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Firewire disappearing from Laptops?

Hi all;

Just wondering if anyone else is seeing a potential problem looming for Firewire users/Laptops/Remote recording.

I have three laptop systems that I use regularly on remotes; all Sony Vaios with 4-pin FW connections (often very iffy) and PC Express slots, which I plug in a FW cable to PC Xpress card. (These can easily be dislodged, but I tape it all down and things work fine.)

These laptops are dual Pentiums, etc., running Windows Vista and/or Win 7, and things are working just fine, for now. As we all know, everything eventually breaks and needs to be replaced, updated, etc. Like everything else, I know these laptops wont last forever, although I treat them well, and don't do much of anything else with them except live remote recording.

What is concerning me is a cursory look at all the new medium-priced laptops contain neither FW or PC Xpress slots anymore; just USB 2, LAN, and wiresless ports. (I have read this is also a problem with new MAC laptops coming out as well.)

I'm worried that all the FW recording devices I have (RME Fireface, Mackie Onyx, etc.) are going to become useless in the next few years.

I HAVE seen some higher end Dell laptops still shipping with the 4-pin FW jacks, but next to no PC Xpress Card slots. All the quick&easy budget laptops (in the under $500 range) are looking to be totally useless for Firewire, in terms of ins and outs.

Anyone else concerned about this, or coming up with a work-around/solution?


Profile picture for user JoeH

JoeH Sat, 05/05/2012 - 07:58

That's what has me concerned.....little by little, those things are just going away. It's now targeted to folks who use smart phones, tablets, etc. So there's very little else on the cutting edge anymore.

So, that's making me take a second (and third) look at the whole concept of live capture, at least for what I do.

1. If I'm doing complex work in the studio, a larger, multi-core PC or MAC DAW is still the best way to go. Fortunately, I can still get FW400/800 and USB 2.0/3.0 cards for these machines and install them myself. Thunderbolt sounds exciting, too. (Should it ever come to it; there's always ProTools turnkey systems....THAT's not going away any time soon.) Thankfully, all my software is now available for 64 bits, Win7, and so on. It still works.

2. If I'm going to be just capturing it all live (with a stereo mix as a backup on SD chip or CD), then arguably, it really doesn't matter what kind of buttefuly net I use: JoeCo, Sound Devices, Laptop, Etch-a-sketch, etc., as long as it works. Even so, "Old" habits die hard, and I still like the convenience of the laptop in the center of things: Mixer/Input device on my left, laptop in the middle, and CD/SD recorder, power strip and other goodies on my right. It's been over ten years of doing it that way, and dammit, it works.

But to be fair, it's really just a processing device when I'm out doing live capture: it takes the digital input(s) information and just sprays it over to the external hard drive. It also lets me see and adjust levels, although I don't do any serious DSP when capturing live. So really, I just need a screen with a good display of the ins, outs, levels, and destinations. Addmittedly, Samp/Seq is overkill for this, but again, it has a lot to do with reliability, comfort and efficiency.

I'm not against an iPAD or Droid pad (or whatever it's called now) to do this; just give me ins and outs that work, and let me manipulate it with no crashes or lost buffers, and I'll be fine.

Holding on tightly to my three Sony VAIO laptops, at least for now. (My son has a Sony VAIO laptop that I bought him about 3-4 years ago, and as soon as he upgrades, that sucker is coming back home to ME! ;-)

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JoeH Wed, 05/23/2012 - 08:11

That would be great to see, Jeff.

Meanwhile, our daughter wanted a Macbook Air laptop for her birthday, and couldn't wait to ditch her 3 yr old Sony VAIO laptop, which has firewire 4 pin, and an Xpress Card slot. Aside from the light pink case color and the usual dings & dents from a teenager, it didn't need much to refurbish it. After copying/removing any files she might have needed, I blew its brains out, reformatted the drive, and reinstalled Windows Vista/7 on it, getting all the online updates, etc. Removed all the bloatware and turned off all the stoopid services and "under the hood" processes that I don't need for just running digital recording software.

I loaded it up with Samlitude V8 SE and Samplitude Producer 11, and it now runs fantastic. No errors, glitches, lost ASIO buffers or dropouts. (Better than my other laptops...)

