How to use Ensemble on an Apple Mac

After several conversations with people wanting to run Ensemble on an Apple Mac, I thought I’d give it a go on my ageing Mac Mini. I’ve seen people successfully run Ensemble on Apple Mac’s using Boot Camp (which basically turns your Mac into a PC) and also using an emulator called Parallels. Both of these, and the option I’m going to describe, need you to have a licensed copy of Windows to install. The advantage of using an emulator/virtualiser such as Parallels or VMware Fusion is that you can run Mac software at the same time, and there’s no need to reboot your Mac.

For those of you who don’t want the technical stuff, here’s the quick answer – yes, it works. My test is with very old equipment, so anything newer should be better. I couldn’t get image and video working but this could just be a limitation of my setup.

The experiment

Mac MiniFor my test I’m using a Intel Core Duo Mac Mini (1.83GHz, 1GB RAM) running Snow Leopard (10.6), with a copy of VMware Fusion (2.0.8) and Windows XP SP2. As you can tell from this list, it’s all very old kit and hence a quite severe test for the Ensemble. One advantage of using XP is that it’s possible to pick up cheap copies so you’re investment might just be in VMware Fusion or Parallels. It’s also worth noting that these two virtualisers are both frequently on offer and have trial versions available for testing.

Installing the OS on Fusion is as simple as following the onscreen instructions. It creates a virtual harddrive and then prompts you to insert the OS disc. From then on it’s like watching a PC install happen in a window with a Mac in the background. Very odd, but strangely satisfying!

Once installed you’ll need to get updates to the OS and do all the standard bits. Ensemble also makes use of the .NET Framework, so it’s worth downloading and installing versions 1, 2 and the two updates to version 2. This seems to be the least that you need to run Ensemble.

Next you’ll need to install your Ensemble software, from CD or USB stick. Run the installer and follow the instructions as usual. After a reboot, the basic Ensemble software will be installed.

Adding hardware

Find new hardwareThe next task is to install the Ensemble interface – either a Hub or Mini. For this test I used an Ensemble Mini.

Connecting the USB to my Mac seemed to work and in Windows I got the ‘New Hardware Wizard’ pop-up. Now usually at this point you can tell Windows to search automatically (not the online option) for the relevant drivers. For some reason this failed to find the driver files, even though they were installed. Instead I had to manually point the hardware installer at the files – C:\Program Files\Apollo Creative\Drivers\Drivers\FTDI

This correctly identified the device and then went through the same process again for a second driver – again I needed to direct it to the correct folder.

Finally a virtual reboot and the Device Manager picked up and displayed the device.

First test

For my first test I used an Ensemble Press. Turned it on and waited for it to appear in the Device Monitor, eventually appearing after about 20 seconds. I then opened Designer and built a very simple map using MIDI notes.

Windows running on a Mac

Hitting the Play button as usual and Player appeared and the sensor worked! There didn’t sound like there was any delay, although I’m assuming it must be slightly slower than running it natively on a PC.

More to come

At this point I felt overly confident so decided to try some images and video. Unfortunately that was where the system decided not to play nice. Although I could see the images and videos in the preview windows, they didn’t appear when used in a theme.

For the moment I’ve decided to leave sorting this aspect out for another day.


Hopefully this has shown that it is possible to run Ensemble on an Apple Mac with a little bit of work. I am sure that much more up-to-date systems and software will make the whole process easier and quicker.

If you’ve got any questions then please email me and I’ll try to help out:  mark(at)