With the release of macOS Catalina today, in this article we are sharing up to date information, as we get it from brands and the community, about which pro audio applications and plug-ins do and don't work with macOS Catalina 10.15 as well as other related issues which affect pro audio users. This article will be constantly updated as the information and compatibility status changes.
There is more information beneath the searchable database regarding Apple hardware compatibility.
If you want to learn more about the new features in macOS Catalina then check out our detailed article Apple Preview macOS 10.15 - Catalina - Ready For Release In The Fall.
Is It Too Early To Upgrade To macOS Catalina?
The simple answer at this point, in October 2019, the answer is YES, it is absolutely too early. Very few applications and plug-ins are supported in macOS Catalina (10.15). Nearly 40 audio brands have issued specific guidance NOT to upgrade to macOS Catalina and all that information is now in our searchable database below. Obviously, over time the situation will change and we will update our advice, as the support macOS Catalina changes, but it may take some time because of changes Apple has made to the security settings in macOS Catalina.
We recommend that you search the database to see whether the software, and hardware that you use is compatible with macOS Catalina yet. The key issue for Pro Tools, Logic Pro and Studio One users is to wait until Avid, Apple and PreSonus have announced they have a version of their DAW software that is macOS Catalina compatible. Then wait until all the plug-in brands that you use as well as peripheral manufacturers are also supporting macOS Catalina 10.15 BEFORE you upgrade. That said Logic Pro X is a special case as it is expected that all of Apple's software will be compatible with Catalina from day one, but previous releases have had issues so Logic Pro X users and this time round the additional security issues including Notarization will affect any 3rd party plugins Logic users have, plus drivers will need updating too so Logic users should still check before upgrading. We have special advice for Logic Pro users.
Before You Upgrade Follow The Advice From Apple
In their article Upgrade to macOS Catalina, Apple provides a lot of advice and what to check before upgrading to macOS Catalina.
Not Here = Not Supported
Absence on this list should be taken as not compatible, initially, the information will be scarce. As soon as brands let us know about their macOS Catalina compatibility then we will update this article and database as we did with our MacOS 10.13 High Sierra Pro Audio Compatibility Guide With Regular Updates, our macOS Sierra Pro Audio Compatibility and macOS Mojave Compatibility - The Ultimate Pro Audio Guide articles.
Don't Update In The Middle Of A Job
We always recommend that you leave any upgrade until you have some downtime. Experience has told us that upgrades are rarely straightforward, especially OS upgrades as they often have knock-on effects, so wait until you have time to fix the unforeseen problems.
Which Mac Computers Will Be Supported With macOS Catalina?
Apple has now announced which Mac computers will work with macOS Catalina and it is the same list as it was for macOS Mojave with one notable exception…
MacBook (Early 2015 or later)
MacBook Air (Mid-2012 or later)
MacBook Pro (Mid-2012 or later)
Mac mini (Late 2012 or later)
iMac (Late 2012 or later)
iMac Pro (all models)
Mac Pro (Late 2013)
End Of The Line For Mac Pro 5,1 Cheese-graters?
It shouldn’t take you too long to spot that the Mac Pro 2010 and 2012 old style cheese-graters that are missing from this list. Although there are rumours that it may be possible to install Catalina on old-style cheese-grater Mac Pro 5,1 computers, it will be a ‘hack’ of some description and so we do not recommend it. If you have a Mac Pro 5,1 then consider upgrading to macOS Mojave but that will be it. That said, there will be plenty of life in your Mac Pro. Typically, DAW brands like Avid continue to support older versions of the operating systems and so it’s likely that there are another 3 years before macOS Mojave is not supported with the current version of Pro Tools.
What Will You Now Apple Has Released Catalina? Poll Results
Last month we asked you in a poll “When macOS Catalina 10.15 Ships I Will...”
The options were…
Keep using my existing Apple Mac on an older OS I don't care
I already own a compatible Apple Mac
Use a hack to run Catalina on an unsupported Mac
I will buy a compatible Apple Mac shortly
Here are the results…
When macOS Catalina 10.15 Ships I Will...
