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I'm finally getting time to start working on my new studio. Ya! Ten years has passed since I upgraded from PT mix.

I'm using a Fireface 800 (oo la la) and Sonar 8 loaded into the new Rain ION 64 Octo Core, 16 gig of ram Vista 64. This system was tested and tweeked specifically for Sonar 8 Producer by Cakewalk. This should be fun.

Question 1 of many ( thanks ahead of time here. I'm going to need some help)
I am trying to get my head around how to connect my pre's and other hardware into the Fireface 800 and use the mixer to route it all. I can do this correct?

How do I bypass the pre in the 800 and use some of mine?
How good do you find the pre's in the 800?

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Cucco Thu, 05/28/2009 - 07:20

Hey Chris -
The Fireface is a super cool interface that sounds awesome. You're going to love it.

First, on the FF800 pres - they're not bad. Actually, they're quite nice. I've used them along side Millennias, Graces and Trues with great luck. They're pretty transparent with a decent amount of headroom and of course, they mate perfectly with the AD in the box.

As for coming into the fireface with external pres, there are 8 line inputs on TRS. All of these bypass the preamps by their very nature and go straight into discrete inputs on the FF. You *can* operate 2 of the line inputs simultaneously with the 2 mic inputs, but bear in mind, those channels are no longer discrete. You'll, in essence, be matrixing two sources together on a single mono channel.

The mixer software is great too -
Along the bottom row, you select your output pair. Say for example, you want to set up a mix for your artists' headphones on outputs 1&2 (TRS 1&2 on the rear).

You click either channel 1 or 2 on the bottom row. Now, all of the faders in the top two rows will be controlling the output to hardware channels 1 and 2.

The top row is inputs. You can send any input directly to the mix bus and out to channels 1 and 2. Say you have a vocal on channel 3 - bring that fader up and voila...instant gratification (with near 0 latency).

The middle row is "virtual" outputs. This means, any output you assign through a DAW. Say in Sonar, you assign an aux bus that feeds out to software outputs 3&4. In the RME mixer, you can pull up the faders in the middle row on 3&4 and anything that aux bus in your software hears, so will the outputs of the RME.

You can mix and match these, but bear in mind -
If your input channel and your DAW channel are getting the same information (say that vocal that was on channel 3 of the inputs is also on your Aux bus in Sonar), you're going to hear delays. Because the DAW has some inherent latency (determined by your ASIO settings), you'll get the near-0 latency feed and the ASIO-latency feed simultaneously. This won't cause any physical problems other than that it will freak out your singer.

Let me know if you have any other questions about the FF800. It's my favorite interface of all times - there's so much that can be done with this unit!


JoeH Thu, 05/28/2009 - 07:20

Welcome to the world of Fireface 800, audiokid. I love this box, and jumped in with it thanks to reading so much good feedback from Jeremy Cucco. I use mine almost exclusively "live" for remote hi-end recording.

I wrote a review of it for Mix that never got run (space considerations, timing, etc.) and i have to tell you; there's so much to the thing, it was one of the hardest things I ever tackled to fit into only 900 words. It was almost a list of features rather than a review.

The manual is intense too. Somewhat steep learning curve, but WOW, once you get a handle on everything, it rocks.

There's a Youtube page (created by RME) with some video tutorials, including the TotalMix software feature.

To answer your first question, there are eight balanced analog inputs on the back that will accomodate your other preamps. In my case, I have my Grace m802's in the same road case, with a 10" bundled cable going from the DA25 outputs of of the Grace directly to the eight 1/4" inputs.

In the software provided with the FF800, there's a control tab that will allow you to select front panel (XLR) or rear-panel inputs for numbers 1, 7, 8, 9 and 10. (if memory serves correct.) You can select front, back or both. Inputs 9 and 10 can also function as talkback or room-listen mics.

On remote recordings, I use my Grace's for the first eight inputs, and if I need more, I add the front-panel 9 and 10 mic pre's for non-critical things. From what I've heard, however, these pre's are no slouches and are more than adequate in a pinch.

The total mix software really is the key, and getting a handle on that will get you up and running for everything else. There's a Matrix as well, although i've found I don't need to mess with that at all. (Yet!)

Drop me a note or post more questions here when you need to know more. 8-)

TheJackAttack Thu, 05/28/2009 - 07:46

I love my FF as well. I'm still in the learning curve but climbing fast. I run my Trues in via the DB25 to the FF TRS inputs. I also have and can run an Onyx 800r via adat into the adat inputs. I love the sound quality. For redundancy I go out the adats into my Alesis HD24XR.

