Looping Back in FaceTime

If you’re a podcaster who records on a Mac, the odds that you’ve heard of and are using software from Rogue Amoeba as part of your recording process are pretty high.

Rogue Amoeba makes some of the greatest Mac apps ever invented. Vic and I are soundboard junkies, and Farrago is an absolutely amazing soundboard. Using Audio Hijack, we can record our mics, the soundboard, and the group call all on individual tracks.1 And with Loopback installed, the soundboard isn’t just local, it can be heard by everyone on the podcast by combining it with the microphone as the input source to the call.

Loopback is very cool. It allows you to set up virtual devices and use them as inputs or outputs to other programs. I have a Loopback device called “Shure Beta 87a & Farrago” that I use as my input to Skype and FaceTime calls, and that’s what lets me share my soundboard with my podcast co-hosts.

Mic and soundboard input Loopback device

Recently, however, whenever I use this Loopback virtual device as my FaceTime input source, both my input level to the people on the other end of the call and their output level to me become very quiet. The volume decrease is significant enough that people I’m talking to can barely hear me. If I switch the input source in FaceTime to just my mic directly, then all the audio levels are fine again.

The immediate solution for this problem is to not use FaceTime and to use Skype instead, but the troubleshooter in me hates this with a passion. It’s not a fix. So after fighting with this repeatedly, I finally contacted Rogue Amoeba, and they suggested the following:

It sounds like FaceTime is fighting with your device and automatically your audio volume - to work around that, create a second Loopback device, add the pass-thru source, then set the monitor device for channels 1+2 to the Tascam US-2x2 device.

Once that’s created, set that new Loopback device device as your audio output device in FaceTime and try another call.

So I did. Here’s what it looks like:

FaceTime output Loopback device

When they first told me to try this, I was confused and thought they were thinking I was saying I couldn’t hear the other people, rather than them not being able to hear me. I thought what Rogue Amoeba was suggesting was an output level fix. However, I was wrong, and they knew exactly what they were talking about.

Now when I set the FaceTime input source to my mic and soundboard Loopback device and set the FaceTime output source to this FaceTime output Loopback device, my audio levels hold and I can hear my co-hosts and they can hear me normally as well.

FaceTime audio source settings

FaceTime is doing something with audio and auto-gain adjustments that doesn’t like unusual input devices, apparently. I don’t know if it’s a macOS bug or a macOS change, because it just started afflicting me recently, long after I’d been running Catalina already.

Sometimes the Mac is a mystery, but fortunately for me the people at Rogue Amoeba do know what they’re doing.

  1. We don’t use the call recording file in the edited podcast because everyone records their own tracks locally for better sound quality, but it makes a great sync and emergency backup track. ↩︎