Someone asked if we would also need to write a Mac driver for HiFi-M8.
The short answer is that we get a free ride on this one, courtesy of Cupertino.
Audio Drivers are a painful, critical piece code to write. A driver is a piece of software installed between the peripheral hardware (USB DAC in our case) and the Operating System in the computer.
The job of the driver is to “glue together” fundamentally incompatible parts – the software and the hardware. It needs to be aware of the intricate requirements of both and transfer the right chunks of data at precise timing intervals for the whole thing to work smoothly.
A driver needs to be aware of precise system timings established and maintained by the hardware controllers on the computer motherboard. This is important because the driver needs to provide a glitch-free audio streaming experience while minimizing delivery delays.
These delivery delays are crucial in a computer-based recording environment, where you need to hear what you are playing as you are playing it. If you hear yourself back delayed, your execution timing will be off and performance quality would suffer. CEntrance does a lot of work with pro audio companies, so we know recording well and write our drivers to be optimized with regards to these audio delays. We confidently achieve the theoretical minimum delay under windows, which is 5..6 ms round-trip. This of course refers to the ASIO interface, which is the shortest path “around” the OS in Windows, designed to minimize system interaction. The Windows OS itself can’t be trusted with critical audio timing. Compare our 6 ms round-trip delay that with the notorious case of the Windows built-in Audio driver, which is known to delay the audio up to 70 ms (over ten times more).
Windows takes a simpler way out. It’s ok for consumer listening environments, but totally incompatible with the needs of recording engineers and musicians. The Windows “generic” approach is that if you don’t know how to sync up the video and audio, you could simply delay one against the other until they sync up. That’s what the 70 ms delay is for — it allows for things to “catch up” to one another and relaxes the requirements for system performance. While this approach is compatible with a larger sample of hardware environments, the delays make it hardly a “mission-critical”, fine-tuned system. That’s why CEntrance is so well-known in the driver business. We actually bring Windows audio performance to the level of the Mac by replacing the native driver with our own, highly optimized driver.
This brings us to the Mac. Early on, Steve Jobs made the decision to not fight Microsoft in the corporate world and instead focus on the home and the creative industry. So the Mac team has always paid critical attention to the audio/video performance of all its systems. I’ve met the driver engineers at Apple and they are all high-caliber guys. Apple takes audio very seriously and requests that manufacturers send their hardware to Cupertino for testing, to ensure compatibility of the built-in Mac Audio driver with the 3-rd party hardware.
Long story short – Apple has already written the audio driver for HiFi-M8.