So, when all's said and done, I have a new ship for the fleet, (3 Sony laptops total) now in its own roadcase, with matching fuscia-colored mouse.

I ordered another Firewire 400 to Xpress card for this one as well, so I think (I hope!) I'm covered for the foreseeable least until Thunberbolt or USB 3.0 takes over for good.

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JoeH Tue, 04/10/2012 - 06:37

Hey, I had another thought....why not pester the manufacturers for THEIR suggestions? I just saw an ad in Musician Mag for Focusrite pre's and things, and the ad centered around FIREWIRE as the key way to get audio out of these things.

I wonder what their take is on this?

RemyRAD Sun, 05/06/2012 - 02:06

I'm with Joe. They are taking the professionalism out of everything today. If it's not an app for an iPhone/iPad, you are SOL. I'm still trying to keep my IBM & HP laptops alive but they are quickly dying, OMG! What will I do? They are both 10 & 6 years old respectively. I'm not even hot on the idea of SDD's yet. I don't think they are viable yet for enough read/write cycles for professional audio/video usage? I mean, I like pushing the envelope myself, technically but this stuff ain't ready for prime time.

I miss my Presto 800. Precursor to the Scully's.
Mx. Remy Ann David

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pmolsonmus Mon, 04/30/2012 - 19:17

Just came into this discussion as I am shopping for a new laptop for school and all the rage for video seems to be Thunderbolt.(the laptop is for our black box theater) I still hope my 4 year old MacBook Pro holds out. I have had 0 problems running FW400/800 for ProTools and with the RME FF800 as well as daily living.

RemyRAD Wed, 05/23/2012 - 14:19

JoeH, post: 389907 wrote: Mmmmmm, yeah!

Good'n'plenty, good'n'plenty.....Choo Choo Charlie was his name, we hear....Choo Choo Charlie was an engineer...

Yeah Joe, I can't forget those good old jingles. Glad you haven't forgotten them either. So tell me...How do you handle a hungry man? The man handlers. You can take Salem out of the country but... you can't take the country out of Salem. Taste me taste me... come on and taste me ...

I'd rather be smoking something other than cigarettes
Mx. Remy Ann David

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Jeff Ling Mon, 05/07/2012 - 08:43

With Intel starting to put Thunderbolt in some of its chipsets, we should see a TBolt port on more machines. Thunderbolt to firewire breakout boxes should show up one of these days...

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JoeH Tue, 06/05/2012 - 19:56

As I mentioned, I put another laptop into my fleet; another Sony Viao; all pink and pretty. (It was my daughter's before she went over to the dark side with a Mac Airbook...;-) My (female) assistant loves it, FW and everything. I've got extra PC express cards and dedicated software on that computer as well. This brings me up to THREE Laptops that run Windows 7, and so far, so good.

I've already told my son to GIVE ME BACK the Sony Vaio laptop I gave him as a Birthday/Christams present a few years ago. When he upgrades to something else, , that thing is MINE, firewire port and all. ;-))

I figure I'm good for another 3-4 years at least....till Window 7 is a thing of the past.

bigtree Fri, 03/30/2012 - 10:38

I have a new laptop that doesn't have a FW port but that isn't a problem. I have a 2 port FW ExpressCard and it works like a charm, so it didn't or doesn't matter. There are and will be adapters available for years.

This is exactly what I have but if you don't have a slot, you can get another adapter:

bigtree Fri, 03/30/2012 - 12:01

Joe, thought I would mention this:

I recently bought a Prism Orpheus, I was a bit concerned about firewire being dated and all, and didn't really care because I don't need much better but, they have tested the [=""]Sonnet - Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter[/]=""]Sonnet - Echo ExpressCard/34 Thunderbolt Adapter[/] Thunderbolt Adaptor [[url=http://=""]Prism Sound News: Thunderbolt solution for Prism Sound Orpheus and ADA-8XR interfaces[/]=""]Prism Sound News: Thunderbolt solution for Prism Sound Orpheus and ADA-8XR interfaces[/]

I haven't read much more on it but I gather, if they are doing it, there is hope.

Lightning fast speed and huge bandwidth has meant Thunderbolt can accommodate nearly any existing connection to a variety of external devices with the necessary adapter, including Prism Sound FireWire audio interfaces Orpheus and ADA-8XR.

