At the beginning of the month, I spoke at 360iDev in San Jose. I’d wanted to do a go-for-broke Core Audio talk for a long time, sent in an ambitious proposal, and got accepted, so this was destined to be it. Now I just had to come up with something that didn’t suck.
Luckily, there was another Core Audio talk, from Robert Strojan, that did a high-level tour of audio on the iPhone, with two deep dives into OpenAL and Audio Units. So that got everyone ready.
I called my talk Core Audio: Don’t Be Afraid To Play It LOUD (from a caption in the liner notes to Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend), and went with the no fear angle by focusing almost entirely on audio units. The idea being: you’ve seen these low-latency audio apps that do crazy stuff, you know it must be possible, so how? The answer is: you involve yourself in the processing of samples down at the audio unit level.
Click through the 170+ slides — it’s not that bad, I just expanded all the Keynote “builds” into their own slides — and you’ll get the basic grounding in the stuff you always have to do with audio units, and the Remote I/O unit in particular. Stuff like finding the component, getting an instance, setting properties on the input and output scopes to enable I/O and set an
AudioStreamBasicDescription, things you will get as used to as implementing
dealloc in an Obj-C class.
The big win is the examples, which came together in a hideous mess of two spaghetti code files that I’m embarrassed to say are now in the hands of all the attendees. One reason for the blog entry you’re reading is to present cleaned up versions of the five sample applications from the session.
In the past, I’ve done an audio unit example that produces a sine wave by cranking out samples in the callbacks. It’s sort of like the hello world of audio in that it gets you down to the nitty-gritty of samples without too much pain, but it doesn’t play to a crowd all that well. FWIW, the second chapter of the Core Audio book writes a sine wave to a file, again to get you thinking about samples as soon as possible.
But for this talk, I decided to do a set of examples that work with audio input. That way, we got to play with the mic and the speaker — bus 1 and bus 0 for you folks who already know this stuff — and get some halfway interesting audio.
The first example goes through the drudgery of creating and initializing the Remote I/O unit, and connects bus 1 output to bus 0 input to do a pass through: anything that comes in on the mic goes out the speakers. I used to do this with an AU Graph and
AUGraphConnectNodeInput(), not realizing it’s easily done without a graph, by just setting a unit’s
kAudioUnitProperty_MakeConnection property. With that, I could speak into the simulator and get audio out over the PA (or into my device’s mic, but I used the simulator because it shows better).
Well, yay, I’ve turned the iPhone simulator into a mediocre PA system. What’s next. The key to the good stuff is to be able to involve yourself in the processing of samples, so the next example replaces the direct connection with a render callback. This means we write a function to supply samples to a caller (the Remote IO unit, which needs something to play). In the basic version, we call
AudioUnitRender() on the IO unit’s bus 1, which represents input into the device, to provide samples off the mic.
Still boring, but we’re getting there. Instead of just copying samples, example 3 performs a trivial effect by adding a gain slider, and applying that gain to every sample as it passes through.
Now we can apply any DSP that suits us as samples go through the render callback function. In example 4, we apply a ring modulator to the samples, which combined a 23 Hz sine wave with the input signal from the mic to create a reasonably plausible Dalek voice.
Dalek voice demo:
I was pretty much over time at this point, but the last example is too much fun to miss. To show off other units, I brought a multichannel mixer unit into play. On bus 0, it got a render callback to our existing Dalek code. For bus 1, I read an entire LPCM song into RAM (which is totally bad and would blow the RAM of earlier iPhones, but I couldn’t get the damned CARingBuffer working), and provided a render callback to supply its samples in order. The result, infamously, is “Dalek Sing-A-Long”:
Anyways, great conference, great speakers, great attendees. Thanks for reading, and here’s the code: