Core Audio > Docs > Core Audio

Core Audio


  1. High-Level Concepts
    1. Audio Format
    2. Audio Queue
    3. Buffer
    4. Buffer Queue
    5. Channel
    6. Frame
    7. Packets
    8. Sample
    9. Sample Rate
  2. Code Conventions
  3. Glossary
  4. Data Structures
    1. AudioObjectPropertyAddress
    2. AudioQueueRef
    3. AudioStreamBasicDescription
  5. API
    1. AudioFormatGetProperty
    2. AudioHardwareServiceGetPropertyData (deprecated)
    3. AudioObjectGetPropertyData
    4. AudioQueueGetProperty
    5. AudioQueueNewInput

High-Level Concepts

Alphabetical order.

Audio Format

Corresponds to how samples are structured in memory/disk. Examples include FLAC, MP3 and PCM.

Audio Queue

Responsible for getting buffers from an Buffer Queue and supplying it to a registered callback.


Includes a segment of memory holding audio data and metadata about this segment.

Buffer Queue

Literally a queue (FIFO) of Buffers.


Analogous to channel in images (RGB), digital audio can have channels for the left and right speakers, while more advanced 5.1 surround-sound formats might have 6.


Analogous to a pixel in image. It contains the amplitudes of each Channel of a Sample.


Compressed formats might groups several Frames together in a packet. Different packets might have different number of frames.

For uncompressed formats it’s assume the number of frame per packet is 1.


At a high-level, sample corresponds to a discrete snapshot of a signal at a specific point in time. More concretely we can see it as the signal’s amplitude(s) + the timestamp.

Sample Rate

Frequency in which Samples are obtained from analog signal (given in Hz).

Code Conventions

It helps to be aware of code conventions, especially naming, since they provide hints about the functionality.


Data Structures


Selected Fields:


See Audio Queue.


Selected Fields:



#include <CoreAudio/AudioFormat.h>

OSStatus AudioFormatGetProperty(
    AudioFormatPropertyID inPropertyID,
    UInt32 inSpecifierSize,
    const void * __nullable inSpecifier,
    UInt32 * __nullable ioPropertyDataSize,
    void * __nullable outPropertyData);

Example 1: complete the information about an ASBD when the format is set

AudioStreamBasicDescription recordFormat = {0};
recordFormat.mFormatID = kAudioFormatMPEG4AAC;
// ... set other information ...

UInt32 propSize = sizeof(recordFormat);

AudioHardwareServiceGetPropertyData (deprecated)

Deprecated in 10.5. See AudioObjectGetPropertyData.


This is a generic getter for some specific property that is related to the hardware. We can think of this as calling the getter of a method from an object.

So if we have value = my_object.get_property(), then inObjectID = my_object, inAddress = get_property, outData = value.

Note we need to know the size of the property value upfront (ioDataSize).

#include <CoreAudio/AudioHardware.h>

OSStatus AudioObjectGetPropertyData(
    AudioObjectID inObjectID,
    const AudioObjectPropertyAddress *inAddress,
    UInt32 inQualifierDataSize,
    const void *inQualifierData,
    UInt32 *ioDataSize,
    void *outData,

Example 1: Get a reference to the default input device object (microphone)

AudioDeviceID deviceID = 0;

AudioObjectPropertyAddress propertyAddress;
propertyAddress.mSelector = kAudioHardwarePropertyDefaultInputDevice;
propertyAddress.mScope = kAudioObjectPropertyScopeGlobal;
propertyAddress.mElement = 0;

UInt32 propertySize = sizeof(AudioDeviceID);

error = AudioObjectGetPropertyData(

Example 2: Get the sample rate from a device object. deviceID was populated from the call in Example 1.

AudioObjectPropertyAddress propertyAddress;
propertyAddress.mSelector = kAudioDevicePropertyNominalSampleRate;
propertyAddress.mScope = kAudioObjectPropertyScopeGlobal;
propertyAddress.mElement = 0;

UInt32 propertySize = sizeof(Float64);

error = AudioObjectGetPropertyData(


We can pass a ASBD and this function will fill the structure with information that can only be known once the queue is created.

OSStatus AudioQueueGetProperty(
    AudioQueueRef inAQ,
    AudioQueuePropertyID inID,
    void * outData,
    UInt32 * ioDataSize


Creates a new audio queue for recording audio data. The inFormat corresponds to the audio format which is going to be used.

The inCallbackProc is the function which will be invoked when a audio is ready to be processed. inUserData is a parameter we can send to our callback.

outAQ is the reference to the queue, which will be initialized.

OSStatus AudioQueueNewInput(
    const AudioStreamBasicDescription *inFormat,
    AudioQueueInputCallback inCallbackProc,
    void * __nullable inUserData,
    CFRunLoopRef __nullable inCallbackRunLoop,
    CFStringRef __nullable inCallbackRunLoopMode,
    UInt32 inFlags,
    AudioQueueRef __nullable * __nonnull outAQ)