Skip to main content

The myth of mobile recording with Firewire audio interfaces

Why is it that many manufacturers of firewire audio interfaces advertize that they are bus powered and thus good for field recording, when virtually no notebooks come with 6 pin firewire connects? I think except for a Mac or two, virtually all pc's are 4 pin, and I am almost certain that they must be 6 pin to provide power.

Manufacturers should just make an auxilliary power cable that plugs into a USB for power. Two cables into the computer yes, but then at least then another wall adapter is not needed.


TheJackAttack Mon, 09/20/2010 - 09:15
Most laptop manufacturers do not want you to "bus" power devices because it ruins the at best mediocre battery life as it is. When discussing mobile recording and mobile interfaces, mobile is really a balancing equation of "small and portable" versus "enough gozintas/gozoutas" and quality of the external hard drive or recorder. Most Mac's are actually 9 pin in current incarnations (Firewire 800, 1394b). You mention cables with two ends to plug into multiple ports. Those dual cables are a primary cause of ports becoming fried. Once the port is fried it may or may not pass data but it certainly won't power anything including a thumb drive. Those kinds of cable just aren't made for the real world of work.

For critical recording jobs, portable for me means generally two rolling 6 space racks, cable case, stand bag, two military grade cases containg microphones and a case with external HDD.

For down and dirty jobs, it is a two channel flash recorder (w/ modified preamps), backpack with cables, single mic case, stand bag and coffee thermos. In all classical music sessions I am recording at 88.2k/24 bit.

I do not personally ever rely on "bus" power. One of my 6 space cases has a UPS that provides emergency power to the computer and the HD24XR and the external HDD. Everything is conditioned through toroidal power conditioners. After poor mic placement and gain staging, bad power is the primary cause of bad sound and poor microphone/preamplifier performance.

MadMax Mon, 09/20/2010 - 12:38
Oh man... if that's all you need to do is get a mic in a different environment, get a longer mic cable... 150' is plenty of cable to still run a good mic signal. It's not ideal mind you, but you can do it. 75' is about as long of a run as I like, but I bought a few 100's just in case.

100 feet of mic cable is pretty darn long, and would easily run from the furthest corner in my basement out into the front yard, going around the corner of the house.

Now, if yer' lookin to just capture a decent room, with minimal monitoring, but still quite capable... get a Zoom H2 or H4 and enjoy tracking. I've heard some stuff off them that's perfectly acceptable professional quality.

But it do take more than just slappin' em' up and hittin' the red button. You do have to think about positioning and noise sources close to the device. (OOPS) Never set one on a bar near the bartender's station... you get killed by glass noise!

That's the two simplest solutions I got.

The real problem is I/O. It takes physical space for each channel.... which is exactly what makes a console, a console... and why flypacks are loaded with converters and UPS'. This is the real world of multitrack I/O. It's just a PITA... period. You either deal with it, or don't bother... it's too hateful of a gig to halfass it, IMHO.


You see guys like myself draggin' dedicated recorders, going all the way back to the ADAT, MX2424 and the HD24. The real problem with these dedicated recording technologies is that because they cost just that little extra... they become a nightmare to support, as drive technology changes and the availability of parts becomes limited.

Even the JoeCo Blackbox is gonna have a relatively short lifespan... maybe 5 years at best? If they're still around, they'll have a better product in 5, anyway.

There really are excellent field recorders that are phenomenal, that were made by Nagra. But get tape and rollers for em'....

After that... dunno.

Wish someone would jump in with a better solution, so I won't have to keep throwing cash at dead technology.