Soundbyte 345 – November 2023


Space Black MacBook Pro

Welcome to Soundbyte. In this issue:

November meetup

Join us at 7pm, GMT, Tuesday, November, 14 for our next meet-up. We will be discussing the announcements from Apple’s Scary Fast event and reviewing the images taken on our Photo Walk in Battersea. We will start the evening with Newsbyte as usual.

Check the email this newsletter came in for the Zoom link. We will also post the link in our Slack General Channel. 

Follow the London Mac User Group on…Mastodon🐘! If you are not familiar with Mastodon, have a look at TidBit’s explainer here.

From January we will be restarting in-person meetings at a new venue. Join us south of the river at the St James’s Pub, in Bermondsey. The pub is just 5 minutes walk from Bermondsey Tube Station on the Jubilee Line. We will stream the meeting online as usual. 

Fright night: The new dark MacBook Pro

On the eve of All Hallows’ Eve, Apple held a mildly spooky event at midnight UK time (yes really-ED) to unveil their new Apple Silcon processors and the devices to run them – whoooooooohhh! 👻🎃🧛‍♀️

Spooky Apple M3 processors

The star of the show was the new 16-inch M3 MAX MacBook Pro. The consensus appears to be that Apple has focused the most performance on the MAX and pushed the M3 PRO slightly down – making it clearer which one they think professionals should buy. They cemented this by giving the top line MacBook Pro a new colour: Space Black (see the photo at the top of the page). That dark grey, differentiating it from the other MacBooks is a signal for buyers looking for ⭐️bling⭐️.

But these MacBooks are not just pretty cases, they mark the full transition away from Touch Bars to sleek new cases, brighter screens and massive performance. Apple didn’t hide who they were targeting. If you still have an Intel powered MacBook, the water is warm, what are you waiting for? These chips are up to 11 (eleven!) times faster than those Intel chips.

Going on a slight tangent, the Intel➡️Apple Silicon transition for the top-end software used by professionals must be nearly complete by now. An example is Cubase, for sound engineers and audio producers, which is now on its second Apple Silicon version:

There were also improvements for film and 3D developers. As suggested last month, Apple has brought the new graphic capabilities in the A17 Pro chip from the iPhone, to the Mac. This means graphics heavy apps (including games), should see serious gains. This comes from the hardware acceleration of ray tracing and mesh shading. Also accelerated is AV1 decoding – which is important for things like live streaming.

The new MacBooks span across the three chips, with the cheapest 14-inch model (from £1699) getting the M3 and the most expensive 16-inch getting the M3 MAX (from £3299). Also updated was the iMac: it got the M3 chip. The M3 is twice as fast as the M1 iMac that shipped in 2021. With the new graphics capabilities this would be a worthy upgrade even for M1 owners – but the real target again, are all those Intel iMac owners out there – the water’s warm, come on in!

Post script: After the event, creators were floored when Apple put on screen that the event was shot entirely on iPhone. There had been no indication or sign of that in the high-quality presentation. Showing how far the iPhone has come, Apple then shared a behind the scenes video for creatives to pour and crawl over:

Future Shock Part 4: PC fights back!

Persistent readers (who?-ED) may recall my concern for the PC industry way back in 2020. I predicted that the advent of high performance but low power ARM chips would be an intolerable situation for PC (especially laptop) makers stuck with slower, hotter, battery hungry Intel chips. 3 years later and we are finally about to see the fruit of this frustration. Various new chips are promised, but Qualcomm recently announced their entry into the high power space that up-to-now has been Apple’s own. The Snapdragon Elite X has an eye-browse raising progeny. Apple Silicon! Perhaps not terribly unusual in the computer industry, the Elite X is based-off a server chip made by a start-up company, staffed by ex-Apple employees. But not just any employees, those who worked on developing the A series iPhone chips and the M1. If you can’t beat ’em!

Qualcomm claims that their new chip beats the Intel chips (of course) but also beats Apple’s M2. Unfortunately as we can see above, by the time Qualcomm’s chip arrives in mid-2024, Apple will be gone, having moved to the M3, but Qualcomm is clearly taking aim. Competition is good, right?

But as Apple users, we know it’s not really about how it looks, it’s not just the specs. It’s how it works and PC really needs to pull out the collective finger and fully switch-over. It’s no good having a fast ARM processor if your Windows apps are still coded only for Intel. Microsoft are working on it and Windows developers will need to decide which way to allocate their app development resources – Intel or ARM, Intel or ARM…🤷🏼‍♂️ This might be a difficult choice if the PC market splits in two.


