USB vs Firewire: Audio Interfaces

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by ben88, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. ben88 macrumors newbie

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    Feb 9, 2009
    #1
    Hi Guys,
    I don't suppose anybody could explain the inherent differences between USB 2.0 and Firewire external Audio interfaces, and how this influences their performance? I've got a fair grasp of why FW 800 or even 400 is generally prefered over USB 2.0 for recording directly to an external HD, but I can't find anything on the differences in relation to external audio interfaces. I'm in the process of deciding what type interface to buy, and can't make my mind up.

    P.S. I assume the differences relating to performance are negligible.
     
  2. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #2
    I think it depends on how many tracks you are recording. If only a few I don't think it matters USB or FW but notice that no one makes a USB Interface with a more than a handfull of analog inputs. This tells me it wouldn't work well or else we'd see these devices in the market.
     
  3. ben88 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 9, 2009
    #3
    OK. Thanks for your input.

    I don't plan to record a great number of tracks simultaneaously, so I guess that wouldn't be an issue. I just wondered whether there were any quality differences?
     
  4. kolax macrumors G3

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    Mar 20, 2007
    #4
    [​IMG]

    16 inputs. Obviously, I guess that falls under your category of "handful" as professional mixers will have a hundred or so inputs, but for the prosumer, it's good enough.
     
  5. Jolly Jimmy macrumors 65816

    Jolly Jimmy

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    Dec 13, 2007
    #5
    It also depends on what sample rate you want to record at. The alesis USB multimix will do up to 96kHz ; if you want a higher sample rate you'll need a firewire interface.
     
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #6
    Except if you go to the Alesis web site there is a notice there saying that the new Multimix USB 2.0 mixers will not work with current versions of Mac OS X. It works with older versions but not 10.5.5 or 10.5.6 So yes these larger USB interfaces are made but they don't work on current Macs.

    http://www.alesis.com/multimix8usb20
    http://www.alesis.com/multimix16usb20

    The trouble is not the USB 2.0 bus but the software inside Mac OS X that can't pul the data off the bus fast enough for low latency dropout-free usage.
     
  7. kolax macrumors G3

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    Mar 20, 2007
    #7
    Here's hoping OS X 10.5.7 will fix that. I currently have the Alesis MultiMix8 FireWire, but will be selling it to get the USB model as I'm switching to a MacBook. I just do casual recordings, nothing more than 3/4 channels at once, so USB is fine for my needs.
     
  8. msb65 macrumors member

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    Sep 17, 2008
    #8
    I was recently in the same position you are. I am a long time musician who is interested in learning how to do home recording. I just purchased an Edirol FA-66 (arriving today!) after a lot of research.

    It appears that due to inherent differences in the way that USB and Firewire transfer data, the latter is preferred for audio recording. My simple understanding of this is that USB relies on the computer, while Firewire works independently. As a result USB transfers data in spurts, and rarely reaches its advertised rate of transfer. Therefore even USB 2.0 compares poorly to Firewire 400.

    Although I have yet to use my new audio interface and therefore have no real experience in these matters I would recommend Firewire. It may be slightly more expensive, but just start small. That's what I am doing. If you choose wisely you can always expand your setup and daisy chain 1 or more interfaces together. I don't believe that is possible with USB because ultimately all the data has to go through that port.

    Mike
     
  9. Jolly Jimmy macrumors 65816

    Jolly Jimmy

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    #9
    I don't see what that has to do with what I said. The alesis was just an example ; the same applies to any other USB audio interface.
     
  10. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #10
    This is incorrect - Firewire does not heavily rely on the CPU the way USB does. A device which requires a large throughput (say, an audio interface, or external disk drive) will tax the CPU much more heavily with USB than with Firewire. Depending on what else your CPU is doing (say, capturing audio or mixing), this will affect your performance.
     
  11. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    toronto
    #11
    theoretically, maybe, but has it? has anyone ever lost a take because the CPU was too busy to attend to the USB bus?

    yes, USB has a throughput limit, which is why firewire is a good choice for higher track counts. i don't think you're going to find an 8-channel USB device (someone please link to one if it exists).

    but for 2-channels, i don't see any reason for USB vs. firewire to be a deciding factor. price, features, compatibility and component quality, yes, but what actual, demonstrable advantage does firewire have over USB for 2 channels?
     
  12. kolax macrumors G3

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    #12
    I already linked to a 16 channel USB recording device..
     
