[LAU] firewire soundcard, recommendations please

Olivier Guilyardi ml at xung.org
Tue Mar 24 11:39:53 EDT 2009

Gabriel M. Beddingfield wrote:
> Atte André Jensen wrote:
>> Now I'm looking for recommendations. I assume they all work flawlessly 
>> with linux, right? How about sound quality (convertes, preamps), latency 
>> and stabillity? Are there any cards I've overlooked, esp something 
>> that'll provide 3-4 mic preamps?
> You may already know this... but in case you don't:
> Warning!  At the moment, firewire on linux *typically* requires personal love 
> and care (installing libraries, compiling from source, googling until your eyes 
> are shot) to get your setup up-and-running.  It is generally *not* 
> plug-and-play.  Some distro's either provided the Freebob driver or the newer 
> FFADO driver, or both.  Some compile JACK without FFADO support.  Some devices 
> require prayer and fasting in order to divine a configuration string for a driver.

Well, I have a *very* different experience about this. After realizing that
FFADO was quite complex to setup (recompile a lot of software, etc..), I decided
to simply plug my brand new Presonus Firebox into my Debian Lenny, a few months
ago. I just needed to adjust some udev permissions as explained on the freebob
website, and selected the freebob driver in qjackctl.

It worked right out of the box. It took 30 minutes or so from plugging the
device to making music. That was my *first* experience with firewire and linux.

I can only recommend the Firebox, the preamps are very nice, almost no noise,
and about latency I can go down to a jack buffer size of 32 frames without an
xrun, using ardour to record some songs, with barely audible latency. The voice
recordings are warm and clean, which is very important to me.

The Firebox has 6 inputs: 2 mic preamps + 2 line in + one S/PDIF connector. All
the reviews I read at the time said it was the best preamps around in this price
range, especially when compared to Edirol.

About stability: very good. However, after explicitly stopping jack, I often
need to unplug/plug the device before starting jack again. Not much of a big deal.

> However, Fireware *does* work on Linux if you pick the right device -- and it's 
> getting better all the time. Your best resources for hardware and config. are:

I can only agree with this: *pick the right device*. And I believe that this is
not only about the soundcard. From other experiments, I believe that some
firewire subsystems may be better supported than others. I'm no expert in this
matter though. I personally have a 100% intel system, with a DQ35JO (ICH9) intel
motherboard + a quad core cpu. That works great.

>    * The FFADO web site (http://www.ffado.org/).  They have a list
>      of supported, recommended, and NOT recommended devices.
>    * this mailing list (search the archives).  This list is full
>      of the wranglings of many people trying to get their firewire
>      device to work.
>    * the LAD (developer) mailing list
> FWIW, my brother has a Saffire that he got running over Christmas, but it wasn't 
> fun.  AFAIK, it works OK.

> If you're still game:  awesome!  However, if you're wanting something that is 
> more plug-and-play... you might look into PCI or USB solutions.

Apart from udev configuration, firewire was plug and play in my experience.

However, this is Freebob only, I haven't had enough time to play with FFADO
until now. So my personal preference about hardware compatibility list, until I
switch to FFADO, would be this one:



  Olivier Guilyardi / Samalyse

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