• Apple Drops FireWire 400 On MacBook & MacBook Pro

    Just a quick update from the Apple notebook event. Apple has dropped FireWire 400 on its laptops. The MacBook Pro retains a FireWire 800 port, but loses FW400 connectivity. Getting high resolution above 24/96 from a Mac laptop just got a whole lot harder.

     


     
    Comments 22 Comments
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Keith - Denver was very productive. <br />
      <br />
      Unfortunately FireWire 800 will not work on the Weiss products. They are FireWire 400 only at this moment. <br />
      <br />
      Did you see the info on Amarra? This is the app I've been hinting at all along!
    1. Purite Audio's Avatar
      Purite Audio -
      Chris Hi it has been terribly quiet without you, glad you are back! What was Apples thinking do you suppose?<br />
      Is it difficult to re configure for firewire 800?<br />
      it rather puts the cat amongst the pidgeons doesn't it? Very best Keith.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Keith - Thanks for the welcome back!<br />
      <br />
      I have a few guesses as to why Apple dropped FW400, but they are just that, guesses. Apple is usually the first to drop support of what they consider legacy technology. In addition to FW400 they also switched to display port connections for monitor connections. <br />
      <br />
      In my opinion it will be difficult for a high-end audio manufacturer to reconfigure for FW800 because of all the testing and fine tuning involved. I've had several conversations in the last 24 hours about this. One option that is on many people's minds is Ethernet. Multi-channel is the hang-up for Ethernet according to those considering it in their DACs. I talked to a CEntrance representative in Denver and he showed me the Ethernet interface that is available right now. He said it was ready and up to the DAC manufacturers to implement it. CEntrance is the manufacturer of the USB chip in many USB DACS.
    1. Purite Audio's Avatar
      Purite Audio -
      Odd isn't it in the computer world firewire is considered 'old hat' in audiophile land it is still very much 'with it', it is a problem though, I had a chance to hear the Weiss Minerva and it was good, Mac and Weiss was a neat solution , so what now Mac book and......... Very Best Keith.<br />
      btw hear any good turntables in Denver!
    1. Wavelength's Avatar
      Wavelength -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      What did I say at the show!<br />
      <br />
      Also talked to TI this morning and they are moving forward with more USB Audio controllers, because of the move of most computer makers that are dropping the firewire interface.<br />
      <br />
      Actually in most cases you can use a Firewire 800 to 400 convertor cable usually included with most WD MyBook products to get the Weiss to work.<br />
      <br />
      I know of one company who I told about Firewire going away that is 3 months off of completing a USB/Firewire dac and they were glad to hear the news and will be only offering SPDIF/USB when it comes out.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks<br />
      Gordon
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Gordon - I almost emailed you yesterday about this, but thought otherwise. It's old news to you!<br />
      <br />
      Great to hear about TI and more controllers!
    1. TheRocker's Avatar
      TheRocker -
      I wonder whether Apple will enable higher resolutions ( up to 24/192) in Core Audio for the Toslink output now? (Hoping, hoping )
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Peter - According to Apple the MacBooks can already support up to 24/192 via the optical port. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1562<br />
      <br />
      however, nobody at Apple has been able to tell me how this is done.
    1. audiozorro's Avatar
      audiozorro -
      I've heard this comment before, but I don't understand. Are the technical specs for the MacBook regarding 24/192 via the optical port a mistake? If one bought a MacBook to be used for 24/192 capability via the optical port, would the purchaser be entitled for a full fund past the normal transaction period for returns and refunds since no one seems to be able to prove the supposed 24/192 capability? Is this false advertising? Are there no Apple engineers, experts or tech support to confirm?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi audiozorro - This has been an exercise in frustration for me. Nobody seems to know how to get 24/192 working via optical on a MacBook.<br />
      <br />
      Myabe if someone has a newer MacBook with free phone support they can try to call and have Apple figure it out for them. I've tried but had no luck. I also doubt Apple would provide any refund. Maybe this will require a mini-campaign by the readers to get an official comment from Apple.
