8/23/2021

Best Firewire Audio Interface For Mac

67

Best Firewire Audio Interface for Mac Lion 10.7.5 I am looking for a new firewire audio interface that works good on Lion 10.7.5 (that has no driver issues or connection problems). Few weeks ago got new Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP, but it is a pain in the a. Recommended FireWire Repeaters for Mac Systems FireWire repeaters are used to add additional FireWire ports to a FireWire bus and/or to provide FireWire bus power to devices that require it (such as the Apogee Duet audio interface). Repeaters are recommended instead of FireWire “hubs,” which may not perform optimally.

Whether you’re starting a new home studio, or improving an existing one…

There’s no single purchase more confusing than the audio interface.

  1. Access the FireWire panel by clicking the menu button in the UAD Meter window and selecting “FireWire.” from the drop menu, or type Command+F (Mac) or Control+F (Win) as a shortcut. Change the UAD Bandwidth Allocation setting (shown below) by clicking the up or down arrows, or click+hold the value for a drop menu.
  2. The 25 Best Audio Interfaces Money Can Buy (2020) Audio Interfaces are the beating heart of most producers’ studios. They help you capture that perfect vocal or catchy synth line, and allow you to hear it all back through those monitors you just blew your budget on.

Because among the dozens of options…

Each one is designed to meet the demands of a specific “type” of studio.

For example

At one extreme, a small $100 interface might be perfect in a simple bedroom studio…

If all you need is a single pair of outputs for your studio monitors.

At the opposite extreme, a pro studio that requires dozens of INs/OUTs might need several interfaces, each costing $4000 or more.

Needless to say, matching the right interface with the right studio is tricky even for the experienced. And for beginners, its 10x worse.

Which is why for today’s post, I’ve created an in-depth guide to help you find the perfect option for your studio.

So let’s get started. First off…

The 5 Key Features to Look For

Because of the fact that audio interfaces have so many features, it’s difficult to know which ones matter, and which ones don’t.

So let’s talk about that now. In particular, these are the 5 key specs to focus on:

  1. DAW Compatibility
  2. Interface Connectors
  3. Input/Output (I/O) Count
  4. Input Channel Types
  5. Form Factor

And here’s why:

1. DAW Compatibility

In general, most DAW’s work with most interfaces…but not always.

If you don’t yet have a particular DAW that you are loyal to, then you need not worry here.

Because 90% of the top DAW’s will be compatible with any interface you choose.

However if you alreadyhave a DAW you want to continue using, be sure to verify compatibility on the company’s website. And just to warn you, this info is often hard to find.

You would think they would just post DAW compatibility in the interface’s product description, right? But it rarely happens. Usually it’s buried somewhere within an FAQ page.

While it’s not clear why this is done, my best guess is that these companies prefer not to advertise their current DAW compatibility, because they have no guarantees of future compatibility.

A particular interface might be compatible with your DAW today, but it may not be in a future release. And while that’s not likely to happen, it’s always possible.

Which is why personally, I prefer to use a DAW/interface combo made by the same company. Later in this post I will give you some good examples of these.

However, since there are only a few companies that make both, the downside to this solution is that it severely limits your options.

Up next…

2. Interface Connectors

When connecting an audio interface to a computer…

There are 4 cable options commonly used:

  1. USB– which is typically seen on cheaper home studio interfaces, and offers the slowest data transfer rate.
  2. Firewire– which is used on more expensive home studio interfaces, and offers a significantly faster transfer rate (nowadays these are becoming less common).
  3. Thunderbolt– which has recently become popular with newer semi-pro interfaces, and is way faster than either USB or Firewire.
  4. PCIE– which has long been the standard connection for professional interfaces, because it offers additional processing power and extremely fast data-transfer.

While USB is by far the slowest of all 4 options, it is still more than fast enough to get the job done for the vast majority of home studios.

So if you’re on a budget, USB is what I recommend.

But whichever type you choose, remember to double-check that your computer has the appropriate connection.

3. Input/Output (I/O) Count

On a typical interface, I/O counts can range anywhere between:

  • 1-2 on a simple interface, to…
  • 20+ on a professional one.

And the number you need for your studio depends mainly on the number of tracks you plan to record/monitor at once.