Nearly one in three of you already own a supported Mac, with just one in twenty planning to replace an older Apple Mac computer with a newer model that will run Catalina.
Over half of you, like Mike with his Mac Pro mid-2010, are happy to continue using your existing Mac on an older macOS. However, nearly one in five of you are going to try and find a way of running Catalina on an unsupported Apple Mac computer.
Overall 60% will stay with your existing computer and 40% will use a newer computer that is designed to run macOS Catalina.
Apple Tighten Security Yet Again
Each of the last few macOS updates has included improvements to security, which have had consequences for all users but especially pro audio and music users. Catalina is no exception. With macOS Catalina, there are two new hurdles to get past, both of which were optional requirements in macOS Mojave, but have become compulsory with macOS Catalina.
The first is “notarization” - a change to any ‘executable’ code like installers, applications, plug-ins, drivers etc. in which Apple uses a service to scan ‘executables’ for malicious code. Apple issues notarization tickets to developers to ‘staple’ to their installers, if they pass all of the requirements that macOS Mojave and Catalina will be looking for when they are first run.
The second is “hardened runtime”, a set of security requirements controlling how software on the macOS platform is granted access to your computer. It is a way that developers can set flags in the application’s signature indicating to the operating system what services and facilities it requires and should be given access to. If the application steps out of line for any reason, the operating system will overrule any requests that are supposed to be out of bounds.
In reality, these two are somewhat linked because Apple now doesn’t issue notarization tickets unless they also meet the hardened runtime requirements and only include a set of permissible entitlements (amongst other requirements).
To get a notarization ticket, a hardened runtime application may now need to explicitly request entitlements that would have just been assumed by default in the past, hence the need for changes in the affected software.
Why Has Apple Done This?
Consider what the aim of any malware is, it is designed to run code that hasn’t been given permission to run and that code then gets access to vital parts of your computer like your personal data or your microphone or camera all without your permission. These two new restrictions from Apple are designed to make it harder for malicious code to be able to run.
If you want to know more about these new security systems then you will find a lot more in our article macOS Catalina - Why It Might Take Software Developers Some Time To Be Compatible With macOS 10.15.
macOS Catalina System Volume Will Be Read-Only
Yes, you read it correctly, your macOS Catalina System Volume will be Read Only. Some are saying that the single, largest change in macOS Catalina is the manner in which the System volume is mounted on startup – it's read-only. By mounting the volume read-only, it becomes impossible for attackers to make changes to the content of the macOS System volume. That doesn't mean that your Mac is 100% free from all possible attack vectors, rather it's just another line of defence against them.
The boot drive will be cleverly split and merged. There obviously have to be parts of your startup drive that will still need to be written to, like your home folder, third-party applications and a handful of system components that can't reside on a read-only volume. For example, Apple has chosen to put Safari on the read-write data volume, perhaps so it can be updated more frequently.
macOS Catalina merges the read-only system volume with the read-write data volume so that users are not aware of the 2 sections. This will mean that normally you won't see the different sections in the Finder, because the Finder visually mashes the content of the two volumes together to make them appear as a single volume. The Finder also won't list your Data volume alongside all of your other volumes – the Data volume is mounted but hidden.
Mike Bombich, the man behind the excellent Carbon Copy Cloner software has written a detailed article on this and other changes to the way APFS Volumes will work in macOS Catalina.
32 Bit Applications And macOS Catalina
14 months ago Apple confirmed at the 2018 WWDC keynote that macOS Mojave would be the last version of the macOS that would support 32-bit applications.
From January 2018 all new apps submitted by developers to the App Store had to be 64-bit apps and all apps and app updates had to be 64-bit by June 2018. If you want to check what 32-bit applications you might still have on your system then all is not lost, you can check in the About This Mac System Report...
Go to Apple Menu
About This Mac
Software > Applications
In the last column, you can see whether it’s a 64-bit application or not.
