Route Mac Audio Into Pro Tools 9

The problem: You want to record Mac audio straight into Pro Tools. Maybe you've got something going in Logic, or maybe you just want to record something you found online in Safari or a hook from a song in iTunes. It doesn't matter. If it plays on your Mac, you'll be able to record it in Pro Tools when we're done here. Best of all, you'll accomplish this using free software.

The first thing you're going to need to do is get a drink. This might be a little frustrating, so let's just get a damn drink before we dive in, mkay? Go on. Fetch something tasty. I'll wait.

...are you back yet? Excellent. Let's get going.

A quick caveat: I'm running Pro Tools 9. With this latest update, Pro Tools isn't locked in to Avid/Digi hardware anymore, so I'm using my Apogee Duet for the audio interface in this example. Also: I've added pics to be helpful, but some of them are pretty small. Click them for a full size view.

Here's the plan. We're going to do three things:

#1: We're going to install Soundflower to serve as a software-only audio device.

#2: We'll then use Soundflowerbed to route audio to your audio interface.

#3: Finally, we'll give Pro Tools another pair of inputs for recording Soundflower.

I'm going to walk you through this step by step because I love you. Really, I do, and I'm a little offended that you're even questioning my devotion. Regardless... here we go.

- - - -    #1    - - - -

With Soundflower, we're going to create a software audio device (essentially an audio bus) in your Mac, and we'll send all audio to this device/bus. Soundflower adds a 2 channel and a 16 channel software audio device, but we're only using the 2 channel, so you can ignore the other. Just for reference, here's more Soundflower info (but you won't need it for what we're doing now).

Download Soundflower here and run the installer.

In the Apple Menu, go to System Preferences > Sound. Under "Input" select "Soundflower (2ch)".

Click for a larger view.

Well, that was easy enough... but now your Mac has no sound. Let's fix it.

- - - -    #2    - - - -

Soundflowerbed is an app that routes audio in Soundflower to your audio outputs. For example: previously, I sent iTunes audio to my Apogee Duet. Now, I'm sending iTunes audio to Soundflower, and Soundflowerbed sends that audio to my Duet. This has a nice benefit in Pro Tools. Since Pro Tools routes audio directly to my Duet rather than routing it into system audio, there's no need to mute a track when recording since there's no way for Pro Tools audio to feed back to itself (because Pro Tools audio doesn't get sent to Soundflower unless you route it there, and you probably won't. I don't!)

Setting up Soundflowerbed is dead simple. The app is in the Soundflower folder (inside the applications folder). Launch it! See that Soundflowerbed icon in your menubar? Click it and select your audio interface (again, I'm using an Apogee Duet in this example).

Play something in iTunes and you'll find that you've got sound again.

- - - -    #3    - - - -

Now, it's time to give Pro Tools a pair of inputs for Soundflower. We'll do this by creating an aggregate audio device and setting up Pro Tools to use it. Think of an aggregate audio device as a patchbay between Pro Tools and the inputs and outputs for your hardware and Soundflower's software. You'll connect your hardware and Soundflower to it on one end, and Pro Tools on the other. Sounds complex, but it's not.

In the finder, go to Applications > Utilities and launch Audio MIDI Setup.

Click for a larger view.

In the bottom left corner, click the + to add a new aggregate audio device. Click the name of that device and let's rename it. I renamed mine "Pro Tools With Soundflower" so I'll always remember what it is and why I made it. In the panel to the right, choose your audio interface and also choose Soundflower (2ch).

Launch Pro Tools. In the Setup menu, select "Playback Engine". Click the Current Engine list and choose Pro Tools With Soundflower (or whatever you've named your aggregate device).

Now, you've given Pro Tools connections to your hardware and Soundflower as audio inputs and outputs. SWEET!

Click for a larger view.

Let's rename those Pro Tools inputs and outputs so they make more sense in your sessions. In the Setup menu, click I/O. Your I/O window should look something like this. If it doesn't, click Default.

Click for a larger view.

In the Input, Output and Insert tabs, change the two Names to match your inputs, with Soundflower most likely being the second one.

Click for a larger view.

For safe-keeping, click the button at the bottom of the window to Export Settings. I named mine "Duet And Soundflower" so I'd always remember what the settings are for.

Now that everything's set up, let's use it in Pro Tools. While iTunes is playing something, open a new Pro Tools session and add a few new tracks. Choose an interface for input on a track - and lookie there! Hey hey, it's Soundflower!

Click record, and there's your iTunes audio going straight into Pro Tools. NEAT-O! And best of all, assuming you select your audio interface as outputs for the track, there's no need to mute it because no Pro Tools audio is feeding into Soundflower.

...note that I muted the track out of habit. Eh... whatever.