For example:

  • Solo musicians – may need only 2-4.
  • Songwriting teams – who work in small groups, want at least 4-8.
  • Engineers who record bands – should have as many as possible (16 at least).

Also…electronic drum kits alone can sometimes require 8 inputs if they offer separate channels for each part of the kit. So take that into consideration if you plan on using one.

4. Input Channel Types

One thing recording newbies often fail to realize is…

When counting the input channels of an audio interface, manufacturers could be referring to any number of different input types.

However in almost all cases, it includes some combination of these 3:

  1. Mic Input – which allows you to connect a mic directly to the interface.
  2. Line Input – which requires the addition of an outboard mic preamp to be used as a mic channel.
  3. Optical Input – which is a type of “digital” input that requires the addition of BOTH an outboard mic preamp, and digital converter w/ “optical out” to be used as a mic channel.

Now here’s what this means for you:

If you want to use your interface “as-is” without adding a multi-channel mic preamp, you might have less available inputs than you think.

Because as you’ll notice, interfaces often have 16 or more total input channels, but only 2-8 mic inputs.

So without any additional gear, the “real” number of inputs on your audio interface is the mic preamp count, NOT the same as the input count.

Now that you know…make sure you actually have enough channels for your purposes. Otherwise you will be sorely disappointed.

NOTE: Two other input types that you should also look for are DI inputs (if you play guitar/bass), and MIDI inputs (if you use any type of keyboards/MIDI controllers).

5. Form Factor

A fancy jargon term used by computer geeks…

Form factor” simply refers to the physical size and shape interface.

The two form factor options are:

  1. Desktop Interfaces – which are smaller, and sit on your desk next to your computer.
  2. Rackmounted Interfaces– which are larger, and mount in a standard size rack unit.

For beginners, I recommend starting with a desktop interface, because they’re cheap, easy-to-use, and require no special mounting or peripheral devices. You just plug them in and start recording.

With intermediate/advanced studios, rackmounted interfaces are typically better, as they tend to offer more I/O’s, as well as greater flexibility with signal routing and organization.

Now that you know what to look for, let’s check out some specific models.

Starting with…

Best Desktop Interfaces

Best firewire audio interface for mac

For the vast majority of people reading this article, who only want a cheap interface that will allow them to record their music at home…

I recommend a 2-6 channel USB desktop interface, which normally costs between $100-$300 on the low-end, and $500-1500 on the high-end.

Currently, the top brands for these “types” of interfaces are Presonus, Focusrite, Avid, Universal Audio.

Here are the models I recommend from each brand:

Presonus AudioBox 96 (USB connection)

(includes Presonus Studio One Artist DAW)

  • AudioBox USB 96 – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • AudioBox iTwo (iPad Compatible) – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Who do I recommend these for? – Beginner studios on a tight budget who want a bundled interface/DAW combo.

Focusrite Scarlett (USB connection)

  • Scarlett Solo – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Scarlett 2i2 – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Scarlett 4i4 – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Scarlett 8i6 – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Scarlett 18i8 – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Who do I recommend these for?

Beginner studios on a tight budget who already have a 3rd party DAW they prefer.

Focusrite Clarett (Thunderbolt connection)

  • Clarett 4Pre – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Who do I recommend these for?

Studios of ALL levels that don’t need a lot of I/O’s and can afford the price tag.

Apogee (USB connection)

  • Apogee One – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Apogee Duet – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Apogee Quartet – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
Interface

Who do I recommend these for?

Intermediate studios that don’t need a lot of I/O’s, or beginner studios that can afford the price tag.

Avid (USB connection)

(Bundled with Pro Tools 12 DAW)

  • Pro Tools Duet – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Pro Tools Quartet – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Who do I recommend these for?

All Beginner/Intermediate studios who want to use the industry standard Pro Tools DAW.

NOTE: While the Apogee Duet and Quartet are “Mac Only” interfaces, the newer Pro Tools Duet and Quartet are compatible with both Mac and PC.

Universal Audio (Thunderbolt connection)

Best firewire audio interface for mac osx
  • Apollo Twin SOLO – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Apollo Twin DUO – (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Apollo Twin QUAD– (Amazon/B&H/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Who do I recommend these for?

Intermediate/advanced studios who want pro studio quality, in a home-studio-sized package.

More Options?

