SatelliteAs Apple revealed in a description for a session at WWDC, OS X 10.5 includes enhanced USB and FireWire audio support. Some of that functionality is already arriving in the 10.4.10 update, which incorporates the FireWire SDK 24 and FireWire 2.1. (The SDK also includes “most” of the source for Leopard’s upcoming FireWire stack.)

You probably don’t care about that unless you’re a developer.

You probably do care that the 10.4.10 update can cause some FireWire audio devices to cease normal function, including the Behringer FCA-202 and Mackie Onyx Satellite. MacFixIt has the full details, and a workaround from Mackie:

Mac OS X 10.4.10 Special Report: FireWire audio interface issues — fixes

Basically, you can roll back the FireWire driver itself while leaving 10.4.10 in place. Of course, if you haven’t yet installed 10.4.10 and you own an affected interface, you might just leave well enough alone for now.

The “glass half full” way of looking at this would be to presume the full 10.5 update may not cause any earth-shaking driver issues, beyond a few fixes here and there. And we may have jumped over some of those issues before the full 10.5 issue hits. My Focusrite Saffire, for instance, is performing just fine under 10.4.10 on two machines. For anyone complaining about Vista, this is further proof that OS updates will generally cause issues with audio hardware, simply because, aside from class-compliant devices, most pro audio gear interacts with the operating system at a pretty low level. Low-level functionality just tends to break first. The question is, can you fix it, and how fast? (In this case, “pretty durn” fast seems to apply.)

Apple still releases more incremental updates compared to Microsoft’s fewer, larger updates, and Microsoft’s changes in Vista were more sweeping changes to the underlying driver model, compared to Apple’s incremental improvements to audio-specific features. The jury is still out on which is better; it’s still unclear to me, for instance, how much benefit the Vista driver model switch will have in the longer haul.

  • Also on the glass half full side: Ever since the upgrade to 10.4, I've been experiencing crazy CPU spikes (up to 20%) whenever my class-compliant PreSonus FireBox is plugged in to the computer, regardless of whether I'm making sound or not. Lots of other online forums indicate that others have had similar problems with various class-compliant firewire devices across PPC and Intel machines running 10.4.x. After I updated to 10.4.10, the spikes magically went away.

  • dead_red_eyes

    I'm at 10.4.8 right now and I still won't update in fear that my Alesis iO/26 will crap out on me. It's such a finnicky interface, I think it's because of the DICE-II chip … there's another device out there with it, the TC Konnekt I think, and it shares just about the same issues.

    I wish that these companies with interfaces would keep up on testing, and with new updates (like 10.4.10) they could post them on their site saying whether they are supported or not.


  • Hey, Jason, good to hear from you … and that's really weird. 🙂 That's definitely a class-compliant FireWire driver problem. I know that was slated on the list for 10.5, so maybe that means they've already largely got it done. (All my FW interfaces require drivers.)

    dead_red_eyes, I hear you … I think your strategy is probably smartest. At the very least, be prepared to roll back the OS (which, happily, on Mac is very easy to do … even if it nukes some of your software authorizations).

    Apple is churning out these updates a little quicker than devs can keep up, and I think they could improve communication on changes to the audio guts.

  • Nick Inhofe

    Not necessarily audio related, but the superdrive 2.1 update that came out around the same time as the 10.4.10 update has completely disabled the cd/dvd drive in my MacBook Pro. It will no longer accept disc media!

    I was fortunate enough to not have a dvd in the drive at the time, as I've read some other poor chaps lost a disk in addition to their drive.

    The worst thing about it is that, right now, Apple support is telling everyone that they will just have to get a new drive…and pay for it if it isnt under warranty!

    Anyways, sorry for the rant. Here is one forum (among many) discussing the problem-

  • @Nick: Whaaaa?

    That doesn't make ANY sense. Definitely don't let anyone at Apple tell you they're not fixing it, either; go high enough up the chain at support and this should get sorted.

    Let us know how this goes for you. Bizarre.

  • octatone

    yeah, the .10 update denied me access to my fc-202 🙁

    fortunately, the rollback of the firwire kext is easier than pie to install.

    but really, wtf apple?

  • Ap


    Dear CDM staff,

    I would like to express my suggestion for making your site more worth visiting. I understand that many computer based music making techniques do rely and stand firmy based on drivers that they use. Nevertheless I do feel that the current entrys on your fine blog seem to rotate around very non-musical subject matters like …well, drivers. Maybe you could steer the topic to more to concrete ways of making electronic music. I mean its like talking about tires of a cars all day long.