We have successfully tested Orpheus with a [=""]Sonnet Thunderbolt to ExpressCard[/]=""]Sonnet Thunderbolt to ExpressCard[/] and [[url=http://=""]ExpressCard to Firewire800 adaptor combination[/]=""]ExpressCard to Firewire800 adaptor combination[/] with Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2. It passed with flying colours and will allow Prism Sound FireWire interface users to maintain the same software control and functionality they are currently benefiting from through the FireWire 800 and 400 connection.


Any Apple Mac sporting the new Thunderbolt connection (currently the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac Mini) will be able to connect to our Orpheus and FireWire ADA-8XR including the latest MacBook Air, which was previously lacking any connection above USB 2.0 speed.

MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac Mini users will benefit from an extra bus through the Thunderbolt connection meaning external Hard Drives and other FireWire devices can be used simultaneously with the Prism Sound Orpheus and ADA-8XR FireWire interfaces.

FireWire, Thunderbolt and the development of standalone software means native audio production has never been more popular providing the perfect solution for users requiring the freedom of flexibility between hardware and software combinations, expandability through cascading multiple units and devices via the convenience of a single connection.

Contact us now to find out more about Prism Sound professional audio solutions.

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soapfloats Thu, 05/03/2012 - 00:47

Last year, around May, I bought two new laptops - one from Dell and one from HP.
I used the nice little "build your own" option to ensure the computer fit my personal needs, and had to the power to be remote recorder / light mixer.
I bought one - with no firewire or PCI options, then the other - just the same.
Most infurating was that neither made any mention of these options (or lack of), and it took HOURS of chatting with sales reps to learn that NO models carried EITHER feature.

Dell was completely unconcerned with my concerns, and offered me a $100 rebate for a machine that didn't fit my needs.
HP was slightly more concerned, and I decided that it was a personal, not business purchase - and kept it to keep my sanity.

If you're going to do a desktop style machine (or rackmount), build your own or have a reputable PC/DAW company do it.
Windows laptops and recording just don't jive anymore...
The manufacturers of the computers couldn't give a cr@p what you, I, or Focusrite says - their market is teens, yootube, webcams, and faceb00k.
Or, lowest common denominator. No need for Firewire, PCI slots, or anything of that ilk.

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TheJackAttack Fri, 03/30/2012 - 19:43

The real problem is not the firewire port disappearing but that the Express Card slot is gone from all new laptops. The onboard 4 pin firewire was always crap and Express Card was the way to go. Now however we will either rack up a desktop-which is uber stable-or move on to a USB Fireface UFX or similar. Or use a SD 700 series and mix back at the barn.

RemyRAD Sat, 03/31/2012 - 08:37

It seems like some of these computer designers aren't as smart as the consumers anymore? It's a marketing ploy. They just want you to keep buying new stuff otherwise they go out of business. And maybe they should? Cars don't yet drive themselves but they could. And most still utilize internal combustion engines even though we don't need to anymore. We're at least being given choices in the automotive industry. And these computer manufacturers aren't giving us all of the choices they once used to. They want to reduce all of our computers to smart phones. FWIW, I still need a van and not a subcompact car. Yup, I only get 13-18 mpg but that's the price I have to pay for what I want. The computer manufacturers are not providing that. Adapters are adapters and are not necessarily tightly integrated with the computer in which you are using them with. So they are really not universal with all computers.

This requires that we have both old and new computers in good operational capabilities. You might need to nurse some of your older machines along for tracking purposes where you may utilize the new machines for your mixing purposes? Most of us don't leap upon new operating systems when they are first introduced. It takes time before all of the other manufacturers out there can get their new products that are compatible out. And sometimes that takes a couple of years. The tools that we utilize are not like buying new cars because we don't necessarily utilize the old stereo, old seats and fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror transferred into our new vehicles. It's impractical to do that and sometimes it's impractical to try and utilize adapters. Though some work but not all. This causes much confusion for a lot of folks. And who isn't confused by a constant barrage of a reduction in capabilities, features and size? It's great for children. We are not children here.