- - - -    #4?!    - - - -

Here's an extra step so you won't have to fiddle with this again: Let's set up your Mac to automatically launch Soundflowerbed at startup so this whole thing becomes a set it and forget it affair.

Go to system preferences in the Apple Menu. Select "Accounts". Then select "Login Items". Click + to add an application. In the Soundflower folder, select Soundflowerbed.


You're done. And like I said, you'll never need to fiddle with this stuff again... except when dealing with older Pro Tools sessions. That's where it gets frustrating. Remember those I/O settings I said to export for safe keeping? Sadly, you'll probably need to import them and change the inputs on your Pro Tools mixer when first opening older sessions. This is why I said to begin by getting a damn drink!

::::: | Tuesday, Nov 16 2010 at 8:40 PM
::::: |


shoez music said:

Ya baby i love ya too!

::::: | November 27, 2010 2:38 PM

Rob said:

AHAAHAHHAHAAA!!!! Thanks! I'm glad this helped somebody other than myself.

::::: | November 27, 2010 3:09 PM

Jeff Miles said:

BABY BOB! so i was looking for the best I/O for the new Pro Tools 9 and this popped up in Google search! AWESOME! PLUS I learned how to use iTunes with Pro Tools. Very COOL!

how much are you liking the new Pro Tools with the Duet?


Jeff Miggity MILES

::::: | December 7, 2010 9:46 AM

Rob said:

MILES! Small world, eh?

I switched from Pro Tools to Logic a year and a half ago because I hated using Digidesign hardware. The drivers for it were so buggy. I bought an Apogee Duet and was blown away by how good the thing sounded. I'm not sure you can find anything better for under $2,000. And I love the form factor of the Duet. It's a giant volume knob on my desk. Love it.

I switched back to Pro Tools as soon as PT9 was released. It's great being able to use 3rd party hardware. Pro Tools and the Apogee Duet are a perfect match if all you need is a stereo input and a stereo output.

::::: | December 7, 2010 10:11 AM

Rob said:

By the way, there are easier ways to record iTunes etc in Pro Tools. With a Duet, it's easier to just buy an adapter to go from the headset output to the Duet's inputs.

::::: | December 7, 2010 10:15 AM

Brian said:

WOW! You wouldn't believe how hard I've been looking for this info. Thank you!!

For weeks I've been trying to figure out how to get the audio from Pro Tools into Skype so I can set up a screen sharing situation. Hard to believe its so complex to accomplish.

Thanks again!

::::: | January 14, 2011 10:32 PM

Nate said:

Hi there,

I need some help please. Your post is awesome, followed all the steps, but when it came to selecting the agregate playback engine, there just wasn't an option to change it? No drop down.

Is this a limitation within PT8 M-Powered?

Is there a way around



::::: | January 26, 2011 12:26 PM

Rob said:

It's a Pro Tools 9 only feature. As of Pro Tools 9, you're no longer locked into only Digidesign (now Avid) hardware.

::::: | January 26, 2011 12:36 PM

benjamin said:

this is super helpful thanks for the tip

::::: | March 1, 2011 4:59 PM

Simon said:

Great post Rob. Thanks for sharing this. One question, is there a way to do this with Pro Tools 8? Cheers. Simon

::::: | March 26, 2011 5:50 AM

Rob said:

Sadly, Simon, there isn't. This is for Pro Tools 9 and later only. Everything changed with Pro Tools 9.

::::: | March 26, 2011 11:41 AM

lee said:

help>>> I just upgraded pro tools m powered to pro tools 10 and all seems well until i try to record bass gtr and i get mssg w/ no input/output assign...Hmmmm,
any help,
thanks lee

::::: | March 20, 2012 12:55 PM

Rob said:

Lee, you're much better off going to the Avid/Pro Tools forums for help. I don't have either PT 10 or mPowered. The Pro Tools forums can be really helpful. Check them out.

Best of luck!

::::: | March 20, 2012 3:23 PM

lee said:

will do thanks....

::::: | March 20, 2012 9:35 PM

Cactus said:

Love the clarity. Thanks. Just can't open soundflowerbed as an app. Not your issue. But shame.

::::: | April 6, 2012 5:50 PM

Maciek said:

Good one, thanks!

A typo: "In the Apple Menu, go to System Preferences > Sound. Under "Input" select "Soundflower (2ch)"." It should read "...Under "Output" select..."

::::: | July 19, 2012 3:49 PM

Fritz said:

thanks for this. FYI, with a UA Apollo it came up as the last pair called " /F"

::::: | May 3, 2013 7:58 AM

Gerrit said:

Great explanation and thanks for that: I got it running this time which I couldn't get to following other instructions on the net.


::::: | October 16, 2013 6:03 AM

Stuart said:

Hi there

Just wondering, is it possible to set this up when not using an audio interface?

::::: | August 17, 2014 3:20 AM

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