Honestly, I haven't tried to work with the mixer too much other than create presets. I've been using the matrix to route everything. My biggest hindrance is that even though I'm a computer guy, when it comes to audio I still visualize a big a** analog console and the matrix helps me in that regard.

djmukilteo Thu, 05/28/2009 - 22:37

audiokid....Wow.....excellent choice! You will have no regrets....
I absolutely love my FireFace 800...the TotalMix mixer is awesome. powerful and beautiful...check out RME for TotalMix "skins"...I have a Cubase version skin and I believe there are Sonar version skins out there and the skin graphics from the default are very cool some are stunning!!. The DigiCheck tool is also something you can use for metering as well as software tools in there for sound and file analysis..It has an incredible amount of setups and features not to mention the patching just goes on and on.!! sure to use a HD big screen!....It's like having a true virtual console

Be sure and try out the 192Khz setting and record a few tracks....have a listen to the clarity and presence....not that you need to run it at that speed but if you want to really test your system out and see what it can really do definitely try'll get some horrendous audio files of course...but it really is something to give a critical listen to...I typically use the 48Khz setting when recording and then switch back down to 44.1Khz for standard speed playback of MP3's or CD mixdowns...
The guitar/instrument input is very clean and stable (selectable Limiter and Speaker Emulation on input) I typically bring the guitar into that and use GuitarRig as a plugin in Cubase and away you go...
I have keyboards into the rear balanced stereo input pairs....I've tried using the SPDIF but wasn't completely happy with the signal ( just a little glitchy)

I have not used any outboard mic preamps yet....let me know what sort of signal chain you end up trying...I would think the back TRS would be your best bet for your outbd pres....gain setup should be a snap from Totalmix

I have been going straight into the FF800 mic inputs and then using plugins from there via Cubase (which I'm sure is the same using Sonar)

Output monitors feeds I have routed within Cubase Studio and then linked out to the FF800 outputs for headphone feeds and monitor outputs plus I use the master headphone output on the front of the FF800 thru my ATH-M50's and I tell you what....your hearing some pretty incredible sound!
That manual needs to read several times because there is so much info in there and so many ways to configure the unit and when you have it configured with Sonar or Cubase you have a very flexible "board"....
Be sure and post some tracks and maybe photos of your updated setup...

audiokid Wed, 06/10/2009 - 19:12

They shipped the unit with a braided 400 cable. I'm wondering why if 800 is better, and wondering how you would connect a 400 cable to the PC when it only has a 400 input. I'm sure I could step ( use an adapter) to connect to the 800 port but that doesn't seem like a full 800 bandwidth yes?

Is your PCI or cards actual 800 ports?

My PC only having 400, what do you think?

audiokid Wed, 06/10/2009 - 19:34

Update... I'm now told windows doesn't support firewire 800. So, even if I bought a 800 PCI card, it still doesn't make a difference?

I guess I'm now wondering if it all makes a difference when I am using internal HD then? What is main benefit to the 800 port?

Would that tighten up latency?

What buffer are you able to use with the Fireface 800? The lowest I can go is 765 without dropouts.

TheJackAttack Wed, 06/10/2009 - 19:39

My cards are actually dual cards. They all have an 800 port and a 400 port (or 1x800 & 2x400 ports). My desktop is a PCI card and my laptop cards are Siig Express Cards (x2) and one PC Bus Nitro combo card.

800 has much more bandwidth available to it. It is not universally used by manufacturers though, so laptops (when they even have 'em) use the 4 pin 400 (1394a) protocol. To take advantage of the 800 (1394b) protocol you would need to go in a PCI or PCIe slot on a desktop or an Express Card slot on a laptop. Card Bus (laptop/PCMCIA) is too throttled back to fully take advantage of the 800 speed (1394b).

Cucco Wed, 06/10/2009 - 19:45

Hmmm...FW800 has Windows support. I don't know to what extent, but I've used it just fine on mine.

However, I typically use FW400 because that's the main card I have.

As for latency, I can easily run down to 128 for up to 6 tracks or so of recording. I definitely use that low of a latency when I'm overdubbing a single track so that I don't have the talent complain about delays.

One critical trick that I've found is in Windows, under the Hardware Device Manager, under network interfaces, there's actually a tab for a Firewire networking device. You need to disable this device or you will get dropouts. Also, make sure your video monitors are running at 16 bit and all of the fun little screen animations and sounds are turned completely off.