If for some reason of the previous options aren’t to your liking…

Here are 2 more great budget desktop interfaces to check out:

  • Audient iD4 (USB) – (Amazon/Thomann)
  • Audient iD14 (USB) – (Amazon/Thomann)

And here is 1 more great high-end desktop option:

  • Antelope Audio Zen Tour (Thunderbolt/USB) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Up next…

Best Rackmounted Interfaces

For the purposes of this article, let’s define an “intermediate” studio as a home setup that requires a higher I/O count to meet the demands of some of the more complex recording tasks.

If that’s the type of studio you need, I recommend an 8+ channel rackmounted interface.

Again…the best interfaces in this category are made by Presonus, Focusrite, Apogee, Universal Audio, and Antelope Audio:

Here are the top models I recommend:

Presonus

  • Audiobox 1818VSL (USB) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Firestudio Project (firewire) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF)
  • Studio 192 (USB) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Focusrite

  • Scarlett 18i20 (USB) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Clarett 8Pre (thunderbolt) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Clarett 8PreX (thunderbolt) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Apogee

  • Ensemble (thunderbolt) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Universal Audio

  • Apollo 8 (thunderbolt) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Apollo 16 (thunderbolt) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)

Antelope Audio

  • Antelope Audio Zen Studio – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
  • Antelope Audio Orion Studio – (Amazon/Thomann)
  • Antelope Audio Orion32+ – (Amazon/Thomann)

And finally…

“Professional” Interfaces

While any of the interfaces we’ve covered so far are more than capably of producing “professional” results…

There’s higher class of audio interfaces that we have yet to cover.

Normally only seen in high-end pro studios, these multi-thousand dollar interfaces typically connect to a separate PCIE card which can only be installed on a desktop computer.

The typical reason studios acquire this type of interface is to upgrade to Pro Tools HD, which is the standard system used by the majority of pro studios in the world.

In terms of performance, they offer many premium advantages, including:

  • Ultra-Low latency
  • High I/O counts
  • Premium Digital Conversion
  • Multiple Connection Options

And while these interfaces would almost certainly be overkill for the average home studio…

It’s still good to know about them, just in case the day comes when you decide your studio needs one.

Some examples of popular interfaces in this category are:

  • Avid HD 16×16 – (Amazon/MusicianF/Thomann)
  • Apogee Symphony – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusicianF/Thomann)

Now one last thing…

Assuming you chose a rackmounted interface, you’ll obviously need a rack to store it in, right?

So if you don’t have one yet, check out this article:

Comparison Chart

also see the PCI Chart and USB 2.0 Chart

Soundcards and Interfaces 12 3 45 6
on a budget? See the 'best of the cheap'

product

total analog i/o

s/pdif i/o

pre-amps

ADAT i/o

MIDI i/o

head
phone

Word
Clock

appr. street price

forum links

2/2

no

0

no

no

1

100

2/2

Yes

0

No

1/1

1

no

180

M-Audio
FW Solo

2/2

Yes

1

no

no

1

200

2/2

No

2 (on mixer)

no

no

2

no

200

4/6

Yes

2

ADAT in ONLY

1/1

1

300

4/4

Yes

2

no

1/1

1

no

280

8/2

Yes

2

no

1/1

1

--

300

Rig
discuss

4/8

Yes

2

no

1/1

2

400

4/4

Yes

2

Yes

1/1

2

--

400

0/2

Yes

0

Yes x4

1/1

1

Yes

400

8/10

Yes

8

No

1/1

1

--

500

product

total analog i/o

s/pdif i/o

pre-amps

ADAT i/o

MIDI i/o

head
phone

Word
Clock

appr. street price

forum links

Mackie 820i
8x2 FW interface

9/8 Mixer
includes sends/returns, subs/tape)

No

3

No

No

1

500

2/2

no

2

no

none

1

--

500

8/8

Yes

2

no

1/1

1

Yes

600

8/10

Yes

8

Yes

1/1

2

500

8/2

No

8

Yes

1/1

1

--

550

discuss
poll

Motu UltraLite Mk3

8/10

Yes

2

No

1/1

1

--

550

discuss
poll

8/2

Yes

4

No

2/2

1

--

575

8/8

Yes

8

Yes x2

1/1

2

Yes

650

0/2

No

0

Yes x4

1/1

1

Yes

650

product

total analog i/o

s/pdif i/o

pre-amps

ADAT i/o

MIDI i/o

head
phone

Word
Clock

appr. street price

forum links

4/6

Yes

2

No

1/1

2

Yes

700

8/8

Yes

8

Yes x2

1/1

2

Yes

700

12/4 -mix
10x10 AI

No

5

No

1

--

700

12/12

No

No

No

1/1

no

Yes

700

(12x2 FW)