  13. Jeffrosproto macrumors 6502

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    Jun 10, 2008
    #13
    That MultiMix looks really nice for a recording solution for my macbook, I might just have to pick it up.:)
     
  14. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #14
    just to be clear, you linked to the alesis multimix16 USB1 mixer?

    i can't tell from that page (and they didn't just let me d/load the manual), but i reckon it does only 2-channel a/d conversion. or are you saying it handles 16 simultaneous channels of digital audio?
     
  15. scottlinux macrumors 6502a

    scottlinux

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    Sep 21, 2005
    #15
    ...which mixes everything down and actually only sends two channels (stereo pair) to the computer.

    Firewire sends data over a constant stream whereas USB sends data in bursts of different speeds.

    This matters most when sending audio or video (and is why all high end video and audio equipment is Firewire). When you are working with a ton of audio tracks or some insane sample rate you would want Firewire.

    Alesis knows this as they would not try a 16 channel USB mixer with 16 individual inputs to the computer, for instance.

    But! For a solid stereo pair USB 2.0 works fine. :)
     
  16. myca macrumors 6502

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    Oct 7, 2005
    #16
    USB devices can by their nature lead to pops and clicks when recording, whereas firewire will stream the data at a constant rate, so this is less likely to happen.

    http://www.motu.com/products/motuaudio/828mkII/

    ^^ 20 in and 22 out USB 2 interface, but it didn't go down too well, was never as stable as the Firewire version, hence the 828mkIII is firewire only.

    To the OP if you've got enough in your budget go for a firewire interface, as a rule of thumb you should have less problems (not to say that some firewire interfaces don't have their share of problems though).
     
  17. ColinEC macrumors 6502

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    Apr 4, 2008
    #17
    Are there any 8-preamp USB interfaces out there where all inputs show up as individual tracks in Logic?

    I'd like to mike a drumset to record and be able to monitor myself while playing (so I'd need an audio interface with minimal latency).

    Are there any out there?
     
  18. ashjamben macrumors 6502a

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    Shanghai, China
    #18
    you gotta love these usb vs firewire threads that start every time the last one reaches the second page in digital audio :p
     
  19. kolax macrumors G3

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    Mar 20, 2007
    #19
    Ah - I wasn't aware of that.

    My current FireWire mixer, I can record more than two simultaneously, but I wasn't aware the USB version would limit you to two active channels? I changed my mind about switching to the MacBook so I'm keeping with my FireWire audio equipment ;)
     
  20. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    toronto
    #20
    but have you directly experienced this? i hear a lot of theory, but i've yet to hear of someone who, with firsthand experience, has lost a take due to USB choking.

    are you the one? :)
     
  21. myca macrumors 6502

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    Oct 7, 2005
    #21
    I can say that I have and do experience this directly on a near daily basis, some of the work I do involves cleaning up VO audio files, and I can spot the difference between the USB based pro tools rigs that are used, and the firewire/HD rigs never have the same amount of issues. They will still have jitter and clocking issues from time to time, but appear to be inherently more stable.

    Now it's very rare that a take is lost, but I have seen/heard it happen, sometimes just spikes and clicks, sometimes a bunch of samples have just been ripped from the audio, and in post there is often more work to do with cleaning the audio up when a USB audio device is used.

    Now I'm saying USB in general, but my experience lies in the Digidesign USB hardware, and some M Audio USB hardware, whereas the MOTU/Presonus/Digi firewire hardware I've used has generally been very stable and reliable. For these reasons I would always recommend firewire over USB when recording audio, because my experience first hand has proven (to me at least) that firewire is downright better :p
     
  22. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #22
    thank you!
     
  23. Afinfas macrumors newbie

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    Jul 17, 2009
    #23
    Hi! Unfortunally i´m one of those cases! I have a m-audio mobile pre usb and use it in mac osx and windows. In both i had problems with clicks that damage takes. The take is there, but with clicks, so useless!
    I defenitly recomend firewire for everything realated with big transfer amounts of data,audio or video. In this case Audio. As said before, few tracks on usb 2.0 should be enough, but any higher then that, then i woud go to firewire.

    "Music is the most high" - Groundation
     
  24. marina8ki macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    #24
    Hi

    I'm intending to buy a Roland Rd 700GX keyboard, and i want to connect it to cubase and monitor speakers, mainly for playing live and seldom for recording.
    When recording i wish to connect the keyboard and a condenser microphone.

    Please recommend me the audio interface you think will best fit my needs.

    Thank you so much!
    Marina
     

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