TheJackAttack Wed, 06/10/2009 - 19:48

I think the Chimp with a Gun can get down pretty low on his machine-maybe 128 or 256. I don't do overdubs at all so I don't ever push it.

On my Inspiron 9400 I can record 8 tracks 24/88.2 at around 512 with no effort and has done it at 256.

On my Latitude D820 (Win7) I'm at around 768 or 1024 for the same rate. The mobo just isn't as streamlined.

The Inspiron will record 16 tracks at 24/88.2 at 1024 without any artifacts at all for an entire 90 minute orchestra/choir concert. DPC checker shows consistant 76u-128u latency on that machine though.

djmukilteo Wed, 06/10/2009 - 21:23

There are articles out there that discuss issues with the bus side speed multipliers in the registry for Windows especially after SP3 in XP. For some reason Microsoft restricts the Firewire bus speeds in some cases to 200Mb/s.
There are registry tweaks that will fix this from MSand newer FW800 PCie cards may resolve that issue within their drivers

audiokid Wed, 06/10/2009 - 22:26

TheJackAttack wrote: [quote=audiokid]Update... I'm now told windows doesn't support firewire 800.

That's crap. I'm successfully running firewire 800 (1394b) on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. I also rammed it through on a Win 2k machine several years ago.

My bad in speed reading and kids pulling my arm for attention. John, here is the quote from PC Audio

The Fireface 800 actually only uses FireWire 400 bandwidth. The purpose of the FireWire 800 connection is to be able to pass-through an External FireWire 400 hard drive and not diminish the bandwidth of the Fireface 800.

Because Windows isn't all that FireWire 800 friendly, I suggest to use the FireWire 400 port on the Fireface 800 to the FireWire 400 port on the PC.

TheJackAttack Thu, 06/11/2009 - 07:12

FireWire 800 (IEEE 1394b-2002)
A 9-circuit beta connector.

IEEE 1394b-2002[20] introduced FireWire 800 (Apple's name for the 9-circuit "S800 bilingual" version of the IEEE 1394b standard) This specification and corresponding products allow a transfer rate of 786.432 Mbit/s full-duplex via a new encoding scheme termed beta mode. It is backwards compatible to the slower rates and 6-circuit alpha connectors of FireWire 400. However, while the IEEE 1394a and IEEE 1394b standards are compatible, FireWire 800's connector, referred to as a beta connector, is different from FireWire 400's alpha connectors, making legacy cables incompatible. A bilingual cable allows the connection of older devices to the newer port. In 2003, Apple was the first to introduce commercial products with the new connector.

The full IEEE 1394b specification supports data rates up to 3200 Mbit/s over beta-mode or optical connections up to 100 metres (110 yd) in length. Standard Category 5e unshielded twisted pair supports 100 metres (330 ft) at S100. The original 1394 and 1394a standards used data/strobe (D/S) encoding (renamed to alpha mode) on the circuits, while 1394b adds a data encoding scheme called 8B10B referred to as beta mode.

FireWire S1600 and S3200

In December 2007, the 1394 Trade Association announced that products will be available before the end of 2008 using the S1600 and S3200 modes that, for the most part, had already been defined in 1394b and was further clarified in IEEE Std. 1394-2008[4]. The 1.6 Gbit/s and 3.2 Gbit/s devices use the same 9-circuit beta connectors as the existing FireWire 800 and will be fully compatible with existing S400 and S800 devices. It will compete with the forthcoming USB 3.0.[21].

FireWire S800T (IEEE 1394c-2006)
FireWire is enhanced to share gigabit Category 5e cable

IEEE 1394c-2006 was published on June 8 2007.[22]

It provided a major technical improvement, namely new port specification that provides 800 Mbit/s over the same RJ45 connectors with Category 5e cable, which is specified in IEEE 802.3 clause 40 (gigabit Ethernet over copper twisted pair) along with a corresponding automatic negotiation that allows the same port to connect to either IEEE Std 1394 or IEEE 802.3 (Ethernet) devices.

Though the potential for a combined Ethernet and FireWire RJ45 port is intriguing, as of November 2008[update], there are no products or chipsets which include this capability.