    1. Wavelength's Avatar
      Wavelength -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Yes it is a mistake on the website. All the other Tech information on those computers says 96k. Which would be the max you would want too use Toslink in the first place. I do not know of any Toslink transmitters that run to 192k.<br />
      <br />
      There are many references to the fact that any information published on their site can contain errors and of course they are not responsible for them.<br />
      <br />
      I checked all 3 of my Intel MacBooks even my 2.4G,4G,SSD one which is only a couple months old and it has only 24/96.<br />
      <br />
      Also do note that the internal speakers and SPDIF are tied together on the MacBook. I would imagine that the VOL control would not effect the SPDIF output. But I would suggest that System Preferences: Sound: Sound Effects:<br />
      <br />
      That you turn off the both the Play user interfaces and Play feedback and Alert volume to 0.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks<br />
      Gordon
    1. weiss2496's Avatar
      weiss2496 -
      It seems the new Apple Powerbook has a so called bilingual Firewire interface, i.e. one which can also handle Firewire 400. Just use the proper cable, one side has the 9 pin Firewire 800 connector, the other a 6 pin (or 4 pin) Firewire 400 connector.<br />
      <br />
      Daniel<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Daniel - Do you think you'll have to update the software for the Minerva?
    1. weiss2496's Avatar
      weiss2496 -
      That should not be necessary, as a bilingual Firewire link senses what protocol there is and thus when a Minerva is hooked up should automatically switch to the Firewire 400 protocol. The Minerva should not notice at all. <br />
      Have to try it at some point.<br />
      Daniel<br />
    1. Daphne's Avatar
      Daphne -
      Here is the Fire Wire story as I've read and been told.<br />
      <br />
      Fire Wire 400 is being replaced with a new format to compete more favorably with USB and allow the transfer of data from High Definition video cameras and other future devices which can benefit from fast reliable transfer of data without taxing the main computer host chip.<br />
      <br />
      Around the end of last year, the 1394 Trade Association announced that products will be available by the end of 2008 (which most likely will be extended to sometime in 2009) using the new S1600 and S3200 modes that, mostly, had already been defined in subsections of 1394b. The 1.6 Gbit/s and 3.2 Gbit/s devices will use the same 9-pin connectors as the existing Fire Wire 800 and will be fully compatible with existing S400 and S800 devices. It has been developed to compete with and surpass the forthcoming USB 3.0, especially audio video devices such as cameras, high speed scanners, and possibly audio components.<br />
      <br />
      In the past IEEE 1394 a and b have faced problems with Windows and with manufacturers of PC computers focused on the mass market. Microsoft promised with the Vista upgrade to include 1394b, but it seems they have not. Also, what most people don't know is to include Fire Wire a 25 cent royalty must be paid on each unit sold, plus the $1 to $2 dollar cost for parts. This means on 10,000 notebook computers retailing for $900, the manufacturer would be forced to pay out about $20,000, which they consider as being robbed of profits. USB is less cost, and for business computers they consider Fire Wire useless. <br />
      <br />
      Apple has traditionally focused on the graphic arts, video and audio industries, it has been their special niche they have dominated for years. Developing home entertainment products was a natural extension and has enabled the company to capture a mass market for the first time. Back before 1995 they saw the need to replace parallel SCSI with its large connectors and heavy cables. Not practical for digital cameras and digital video cameras. Apple made a major investment and involved other major computer companies in the development of Fire Wire. Now the small device market has changed. The new video craze is High Definition, even small cameras can capture large High Def still images. A faster transfer of data is needed.<br />
      <br />
      For now, it seems, as always, that Apple is playing their cards close. They, or Steve Jobs, just love to make big announcements with grand demonstrations. So, who knows what is about to be introduced. How long will it be before we start to see the new Fire Wire modes used with consumer audio products is anyone's guess. <br />
      <br />
      Consider the following: Ethernet was first introduced by 3Com in 1979. That was 30 years ago. Today it is the number one most widely used local area network on the planet. 30 years..., and the audio industry is just now showing some interest. It seems that technology ever so slowly trickles down to the audio world.<br />
      <br />
      After illustrating the above point I cannot help myself. There are many, many audiophiles who strongly believe that amplifying an audio signal with tubes is the most superior method ever invented by man and is impossible to replace. 90 years of tubes without a single technology able to replace them? Good god, even stone wears down in that time. Perhaps the old saying may be true: whenever we use technology to take a step forward, we take two steps back.<br />
