Third-party Audio Units on MacOS 10.15 (Catalina)

With Audio Hijack, it's possible to use third-party Audio Unit plugins with any audio on your Mac. Unfortunately, in MacOS 10.15 (Catalina), third-party Audio Units may fail to work as you expect. A change made by Apple means that all software must be “notarized” by their security systems. Non-notarized software is entirely prevented from running on Catalina.

This change means many older third-party Audio Unit plugins will not work at all on Catalina. This issue will occur in any modern Audio Unit host, including Audio Hijack, as well as Apple's own GarageBand and many others. When attempting to use third-party Audio Units, you may encounter non-functional plugins, error messages, or other undesirable behaviors.

Next steps from third-party plugin developers

To get their software working on Catalina, developers of third-party Audio Unit plugins need to issue updates. Once the software is properly updated, the plugins will again work as expected on Catalina. You should be sure you've got the latest versions for all your Audio Units.

If you have a third-party Audio Unit which does not work on Catalina, you should check with the developer to see if they have an update, and to request one if they don't.

How Audio Hijack handles third-party plugins on Catalina

The section provides a brief overview on how Audio Hijack handles third-party plugins on Catalina.

If you've previously used third-party Audio Units in Audio Hijack on MacOS 10.14 or lower, the application will disable those third party plugins when it's first run on MacOS 10.15. This is done to avoid you being overwhelmed with error messages from MacOS.

Audio Hijack will provide a warning that this has occurred, like so:

Your Audio Hijack sessions will still show all the plugins, in their Off state, with your settings are preserved. You'll see something like this:

Upon clicking the plugin, Audio Hijack will warn that an update may be necessary:

You can attempt to re-enable the plugin by toggling it to the “On” state. It's possible some of your plugins have already been updated, and will work as expected when you turn them back on. If you attempt to activate a plugin which is not properly notarized, MacOS will issue an error, similar to the following:

As mentioned above, the solution is for each plugin developer to issue properly notarized updates to their plugins. If you see an error like the one above, contact the plugin developer for an update. Once a plugin is updated, you'll be able to toggle it back on to have it work as you expect.

A temporary work-around to use non-notarized third-party Audio Units

We are aware of one workaround you can use to enable older Audio Unit plugins to work temporarily. Please note that this workaround is not officially supported, and that it requires your Administrator password.

To begin, you'll need to open the Terminal application. Once there, enter the following command:

sudo spctl --master-disable

You'll be asked for your Administrator password. When entered, this command will disable MacOS's GateKeeper system, the system which prevents non-notarized software from running.

Next, enter the following:

auval -a

This command loads each of the Audio Units on your system to test and validate them. After this, they'll be available for use. Note that this process may take several minutes on systems with many Audio Units installed.

When the above has finished, run this final command:

sudo spctl --master-enable

This last command re-enables MacOS's GateKeeper system.

After doing the above, it will be possible to turn your non-notarized plugins on in Audio Hijack, and to add new instances. Please note that this will only last until you reboot your Mac. At that point, the plugins will again be unavailable, and you'll need to run through this sequence again.

We strongly recommend getting updated plugin versions that are fully compatible with Catalina, or seeking out alternative plugins as necessary. That said, this workaround may prove useful to some users.

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