Jack the Mac

Jack OS X is a real-time audio driver system for OS X. I first heard of Jack in a Linux context. Linux sound is often painful to deal with. The inclusion of ALSA, the Advanced Linux Sound System, “Advanced” in this context meaning “Not Sucking Completely,” seemed to take forever. It’s there now, finally, in the 2.6 kernels.

Now there’s an even spiffier thing than ALSA, called Jack. It’s supposed to be all “realtime” and “hyper-efficient” and “low latency” and stuff. But my emotional scars from trying to make sound work on Linux in years gone by prevented me from seriously considering trying to make Jack work on Linux.

So when I heard about Jack OS X, I thought, “what’s the point, doesn’t OS X already have a perfectly functional audio system?”

Point is you can do neat stuff with Jack on OS X, and it has a pleasant little GUI that doesn’t make your head hurt.

With Jack, you can suck the sound output of any existing application, and pipe it into the input of any other application. And you can keep going like that — suck the output out of the second app and put it into the input of another. Or you can “split” the output of an app between the input of one application and the speakers of your computer. It’s like piping text in unix. Like you’ve got a series of little sound funnels to shoot it different places.

An obvious application of it is to suck sound out of say, Realplayer, and pipe it into an audio record application, like I did last night to make an mp3 copy of Ellen Langer’s Diane Rehm interview.

How sweet is that?

(BTW, this looks like it might help unconfuse me about the current state of Linux audio.)