MOTU, long a big advocate of FireWire for audio, announced this week it will offer its 828 mk II interface in a USB 2.0 version. They’ll continue to offer the FireWire version, and the two interfaces offer the same features and performance, so the choice is really a matter of what computer connections you have free.

With increasing attention on USB 2.0, is this the beginning of the end for FireWire? Mac users get really touchy about this subject, since Apple replaced its iPod connections with USB 2.0. It’s ironic that Mac users would be the most upset, because the Mac platform popularized both formats: Apple led the way with USB on the iMac and was ahead of the curve adopting FireWire (which it co-developed) and USB2. Current Macs are the most consistent with I/O options: USB2 and FireWire are standard, and even FireWire 800 ships on many models. So Mac users, as usual, you can breathe easy.

For audio, it’s much ado about nothing. USB 1.1 performs quite well for audio interfaces with fewer connections, and MOTU’s announcement comes at a time when FireWire connections have made their way onto more PCs, even though they were once a rarity.

Of course, I’m not a hardware manufacturer, and I know some people who read this site are — so I might have this completely wrong. If so, please feel free to correct me, anonymously or otherwise. But it looks like USB2, FireWire, and USB all offer excellent audio interface possibilities. And I think choice is a good thing.

  • tim

    "Apple led the way with USB on the iMac and was ahead of the curve adopting FireWire"

    they didnt adopt Firewire, they invented it
    and every hardware maker who uses it has to pay a license fee to Apple to use Firewire…
    which is why some el cheapo computer makers (ie most PCs) dont have it…

    Not sure why apple would abandon their own technology tho?

  • atomic_afro

    Tim said:
    "and every hardware maker who uses it has to pay a license fee to Apple to use Firewire…
    which is why some el cheapo computer makers (ie most PCs) dont have it…"

    I find it odd that many left-leaning groups (the entertainment industry, college students) support Apple/Mac over MS/PC, when Apple is clearly an anti-egalitarian hardware company that often gouges its customer base. At the same time, its greatest supporters often mock people who use "el cheapo (ie most PCs)". Isn't this a form of elitism? Would Apple supporters also favor BMW drivers who mock those who drive Kias?

    Just something to think about…


  • admin

    Tim, surely you don't mean the trademark licensing fees? Those were dropped some time ago; there's still a license *agreement* but no fee per se. And anyway, these can be licensed by the 1394 group, not Apple. I don't know what the costs are beyond that; I've talked to some industry reps who said USB2 costs were prohibitive. I don't think this is such a huge issue, though.

    And, uh, Afro, I've completely lost you. Most Mac users don't support Apple for political reasons; they do it because the operating system doesn't suck. If your PC is working, great! Hurray for you! Mine is at the moment completely hosed and waiting a fresh XP install. Again. A multi-hour process. So I'm not making fun of Windows users. I don't have time; I'll be spending that time reinstalling Windows.

    Look, if a Mac user is making fun of someone buying a Dell because it's cheap, yeah, they need to get a life. But I know plenty of people on extremely limited budgets who were able to buy an affordable Mac that for them was a much better buy than a PC. If this were BMW vs. Kia, I'd be with you, but we're much closer to Toyota vs. Ford. (In other words, it doesn't matter.)

    My computers aren't particularly political (unlike me), but if you did want to bring politics into this, look the other direction: Jobs supports Democrats (Gore, Kerry); Microsoft supports Republicans (NYC's GOP convention). Not that, again, I care much — my copy of Word isn't going to topple the Democrats in 2008, and the truly egalitarian thing would be to run a solar-powered Linux box.

    Anyway, relax. We'll have better issues to argue over Win/Mac than this . . .


  • tristan

    I applaude you!

    With this addition to USB 2.0 devices, does that make a total of two? I only know of two, this and the Behringer FCA (I think that's what it's called). Any others people know about?

  • admin

    Edirol's UA-101 and UA-1000 interfaces both use USB2. But you're right — there aren't very many. There are many, many more FireWire devices out there than USB2. I made sure my PC laptop had FireWire and USB2 on it; there are enough choices that do that this would be wise for anyone doing audio. If nothing else, it keeps your options open for drives and cameras as well as audio interfaces.

    Oh, and it looks GREAT in the hatchback of a Kia. (Sorry, ATA.)


  • zwei

    One of the differences between USB and FireWire (IEEE-1394) is that FireWire allows devices on the bus to share memory. e.g., your firewire soundcard could read from your computer memory, without involving the CPU.

    USB requires the CPU to actively pool the data from the device, thus making it more CPU intensive.

  • rastAsia

    Interesting topic. I was just looking around for their differences myself. But I guess with todays processing speed than yesteryears, the CPU intensive usb issue would not even be felt.

    I think it boils down to hardware design and aesthetics. FW taking up slightly more space than slimmer USB ports. zwei got his point right there. But based on experience, I'll stick my hand up for the FW400. No special reason. Just personal security.

    And oh yea, I'm gonna stick it onto a Mac.

    I vote practicality not beauty off my own argument.