Digital Sound & Music: Concepts, Applications, & Science, Chapter 1, last updated 6/25/2013
400 and 800 devices on the same bus is not a good idea and may confuse your computer or
hardware. Just pick one of the two speeds and make sure all your FireWire devices run at that
The most important factor in choosing an external FireWire hard drive is the FireWire
bridge chipset. This is the circuit that interfaces the IDE or SATA hard drive sitting in the box to
the FireWire bus. There are a few chipsets out there, but the only chipsets that are reliable for
digital audio are the Oxford FireWire chipsets. Make sure to confirm that the external FireWire
hard drive you want to purchase uses an Oxford chipset.
Unfortunately, recent Windows operating systems have proven somewhat buggy for
FireWire, so many Windows-based DAWs use USB interfaces, despite their shortcomings.
Alternatively, Windows computers could use eSATA hard drives, which perform just like
internal SATA drives. Digital Audio Interface
In order to work with digital sound, you need a device that can convert physical sound waves
captured by microphones or other inputs into digital data for processing, and then convert the
digital data back into analog form for your loudspeakers to reproduce as audible sound. Audio
interfaces (or sound cards) provide this functionality.
Your computer probably came with a simple built-in sound card. This is suitable for basic
playback or audio output, but to do recording with a high level of quality and control you need a
more sophisticated, dedicated audio interface. There are many solutions out there. Leading
manufacturers include AVID, M-Audio, MOTU, and Presonus. Things to look for when
choosing an interface include how the box interfaces with the computer (USB, FireWire, PCI)
and the number of inputs and outputs. You should have at least one low-impedance microphone
input that uses an XLR connector. Some interfaces also come with instrument inputs that allow
you to connect the output of an electric guitar directly into your computer. Figure 1.3 and Figure
1.4 show examples of appropriate audio interfaces.
Figure 1.3 M-Audio FastTrack Pro USB audio interface
Figure 1.4 MOTU UltraLite mk3 FireWire audio interface
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