Future enhancements (including P1394d)

A project named IEEE P1394d was formed by the IEEE on March 9 2009 to add single mode fiber as an additional transport medium to FireWire.[23]

Other future iterations of FireWire are expected bring a bump in speed to 6.4 Gbit/s and additional connectors such as the small multimedia interface.[24]

TheJackAttack Thu, 06/11/2009 - 07:58

audiokid wrote: Man, I can't find the network interfaces setting in Vista. John, can you?

It's not applicable in Vista. That's an XP thing.

Turning off all of the visual effects doesn't hurt any thing (the Aero glass in Vista and Win7 for instance) but inre XP that was a carry over from Win 2K and Win98. It had to do with the way video was processed in the GPU and chips.

The gains seen (pun alert) by turning off all the visuals on XPSP1-Win7 and later won't be noticed by most folks. Jeremy records at 192k sometimes so he would probably see some differences there. DPC checker will tell you about your pc specifically if you want to see for sure.

TheJackAttack Thu, 06/11/2009 - 08:06

Clearly Firewire 800 protocol is superior to the 400 speed for data transfer. PC Audio mag just got that one wrong. As to not being friendly, that was probably a driver issue in 2003/2004 and also the fact no one was truly utilizing the potential of the protocol. One of its uses certainly is to aggregate devices but the sheer increase in bandwith potential alone is unquestionable.

I have had zero problems with the 1394b protocol on any of my machines even when using the combo cards (1394a/1394b) so many folks advise against.

audiokid Thu, 06/11/2009 - 13:41

This topic gets more interesting. A member just sent me this:

Here is a link from RME


A company named Unibrain makes 3rd party replacement FireWire 800 driver for Windows.

I have heard that some people are using these 3rd party drivers with better performance than the built-in Microsoft drivers.

I have also heard reports that these 3rd party drivers made FireWire 800 performance worse.

eSATA is a much faster/better solution for external data transfers.

I just thought I'd throw that out there to complicate things even more. Sounds like you've been here already John?

TheJackAttack Thu, 06/11/2009 - 17:06

Unibrain actually writes drivers for a lot of firewire and eSATA gear, some under their own name and some rebranded. Siig ships with unibrain drivers. They even "give" you a little TSR that allows you to switch between the M$ drivers and the "Siig" drivers. My issues at the time was the added TSR. I spend enough time cleaning out and streamlining a computer that I don't want to add extra stuff. I also think that in the first year or two of 1394b M$ actually had a better driver than Unibrain. I have not compared them in recent years.

Most companies writing custom drivers for their gear will have more effective drivers for 1394a than M$ IMO.

audiokid Sat, 06/13/2009 - 11:41

I've been messing with the buffer and drivers now.

I thought I was using ASIO but as I get more familiar with everything, I just found I was using the default driver ( I'm sure I activated is after installation, but... ya know... duh). Once I chose ASIO, Man, this machine is screaming now.

I can get the ION and Fireface down to 48 buffer on a single track ( looping) and if I am running 24 tracks, a 256 buffer is no problem now. I love this system. Now its getting exciting!

John, have you used the WASAPI driver ( recommended in the manual) in Vista Or, am I good to go with the ASIO now?

TheJackAttack Sat, 06/13/2009 - 14:18

I haven't used the WASAPI driver. At one point there were some mud slinging between the ASIO4ALL fanatics and the WASAPI fanatics about how the two colored or didn't color the sound. If you do try it let me know what you think. I'm willing to give it a go.

Frankly the RME ASIO driver works well enough for me that I don't think about it. I don't do any overdubbing at all with my classical work so the larger sample buffers don't affect me much.

I have recorded 8 tracks (76 min) at 88.2 with my Inspiron 9400 at 128 with only a scant few-maybe six) small artifacts. As it turns out I had forgotten to turn off the wireless card. Gave myself a dope slap for that one. Twice. And some incentive PT.

That was one of those gigs where I tuned the piano, played in the dress rehearsal, set up the sound gear, guessed at the levels, sat down and played the concert. It's not very relaxing that way. Heck I'm getting where it isn't any fun to play anymore when I'm that busy. I'm either worried about clipping or phasing or unisons on the piano.

TheJackAttack Sat, 06/13/2009 - 17:03

WASAPI does not offer sample rate conversion. In other words, to use shared mode, you must either hope that the Vista machine's audio engine is set to the exact sample rate of your audio, or you must write your own sample rate converter. And sample rate conversion is by no means trivial. Especially if your criteria are that it must not degrade the audio quality and it must be as fast as possible.

Found this on the web. I'd say that WASAPI is not come of age yet.