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USB Driver for Apple Silicon

GlennO

Power User
Bump. I haven’t been able to find any official announcement about this. What is the official word on this?
 

Fox

New Member
There is already some kind of workaround to load the AXE-FX II USB firmware without the driver installed in macOS.

Background
After startup the USB chip in the AXE-FX II do need to get the firmware loaded from the host system. Normally this is done automatically by the installed driver but this can be done on demand by executing the fxload tool. After this upload the AXE-FX II will become a class compliant USB device same as with the driver.

Variant 1 (easier) - Steps to install the fxload tool via Homebrew (tested with Xcode 12.4 and Homebrew 3.0.0)

Homebrew Installation
  1. install Homebrew as documented on brew.sh and follow the advice at the end of the installation routine to add Homebrew to your path
Xcode installation and Configuration
  1. install Xcode via App Store (needed as the Command Line Tools are not enough for the compilation process in this case)
  2. open Xcode once to accept the license agreement
  3. switch to the Xcode compilation tool directory via "sudo xcode-select -s /Applications/Xcode.app/Contents/Developer" in a terminal window
Install fxload tool via Homebrew
  1. execute "brew tap kolontsov/fxload" in a terminal window
  2. execute "brew install fxload" in a terminal window
Execution while AXE-FX II is connected
  1. grab the hex file contained in Axe-FX_II_USB_Driver_Setup_Linux_106.zip (search for this on archive.axefx.fr)
  2. in the directory containing the hex file open a terminal window and execute "fxload -v -t fx2lp -I axefx2load.hex -D 2466:0003"

Variant 2 (more complex) -
Steps to compile a universal binary (x86 and ARM support) of the fxload tool (tested with Xcode 12.2)
  1. in XCode create an Objective-C macOS Command Line Tool project with the name fxload
  2. copy the files main.m (replaces existing version in newly created project), ezusb.h and ezusb.m from GitHub repo kolontsov/nexys2-osx to the project
  3. set „Objective-C Automatic Reference Counting“ in the build settings to NO - this will „resolve“ the three compile errors
  4. set „Build Active Architecture Only“ in build settings to NO - forces that always a universal binary will be created
  5. compile (and do a test run) by pressing the „Play“ button
  6. put the binary (found via „Show in Finder“ on the fxload product in the left area) and the hex file contained in Axe-FX_II_USB_Driver_Setup_Linux_106.zip (search for this on archive.axefx.fr) in a directory
  7. in a terminal got to the new directory and execute ./fxload -v -t fx2lp -I axefx2load.hex -D 2466:0003

Hex file note: As I understood there is some copyright on this held by Fractal Audio. Not sure if the AXE-FX XL+ do need a different hex file. I think I have seen that somewhere...

Integration: Bind the execution of the fxload command to the startup of AXE Edit (and maybe your DAW) via a script or some other automation mechanism and everything should be fine.

Update 10.02.: Tested Variant 2 on M1 Air, macOS 11.2, AXE-FX II and Axe-Edit 3.14.6 successfully.

Update 11.02.: Tested Variant 1 on M1 Air, macOS 11.2.1, AXE-FX II and Axe-Edit 3.14.6 successfully
 
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Fractal, is there any other news on an apple silicon compatible driver for us who are still rocking the Axe FX II? Would be great to know if there's one in the pipeline!
 

Theurge

Member
This is not something that we're working on at this time.
Ouch. I can read between the lines. Not expecting firmware updates or anything, and it will always sound great. I have for many years loved fractal's commitment to support, but this means a significant chunk of the unit will actually stop working for me when I'm forced to replace my geriatric Mac with Apple silicon. I can see the argument, that's Apple's fault, not Fractal's, but it makes me question my decision to ditch the amps and pedals: they never become obsolete. Yes, to make it a fair comparison, I'd need to factor in an interface for recording (the other use of USB for editing wouldn't be needed), but these could be replaced if obsolete for a tiny fraction of the cost. I could never stretch to a III. Besides, it would only be a matter of time until I was back in this position with that unit. I'm starting to see the pitfalls of the route I've taken, which is sad, having been an evangelist for this new paradigm, and the company itself, since the Ultra.
 
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vaultnaemsae

Inspired
So, my MacBook Pro Retina is 6 years old
now and having a little trouble keeping up with 2021 workloads with heavier audio and video demands. Using the Axe-Fx II XL+ (over USB) is a key piece of my rig and preferable to any plugins that max out the
Mac’s CPU pretty quickly. Right now I’m running Big Sur 11.3.1 and it’s supporting the Axe-Fx II XL+ over USB fine.

