerbed [solved]

Update2: Lion has this functionality built-in. hurray!

Edit: While the sound controls work, I’ve been having major issues with soundflower, from audio disappearing to getting stuck and looping on a sample. Looks like soundflower still needs a bit of development. :(

This has been driving me nuts for years.

I have an external firewire audio interface, a MOTU 896, that has served me well for 7 years. It powers my studio monitors, has multi inputs and delivers superior sound compared to my internal computer speakers.

The only problem with it is that OS X’s volume controls don’t work with it. The volume keys don’t work on the keyboard, the apple remote volume doesn’t work, and you can’t control the volume with AirMouse on the iPhone. In system preferences, you get the message “The selected device has no output controls”, and you get an annoying disabled speaker when you try and use the volume controls.

Thanks to this post and the wonderful folks at Cycling 74, there is a free solution. You can install soundflower, which allows you to route all of your audio to a soundflower device. Once you’ve installed soundflower, you can run Soundflowerbed from your applications menu, which makes a finder menu appear that allows you to choose which device to route audio to. Choose your external device, and you’re done!

Finally, you can leave the volume knob on your external device in one setting, and control the volume from across the room with a remote! Glorious!

Soundflower is also a great app for interapplication multichannel audio routing, similar to rewire or jack.

Stop external hard drives from spinning down on OS X [Solved]

I have my iTunes music library, samples, video files, and more on an external drive, and the 5 second delay of my drive spinning up is annoying at best and prevents me from working at worst. I finally just found the menu that disables the external drive from spinning down. I don’t know how this affects the drive life but it’s worth it for me.

System Preferences > Energy Saver > uncheck Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible

Toshiba SD-K860 won’t eject [solved]

My two year old upconverting Toshiba DVD/divx player from Woot.com wouldn’t eject my rented DVD (I am Legend). I would push eject and it would say “Open”, do nothing, and after a few seconds say “Loading” and play the DVD again. Once the harassing blockbuster calls started coming in I decided to try and fix it.
I found a great site called Fixya, which is similar to this site but focuses on hardware.
This page addressed a similar problem with the Toshiba SD-4990. That page linked to a service manual here (https://www.vancebaldwin.com/shop/research_new/TBA/SD4900.pdf ) which was similar enough to be extremely helpful.
Some suggested that it was a software issue and unplugging the machine for half an hour to let reset it self. However, after unplugging it all night the problem remained the next morning.
I took the machine apart (6 screws on the outside) and unmounted the drive (4 more screws), unplugging the three cables and remembering their orientation (blue wire faces the back). I unscrewed the top chasis (2 screws underneath soft rubber & glue) and got the DVD out. Then after some finagling I found the eject levers on the bottom (long slide switches) that opened up the DVD tray. I massaged the tray back and forth, and did the same with the laser mechanism on its track. The tray belt was in tact and there were no loose solder joints or wires. So I plugged the drive back in loosely (without reassembly) and plugged the power back in. Carefully, without touching any capacitors I hit the eject button and the drive tray started working again. It must have just been jammed. I unplugged the power, reassembled everything, turned it back on, and it’s back to normal!
This may not be the problem your SD-K850 or other DVD player was having, but perhaps these steps will help you solve your problem.