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Portable interface advice. Usb vs. Firewire reliability, repair-ability

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by took-the-red-pill, Jul 5, 2011.

  1. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Portable interface advice.


    I have a studio rig I'm fairly happy with, but I want to be able to record me and my guitar while I'm away from home, on my XP based laptop.

    Question one:

    Any recommendations based on the following criteria?


    -a unit that has proven to be reliable over the years-this is the most important thing *by far*. Bonus points for decent customer service.

    -compact and portable, no bigger than a 1/2 rack.

    -two or more mic channels of decent quality with phantom power

    -USB 2.0, Firewire, or both.

    -Number of channels in/out is secondary to build and preamp quality.

    Question 2 about firewire/usb reliability has been erased, now that I have an answer, so the focus of the thread can shift to the interface question(next time I'll do 2 separate threads).

    A few interface contenders so far

    Cakewalk FA66
    Cakewalk FA-66 | Sweetwater.com

    TC electronic Impact twin
    TC Electronic Impact Twin | Sweetwater.com

    Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP
    Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP | Sweetwater.com

    MOTU Audio express
    MOTU Audio Express | Sweetwater.com

  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Usb is not inherently more reliable. Neither is easily repaired by a lay person. Usually what goes "bad" in either case with regards an interface is the pcb header in the device. Also both are succeptable to shorting out while powering via bus vice wall wart.
  3. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Thanks Mr. Attack,

    I will edit that part of the post down to a skeleton of its former self since now I have that question answered and I'm hoping not to distract from my real purpose which is to get some advice on a few portable interfaces.

  4. sachit

    sachit Active Member

    I had a similar requirement a few months back, and I bought the MOTU Microbook. It's not enough for your needs; but with that experience, I can safely recommend MOTU products. From what I know, the Audio Express is a good choice.
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    In that price bracket, the TC Electronic Impact Twin is probably the one to go for in the FireWire category, although the Saffire PRO 24 DSP may be worth considering if you value effects above absolute sound quality.

    For USB devices, I've heard that the Focusrite Saffire 6 USB is reasonable value with all its fancy features, and their Scarlett 18i6 is a new contender if you want expandability.

    I think Mr Attack is right in suggesting that you should be considering FireWire units, even though this may mean a plug-in adaptor for a laptop. If you need an adaptor, make sure you get one that uses the TI FireWire chipset.

    I don't know what you would pay for any of these units where you are. Where is Clagary, anyway? Is it somewhere in Ablerta?
  6. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Thanks gents.

    I already have a 4 pin FireWire adapter on my laptop, so that's not an issue. I value sound quality over effects and gizmolians and number of I/O channels for this application, so I would lean toward the TCE unit. I've heard positive chatter about the quality if their other products too, and that helps me feel confidenabout their gear.


    Any others have experience in this area?
  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Hmm..., check that the laptop uses a TI chipset in its FireWire implementation. If not, get a TI-equipped plug-in card. It really is that important.
  8. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    That leads me to two questions:

    1-What, specifically, are the issues with non TI chipsets on the firewire card?

    2-How do I find out if mine has it? -I tried punching the serial number in over at HP but that didn't show current configurations like some companies do.

    In the control panel, under hardware section it just says it's a "IEEE 1394 OHCI Compliant Host Controller Vendor"

    The box is an HP Compaq6910P, 2.2GHz duo core centrino, or so it says. So how does a non computer whiz find out this particular bit of info?

    Yes, Calgary is in Alberta, Just to the right of British Columbia, and above Montana. We can get anything the Yanks can, and within $5% of their advertised prices.

    I see you're from the other side of the pond. We actually have two rather famous newlyweds from the House Of Windsor coming to the parade for the Calgary Stampede(our equivalent of the running of the bulls, except here they start out on top of the bull instead of in front of it... ) Much foo faa and media and such.

  9. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    1-non TI chipsets do not support full 1394 protocol compatibility. Whatever the advertising. This causing lock up or failure to register 1394 devices whether a b or c.

    2-assume your laptop does NOT have a TI chipset as any that do will brag about it because it is so rare.

    3-purchase an express card adapter with a TI chipset whether six pin or nine pin doesn't matter. Some interfaces do not like a combo 6 + 9 pin card. Also, some older laptops (circa 2006-7 technology) technically have an Express Card slot but the mobo chokes things down to Card Bus speeds.
  10. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Thanks for that. To confirm, is this what you're talking about? It zpecifically mentions the TI component. It requires a tech to install properly, correct?

    And this particular one appears to do FireWire 400 and 800. Is that a good thing to have for future applications?


  11. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    That is the card I use primarily. RME doesn't care that it has both a 400 speed and an 800 speed port. The Onyx 1640 did care. It could be forced by me to work but really only likes a card that is only 400 speed or only 800 speed. Don't know why. It definitely was more an issue with XP or Vista than Win7.

    This card or any similar cards do not take an egghead to install. For Vista and Win7 you just plug them in and they install themselves. You will need an Express Card port of course.

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