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Learning Core Audio: A Hands-On Guide to Audio Programming for Mac and iOS Paperback – April 9, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0321636843 ISBN-10: 0321636848 Edition: 1st
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Learning Core Audio: A Hands-On Guide to Audio Programming for Mac and iOS + Designing Audio Effect Plug-Ins in C++: With Digital Audio Signal Processing Theory + The Audio Programming Book
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Create Rich, Powerful Audio Apps with Core Audio on OS X and iOS


Audio can affect the human brain in the most powerful and profound ways. Using Apple’s Core Audio, you can leverage all that power in your own Mac and iOS software, implementing features ranging from audio capture to real-time effects, MP3 playback to virtual instruments, and web radio to VoIP support. The most sophisticated audio programming system ever created, Core Audio is not simple. In Learning Core Audio , top iOS programming author Chris Adamson and legendary Core Audio expert Kevin Avila fully explain this challenging framework, enabling experienced Mac or iOS programmers to make the most of it.


In plain language, Adamson and Avila explain what Core Audio can do, how it works, and how it builds on the natural phenomena of sound and the human language of audio. Next, using crystal-clear code examples, they guide you through recording, playback, format conversion, Audio Units, 3D audio MIDI connectivity, and overcoming the unique challenges of Core Audio programming for Mac and iOS.


Coverage includes

• Mastering Core Audio’s surprising style and conventions

• Implementing recording and playback with the Audio Queue architecture

• Using Audio Units to synthesize audio, perform effects on audio streams, capture from the mic, and mix multiple streams

• Managing file streams and converting formats with Core Audio’s helper APIs

• Creating positional audio in 3D space with OpenAL

• Using Core MIDI to synthesize audio on-the-fly

• Leveraging your Cocoa and Objective-C expertise in Core Audio’s C-based environment


When you’ve mastered the “black arts” of Core Audio, you can do some serious magic. This book will transform you from an acolyte into a true Core Audio wizard.

About the Author

Chris Adamson is an independent writer, editor, and developer who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Now focusing on iOS and Mac development, he is the coauthor of iOS SDK Development. He is also the author of QuickTime for Java: A Developer's Notebook and coauthor of Swing Hacks. He was formerly the editor of and He consults and publishes through his corporate identity, Subsequently and Furthermore, Inc., with a focus on user-facing and digital media development for Mac and iOS. He blogs on digital media software development at In a previous career, he was a writer/associate producer at CNN Headline News, and over the years, he has managed to own 11 1/2 Macs.

Kevin Avila (a.k.a. dogbert) is a smooth blend of carbon compounds, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, with some impurities for added flavor. Additionally, he has more than 15 years' experience developing for the Mac and, since its release, the iPhone. Kevin has been involved in every corner of the audio market, from being an engineer at Apple to configuring professional recording studios. He currently is a code mercenary for various clients while he sits in his underwear at home, sipping coffee.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (April 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321636848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321636843
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author (Core Audio, iPhone SDK Development, QuickTime for Java: A Developer's Notebook, Swing Hacks), independent iPhone and Mac developer (Road Tip, Don't You Know Your Own Tunes?), editor (formerly of and, programmer, husband, father, anime fan, DDR plodder, etc. Now blogging on media development topics at [Time code]:

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Todd Stewart on May 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been working with AudioQueue microphone input (IOS) for over a year, but found myself avoiding anything deeper (properties, listener callback notifications, metering, audio units, ...). After running through this tutorial, I now understand what is going on under the hood, and have moved down into working directly with audio units.

For me the most useful tips were:

1) Simple CheckError() logic to decrypt the 4 character mode and error code constants used throughout.

2) Clear explanation of file formats, audio formats, converters, and native PCM representations on IOS and OSX.

3) Pointers for where to find CoreAudio documentation (much of it can be found only in header file comments)

4) Clear pattern for required lifecycle sequence of constructing an audio units graph of nodes, which must be defined before open, opened before starting to set properties, and properties setup before initialize.

5) Reusable patterns for the sometimes awkward pointer arithmetic required to assemble AudioBufferLists on the fly.

6) Unkinking the awkward syntax of Output units, which are used for both hardware output and hardware input. Both the outbound bus #0 and inbound bus #1 have input and output scopes, which relate to where the unit fits into the graph. Clear description of threading, buffering, and clocking issues which must be handled in OSX context which may include multiple external audio accessories from different vendors, with different clocking and timing. After completing this tutorial I now "get it".

7) Clear description of the differences between OSX and IOS implementations.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Marnatti on November 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
iOS and OS X audio are done differently and the bulk of the examples work on OS X only. HAL methods (the methods with "Hardware" in their names) have been deprecated. I learned a lot from this book. Note to Chris Adamson, time for a new updated edition - this could be the definitive text.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michele on April 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
First let's start with stating how satisfied I am of having found that this book exists. Core audio is one of the most difficult programming topic I ever found, because of the subject matter and because of arcane, not very well documented, obscure and often inconsistent Api conventions and naming. OpenGl is difficult as it requires loads of mathematics, but is wery well documented. Core Audio is as difficult as OpenGL, mayebe more, but knowledge about it is much harder to be found.

The authors take their time to tell their readers what this book is not, it is not a book for wannabe programmers, it is not a beginners guide, beginners and less than determined programmers, please look elswhere. Audio is not for everybody, it involves doing computations in real time and is an order of magnitude more difficult than say, Ruby web based design.

A prerequisite for a beginner's book on Audio on Mac OsX and iOS, is being a rather advanced programmer in all three major languages required by the platform: Objective C, C (on which Core audio is based) and C++ (because of OpenAl 3d audio). You should be proficient enough to be familiar with structs, pointers and memory allocation.
The approach of the authors is keeping the UI side to a bare minimum, as UI is not what this book is all about: on the Mac side this choice implies having to deal with command line programs, and ignoring the Cocoa side of things. As this book is centered on Audio programming this choice is very logical. On the iOS chapter, a barebone simple View controller is used (as iOS does not support CLI.).
Learning Core Audio explains how to use all the major audio engines available on Apple platforms, which are basic Core Audio services, Core audio queues, Audio units and Open Al.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Abdullah Bakhach on March 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
I'm not going to repeat the great praise laid on this book from my fellow reviewers.. but as someone who has actually bought the book and read every chapter in it at least 10 times.. I must say that it only lays the foundation of your understanding of core audio (and I'm not saying this to belittle this book in any way, infact if I get a penny for every developer I've referred to this book.. I'll be a rich man).

but here is the good news.. you will find a lot of people very willing to help you out in core audio.. like me! :) through forums like stack over flow (see my answer to one question related to this book here as an example [...]. Feel free to ask on Stack Overflow and then drop me a line to see if I can help (and I've helped many).

You will also sometimes be frustrated when you the book shows you how to do something that works on OSX but not on iOS.. for example you cannot read audio samples from your iPhone music library using the examples in the book (you will only be able to read it from music files you import directly to your Xcode project).

But then again you will find solutions augmenting the examples in the book like this one: [...]
the point is that there is a healthy community of developers you can easily reach who are familiar with the examples in this book and are willing to help.. so buy the book, have fun and start chunking out some awesome code!!
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