So, I’m unclear…What are the exact challenges with executing the existing driver bootloader under the M1 architecture? what is the experience like having to use the X-Code workaround? Is it even an actual issue?

This is the main reason I have avoided biting the bullet on a new MacBook in 2021.

Will the II work over USB with the M1 ok if you load the driver first from an android device or raspberry Pi? Or maybe even via Parallels — install the driver in windows 10 (switch the USB host device after the driver loads)???

Axe III is not an option for now. Way out of my price league in my geographical territory.
 
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Manny Fufish

Power User
Ouch. I can read between the lines. Not expecting firmware updates or anything, and it will always sound great. I have for many years loved fractal's commitment to support, but this means a significant chunk of the unit will actually stop working for me when I'm forced to replace my geriatric Mac with Apple silicon. I can see the argument, that's Apple's fault, not Fractal's, but it makes me question my decision to ditch the amps and pedals: they never become obsolete. Yes, to make it a fair comparison, I'd need to factor in an interface for recording (the other use of USB for editing wouldn't be needed), but these could be replaced if obsolete for a tiny fraction of the cost. I could never stretch to a III. Besides, it would only be a matter of time until I was back in this position with that unit. I'm starting to see the pitfalls of the route I've taken, which is sad, having been an evangelist for this new paradigm, and the company itself, since the Ultra.
What’s truly sad is not having one friend with a Windows machine you could plug your axe into every 3 months to update firmware. It's a lonely world.
On the positive note (C# maybe) I have been running Axe Edit on my brand new Mac Mini M1 for over a month now with no worries, Firmware updates and all! 👍🏻

Always the optimist this kid...
 

GlennO

Power User
What’s truly sad is not having one friend with a Windows machine you could plug your axe into every 3 months to update firmware. It's a lonely world.
On the positive note (C# maybe) I have been running Axe Edit on my brand new Mac Mini M1 for over a month now with no worries, Firmware updates and all! 👍🏻

Always the optimist this kid...
Using a Windows machine to do firmware updates won't help, especially since it's been almost two years since the last firmware update and, in all likelihood, there won't be any more. In any case, no firmware update will ever make usb work on an M1. It's the driver that needs to be updated.

I'm sad too, but I understand FAS had to draw the line somewhere.
 

vaultnaemsae

Inspired
Why have firmware updates come under discussion here? The final firmware for the Axe-Fx II was released a good while back -- End of Axe-Fx II firmware story. This thread is about Axe-Fx II driver support for the Apple M1 devices/Big Sur.

Being that a new bootloader/driver "...is not something that we're working on at this time" could anybody actually comment on using the Xcode alternative described above by Fox?

Fox's post is extensive and informative but a little unclear to a layman like myself. It seems to suggest that variant 1 will work on any Mac, not only M1/Big Sur Macs. In my case, I'm already running (successfully) the Axe-Fx II over USB in Big Sur on an older Intel machine -- so it's not a clean slate to test on.

So I gave this a shot in the hope to gain some insight into whether or not I could use the Axe-Fx II XL+ on an M1 Mac. It fails at step 2. Thoughts?

Install fxload tool via Homebrew
  1. execute "brew tap kolontsov/fxload" in a terminal window
  2. execute "brew install fxload" in a terminal window
EDIT: UPDATE!!!!

Yes, Variant 2 as explained above by Fox works on Big Sur 11.3.1 running on an old Intel MacBook Pro and I assume therefore on any version of macOS. Executing the file (step 7) creates a loud audio click through any attached speakers -- Be careful!

Note, I deleted the old bootloader files from the Application Support folder and restarted the Axe to test the above.

Unfortunately, Variant 1 fails to execute. There is some error when compiling from GitHub in homebrew.

Anyway, this basically has me sold on the M1 as I was really not happy about the idea of losing my Axe-Fx II's USB audio function but I'm quite certain now that it will be usable.
 
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Greg Ferguson

Power User
Wait.

Didn't the Manhattan Project run into a similar problem when people weren't sure that their actions would burn off the Earth's atmosphere?

We'll be SO pissed if y'all do that.
 

HarrySound

Power User
It's good to know there is at least a work around. Much Appreciated mr Fox, excellent post.
I'm waiting for the next line up of MacBook Pros at the end of the year to replace my now 9 year old! iMac.
Best computer I've ever owned but I would appreciate the upgrade. I might just keep the iMac hanging around just incase.
 
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