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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > Home Studio predicament - MBA and firewire audio interfaces

Home Studio predicament - MBA and firewire audio interfaces
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Posting Junkie
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Aug 19, 2013, 08:07 PM
 
Okay, aside from feeling incredibly impulsive and downright stupid; I've got a new i7 MBA on the way. I should be celebrating, true and I can't wait to be honest. BUT...

I have an Apogee Duet Firewire audio interface and I use an external display at home. I wanted the laptop for portability, but while at home with Logic Pro, I'm going to want to use my large external display over the 11.1" MBA screen. I assumed I had the I/O solutions I needed for my Apogee Duet firewire audio interface to work with the MBA, but upon the research I normally would've done prior to purchase - I really don't.

I love the Duet interface, but I don't have the heart to spend $ on a new, USB version of it.
  • Keep the Duet; Belkin makes an Express Dock that provides a firewire 800 port. Problem is, the Duet is FW-400 which means I'd need an adapter and what about my external display? The express dock is like $300+ and from what I'm reading may not provide the bus-powering needed for the Duet anyway, let alone after using an 800 - 400 adapter. Does anyone have experience here with FW-800 to FW-400 adapters and/or its use with the Express dock?
  • Ditch the Duet for another audio interface; the thing is, I can't spend another $600+ on an audio interface. I just can't. Is there even a remotely comparable interface for under $400?
  • You really are stupid ebuddy; there's a perfectly suitable solution for you right here _____________.

Aside from avoiding impulse purchase decisions going forward, what would you do?
ebuddy
     
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Aug 19, 2013, 08:42 PM
 
I'll do some investigation, but I'll give you this to tie you over.

Apple does not kid around with returns. They will let you return it for whatever reason, no questions asked, no BS restocking fee. This is what you're paying the extra money for when you buy from Apple.

I had to return an MBA for a refund after it had been used a day or two, and I was kinda freaked out. I called the Apple Store and the person on the phone described the return process (and this is an exact quote) "you walk in with the computer and you walk out with a smile".

I'm not saying return it, just you can un-buyer's remorse yourself easily if it comes down to it.
     
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Aug 19, 2013, 08:44 PM
 
How do you plan on hooking up the monitor to the MBA?
     
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Aug 19, 2013, 08:52 PM
 
My first idea is T-Bolt > T-Bolt to FW800 adapter ($30) > FW800 to FW400 adapter ($10) > Belkin FW400 hub ($40) > Duet.

The Belkin hub has an AC option for bus powering.
     
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Aug 19, 2013, 11:55 PM
 
The Air only has a single Thunderbolt port.

How do you hook up the display in that scenario? USB? **** that.
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 01:11 AM
 
You know, you're right. I was thinking it had HDMI.

Crap. Square one.
     
ebuddy  (op)
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Aug 20, 2013, 06:33 AM
 
I appreciate the feedback, guys. Keep any thoughts comin'. I had actually come home from work last night ready to cancel my order when it occurred to me that I could get a MBP, but I'm still adapting from FW-800 to 400 and I've read of users losing bus powering to their interfaces in this scenario anyway. (Duet does not plug into wall outlet, only bus powered via FW400) Plus, I really do prefer the smaller form-factor and SSD performance of the MBA with this config.

I think I'll just let the MBA arrive, neglect connecting external display for now and just try the TB -> FW800 -> FW400 connections to see if the Duet and all this plays nicely. If still good and bus-powering is all good and happy, I may be motivated to buy the Belkin Express dock over a new audio interface. There's a nagging feeling that I should be bailing the whole firewire mess altogether though... flummoxed.
ebuddy
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 06:35 AM
 
Gut feeling is to start looking at a new audio interface. Firewire isn't coming back, and chaining adapters is asking for trouble. A quick Google shows some good reviews of the Avid Mbox. Although it seems focused on ProTools, it does support Logic.

Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
The Air only has a single Thunderbolt port.

How do you hook up the display in that scenario? USB? **** that.
Airplay to an Apple TV? No, not really, the delay is too high, but it is doable.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 07:04 AM
 
I have seen bus power issues with FW 800-to-400 adapters only once, and that was with a cheap adapter. The regular 800>400 cables and the Sonnet adapter have invariably worked fine for me.

Also, an mbox is not a replacement for the Apogee Duet. Really, it isn't.
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 10:05 AM
 
The more I look at this, the more I think Apple should release a docking station themselves and be done with it.

Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Also, an mbox is not a replacement for the Apogee Duet. Really, it isn't.
No, but I don't know what features of the Apogee ebuddy is using. If what he's doing is covered by the mbox, it's worth a look. It's not easy to find good audio interfaces for cheap.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 11:01 AM
 
An audio interface isn't primarily about the features. Sorry if i wasn't clear.
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 01:23 PM
 
You could always invest in an Apple Thunderbolt Display. I know it's more $ but includes a FireWire 800 port and another Thunderbolt port… BTW FW800-->400 adapters should be completely transparent, since they are only changing the pin wiring. There's no conversion going on.
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 05:34 PM
 
Here is my plan. I am not looking to add an audio interface but Sonnet has the Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock https://secure1.sonnettech.com/index...e9526366fe2c8a .

It should be ready to ship soon. Belkin products are ok but Sonnet is first class.
This option gives you the ports you need along with an optical drive and even a hard drive for a backup and still have a Thunderbolt port for more upgrades. You could also buy an Apple Thunderbolt Display.
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 06:31 PM
 
Originally Posted by billmboy View Post
Here is my plan. I am not looking to add an audio interface but Sonnet has the Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock https://secure1.sonnettech.com/index...e9526366fe2c8a .

It should be ready to ship soon. Belkin products are ok but Sonnet is first class.
This option gives you the ports you need along with an optical drive and even a hard drive for a backup and still have a Thunderbolt port for more upgrades. You could also buy an Apple Thunderbolt Display.
Here is more info on the Sonnet Thunderbird Dock
Sonnet - Echo 15 Thunderbolt Dock
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 07:00 PM
 
This seems like its out from left field, but what about a firewire Mac mini, propped up in a corner someplace?
     
ebuddy  (op)
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Aug 20, 2013, 08:09 PM
 
Some interesting ideas to be sure and of course I appreciate the feedback.
  • I don't want to start a debate about TB specifically, but frankly -- TB seems like another one of those GOTTA HAVE IT! connectivity solutions that if I were to drop $1000.00 on an Apple TB display today; I'd be dropping another $100 on adapters for it within 4 years. (been there already with Apple Cinema display) To purchase a TB display for its I/O seems counterintuitive when I already have a display I'm happy with and besides, I'd feel like another one of those early adopters who consistently get the finger for their dedication.
  • The Sonnet dock sounds intriguing, but I'm already balking at the idea of dropping $300 for the Belkin dock, let alone $400 with an optical drive I won't use... and isn't out yet.
  • I'm using a mini with my TV so this idea made me chuckle a little at how spoiled I've become. I want a laptop dammit!

I'm reluctantly leaning towards getting the Belkin dock in order to hold on to the Duet. The question I'm trying to resolve now is if the math adds up in bus-powering. The back of the Duet shows "Rated: 8-32 V ----- 600mA" which I believe is a range from 4.8 watts to 19.2 watts, but I can't imagine the Duet requiring such a broad range of draw without a power supply. (only takes bus powering) I also can't find anywhere what the Belkin dock will produce in bus powering/wattage.
ebuddy
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 08:18 PM
 
The Belkin FW hub I mentioned should cover you if the dock can't provide the juice.
     
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Aug 20, 2013, 08:52 PM
 
If you do get the itch to bail on FireWire, unfortunately I'd say your best choice is Tbolt.
     
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Aug 21, 2013, 12:22 AM
 
For two-channel stereo, it doesn't matter.
     
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Aug 21, 2013, 06:06 PM
 
Presumably one is looking to ditch FireWire as a prelude to an upgrade.
     
ebuddy  (op)
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Aug 22, 2013, 05:37 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Presumably one is looking to ditch FireWire as a prelude to an upgrade.
The only reason I'd consider ditching firewire is because the computing world appears to be moving on away from that outdated GOTTA HAVE IT connectivity upgrade over USB... which now at 3.1 will match the speeds of the new GOTTA HAVE IT connectivity upgrade over USB. That is until they come out with Lightning Rod which will be the GOTTA HAVE IT upgrade over USB 4.1.

ebuddy
     
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Aug 22, 2013, 06:55 AM
 
If you've been fine with a Duet, it won't make a difference to what you're doing.
     