18/8 Mixer (includes sends/returns, tape)

no

4

no

no

1

700

8/8

Yes

8

Yes x2

1/1

1

Yes

700

16/6

No

10

No

1/1

1

-

700

10/10

Yes

2

Yes x2

1/1

2

Yes

750

8/10

Yes

8

No

1/1

1

---

800

8/8

Yes + AES

4

Yes x2

1/1

1

Yes

850

8/6

input only

2

Yes x2
inputs only

1/1

2
(unofficial info)

--

900

discuss

product

total analog i/o

s/pdif i/o

pre-amps

ADAT i/o

MIDI i/o

head
phone

Word
Clock

appr. street price

forum links

8/8

Yes

8

Yes

0

2

Yes

1000

(16x2 FW)

26/10 mixer
(includes sends/returns, subs/tape)

No

8

No

No

1

1000

10/2 Mix
AI
over FW

No

4

No

1/1

2

--

1000

8/10

AES+
S/pdif

8

Yes X2

no

2

Yes

1000

8/10

Yes

8

Yes X2

1/1

2

Yes

1000

8/8 Microsoft office for mac home and student 2019selfieparadise.

Yes

8

Yes

4/4

1

Yes

1100

discuss
poll

8/8

Yes

8

Yes

0

2

Yes

1200

8/8

Yes

4

Yes

1/2

2

Yes

1200

discuss
poll

8/4

Yes

8

Yes

1/1

2

Yes

1250

discuss
poll

8/8

Yes

2

Yes

2/2

1

Yes

1300

product

total analog i/o

s/pdif i/o

pre-amps

ADAT i/o

MIDI i/o

head
phone

Word
Clock

appr. street price

8/8

Yes

4

Yes x2

1/1

1

Yes

1700

1
poll

16x16 FW

26x14 mixer
16x16 interface

no

16

no

no

1

1700

22/12

Yes (out only)

16

no

none

1

--

2000

8/8

yes

4

Yes

none

2

Yes

2000

20/6
unverified docs not clear

Yes

16

Yes x2

2000

8/8

Yes

4

Yes

1/2

2

Yes

2200

product

total analog i/o

s/pdif i/o

pre-amps

ADAT i/o

MIDI i/o

head
phone

Word
Clock

appr. street price

How to Read this Chart

This handy chart can help you narrow down your choice of a firewire audio interface. It can save you hours of research and will cut through some of the confusion caused by the inconsistent definitions manufacturers often use. Manufacturers may count inputs and outputs differently. This chart is an attempt to fairly compare the above devices, based on an interpretation of what constitutes a discrete audio channel.

Analog i/o refers to actual analog input and output channels, not necessarily how many input and output jacks are on the device. The first number is the number of input channels and the second number is the number of output channels. This number includes the mic preamps but does not include headphone outs. If a Mic preamp and a line input share the same channel, that channel is only counted once. This is to give you a true idea of how many analog input and output channels the box has. Likewise if the main output pair has 'main outs' and 'monitor outs' these channels are only counted once, as they 'share' the same channels.

Note that Mixer/Interface combination units are really mixers with an audio interface. The mixer might have 16x8 i/o but the interface may only be 16x2 (16 outputs to the computer and only 2 channels returning. Don't assume because you see 16 faders you can mix 16 separate channels playing back on the computer.

How many analog inputs you need depends on how many sources you want to record at the same time. Also, if you have a synthesizer or drum machine you need inputs through which to record and monitor these. How many outputs you need depends on how much gear you have that you want to send audio to. If you want to use an FX box, you need to use an output to send it audio and you need two inputs to get it back. If you want to mix your song on an analog mixer you need a lot of outputs. If you are mixerless and are mixing in your software you only need 2 outputs--those to which you connect your monitors.

S/pdif i/o is either yes or no. This is a stereo digital pathway, and may be either coaxial or optical. S/pdif is useful for connecting digital audio devices, like external a/d converters, effects processors, CDR recorders, even some preamps and keyboards that have digital outs.