      <br />
      Daphne
    1. Wavelength's Avatar
      Wavelength -
      Daphne,<br />
      <br />
      I was told yesterday that the problem was that the 1394 group was moving way too slowly and that the USB org was moving at the speed that made more sense to promote. After all most camera's are coming set for USB, even the most expensive ones.<br />
      <br />
      The guy that does my pictures is mad because the module he has for his camera is now going from firewire to USB 2.0. I think at one shoot he said he had like $65k in the camera. It's on one of those zero gravity stands.<br />
      <br />
      As for the tube analogy... well actually the reason I do it is for two reason's. It would take literally a dozen solid state devices to do the same thing as one tube and it sounds better.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks<br />
      Gordon
    1. Daphne's Avatar
      Daphne -
      Hi Gordon:<br />
      <br />
      I have received the same information regarding the slow movement of the 1395 group, but if you look back at the history, Ethernet, SCSI, Fire Wire, and USB have all been slow delivering on their promises. On the other hand, peripheral manufacturers are a gung-ho group, especially when it comes to specifying and purchasing parts for the assembly line.<br />
      <br />
      There is no doubt, USB has a strong footing in the small device market. It will not phase out any time soon. However, USB depends on the host computer (or CPU) to handle the data. The speed of USB will always fluctuate depending on what task the host computer is performing, and one will very, very rarely, if ever, see a maximum throughput via USB; generally the best one can expect is 50% of the designed speed. I'm not an expert on this, but I think that USB has around 5 or 6 different plugs. Also, many external USB devices generally require a separate power supply.<br />
      <br />
      Now the Firewire standard has its own dedicated host<br />
      controller and does not depend on the computer. It<br />
      does not require system CPU or memory to perform data transfers, the main reason for close to maximum throughput<br />
      regardless of what task/s the computer is doing. Also, Firewire <br />
      has 45 watts of power making it really ideal for portable<br />
      hard drives, and eliminating the need for a separate power<br />
      supply on mobile devices. I can think of only 4 plugs to actually deal with: 400, mini, 800, and CAT 5e Ethernet. <br />
      <br />
      Due to Firewire's dedicated controller and fast sustained transfer rates it is ideal for use in A/V equipment, high speed scanners, and a few networking applications. It also the cable of choice for<br />
      many aircraft manufacturers.<br />
      <br />
      Of course, many computer and peripheral manufacturers consider Firewire to be relatively expensive. In addition, its dedicated host controller takes up space. In contrast, USB is cheap<br />
      and for most small devices performs excellently.<br />
      <br />
      So the bottom line depends on what task one is performing. For a basic office or home printer, small scanner, external CD/DVD drive, etc. USB will work just fine. However, if one is downloading a Digital Video stream, or running 24-bit multichannel audio through various<br />
      equipment, or using a portable drive unit for scratch, Firewire<br />
      is the best choice. Also, some studios and even aircraft have a need for remote direct attached devices and fun Firewire over Ethernet.<br />
      <br />
      I have an example: In my office we pass tons of paper every year of which a percentage needs to be retained for a period of time. In an effort to reduce the cost of storage space we employ a high speed document scanner. We started with two USB, Epson scanners, each had a document feeder. Mechanically, it worked well. The quoted speed was a minimum of 18 pages per minute @ 300/300 dpi. With the USB connection we were lucky to achieve 8 pages per minute. Paper was piling up faster than we could scan. I hired a document processing company for a solution. Now we use an outrageously expensive single Kodak document scanner with a Firewire connection to a PCI Firewire board in a server. The quoted rate is 50, two sided documents, per minute and depending on the mix of color and B&W documents we get 40 to 45 pages per minute. It can perfectly scan a stack of checks in two blinks of an eye. The only other option would be a SCSI connection which comes with a whole set of expensive software and special ASIC.<br />
      <br />
      Last Thursday the tech rep came in for the annual scanner maintenance. He was explaining how he just attended a Kodak seminar and received literature on the new Firewire 200 MB/s, 400MB/s, and 800 MB/s. And for scanner connection to the computer, Kodak is developing a proprietary Firewire PCI board (considered an ASIC to enhance applications and the software used). <br />
      <br />