Apple Pencil USB-C

Steve Jobs would shake his head at where we have ended up with Apple Pencil. Apple have announced a new Pencil for iPad but rather than keeping it simple, all three pencils remain on sale with different capabilities and compatabilities. I think its easier to layout which iPads can’t use which pencil:

PencilFeaturesNot for youCost
Apple Pencil Gen 1tilt, pressure, lightning charging.iPad Pro 12.9-inch gen 3-6, iPad Pro 11-inch, iPad Pro gen 4-2 and iPad Mini 6.£109
Apple Pencil Gen 2wireless pairing/charge, magnetic, tilt, pressure, double-tap.iPad Pro 12.9-inch gen 1-2, iPad Pro 9.7 and 10.9-inch, iPad Air 3rd gen, iPad 6-9, iPad Mini 5.£139
Apple Pencil 3 (?)USB-C (not wireless) pairing and charging, tilt (no pressure).iPad Pro 12.9-inch gen 1-2, iPad Pro 9.7 and 10.9-inch, iPad Air 3rd gen, iPad, iPad Mini 5.£79

I’m not sure that is actually easier to understand. One has to assume that we have fed back to Apple that we want a cheaper pencil and do not care about pressure sensitivity. Indeed Apple markets the 2nd Generation pencil as the Ultimate Apple Pencil Experience (for some). Being honest for a minute, this new cheaper pencil might be designed for me. Not an artist but a very occasional pencil user wanting to mark-up a photo or sign a document from time to time. I don’t need pressure sensitivity, I’m not an artist. But it’s a shame they couldn’t make it work with all the iPads. Perhaps a big iPad reset will come next year to resolve this. We will wait and see.

Movie madness!

Hurray for Hollywood, something is wrong down there in Hollywood. Something is definitely not quite right with mainstream movies today. It seems to be either a derivative, a sequel or a remake. It is rare to see originality like Oppenheimer. Is it too much of a risk for modern Hollywood or there baser motives at play. If you have time, have a look at this long form polemic from Some More News for one point of view:

Speaking of base motives, there are concerns that mobile prices may rise following the proposed merger of Three and Vodafone. The companies instead claim it will lead to more investment and lower prices. We shall see. In worse news, if you are a professional in start-up or small group of developers, you need to be alert as MI5 warns of growing Chinese espionage against innovative small companies (like yours). Finally, the Cyber threat remains ever present, requiring vigilance in our application of security controls and updates, but sadly our British Library has fallen foul, perhaps to ransomware. Stay alert!

Apple Music ❤️your HiFi

If you have Apple Music and a recent Apple Device, you’ll know that many tracks are available in ‘lossless’ quality. The problem we have is that wireless earpods are not lossless because anything sent wirelessly to them is compressed. This also means Apple AirPlay for wireless transmissions to a speaker are also ‘lossy’ and not lossless. With the proviso that you probably can’t tell the difference because our ears lose the ability as we age, what are the options to get the best audio onto your best speakers (your Hifi speakers)?

Well, Darko Audio has come to the conclusion that the way to get the highest quality lossless audio is have Apple Music installed on your HiFi device. This is easier said than done! But it cuts out the wireless audio, and instead directly connects to Apple’s servers for bit-perfect reproduction.

But there is another way to get lossless audio. I’ll explain my set-up. I have an Apple TV 4K. That is connected to my TV via an HDMI cable (digital, uncompressed). My TV is connected to my HiFI using Digital Optical Out (Toslink). This passes-through the digital signal from Apple Music on AppleTV to the HIFI unadulterated. The only difference is that my Toslink is capable of only 16-bit CD quality lossless, which covers most of the lossless tracks on Apple Music. Darko’s method will gain access to the highest 24-bit resolution music if you can find it (which again you probably can’t hear anyway). But if you want it, you want it. The point here is, lossless audio is turned off by default on Apple TV. Watch below to see how to turn it on.

The Ray-Ban Meta

The technology isn’t there yet for Apple Vision Pro quality yet, stylish, smart glasses. Those which try tend to be bulky or awkward looking, while those which don’t, look like ski googles (yes even the Vision Pro). The main problem is the big heavy screen that’s needed. In the meantime, perhaps the most elegant solution is to dispense with a screen altogether. That’s exactly what Meta have done with their new glasses in collaboration with Ray-Ban. Their glasses look…like Ray-Bans – no catch. The Jury is out on if this sells, but the Verge below is fairly positive. They certainly look good:

And finally

Some good use of artificial intelligence. This time used to salvage the audio of a John Lennon demo tape from the 1970s. This song was abandoned In the 1990s, because of their inability at the time to separate his voice from the piano. Now, artificial intelligence has been used to extract a clear set of vocals. This has led to the Beatles reforming in person and virtually, for the last time, to complete John’s work. Take a look at the remarkable music video for their final song.

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