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Firewire Pci card questions

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by DonnyThompson, May 20, 2014.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    How good are the various FW cards for PC slots?

    I have a good, fast machine, but there's no FW interface on it, and I have access to a few pieces of gear that use FW as the connection that I'd like to try.

    To be able to use one or all of the following:
    FW based multi channel audio I/O, such as the Presonus Studio/Live desk
    Focusrite multi channel preamp/ I/O
    MOTU Midi/Audio I/O - ADC/DAC

    My research has shown that Texas Instruments is the most reliable manufacturer of the actual chipset on the cards, ( for all I know they are the only manufacturer of the chip) but, there are many different card manufacturers to choose from.

    Most of what I'm seeing in difference between the various cards is pretty much just the number of FW slots available, but I'm fairly limited in the technical aspect of these, so there's a fair chance that the slot count isn't the only difference. I only really need 2 FW slots at this point, but I'm unsure as to which card would be the best of the bunch.

    As with USB, are there different "versions" of FW?
    Do all FW cards work at the same data transfer speed? (relative to the processor of course)
    Is there any particular technical detail with the card that I need to pay particular attention to?
    Are there any particular models I need to stay away from?

    PC Details:

    HP Pavilion 500 64
    AMD Elite Quad Core A8-6500 3.6 processor
    8 gig Memory
    AMD Radeon 85700 Graphics
    Windows 8.1

    any thoughts, suggestions, advice would be greatly appreciated. :)

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    If you are talking about PCIe FireWire cards, once you have narrowed it down to those that use the TI chipset, there is not a lot of difference between them. Most have a couple of FW400 rear ports plus (optionally) an internal port on a header.

    Last time I bought one I got a Lycom PE-101, which is cheap and does an adequate job, but may be discontinued now. It runs an RME Fireface 800 and an A+H Zed-R16 together without dropping samples. Here's an SOS forum page with a few more links.

    If you need FW800 capability, I think you would have to look a bit deeper.
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Thanks Bos. You've told me what I need to know, and I appreciate you taking the time to respond.
  4. mberry593

    mberry593 Active Member

    Here is a note that you may find to be helpful. It is a little old....back from the days when Avid owned m-audio. It explains why you may be better off with a firewire card as opposed to motherboard firewire. I have just one caution: Modern Intel systems use QuickPath & AMD systems use Hyper Transport that muddle the northbridge/southbridge issues.
  5. mberry593

    mberry593 Active Member

    Let's try again on that link.

    Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk win Searchlight 2014
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Good one.
    Maybe the same goes for USB interfaces as well? And maybe another reason why the USB interface on the Orion lagged compared to an RME Madi PCIe card. It was like night and day for me.
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Thanks for the link, M...

    Here's what caught my eye...

    " To avoid this on a PC, we always advise installing a dedicated FireWire card."

    Except I don't know what this means. Is this saying that a PCIe FW card isn't "dedicated"?

    How do I know if a FW card is a "dedicated" FW card or not?
  8. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    "Dedicated" in this context covers any plug-in card, which (acccording to the article) will be northbridge connected since that's where the PCIe bus is connected. It makes the laboured point that motherboard FW chipsets are southbridge connected, so heavy activity on the southbridge can delay FW chipset responses. What it didn't say is that this relates to older PC chipsets and also that the same can happen to the northbridge, although under different loading conditions. However, most PC block diagrams that use individual chips show the PCI/PCIe buses attached to the southbridge with the only PCI northbridge connections being to graphics cards.

    Modern PCs starting with Sandy Bridge architecture have much more integrated logic, with northbridge disappearing into the CPU as the system agent. It's unlikely in this architecture that a motherboard chipset (FW or other) would hit a speed limitation problem where PCIe cards would not.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Surprisingly - LOL - I actually understood what you wrote. ;)

    So, because I have PC built within the last year, and as long as I stick with a new FW PCIe card with a TI chipset, I should be good to go, right?

    Now my question is this...

    What is the difference between the 400 and the 800? I'm assuming it's a data transfer rate thing? And wouldn't that also be dependent upon how powerful or fast the CPU in my PC is?
    Is there any audio scenario you could envision where an 800 FW would be better or more noticeable than a 400? Any scenario where an FW800 would be crucial?
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I think you will be fine with a plug-in card. They are not that expensive, so if your needs change....

    I have an RME FireFace 800 and it could run all channels (28 in, 28 out) full bore at standard rates from one port on my plug-in FW400 card. If I plug in another FF800 on the FireWire expander socket so they look like a combined device, I would need to go up to a FW800 card in the PC for the combined pair to achieve full speed.
  11. doubleJ

    doubleJ Active Member

    The SIIG PCI FireWire Card (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FWCardPCI/) is only $30.
    If you need PCIe, then the SIIG PCI-e FireWire Card (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FWCardPCIe/) is $50.
    Those are both from Sweetwater (an excellent company) and they use Texas Instruments chips.
    I use both of them, in various recording computers, at work.
    These are both FW400.

    If you need FW800, there is the SIIG 3-port FW800 PCIe Card (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FW800PCIe/) for $65.
    I have no experience with this card, but it does use a Texas Instruments chip.

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