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Firewire Audio Interfaces – My Recent Experience

by on Dec.04, 2010, under Uncategorized

So, for those of you that might not know, I at one point had an actual functioning home recording studio.  I would even have people come over and hand me money to record them.  Well, a move here, a move there and I was out of commission for a bit.  However, after my most recent move, into this new place in Chandler, I was able to give myself a room to dedicate as an office / studio, that was actually a tad bigger than my original office / studio.  The problem was that I had since sold my audio interface which is kind of the core of any digital recording studio, which mine is.

So, time to shop around for audio interfaces.

I started with what seemed like the most reasonable audio interface that had enough inputs for all of my equipment and had decent inputs that wouldn’t make anything plugged into it sound like crap.  I decided on the “M-Audio Profire 2626”.  More than enough inputs, and with my previous successful experience with the Digidesign Digi 002, I figured I couldn’t go wrong.  Well… I was wrong there.   Turns out, firewire audio interfaces are having a mess of issues with various hardware combinations available, especially on PC.  I spent approximately 8 hours trying to get this thing to work properly, but to no avail.  The sound would distort, pop, crackle, and might as well throw in “snap”, any time I moved the mouse or opened a new window or did anything on my computer which had any value.  A quick Google search turned up thread after thread of people with similar issues, and nobody seemed to have an answer other than ensuring that your firewire card was using the Texas Instruments chipset (it was).  “I just bought this damn thing”, I thought.  I’m not going to fight with this.

I took it back the same day I got it.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and me getting a bit impatient over not having an audio interface, I decide to try again, only this time with the “Motu Traveler MK3”.  This particular device is a couple hundred more expensive than the M-Audio Profire 2626, but I figured it was worth a shot.  So I took the dive into this piece of equipment.

I initially ran into a similar issue that I exprerienced from the M-Audio interface, only it was behaving a bit differently.  It wasn’t exactly a pop/crackle, etc, but this weird distortion and squealing.  Sometimes followed up with a Blue Screen of Death.  Oh, did  I mention I’m running Vista 64 bit on what will soon be my DAW?  I didn’t? Sorry I missed that.  I am. Anyways, I head to Google.  I notice people having a similar issue, quite a few, only this time there appears to be a silver lining.  If only I were to update the firmware on my Motu Traveler, all of my issues with it will magically disappear.  Soooooo I begin working on that.

Step 1:  Am I running the latest driver? Yes.

Step 2: Run the firmware upgrade setup program with my Motu Traveler in ‘update’ mode.

Step 3: Scratch my head and wonder why the fuck the firmware upgrade program keeps telling me I don’t have my Traveler in ‘update’ mode.

Step 4: Cry a bit inside and search for answers on Google.

So what I get back from Google is initially more people mentioning the fact that Texas Instruments chipset firewire cards appear to be the only thing firewire audio interfaces appear to like speaking with.  Well, I can scratch that off my list, my card is using the TI chipset.   Then I notice that people with this particular issue updating the firmware all seem to be running the 64bit version, which I was, and that they were able to get around it by updating on a 32bit machine using the 32bit version, which I have in my home, several of them.  Only I can’t seem to find my PCMCIA Firewire card, and the only machine that is 32bit XP is an old Dell that the firmware updater crashes on due to a strange issue with “ntdll.dll”.

So I call my friend Phil who has tons of hardware lying around at all times and ask him if he has a spare PCMCIA Firewire card I could borrow for a bit, and sure enough, he does.

I head over to Phil’s and decide to bring my MOTU Traveler along with me.  Rather than borrow the PCMCIA card, we try and get it working right at his place.  He happened to have a Macbook Pro with a firewire port built right in.

Firmware update successful.

I smile, thank him, and leave his place with my newly updated MOTU Traveler MK3.

When I get home, I plug it in and test it out.  It seems to work for a bit but I end up with a BSOD once more.  I check Google for people using this interface and experiencing blue screens.  Sure enough, I find somebody that mentions that updating his NVIDIA graphics card driver, along with his motherboard drivers, did the trick.

So I did.

A couple of reboots later, my MOTU Traveler MK3 is working!  I have an audio interface again.  I’m super psyched.