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spdif to firewire/usb?

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by piman, Jul 17, 2008.

  1. piman

    piman Guest

    I am an onetime 2 inch tape time engineer trying to set-up my laptop. I have cubase, asio4all, usb midi keyboard - all running fine. I need some advise on audio recording. I will only record one instrument, or at most a stereo mix, at once. After much research I am still confused but have a couple of ideas of how to proceed. Any thoughts on these, or other ways forward, would be appreciated.

    My Prefered Route
    I have a pre-amp/compressor/eq and Midiman Flying Calf A/D (24bit) converter. Ideally I would like a simple (ie cheap) device which would accept the Calf's spdif and run this into the laptop. Does such a device (spdif to firewire/usb) exist? Would this set-up work with monitoring through the built in (Sigmatel) soundcard (and using the usb midi keyboard)?

    The New Sound Card Route
    Or do I need a new sound card? I understand firewire has way more bandwidth than USB but this is probably not so important for my needs. But does firewire also give better latency (which does concern me)? My dell inspiron 1720 has a Ricoh OHCI compliant IEEE 1394. I understand from reading forums that this firewire connection is 'rubbish' for music. So should I stick with USB?

    Oh yes, I am running Vista. Don't scream too loud - I will revert to XP if I must.


  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Pi-min, you'll probably be fine with Vista. I too am a Vista user. ("My Name is Joe, and I use Vista!" hahaha ;-) )

    Seriously, it's nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe (quite the opposite, as you probably already know). My best advice for new Vista installs is to go clean: no over-write, do a totally new install on a new HD. Yes, there are quite a few "can't there from here" issues with it, but it's mostly because manufacturers of many beloved "Legacy" products haven't caught up with it with new drivers, etc., and like the collapsed housing market, if most people PERCEIVE it's bad, then it will be. I've heard some outrageously wrong things about it from people who just don't know the truth, or are simply scared and want to reinforce their fearful position.

    In this world of "disposable" products, it's disheartening to see so many devices simply dropped from companies' lists of "Supported products" for new OS, be it Mac or PC. (Try finding anything at all about the original MOTU 896 on MOTU's website....it's like the product never existed! MOTU's support only begins with the MOTU MKII onward.)

    But I digress.... I'm fairly certain you can do what you're thinking about doing with many audio capture devices, including M-Audio's Firewire 410 and FW 1814. Both have SP/DIF and MIDI ins/outs (although I can't say I've used it yet on either product, although I have both. )

    Just curious: what forum claims that FW interfaces are "rubbish"? You're reading some strange stuff there.....I have had FW for years now, for all of my audio interfaces, among them: The RME Fireface 800 with Firewire 400 and 800 protocol, the Mackie Onyx line of mixers with Firewire cards installed, and the M-Audio line of Firewire devices. All have their pecadillos, of course, but they more than do the job required, beautifully at that in most cases, including Vista and XP SP2/3. As long as the drivers are up to date and de-bugged, they really work well.

    I've had the FW 410 for several years, using it in a variety of ways as a specially unit, for odd-ball projects on PCs and MACs and I just picked up an M-Audio FW 1814 for use specifically with an XP SP2 machine, to use as an analog & digital front end for much of my analog transfers and restoration work. I am expecting to use the SP/DIF connections for my DAT machine, as well as my ADAT-TDIF adapter with my Tascam DA-78 for the occasional transfers.

    For the most part, Firewire 400 essentially the same speed and throughput as USB 2.0, although I THINK the USB 2.0 is a little faster; (FW 800 is of course much faster, but it's not very commonly used yet, if at all). You won't see much difference at all in FW 400 vs USB 2.0 in terms of overall performance, but for a lot of folks, USB seems best used for disc writing and storage, and Firewire seems better suited for audio recording & video capture devices. (You won't break a sweat trying to capture stereo tracks and doing basic overdubs with either protocol, even at 24/96).

    With most laptops, you'll get a limited number of ports anyway; Sony VAIO's usually give you one 4-pin i-link (Firewire in disguise) and a couple of USB's. Not sure what the other big manufacturers are doing these days, but USB 2 is everywhere, and FW 400 (or even 800) is easily gotten with a PCMCIA or PC-Express card.

    I've found it's best to keep your ins and outs separate anyway; use the FW port for capture and recording, and get the data in and out of the computer to external storage on USB 2.0 hard drives. You may have to play around with latency settings, depending on your needs, but if you're doing straight-to-disc recording (Same as you would with live to tape), then you'll probaby be ok.

    Whatever interface you use, make SURE you have the latest drivers for Vista (or sometimes just XP SP3 will do) from the maunfacturer's website.

    Hope that helps get you going.

    Btw: Midiman became M-Audio (now owned by Avid), didn't it? Check out their website, you'll find a lot of good useful stuff there, along with a pretty good set of updated drivers, and web-based tech support. If you get into snags with your install, they may be able to help you out as well.
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    On second thought: I googled your product and came up with this link from 1999:


    That's technology that's almost ten years old now, perhaps it's time to rethink what you really need.

    I'm sure the AD/DA converters are top notch in the Midiman box, but it's probably been superceded by the later-day stuff in the more recent M-Audio products, to name just one company.

    By the time you spend the $$ and go through all that connectivity with the Midiman, whatever you're driving the front end with, and the FW/USB interface, you may just want to skip it an use something like the M-Audio 410 or 1814 for your front end in toto; they'll work fine with an analog mixer's outputs, or skip those as well and use the on-board line ins, mic pre's and SP-DIF for your DAT, etc. etc.

    Time to rethink the whole thing, perhaps?
  4. piman

    piman Guest

    Hello Joe

    Sorry my firewire comment was ambiguous - I meant I had found several posts which say specifically the Ricoh FW (in my Dell) was 'rubbish' for music (not FW itself).
    I can find nothing on the m-audio website about FW/chipset compatability problems - do I need to check FW/chipset compatability or is this not a real issue?

    Otherwise the 410 looks ideal - except for the price. Being an old penny-pincher I was hoping to lever the most out of my existing gear and buy some type of spdif to fw/usb contraption for next to no bucks (I get 24bit digital out of the calf and I think my pc is digital). However, I cannot find any such device so may have to rob the missus. :)

    Thanks for your help


    Revised after eading your second post: Point taken - I will get a 410 or equivalent. Any opinion on the FW/Chiopset compatability question?
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    M-Audio strongly suggests going with Texas Instrument Chipsets on any Firewire card you use.

    For what it's worth, I recently went into Best Buy and grabbed a fairly generic, "Dynex" 3-port Firewire PCI card for the DAW that is now hosting the FW 18140, and it loaded up & runs perfectly. (Maybe the TI chipset is onboard anyway?)

    Dunno who's got the TI chipset for external PCMCIA or PC Express cards, but I'm sure you can ask around; many companies will let you know who's chipset they're using inside. :cool:

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