Preamps refers to the number of microphone preamps the interface has. Usually these can double as instrument inputs (guitar, bass, etc.) But check on that before you buy. Also some interfaces (but not all) will have insert jacks or send outputs for connecting compressors and other processors. You might want to check on that too when evaluating an audio interface.

ADAT refers to an 8 channel digital input and output. It is useful for connecting more mic preamps, a second audio interface or computer, a digital mixer, or can be used to add more analog i/o through an 8 channel ad/da converter. When you see ADAT x2 in the chart that means the device has two ADAT ports in and out or 16 channels in and out. (Sometimes two ADAT ports may be used for eight channels at a high sample rate like 96kHz)

MIDI i/o refers to the number of 16 channel ports there are on the interface. 1/2 means it has one MIDI input and two MIDI outputs. MIDI inputs and outputs are used to connect a MIDI synthesizer, keyboard controller, drum pad controller, and some control surfaces. You need one port for every device you want to connect to the computer. You can always add more via separate MIDI interfaces.

Headphones refers to the number of stereo headphone jacks on the unit.

Word Clock refers the presence of a BNC connector through which word sync signals can be sent to other digital devices. It is important that all digital devices connected through s/pdif or ADAT share the same word sync. For simple setups that may have two digital devices, having a word clock connector is not usually necessary. Sync can be sent along through the s/pdif or ADAT connection. It becomes important in rigs where there may be multiple digital devices where it is impossible to send word sync to all devices.

Prices and specs may change from when this chart was made. You can check the product descriptions at the manufacturers websites for up to date details.

No Longer Available at zZounds

2/2

yes

1

no

1/1

1

no

150

4/2

no

2

no

no

1

--

200

2/6

No

2

no

no

2

--

180

2/4

Yes

2

no

1/1

1

--

200

4/2

Yes

4

input only

1/1

2

--

200

2/8

Yes

2

no

1/1

2

--

350

4/6

Yes

2

no

1/1

1

--

300

8/8

Yes

2

no

1/1

1

--

380

2/2

no

2

no

1/1

2

300

8/8

Yes

8

no

1/1

1

--

400

2/2

Yes

2

no

no

1

no

200

2/2

No

1

No

no

1

--

230
200

4/6

Yes

2

no

1/1

1

--

300

8/8

Yes

8

1/1

2

400

Presonus FP10-Megastudio

8/8

Yes

8

No

1/1

1

--

650

8/8

Yes

4

No

1/1

2

Yes

780

8/4

Yes

2

Yes

1/1

2

Yes

500

4/4

Yes

2

Yes

1/1

2

--

700

8/8

Yes

8

input only
x2

1/1

2

400

10/10

Yes

2

Yes

1/1

1

Yes

680

8/8

Yes

4

Yes

1/2

1

1000

8/8

Yes +AES

4

Yes

1/1

1

Yes

850

0/2

s/pdif
x8+AES x8

0

Yes 2x
-or- 6xTOS in
4x TOS out

0

1

Yes

1100

14/4 Mix
AI over FW

no

8

no

1/1

2

--

1500

12/8

Yes
+AES

12

Yes x2

2/2

4

Yes

1700

4/4

Yes

2

No

1/1

1

280

2/2 plus 2 monitor ch

Yes

2

No

1/1

2

--

280

4/4

Yes

2

Yes

1/1

2

--

450
400

12/10

Yes x2

4

Yes+TOS

1/1

2

Yes

1050
800

20/6

Yes (out only)

2 XLR 3-31 (TRS)

no

1/1

1

No

1900

Threads

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Best Firewire Audio Interface For Mac Computers

Links

Best Firewire Audio Interface For Macbook Air

Soundcards and Interfaces 12 3 45 6

Best Firewire Audio Interface For Mac

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Audio Interfaces- Page 1
Audio Interfaces--Page 2
Firewire Audio Interface Chart-Page 3
PCI Audio Interface Chart-Page 4
USB 2.0 Audio Interface Chart--Page 5
Audio Interfaces- Page 6
Audio Interfaces: The Best of the Low Cost
Audio Interfaces for your Mac
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MOTU 828mk2 Review
MOTU UltraLite
Emu1820M
Delta 1010
Audio Interfaces Prices