I may be the last person to notice this for all I know, but I just plugged my FireWire-based Focusrite Saffire into a MacBook Pro 17″ and was treated to a blinking light show. The solution? Don’t use bus power; plug in the Saffire’s power supply to an outlet to power it directly. The solution is detailed in Focusrite’s support document, and I expect applies to some if not all other FireWire bus-powered devices, as well:

The LEDs on my Saffire flash when the unit is connected to my MacBook Pro. Why?

So, I wonder why Apple chose a lower power spec for FireWire — or, if indeed they chose it all, given that the Intel Macs have specs very much inherited from the PC world. (For the record, though, my MacBook is fine.) The MacBook Pro is a fantastic machine, but at least now you’ve got this heads-up.

  • I've been noticing weirdness with FW on a new MB Pro too. I often have to reboot to see external drives, and I recently had to reboot to recognize a camera.

    USB has problems with the latest MB also — My Line 6 Toneport only accepts one USB port, while the M-Audio Fast Track Pro only accepts the other…strange.

    Hi peter!


  • m:ck

    just got a new macbook pro 15 inches… my firewire mbox2 pro works fine without the power supply… probably because less power is required.

  • Indeed some audio interfaces require more power than the MBP can supply. Apple supposedly brought the MBP firewire bus power down to spec. I guess it used to be higher than the firewire standard spec…

    the Presonus Firebox will not work off bus power now but the Echo Audio firewire boxes will.

  • For what it's worth, both my 15" MacBook and 17" MacBook Pro bus-power my MOTU Traveler and Ultralite with no problems that I've seen.

  • maz

    I have two 15" MBPs. Both power all my firewire and usb devices with no problems. Both at home and in the office.

    Maybe there's something wrong with the batch yours came out of?

  • Tommy

    after i update to 10.4.10, i found i must plug the firewire cable before turn macbook pro on, or the system can not find my firewire device, such as TC Konnekt Live, Mackie Onyx Satellite, even firewire hard disk or my Panasonic camera!

    i'm crazy…what's wrong?

  • I should add, this is the most recent rev of MBP (Santa Rosa). Focusrite didn't specify which of the new MBPs are impacted, so we might be comparing Apples to oranges.

    It's very, very possible, though, that Apple was above spec on power and hardware makers were taking advantage of that, because generally it's only been Mac laptops that do FW bus power at all. (PC desktops, yes, but not PC laptops, and I wouldn't be surprised if the desktops are providing more power.) Just speculating, though.

    @Tommy: not sure, at least I haven't had that much trouble!

  • Hi All,

    Also all cool here with my MacBook Pro 17 (Santa Rosa, the latest) and my Traveler.

    It may be too that something is a tad strange in the power supply in the Safire (soft ramping??), that does not match well the lower powered FW of news Macs. RME had a similar issue with early FF400 units, that was solved by some hardware modifications, then the new FF400 batch was fine with bus power on our MacBook Pro.

  • Same issue here on a new MBP with a PreSonus Firebox. The issue actually is that there is

    an overload protection circuit built in to the

    fire implementation in the MBPs — what I do

    is power the Firebox up with the wallwart plugged

    in, then when sync is firm, remove the wallwart.

    The Firebox then continues to receive its power

    from the fw bus, and will usually survive a reboot without having to use the wallwart. Kind of a kludgy workaround, but better than having the thing connect to yet another external power supply.

  • Ah, weird — that explains why Focusrite said it won't "boot" rather than it can't be powered. Thanks, Tom!

  • appleuberalles

    it's interesting to note that new focusrite units don't have this problem. that suggests to me the problem is theirs, not apple's.

    this is pretty old news, tho, with only a handful of energy hogging sound cards experiencing this difficulty.

    i use fw to power an ultralite and a hard drive with no problems.

  • TK

    If you own an M-Audio FireWire device that can be bus powered, DO NOT use the AC power adapter!

    Bus power vs. power supply

  • It is worth mentioning that it's best not to hotplug devices with their own power — power up the external device, plug into your turned-off computer, then power up the computer.

    Or so M-Audio says of all their firewire gear.

  • @Kent: That is generally true, yes.

