FireWire is what? Using and connecting a FireWire sound card

Even at the time of the appearance of the first computers supporting serial data transmission, the idea arose to create a single standard for ports and cables capable of transmitting any information at high speed. During the general pursuit of standardization, a sequential high-speed IEEE 1394 bus appeared, later modified by Apple and renamed FireWire, which was designed to resolve the chaos that prevailed in the computer environment 25 years ago.

Despite the fact that FireWire lost the war with USB, this port can still be found in various devices: both in the professional segment and in the consumer (including the music business). In the material below, in detail, consider FireWire. What is it? Where is it used? And do I need FireWire today?

FireWire: what is it?

FireWire is a specialized interface developed by Apple in early 1992. This is the standard for high-speed data transfer between a computer and other devices connected to it. First, the FireWire controller was introduced only into Apple's computers, but other market players did not take long to wait. A year later, a dozen companies and manufacturers of equipment were installed in their gadgets.

The interface was developed and promoted by popular IT companies at that time under their own names. Sony named a new standard named i.Link, and Texas Instruments gave it the name Lynx. The standard exists up to now, but it's no longer popular, since the same Apple came up with a replacement for it in the form of a more productive Thunderbolt. FireWire controllers are installed in laptops, video cameras, hard drives, printers, and sound cards.

Interface History

The idea to create FireWire was born in the ranks of the Committee on Microcomputer Standards in 1986. The task was to combine several standards into one single standard. This burden on myself took the company Apple, introducing the world FireWire (IEEE 1394). A few years later, other companies joined the promotion of the new standard. Microsoft, for example, insisted that FireWire should be installed on all computers that are released. It was invented a lot of options for using the new controller, but over time interest in it faded.

Despite the fact that FireWire is still the most advanced and powerful standard, especially for IT professionals, since 2010, it has ceased to be introduced into new devices, since Apple required royalties for each controller installed in someone else's device.

Key Features

  • FireWire supports the hot-plug function. That is, you can change the configuration of the entire bus without shutting down the computer and restarting applications that work with it.
  • In the past there was a statement that FireWire is the fastest standard of data transmission. In fact, it was so, the speed of the ports reaches 3200 Mbit / s. This is more than USB 2.0.
  • Devices equipped with the FireWire standard can interact with each other without connecting to a computer.
  • FireWire cables can transmit a multimedia signal in real time.
  • Unlike proprietary standards, an open architecture is used, which means that it can be used without the use of specialized software.
  • On the FireWire bus, there are contacts providing power to low-voltage devices.
  • It is possible to connect up to 63 devices at a time.

FireWire specifications

FireWire ports, depending on the generation, differ in a number of features:

  • IEEE 1394 - this standard was finally adopted and approved in 1995. The first to be armed with a new standard was the manufacturers of video cameras, in particular Sony, which started promoting the interface under its own name Link. Despite its positioning, even at that time the controller also fell in love with those who were engaged in the production of portable hard drives. The reason for this was the high data transfer rate. It reached 400 Mb / s. The length of the cable was no more than 4.5 meters.
  • IEEE 1394a - in 2000 the standard was updated. The main changes concerned the development of compatibility between different devices. Also, a small delay to reset the bus was added. The delay was introduced to protect against resetting the settings during hot reconnection.
  • IEEE 1394b - the next update occurred in 2002. The processing speed of data has significantly increased. The FireWire cables and connectors for their connection have changed. Only port design has changed. The interface standards have remained the same and to support compatibility appeared specialized adapters FireWire old generation to the new (IEEE 1394b). The structure of the cables has changed, they began to be made from fiber. The data transfer rate has increased to 1600 Mbit / s. The length of the cable has grown to 100 meters.

Types of connectors

FireWire ports have a few more differences, depending on the generation of the interface. There are options with a different number of contacts, as well as additional batteries:

  • IEEE 1394 - this FireWire port does not have its own power and is equipped with 4 contacts. One twisted pair of wires is used to transfer information from the device to the device and a second twisted pair to receive information from other devices. A similar connector is installed in laptops and video cameras with interface support.
  • IEEE 1394a - The updated FireWire controller is equipped with two more contacts, which are responsible for powering the interface.
  • IEEE 1394b is the latest generation of the interface, equipped with two additional contacts for sending and receiving information, as well as a backup contact.

Firewire sound cards

DJs and musicians are big fans of IEEE1394. One of the most popular applications of the FireWire interface is the music business. This standard has all the necessary specifications for working with musical instruments, sound cards and mixers. The interface supports simultaneous parallel operation with 52 channels. IEEE1394 has a high bit rate and sampling rate.

To implement all the features of the interface in operation, one or several sequential connections of several sound cards, one after another, on a single bus (up to 6 sound cards) are used. This is necessary in the event that you already own a sound card for 8 channels, and you do not have enough of this quantity, then you can attach a few more cards. Some sound cards, for example the MOTU Traveler MK3, are initially designed with a view to further consolidation and expansion.

Comparison with USB-Audio

FireWire is ideal for portable sound cards, and this despite the fact that in most cases, sound cards with FireWire support are more expensive, while USB cards are more affordable. An important advantage is the same data rate. At FireWire, this figure is much higher, which means that this interface is ideal for use during live performances, where work is important without delays and "sticking". USB in this regard is not so good, because when working with it, there may be problems with a sensible delay of the signal (from the instrument to the device for outputting the sound).

A serious drawback of sound cards, supporting only the FireWire controller, can be called a long and complicated setup. Optimizing a large set of devices and making them work together is very difficult. With USB-Audio, there are no such problems, since they all support the quick setting function. It is enough to connect it to the computer, as everything immediately starts working.

But USB does not support the "hot" replacement of devices. Previously, there were also problems with reconnecting the sound card. If you disconnect the USB-card while working in a computer virtual studio, then, most likely, it will immediately forget about it, and when connected you will have to restart the application through which you shot the sound and adjust the entire system again. In the case of FireWire this will not happen. For the sake of justice, it's worth noting that this problem is missed by computers running Mac OS, where work with audio is tied to Core Audio.

Other applications

FireWire, being a network port, strangely enough, was involved not only in the field of data transmission over the network and audio, but also in many others.

  • In external storage devices - in the past FireWire could often be found in external media, the high speed of the standard contributed to it. The speed of the controller was higher than that of USB 2.0, so these hard drives were popular in the professional field.
  • Network connections - UNIX operating systems, such as Mac OS and Linux, still support FireWire, where it can be used to transfer data over the Internet. Microsoft abandoned this function with the release of Windows Vista in 2005.
  • In the cameras - ironically, but it is the very first version of the application FireWire is still in the process and remains quite popular. On the market, you can still meet a lot of cameras, the video stream from which is transmitted through FireWire cables.
  • In the iPod - there were versions of the portable player, in which charging and synchronizing music occurred using FireWire. With the release of iPod nano 4th generation in Apple decided to switch to USB. Nevertheless, for a long time it was possible to find FireWire-adapters for iPod and iPhone.

Instead of concluding

Today FireWire uses very little. Applications that are popular in the past, such as: hard drive connections and device debugging, are no longer listed. And it is unlikely to find modern gadgets that support this standard. FireWire has remained the lot of professionals and there it will die. The only thing for which now the standard FireWire is suitable, in terms of consumer use is the simultaneous connection of a large number of sound cards, which many DJs and sound engineers dream of. с 18 аудиоканалов. Actually, pay attention to the very sound card with support for FireWire is for those who need high speed processing of the signal, and those who record the signal with more than 18 audio channels. All other options for using FireWire both in sound and wherever else are not relevant.

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