Instead of using the option in About This Mac, we recommend that you download and install a great free app called Go64 and you can read all about how to get, install and use this free application in our article Getting Ready For macOS Catalina - Rooting Out All Your 32 Bit Applications. Also in this article we list all the 32-bit applications in the pro audio and music sectors that we know about, some of which are end-of-line and will not be updated and others which developers are hard at work recoding as 64-bit applications.
Video Codec Support in macOS Catalina
There are two changes Apple is implementing with the release of macOS Catalina that will affect how the new OS will handle video files although things may not be as problematic as we first thought, more on that shortly. Before that let us recap what we understand would happen to video codec support with the release of macOS Catalina starting with what we wrote in December 2018.
With the release of a major Final Cut update, Apple also took the opportunity to warn users that a future macOS will NOT support a number of commonly used video codecs including Avid’s DNxHD, which Avid recommend as the best video format for Pro Tools and a lot of video camera formats built around the Cineform codec.
At first glance, it does seem strange that a number of very commonly used and current codecs will no longer be supported in the Apple but the problem is that these codecs are built around 32-bit code and all modern operating systems are dropping-32 bit code, not just for video codecs but for all applications.
We also understand that one of the reasons that the AVFoundation (Apple’s replacement for QuickTime) is fast is because it can be much more efficient as it isn’t getting bogged down by ‘slow and inefficient’ 3rd party codecs that also might be power-hungry too. This is key to Apple as they are crazy about power efficiency especially as more and more of their products are portable where battery life is very important.
Then fast forward to June 2019. Following discussions about what will need to happen to the Pro Tools code to be ready for macOS Catalina, we asked Francois Quereuil, Director of Product Management | Audio Workstations & Control Surfaces at Avid and he gave us this exclusive statement…
“We’re already working closely with Apple on ensuring timely support for all flavors of Pro Tools. Mojave was mostly about tuning performance and presented unique challenges, we anticipate that Catalina support will be more straightforward, with only a few 32-bit components to port to 64-bit, which is not a difficult process. As far as QuickTime is concerned, we are also working on solutions to ensure workflow continuity for our users.”
To be clear, it is our understanding that until Avid can make everything in Pro Tools 64-bit code, Pro Tools will not be compatible with macOS Catalina, and Pro Tools users will need to wait until Avid produce a Catalina compatible version of Pro Tools before they can upgrade their Apple Mac computers to Catalina.
So what should we do? MPEG Streamclip, which was a free app that may be used as a video codec conversion tool is a 32-bit application that will not be updated, so we will need a replacement.
In our article Two Ways To Create Pro Tools Friendly Avid DNxHD Video Files Without Using MPEG Streamclip - Expert Tutorial we show two solutions to replace MPEG Streamclip and in our article Optimus Player - Is This The Alternative To QuickTime 7 You'll Need To Be Able To Play Avid DNXHD Video Files In The Future? we show a replacement to the QuickTime Player in the macOS that would support all the codecs that will no longer be supported in the macOS.
It All Might Change - Has Apple Done A U-turn?
According to an Avid Press Release announced at IBC 2019, Avid appeared to be suggesting that there will be macOS support for Avid DNxHR and DNxHD codecs.
As part of their IBC 2019 coverage, Avid announced improved end-to-end video editing workflows with ProRes integration for Windows and native support for ProRes RAW in Media Composer as well as native support for DNx codecs.
As part of this Media Composer press release, Avid state the following…
“Apple will provide 64-bit decoders for DNxHR and DNxHD codecs within the Pro Video Formats package that is available from Apple as a free download for all users. These integrations will allow content creators and post-production companies to natively create high-quality ProRes content regardless of their OS and save time during the creative storytelling process.”
They continued further down the press release…
“Finally, the continued availability of Avid’s DNxHD and DNxHR decoders for macOS is a tremendous benefit to content creators using Apple and Avid products and will ensure the longevity of content creators’ DNx material encoded in MXF and QuickTime files.”