Gimme back my FireWire400! I don't want no stinkin' FireWire 800. Obviously neither does anyone else.
Mx. Remy Ann David

bigtree Sat, 03/31/2012 - 11:30

Remy, hold me back... The world is one big consumer money sucking pit that I just about can't take anymore. More and more features, and do we really need it all. I just want simple things that work and last instead of supplying the land fill sites. OMG, what a tragic thing we are all doing to keep making money. Even our clothes are BS now. My underwear elastics break down. We can't even do that right anymore.


Profile picture for user Cucco

Cucco Tue, 04/24/2012 - 18:11

TheJackAttack, post: 387439 wrote: [[url=http://[/URL]=""]Sound Devices 788T-SSD |[/]=""]Sound Devices 788T-SSD |[/]

Color me a fan!
I've been using the SD USBPre2 which uses the same pres and converters as the 788 and have been LOVING it!
It's USB and I've easily cascaded both of my units to get 4 channels with next to no latency. I haven't had any issues with them being USB, even on long concerts.

RemyRAD Sat, 03/31/2012 - 14:37

Chris you are doing your part to lower our green footprint. I KNOW those LA 2's of yours won't end up in a landfill for at least another 30 years. I've had so many computers since 1983 that I know are contributing plenty of lead and mercury into our food chain today. I really love those hamburgers that taste like Radio Shaft model 100 laptops. Taco Bell tastes like the recycled plastic cases on the desktop machines! At least a lobster left over is biodegradable no matter how hard their shells are. Maybe I'm wrong about that? There are plenty of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon skulls still lying around all over the place. So maybe the doctors and scientists need to try and create a new species of people without any bones to leave any pollution behind when they're gone?

I've always believed in recycling. Especially old equipment everybody thinks is worthless. I even keep recycling old desktop computers. I found a couple of Dell computers in a trash dumpster last year. The RAM was removed. The hard drive was removed. One was a Celeron and one was a Pentium 4. So with some old 80 GB drives, 160 GB drives I had lying around in a couple of memory chips, they're working every day. One of the things I miss most is a television station converting to digital. They already jumped a couple of Neve broadcast boards into that dumpster that even I didn't bother to rescue. So sad, surface mount BS. You don't need to bother to repair those you just throw them out when you're done with them. Not mine. Of course they did throw out boxes of RCA 77 DX's just months before I went into television. They threw out the intercom system which amounted to pretty much a complete 16 channel API board without any 550 equalizers. I almost got stuck in the dumpster that day! It wasn't full and it and I was at the bottom. Brent Averill got most of that from me. I should go to a HAM fest but I'm Jewish and I don't and that's kosher? Of course I don't keep kosher because if I did, I wouldn't be jumping into dumpsters. I'm not sure how this sentence should be taken? But Jesus Christ, I love bacon and ham!

I bet you look cute walking around your house with your shorts down around your ankles? I only purchased the best Chinese slave children manufactured bluejeans at the truck stop where they are only $15 and they work as good as those Jewish bluejeans. You know, Levi's. My butt is too big to be Wrangled into some other bluejeans. And I wouldn't wear any bluejeans that might Lee,k? Though I really like those very expensive designer bluejeans because you know they're made by the best fed Chinese slave children but I can't afford those. They eat too much. And I feel really good inside about not being an Apple computer enthusiast. With all that news about their overseas factory workers in China committing suicide because of their despicable working conditions, I'm happy not to be part of that slave supported company. I'm just waiting for some talented computer programmers to come up with an operating system where we can run our windows or Macintosh software on something other than their operating systems. Unfortunately Linux ain't it yet. Certainly there must be some talented computer hackers that could crack that kernel and then let it go viral on the Internet? Because at this point, that's what both Apple and Microsoft deserve. Yes I know that you can run a Windows emulation on top of Linux. It still is not user friendly enough nor do I believe is compatible in a credible way with the software that we utilize? I mean that would be like recording an analog tape at 15 IPS and playing it back at 7.5 IPS?

I don't think I'm tragic in my efforts to make money? All of my equipment is over 30 years old and it's not going into the trash anytime soon. Well maybe some of my computers? BTW I'm not wearing any underwear.

1984 Mercedes Benz 1117. Custom modified in 1990 and still going today.
Mx. Remy Ann David