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Question: Phantom power on laptops

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by Ellegaard, Feb 23, 2004.

  1. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member


    New to the list, first post, heard about the group via Ethan Winer's excellent homepage. I'm a violininst, I study at the conservatory in Copenhagen, and besides that I enjoy myself in my little home studio.

    I have recently been looking at a portable soundcard that should be used with both my desktop and my Dell, 900KHz 256MB RAM 10GB harddisk laptop. I love the idea of having a portable studio. The best solution, I suppose, is buying a M-Audio Firewire 410 and a FireWire CardBus card for the laptop (it only has USB). I prefer Firewire to USB because I will use the soundcard with Reason and various VST instruments in which case I want the lowest possible latency. The laptop will ONLY be used for recording, all the editing will be done on my desktop which is much more powerful.

    My burning question is then: Does anyone have experience with a Firewire/USB solution for laptops? Can the laptop feed the soundcard with phantom power even though I'm not near a power source? I'd like to be able to go out in the forest and capture samples for my library, but I have my doubt and the salesmen didn't convince me at all.

    Any help is appreciated!

    With kind regards,

    Christian Ellegaard, Denmark
  2. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Welcome to R.O.! You'll find a wealth of info around here.

    Yes. But... Not all laptops and/or many of the cheaper and lesser quality audio interfaces are not able to provide a full 48V that some mics need to operate properly. Just be aware and make sure your phantom power requirements match the mic you will be using. You can always buy an external phantom power supply to use along with your laptop, but finding a battery powered one may be difficult.
  3. Kent L T

    Kent L T Active Member

    Just looked at the manual of the m-audio you need a pentium 3 500mhz 128MB ram running XP or Win 2000 at a minimum. It uses a 12V 1A wall wart for the power supply so power does not come from the firewire. Is this enough? I don't know probably depends on the requirements of your mikes. Looks pretty flexible. You might send them an email to find out if the 1/4 inputs bypass the pres incase you wanted to use something better or different. There was an issue with another brand were you could not bypass the pres. $300.00 at Sweetwater
  4. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    I got the manual too, and one of the advantages of the FireWire 410 is that it can be powered via the firewire port alone - if you use a 6-pin firewire interface. The 12V adapter must be used if you only have access to a 4-pin firewire interface, so obviously I'd buy a 6-pin CardBus interface then.

    The thing I'm looking for here is just portability. I don't have a huge budget at the moment (I'm still studying, not really earning), that's why I'm looking at this budget solution. It seemes to have everything in one box. Been looking at Digidesign MBox too, but it's a little more expensive.
  5. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Been using a Firewire 410 for almost two weeks now. Absolutely no complaints about the sound quality so far, and it has worked without a hitch since installing the drivers succesfully. (Heh, getting those to work was... interesting, but once things started going...)

    So far I've used up to two inputs and 4 outputs simultaneously without anything throwing hiccups. One day I really need to sit down and see how far I can push this thing before it starts gurgling, if at all.

    I like the routing and mixing options that are presented by an additional software layer that allows you to route your incoming/outgoing signals however you like. I know it colors the signal somewhat, but being able to plug a guitar into one input, line that out to effects/amp, then back in into another input, and record both signals simultenously is great. On a mobile interface, no less.
  6. I think the 410 is an excellent choice. Firewire is much smoother than USB.
    There are e.g. other devices like the TASCAM US122
    that can generate the phantom power from USB bus
    You will find a complete measurement report
    on the US122 at

  7. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Great, thanks a lot for the reply. Are you using it with a PC or a Mac? And have you been able to use it without a power supply, only using the computer's battery?


  8. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Thanks, that's definitely useful information!
  9. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Firewire spec allows for powering of external equipment with the 6-pin port (as you already noticed), but my laptop (it's a Pentium 4 2.0GHz), unfortunately comes bundled with the 4-pin. I know someone who operated it off the 6-pin power supply, but that was with a PC.

    I don't see why it shouldn't be able to operate off a laptop battery provided the firewire port supplies the 12V required. Perhaps check the specs on the laptop or cardbus?
  10. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Already tried that - unfortunately, the hotline service isn't the brightest one I've seen yet, and again I wasn't able to get a clear answer. But well - I think I'll go with the FireWire in either case. Even though I might not be able to carry it out in the middle of the highway, it still gives me a very decent stereo input when recording our concerts.
  11. ikiru-

    ikiru- Guest

    Christain, I have had the m-audio firewire 410 for about 2 months. I always power it off of my firewire port(from my 12" powerbook g4) I have used phantom powered mics with no problem (two at a time). I haven't measured the phantom power to make sure that it is spot on, but I haven't noticed anything. I would recommend the card, another nice feature is that the case is metal rather than cheap plastic(good for location recording). I recorded a band on the weekend on location, it worked great. One cavet the pre-amps are ok, but they are not high end...perfectly usable though I imagine they are on par with the other m-audio preamps that most people find quite usable. I do plan on getting some more preamps to add more color to the sound(the sound is in the iron I've been told).
  12. benblair

    benblair Guest

    I just started using the M-Audio 410 and I am experiecing random pops and clicks when i record into Vegas 5. I am recording on a dell notebook (2.8ghz, 512mb, 5400rpm hd).
    Might this be a hardware/cord problem or a latency/software problem??
    Any suggestions welcome
  13. CrazySerb

    CrazySerb Guest

    regarding the powering the mobile interface off the laptop, if you've got a 4-pin firewire port on your laptop, you're out of luck... power can be transferred only thru 6 and 9 pin ports (source: http://www.firewire-1394.com/what-is-firewire-800.htm)

    then again, you could do something I had in mind (once I win the lottery) and buy a PCMCIA Firewire 800 card for your laptop (that http://www.firewire-1394.com site is selling a good one, SIIG something, for around $90), and not only enable that powering off the laptop option but double up on the bandwidth to/from your mobile interface... ;)
  14. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member


    I may be wrong, please show me an exception, but this is my knowledge of the situation.

    No (zero) PC laptop available on the market today can supply firewire power. It does NOT help if you buy a PCMCIA card (or whatever) with a 6 pin connector. These also rely on an external wall wart or power supply.

    Mac laptops DO supply power on the six pin firewire contact.

    (Sorry for shouting).


    PS: I use an MBox for portable recording. It is supplied with power over USB, in fact there is not even a contact for external power. The Phantom power is produced inside the box from the 5V on the USB, and I┬┤ve measured it to 48 V. Just be careful to test it with your actual PC and laptop, USB and firewire soundcards simply do not go together well with all PC-s.

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