Rob D’Amico, Director of Product Marketing, at Avid told us…
“This collaboration democratizes content creation by removing the boundaries posed by different operating systems and opens the door to a greater number of higher-quality delivery formats. Adding support for ProRes for Windows, native ProRes RAW and DNx Codecs is yet another way Media Composer deals with advancements in technology so editors can stay focused on creative storytelling.”
What Codecs Are Currently In Apple’s Pro Video Formats Package v2.1
The Pro Video Formats package V2.1 released in January 2019 provides support for the following codecs that are used in professional video workflows:
Apple ProRes RAW and ProRes RAW HQ*
Apple Intermediate Codec
AVC-Intra 50 / 100 / 200 / 4:4:4 / LT
XDCAM EX / HD / HD422
The Pro Video Formats package also includes the following MXF support:
Play MXF files in QuickTime Player and other supported macOS applications
MXF plug-in and presets for use in Compressor 4.3 and earlier
But be aware that this announcement from Avid about Apple’s plans contradicts information from Avid and Apple that we reported on.
We observe that the Apple article About incompatible media in Final Cut Pro X dated 7th October 2019 is still listing Avid DNxHD and DNxHR as formats that are not supported in macOS Catalina. There is currently no sign of a new Apple Pro Video Formats package with the release of macOS Catalina, so at the moment our original advice stands.
As soon as we have more on this we will bring it to you.
In this article we have up to the minute compatibility information for macOS Catalina 10.15 for pro-audio related applications from brands including Ableton, Accusonus, Acon Digital, Acustica Audio, AIR Music Tech, AJA, AKai Professional, Alesis, Algoriddim, Allen and Heath, Antares, Antelope Audio, Apogee, Arturia, Audient, Audified, Audio Assault, Audio Damage, Audio Ease, AudioGaming, Audionamix, Audiority, Avid, Basehead, Behringer, Blue Cat Audio, Bombich, Boss, Boz Digital Labs, Cedar Audio, Celemony, Cytomic, DDMF, Denon DJ, Digital Audio Denmark (DAD), DMG Audio, DNA Music Labs, Dolby Labs, e-instruments, EastWest, Editors Keys, Eiosis, Eventide, FabFilter, Finale, Flux:: Sound and Picture Development, Focusrite, FXpansion, Garritan, GForce, Goodhertz, HOFA, Hornet Plugins, Icon Pro Audio, IK Multimedia, iZotope, Kazrog, Klevgrand, Korg, Krotos, Kuassa, KV331, Lexicon, Line 6, LiquidSonics, M-Audio, Maag Audio, Magama, MakeMusic, Massey, Mastering The Mix, Metric Halo, Modartt, MOTU, Native Instruments, Nektar, Neyrinck, Non Lethal Applications, Noation, Nugen Audio, Numark, Oeksound, Output, OverTone DSP, Penteo PerfectSurround, Pioneer DJ, Plugin Alliance, Positive Grid, PreSonus, Prime Studio, Quiet Art, Reason Labs (formerly Propellerheads), reFuse Software, Relab Development, RME, Rob Papen, Rogue Amoeba, Roland, RLOI, Scuffham Amps, Serato, Signum Audio, Sknote, Slate Digital, Softube, Solid State Logic, Sonalksis, Sonarworks, Sonnet Technologies, Sonnox, Sound Radix, Soundminer, Sounds In Sync, Soundtoys, Source Elements, Spectrasonics, Spitfire Audio, Steinberg, Synchro Arts, TAL Software, Tascam, TC Electronic, Telestream, The Cargo Cult, Todd-AO, Tonsturm, Tovusound, Townsend Labs, Tracktion, u-he, UJAM, Universal Audio, UVI, Valhalla DSP, Vienna Symphonic Library, Virtual Katy, Wacom, Wave Alchemy, Waves Arts, Waves, Wavesfactory, Zoom, zplane and Zynaptiq.