      In conclusion, it depends on what you're doing to determine which application will work best. Because Apple drops Fire Wire from two notebook computers without much of an announcement, one cannot assume it spells the end of Fire Wire. IMHO, I don't expect Fire Wire will totally disappear, then again who knows? Could Apple be planning to expand the use of 3G technology, or do they have something new to pull out of their hat? <br />
      <br />
      Stranger things have happened in the computer industry. Remember during the late 1990s when there was a lot of talk about consumer level fiber optic networks. People building luxury homes had fiber cable run to every room, now 6 to 10 years later those connections are still useless. <br />
      <br />
      From the majority of Macbook Pro users, how many actually use Fire Wire on a daily, or regular basis? Or even on a PC notebook? Now that I think of it, I have very rarely met anyone who connects their notebook to an external monitor or keyboard. It seems everyone wants multiple wireless connections, and of course batteries that will last forever.<br />
      <br />
      Gordon, I have nothing against tube amplifiers and preamplifiers. I grew up listening to vinyl albums on my dad's stereo of McIntosh tube components and huge Klipsch speakers. Last year he had the most bizarre tube amps I've ever seen - ElectronLuv. They looked like something made to bring Frankenstein to life. Alas, they were not powerful enough for his Eggleston Works speakers. I was surprised when he changed to McIntosh 501 monoblocks, but the McIntosh tube pre amp has not gone anywhere. I just find it curious that the use of tubes in the audio industry is still with us after 90 years, and the strong dedication and opinions between tubes and solid state. I have a Magnum Dynalab 609 XM Satellite radio which has tubes in the analog circuit. A digital radio, receiving and decoding digital signals, but using tubes in the analog output. Rather strange, but I have no complaints because the sound is fantastic. I always wonder, with the limited demand for tubes, what will happen if the few tube makers go under?<br />
      <br />
      Daphne
    1. Wavelength's Avatar
      Wavelength -
      Daphne,<br />
      <br />
      All high speed devices work kinda the same way on newer Intel PC platforms, including Firewire. The interaction of the CPU is based on either interrupt or DMA (direct memory access). Depending on the device and what it is setup for will determine what kind of action happens.<br />
      <br />
      Take for instance 24/96 audio... That requires 576 bytes to be transmitted every 1ms. The CPU will set up a pointer in the DMA controller for the audio data. Most newer USB host controllers can send out the SOF frame automatically without CPU intervention. I am not sure the same is done on Firewire. But anyway... the USB/Firewire controller is set to send 576 bytes using DMA and is then told to start. The DMA controller interrupts the CPU if the buffer is at the end and the CPU setups the buffer and DMA and things continue.<br />
      <br />
      The overhead and requirements for the CPU are really the same. There were at one time what was called Bus Mastering Firewire controllers. But because of new buss strategies and such they have been discontinued. These basically work the same as a DMA controller but actually require more BUS time as they are not as closely linked to the CPU as DMA controller is.<br />
      <br />
      ~~~~~~<br />
      <br />
      Yes the 1394 comminsion has not been so fast. Really nothing new has been introduced in like a decade. It is significant money on both sides of the wire. Take for instance I designed a 7.1 Firewire dac for a customer who bailed on me when it was done. Anyway the cost of the controller and such was litterally 25x what it would be for USB. You have the Physical connection or what is called the PHY then the controller with tons of clocking and data lines between the PHY and it and the power supplies are 3x what is required for USB.<br />
      <br />
      But one of the big problems is even though their are similar asynchronous protocols for audio. Well neither OSX or Vista employs them. Therefore drivers are required for any product really willing to do serious development.<br />
      <br />
      ~~~~~~<br />
      <br />
      USB at 50% is really false... the real bottleneck is on the device side of things. But again that is going away. Some of the new WD passport usb drives work really fast and run off a single USB connection.<br />
      <br />
      The new 3.0 spec for USB can source more power.<br />
      <br />
      The reason I like USB is that it is moving... 2.0 is still really hot and 3.0 is ready to roll out.<br />
      <br />
      ~~~~~~<br />
      <br />
      I am surprised you didn't like Josh's work. I would have sold the Eggleston's and bought a Goto or Avantgarde horn system as that is what you need for something like 20W's of power.<br />
      <br />
      At RMAF we used 12W amplifiers... everyone said were is the power cord for the speakers thinking we had powered subs inside the speakers. Even John Atkinson was surprised:<br />
      <br />
