I’ve finally figured out a way to run Impulse Tracker under Mac OS X.

  1. Download DOSBox and Impulse Tracker. DOSBox emulates the DOS operating system and some common hardware, including the SoundBlaster 16 and Gravis UltraSound sound cards.

  2. Unzip Impulse Tracker and put it inside an otherwise empty folder. I created a folder named DOS inside my home directory, then copied Impulse Tracker into another directory inside of that.

  3. Install and run DOSBox. Installation is as simple as copying DOSBox.app into your Applications folder.

  4. Once DOSBox has fired up, you’ll need to mount a directory on your hard disk as your C drive. To do this, type MOUNT C /Users/craiga/DOS into DOSBox (where /Users/craiga/DOS is a folder that contains Impulse Tracker).

  5. Switch to the C drive by typing C:, then fire up Impulse Tracker using the command line IT s7. This will force Impulse Tracker to use the emulated Gravis UltraSound (there seems to be some trouble with the emulated SoundBlaster 16).

  6. Impulse Tracker will now be running and will be usable, though playback will be a little jumpy. To make it smoother, switch to full-screen mode by hitting Command-Option-Shift-Return. To switch back to a windowed view, use that same key combination.

Impulse Tracker vs. ProTools

February 27, 2006

It seems that one of the average punters’ favourite things about Look Who’s Toxic are the songs we do with backing tracks played from my iPod. Those backing tracks are all written in a program called Impulse Tracker, a program that predates Fruity Loops, Reason, Logic, or any other sampler/sequencer programs that kids nowadays are using — it even predates Windows 95. The reasons we use it are simple: it’s what I learnt on, I understand what most of the features do, and they do just about everything I need.

One of our Impulse Tracker songs, Do The Fetus, is getting another run as the opener on our upcoming EP. Last night, after getting some very solid advice, Rob and I spent a few hours putting a little extra spit and polish on this new version of the song.

Previously, whenever we’ve used Impulse Tracker in recordings, we’ve composed and mixed the song in Impulse Tracker, and then recorded the result as a stereo signal directly from the line out of the computer. Last night, Rob and I spent a few hours sticking a click track at the very start of every channel, recording each instrument individually, synching up the recordings, and then mixing it in ProTools.

The results were amazing. I’d never really noticed how lifeless and dull things sound coming out of Impulse Tracker until now. The ProTools mix has the lovely deep bass notes and little trebly accents I’d always imagined, but was never quite able to get right. My theory is that the lacklustre sounds are a result of some kind of phrase interference and/or optimisation that’s going on inside Impulse Tracker — remember that this program was designed to run on 386es and can do real-time mixing of up to 64 channels — a very impressive feat in my book.

Now I want to go back and do new mixes of all my old Impulse Tracker songs, but I’m sure Rob wouldn’t be too into that. Maybe if he showed me how to do it in ProTools myself I could give it a wack.