    Using 6-pin FireWire cables and bus power, I hot swap all the time; that should be okay. But the rule with externally-powered devices is equivalent to *anything* with external power (speakers, too) … you can luck out, of course, but it's best to be safe.

    We had a big discussion of FireWire hot-swapping as related to video cameras (though also applicable here) over at Create Digital Motion.

  • Dylan

    I've just had to send my Motu traveller back for repair,

    the issue apparently is hot plugging.

    M-audio have warning cards in the box saying not to hot-plug firewire devices, the motu doesn't have these warnings but after a few months of hot plugging it started randomly taking down my firewire port when I plugged it in and all sorts of wierdness, even when running it from the power adapter with bus power off.

    Resetting the pram on my MBP 17 every time I want to use my sound card is not cool!

  • wonder if Apogee Duo also needs extra power.

    weird decision of Apple!

  • vanceg

    Just a comment here because I went through this with my RME Fireface 400 which bus powered fine off my AL book but wouldn't off my MacBook Pro – I was able to obtain one of the newer runs of the Fireface 400 and this new unit works very, very well with my MacBook Pro (2.13Ghz, 17"). I really appreciated RME's working with me to resolve this problem as I understand it was really an Apple issue…but who can tell when these figer pointing battles get going.

  • the firebox has new osx firmware but only fixes a 96k issue…. buss power is still not with out the AC jump

  • CooLes

    Even the previous MBP had this problem. I personally own the Focusrite Saffire and it works well on a first-gen black MacBook (Core Duo 1GHz). The solution Focusrite posted is the same as the Presonus Firebox. Apple limiting the power of the FireWire bus is a bad move IMHO.

  • robbneu

    I'm not sure if this adds or detracts from the conversation, but I ran into similar issues with my external USB drive and my 2nd gen 15" MacBook Pro.

    After I upgraded to 10.4.10 my USB drive just wouldn't mount any longer. I took it in and the guy at the Genius Bar couldn't figure it out. The drive popped up on every other machine we tried. Finally, we rolled back the OS to 10.4.9 and the drive mounted just fine.

    I wonder, is everyone who is having problems with their audio devices running 10.4.10?

  • Tommy

    10.4.10 kill all my firewire gear…I must plug into MacBook Pro before power on…anyone same as me?

  • joao z

    went thru this months ago with my MBP 2.16GHz and

    my Saffire and Fire Boxes and Firepod…

    huge bummer having to engage the wallwart.

    what i've heard is this: that Focusrite will upgrade your Saffire to be compatable with the MBPs if you send it back to them.

    (i haven't had a time window to send my Saffire back however..)

    i believe we're SOL with the Presonus, though..

    also, though i haven't really tested this, the boxes on;y need the extra power to BOOT, you can

    unplug the power after they're connected to firewire and booted..

  • Chris Shaw

    My M-Audio Firewire 410 interface works fine off of buss power. However in Japan – where the AC is 100 volts- it didn't work at all. Fortunately the studio had 117Volt power as well. This made all devices happy…..

  • I have a newish MBP (about 5 months old) and it wouldnt bus power my RME FF400. I contacted RME and they said the mac had lowered the bus power output, and actually replaced my FF400 with a brand new one at no cost.

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  • lucafri

    I have another problem with a Saffire LE and a MacBook Pro CoreDuo 2. I heard an annoying noise from output of the saffire that is indipendent of the audio controls or connections. The noise will disappear only pluggin in the power supply of the saffire. Had someone my problem???

  • Brent Mills

    fter purchasing a new MBP and an Ultralite Mk3 Hybrid for the purpose of completely battery and bus powered field operation, I found the many threads about low power on the new MacBook Pros – very frustrating. Tonight I found the solution. I wired 2 9 volt batteries in series (cheap wire and parts from Radio Shack – http://www.ehow.com/how_5869207_wire-vo … eries.html), and wired in a connector with the proper sized tip for the Ultralite. I plugged the battery "jumper cables" into the back and tried to start it. It tried to boot but wouldn't work. Then I tried connecting both the battery powered jumper cables and the firewire connection to the Mac – amazingly enough, that was enough power! Works like a charm.