    Thank you and just as a side note I have enjoyed your nice blog tremendously.



  • Adrian Anders

    Well, to bargain hunters out there: Keep watching the clearance racks at various online music stores. With both OSX and Vista breaking hardware compatibility, expect "legacy" hardware to drop like it's hot.

    I've already picked up for a fraction of their original price brand new:

    Roland VariOS

    Mackie Onyx Satellite


    It seems to me that most large music hardware companies would rather dump support for "legacy" hardware than to spend even the most miniscule amount of manpower to update their drivers. Screw keeping their customers happy, here's a new more expensive piece of hardware to replace your reliable "outdated" model.


  • dead_red_eyes

    You're kidding me right Ap? I mean, you're kidding us right?

  • Erk the Musik Elk

    My USB 2 based NI Kore 1 died as well when I upgrapded to 10.4.10. NI support said "yep, we've seen some issues". Grrrr….

  • The 10.4.10 version of the Apple Firewire driver (i.e. vesrion 2.1.0) also breaks MIDI over Firewire. Versions prior to this (e.g. 2.0.2 for the Ensemble and 2.0.1 from FWSDK23/24) are OK.

    Jason, CPU spiking is a known and well documented problem with Apple's Firewire audio driver along with the 'random offset' problem. It affects all devices that are 'class compliant'.

  • I have experienced some funky behavior with 10.4.9, and being a rather new Mac user, I learned the hard way to never ever use the included automatic updater and always go for the combo updater on Apples website. Using this (even after have used the automatic update) will usually give much better results. I don't know if this helps any of you who has problems with .10, but hopefully it does.

  • Cubestar

    A bit OT, but does anyone know where you can find a general consensus of which inexpensive FW interfaces are recommended for Macs?

    I've heard both great and horrible stories about Alesis and Saffire stuff, for instance…

  • octatone

    hey also .10 seems to have bugged the wifi.

    my girly had been complaining about the wifi drops or webpages randomly slowing down/never loading. just realized she would tell me this when she was on battery power … i never experienced the problems, probably because I am always plugged in.

  • Cubestar

    I really wish MOTU would make a $200-$300 interface with less IO, but until that happens…

  • octatone

    @ cube

    if you want dirt cheap, the behringer fc-202 is a snappy lil bugger, runs off FW power, less than $100, has an all metal encasing rather than the plastics a lot of cheaper interfaces are encased in.

    just make sure if you are 10.4.10 you roll back your apple fw kext like this post says, else it won't show up as a device. otherwise it works like a champ.

  • Cubestar

    @ Octane

    Well I guess I meant cheap/reliable/decent quality at the $200-300 range.

    Behringer scares me a bit. I would also like built in preamps.

    I was thinking of solutions from Alesis, Mackie, Echo, Edirol, Focusrite, Presonus, TC Electronic, etc..

  • octatone

    well the mackie satelite is selling for $199 zzsounds … but, then there's again the driver rollback you're going to have to do..

  • Cubestar

    True, and I've heard that it has the best Preamps of anything out of the box (even better than MOTU).

    Or maybe I should save & shell for a MOTU, since they supposedly get nearly as low of latencey as PCI/Cardbus and are an awesome company…

    But it's like 3x the cost of the Mackie…

  • EJ

    Cubestar – I'm using the Presonus Firebox in 10.4.10 with no complaints.

  • dave

    This seems to have broken my Tascam 122L. I get major popping during playback if anything clips, or touches redline. This is a USB device! Tascam’s weak ass tech support has acknowledged the problem but has no fix of yet.

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  • Jeff

    Tascam FireOne has PLAYBACK problems .. CLICKING SOUND when ANY cool plugin is used .. 🙁 ..

    Seems to record fine and the transport functions work

    BUT the Function Keys did NOT assign in the CONTROLS window of Digitital Performer 4.6 .. 🙁

    It overloads on the input quite easily too .. have a compressor handy


    PS i've tried all the different SDK drivers from 2.01 and 2.1 .. 2.1 renders the Fireone INVISIBLE .. but reverting to the 2.01 fixes that

  • Joy

    I have an Intel imac Core 2 duo w/1G RAm running OSX 10.4.9 & Logic Express 7.2.3 w/a Tascam US122 (usb). I just got a Tascam FW-1082 (not installed yet) & am wondering if there are any incompatibilities w/any of the above if I install 10.4.10?

    Tascam released a driver for 10.14.10 & I don't know if that driver is required for this device. I'm fine w/10.4.9.

  • Akcija

    Where is the FireWire SDK 24 now? There'S only 20 and 25. Any hints?