El Capitan is said to bring serious speed enhancements for both new and old, compatible Macs. The Guardian UK ended their short review by stating “I can’t see why you wouldn’t upgrade, although maybe wait and see whether any bugs pop up before updating your main machine.”
Macworld wax lyrical about it too: “Should you update to El Capitan? Unreservedly yes—I’ve found it to be stable, it’s free, it’ll download and install itself on your Mac with nearly no intervention, and it’ll bring with it improved security, speed, and functionality.
The days of dramatic operating-system updates are over. El Capitan is as solid as the giant granite monolith that towers over Yosemite Valley. Upgrade, and get an improved Mac. It’s really that simple.”
Well, El Capitan might be solid if you're using Apple Mail, Pages, Word, Safari, Chrome, etc. But, don’t believe everything you read (yes, I get the irony here) take a breath, make a tea/coffee and sit back and think. Music software is much more complex than the general apps Macworld and others tested during their reviews. Plus Apple did work on some underlying audio technologies in this OS, so it seems the creative/professional crowds should pay close attention before updating.
Here are 5 reasons you should wait before updating to OS X 10.11 El Capitan...
There have evidently been some underlying changes to the way El Capitan deals with audio and audio units. And that’s evident across forums and developer sites where the overall advice from some of the big players in the market is to wait before updating.
As of today, Steinberg (Cubase, Nuendo, Wavelab), EastWest (Play), Avid (Pro Tools), Slate Digital, Gobbler and others are advising customers to stay put on Yosemite.
Arturia are amongst those and explain that “this update may affect operations of these instruments when in Audio Unit or standalone mode. We are working with Apple to solve some issues. Indeed some of them could need a release either from Arturia or Apple.”
Native Instruments explain that validation of all of their Audio Units fail in Logic Pro X under OS X 10.11. Reassuringly, “the root cause of this issue has been identified and a workaround is still being developed in close contact with Apple. [They] will keep you updated on any developments regarding this issue.”
NOTE: MattiasWitt on the NI User Forums has shared a hack to get around AU Validation. Read more here.
If you use plug-ins by any of the above, and let’s face it, NI Komplete, Arturia, Steinberg, EastWest, Avid & Elektron’s Overbridge—that includes a large number of producers—then don’t update until fixes get released.
Now this doesn’t affect everyone. Focusrite have given the green light to their customers for their audio interfaces (but not their Midnight Scarlett plugins)… Apogee also have things under control. All their interfaces are compatible except the Duet Firewire and Emsemble Firewire. Download latest Apogee drivers here. Audient are also ahead of the curve. The iD14 and iD22 offer WIndows 10 and El Capitan support. Download Audient drivers here.
However, if you’re an Elektron Overbridge user (hardware with software control) you’ll come across problems. Apparently the Universal Audio drivers just won’t work and so their hardware won’t either until we get updates. And Native Instruments users of legacy hardware, such as Traktor Kontrol S4 (MK1), X1 (MK1), Traktor Audio 2, Maschine (MK1), Rig Kontrol 3 and Audio 8, 4 or 3 DJ then you can expect a kernel panic and a crash with the new OS X 10.11. Not much fun, eh.
If points 1 and 2 above haven’t convinced you to wait, then please think of the hurt and pain you might feel should you update and lose either time or work you’re currently working on.
A general rule of thumb to go by is, if you’re mid-project/album/symphony don’t even think about updating your OS or your DAW. We’ve seen too many sad stories caused by hasty OS updates on the first day.
Now you might be absolutely fine should you update but is it worth the risk?
Time Machine is great. Carbon Copy Cloner is great. If you’re using these and you feel like trying out El Capitan and have some spare time to revert to a previous backup if you should need to, then go ahead.
But if you haven’t backed up your Mac in a while and plan on updating, we’d advise against that level of bravery!
Probably the best advice we can give anyone who is desperate to explore the speed improvements in El Capitan is to download and install on a separate partition, or better still a separate Mac. Using this as a test machine for your music software, hardware and plug-ins is a neat and tidy way to ensure your studio Mac can be used to make music and not troubleshoot issues.
And if you don’t have a spare Mac or partition? You know what we’re going to say… Wait until these issues are resolved. In the meantime, and while we're talking about using complex creative software and keeping track of OS updates, you might want to consider turning off Apple's auto-update OS X feature... this will automatically download and install updates within the current version of OS X you're running. i.e. 10.10.1 to 10.10.2. It won't automatically upgrade your system to 10.11 (which is considered a new product).
But still, in my experience it's useful to stay on top of your updates (and upgrades!) and check for issues with your software and plugins before doing either. Details on how to disable OS X auto-update are below:
1. Open System Preferences (from the Dock or from the Apple icon in the Menu bar)
2. Click on "App Store"
3. Make sure the "Install OS X updates" checkbox is unchecked like in the screenshot below.
Other than that, we can't wait for these audio-related issues to be fixed so we can dive in properly and experience the benefits in El Capitan!