      http://blog.stereophile.com/rmaf2008/<br />
      <br />
      about 1/2 way down...<br />
      <br />
      Daphne, we make more tubes today than we did in 1950.<br />
      <br />
      It's not because they look cool... they sound better!<br />
      Thanks<br />
      Gordon
    1. Daphne's Avatar
      Daphne -
      Hi Grodon:<br />
      <br />
      "Yes the 1394 comminsion has not been so fast. Really nothing new has been introduced in like a decade." <br />
      <br />
      Fire Wire as well as USB have only been available for a decade. If I recall correctly, I believe Apple was the first to install USB in a computer.<br />
      <br />
      **********<br />
      <br />
      "USB at 50% is really false... the real bottleneck is on the device side of things."<br />
      <br />
      You are absolutely correct. I know this fact and should have included it in my statement, Sorry.<br />
      <br />
      **********<br />
      <br />
      I know this is getting a little off subject, but here I go...<br />
      <br />
      Oh, I really like Josh Stippich's work. His amps are sculpture, unique visual works of art. They have a certain retro look and remind me of something out of a 1950s Hollywood mad scientist movie. I have not seen one yet, but I hear he also makes fantastic guitar amps.<br />
      <br />
      I have a feeling that my dad took one look at the ElectronLuv's and had to have them. Actually, I'm surprised he is using Eggleston speakers because he has always been a fan of horns. I get down to his Coral Gables condo apartment about twice a year, and there is always something new. I can recall a few years back when he asked, "what do you think of my new Klipsch speakers." All I could answer was, "they look exactly like the old ones." I should have known - new improved drivers. My father is truly an audio equipment nut case; buys, sells and trades components on a regular basis. He started back in the 1960s building a Heathkit system, then Heathkit test bench devices so he could fine tune and modify the amp units he built. He still owns (and proudly displays) a reel to reel Teac tape deck to playback old recordings he made of comedians and poets. With a large vinyl album collection, I have lost count of all his different turntables over the years.<br />
      <br />
      ********<br />
      <br />
      Two years ago on a flight to Japan, I had an interesting conversation with an engineer from Fender. He was telling me that a good 80% of tubes made were for guitar amps. The rest for audio components and RF use. Oh, and not to picture any type of pristine factory like solid state assembly facilities. While a few factories are modern, many of the companies use tooling more than 50 years old. It's like taking a walk back in time at some places. Then there are mystery factories in China that no one knows exactly where they are. Up to that point I had no idea the amount of tubes being made just for replacements, and that it is a $500 million per year industry. Some of the Eastern European, and Russian factories can have erratic production runs on a few tubes due to fluctuations in the supply of raw materials, so from time to time Fender will forgo JIT (just in time) to stockpile several types of tubes. Then there are businessmen and profits that enter into the equation. A few of the larger tube makers are expanding into semiconductors and other electronic items where they see more profit, leaving everyone with the question, even though tube demand is up at present, will they discontinue production or sell off their tube operations. I recall the engineer saying some of the factories are still owned by the state and I don't know if that really means anything or not. However, I'm told, if you really want to see what can be done with tubes just attend the European Triode Festival. I'm thinking it may be an interesting experience.<br />
      <br />
      **********<br />
      <br />
      Anyway, Gordon, you make some interesting DACs. I will be in NYC for a board meeting during mid December. I will stop in Stereo Exchange to check them out and see their computer audio gear. It is a place where one can easily spend hours upon hours.<br />
      <br />
      daphne
    1. Wavelength's Avatar
      Wavelength -
      Daphne,<br />
      <br />
      Josh has a great job... people ask him too build dream stuff and he does. I think actually he is hooked on motorcycles now.<br />
      <br />
      Yes tubes are made the old way. If you consider that last year in the US, NAMM said there was like 543M retail sales for guitar amplifiers last year. More than 80% of them were tube based. It's a huge market... only wish I had more time to design them. I have 3 to make right now and don't have the time for them.<br />
      <br />
      Oh well...<br />
      <br />
      As for Firewire, Apple was the first too use it. I think the way too look at it now is a little too late and they missed the boat.<br />
      <br />
      What TI has told me over the last month is that the interest for USB controllers to take the place of the Firewire Audio devices has completely consumed the development group. All those PRO devices going USB...<br />
      <br />
      Thanks<br />
      Gordon