Posted March 10, 2012 by Stephan Earl in Tips and Tutorials

Using Multiple Audio Interfaces and Audio Devices in Mac OS X

Using Multiple Audio Interfaces

Do you need to setup multiple audio interfaces?  Increasingly more audio devices and instruments feature native digital audio via a USB or Firewire cable.  The challenge is that most audio applications such as Logic, Cubase and Ableton Live only allow for one USB or Firewire device to be active at a time.  Well did you know that Mac OS X has a very easy solution to this problem that allows you to utilize multiple audio interfaces and audio devices simultaneously?

Mac OS X solves this by allowing you to create an “aggregate device”.  If you have multiple audio interfaces, or a USB or Firewire device with digital audio, you can create one device in Mac OS X called an aggregate device.  So if you have a 2 channel input audio interface and a 6 channel input audio interface using an aggregate device you will have 8 inputs to use in your DAW.  Likewise if you have a USB mic that you purchased only for podcasting or video tutorials, but you now would like to use that device with your DAW and a separate audio interface… you can.

Setting Up Multiple Audio Interfaces

Multiple Audio Interfaces – Step 1

Open the Audio MIDI Setup located in you Applications >> Utilities Folder

Multiple Audio Interfaces Screenshot1

Multiple Audio Interfaces – Step 2

Create an Aggregate  Device and select the audio devices.
Multiple Audio Interfaces Screenshot2

Multiple Audio Interfaces – Step 3

Select the Aggregate Device in your DAW.  Below is a screenshot from Cubase 6.5.  Refer to your DAWs reference manual for further instructions on adding audio devices in your specific application.
Multiple Audio Interfaces Screenshot 3

Aggregate Device Setup Tips

  • Set all devices within the Aggregate Device to the same sample rate i.s 41,00, 48,000, etc.  This is done from the Audio MIDI setup window.
  • All digital devices have their own internal system clock and may not sync well with your main device.  Try syncing to a different device or ultimately you may need an external word clock for all devices to sync properly.

Setting Up Multiple Audio Interfaces Video Tutorial

Here’s a video where I walk through setting up multiple audio interfaces on your Mac OS X.

Also check out 5 Tips to Improve Your Mix for a quick tutorial on improving your mix.

So if you have multiple audio interfaces, or an older audio interface you’re about to upgrade, you may want to hold on to it, and increase your available inputs and outputs.

Stephan Earl

Composing, recording and producing music in the home studio environment for over 25 years, musician and author Stephan Earl now enjoys sharing his home studio setup experience with other home studio recording musicians via HomeMusicProduction.com.