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Aug 22, 2013, 09:46 AM
 
Originally Posted by ebuddy View Post
The only reason I'd consider ditching firewire is because the computing world appears to be moving on away from that outdated GOTTA HAVE IT connectivity upgrade over USB... which now at 3.1 will match the speeds of the new GOTTA HAVE IT connectivity upgrade over USB. That is until they come out with Lightning Rod which will be the GOTTA HAVE IT upgrade over USB 4.1.

You may be referring to the new Thunderbolt 2 spec
     
ebuddy  (op)
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Aug 22, 2013, 07:29 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
If you've been fine with a Duet, it won't make a difference to what you're doing.
Very true. I love it and have the Belkin dock on the way. I also appreciate your feedback on the FW-800->400 powering. I'm reasonably confident there won't be a powering issue between the dock and FW adapters to Duet.

I'll report back for any potentially interested folks.
ebuddy
     
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Aug 23, 2013, 09:16 PM
 
Not an expert but P's argument sounds fine to me. There's time where technology simply is phased out commercially and you just have to move on. USB 3 is fast. Whatever you resolve I hope is for the better.
     
ebuddy  (op)
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Aug 27, 2013, 05:50 AM
 
Update: MBA has arrived and has been patched through the Belkin Express dock. Loaded the updated Maestro software and the Duet is rolling along perfectly. I went TB -> HDMI for the external display -- bad idea as the display shows blurry and improperly-sized. Will be returning that connection for a TB -> DVI.

Otherwise, all is well and I appreciate all the feedback.
ebuddy
     
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Aug 27, 2013, 08:39 PM
 
Originally Posted by ebuddy View Post
I went TB -> HDMI for the external display -- bad idea as the display shows blurry and improperly-sized. Will be returning that connection for a TB -> DVI.
The TB-HDMI problem should be resolvable with changes to the output resolution, or TB-DVI isn't going to help you.

What's the display?
     
ebuddy  (op)
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Aug 28, 2013, 06:25 AM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
The TB-HDMI problem should be resolvable with changes to the output resolution, or TB-DVI isn't going to help you.

What's the display?
It's a Samsung SyncMaster B2330, 23" display.

Originally having gone TB -> HDMI, the fonts were all very large with blurry picture. The only res options available to me were 1080p or i and then lower; no 1920x1080 option available. I then patched the HDMI end into a DVI adaptor and while that enabled the 1920x1080 res option, selecting it made absolutely no difference to the res or picture quality on the display. Went and picked up a TB-> DVI adaptor and ran DVI into the monitor, turned mirroring off, moved toolbar over to the new display and voila. I didn't have to select the proper resolution, it just worked. No flickering, latency, or weirdness and the picture is as sharp as I remember. I'm in clamshell mode with MBA perched upright in BookArc and all is well. In fact, from my personal experience (unless I've missed something extremely rudimentary here) TB->DVI most definitely helped me.
ebuddy
     
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Aug 28, 2013, 07:59 AM
 
1080p is the same as 1920*1080. There is an implication that the refresh frequency is low, either 24 Hz, 25 Hz or 30 Hz (or that freaky 23.976 Hz that NTSC uses to assert its individuality) but that's not actually stated, and for a computer display it can certainly be 60 Hz. I suspect that there is some sort of overscan happening when you use the HDMI converter, but I don't know how to fix it.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Aug 28, 2013, 08:07 AM
 
There's usually an option for "Overscan" in the Monitor prefs, but depending upon the model of display you're connecting to, that may not show up.

SwitchResX can probably help.
About SwitchResX
     
ebuddy  (op)
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Aug 28, 2013, 01:58 PM
 
I suspect you're both correct as there was definitely an overscan issue going on and I failed to mention that little tidbit. While using the TB->HDMI cable, the overscan option was available on a slider and I messed with that for a bit at the time. (at one point I was even digging into 'Profiles' and thought to myself; "this is ridiculous -- should NOT be this difficult.") When I slid toward the right on that scaler, it indeed brought the top toolbar and full desktop into view on the display, but the picture remained severely skewed. i.e. it was more or less just scrunching the crappy image into the "technically" correct size manually. I'm not seeing that option now which I'm guessing makes sense and is a good thing.

If nothing more than seamless, foolproof operation with the MBA at this point, I'm very happy having swapped HDMI for DVI.
ebuddy
     
   
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