Firewire audio devices

What other apps and distros do you use to round out your studio?

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Firewire audio devices

Post by ahellquist »

I have been using Linux exclusively for all my work and audio production and live performances for many years now and it was a rocky road at the beginning. Struggling with firewire and the right controllers to get things stable as well as rt-priorities was a challenge but after some time things started to work very well..

Right now I have a lot of audio devices and some of the best ones are firewire based and works perfect in desktop computers as long as i use a supported Ti chip based controller. Many of my laptops also works well using Apple TB to Firewire adapters and it is nice to be able to daisy chain multiple devices to get lots of I/O

For special occasions I have a flight rack with 3 daisy chained 8in+8out devices giving me 24in and 24 out. I also have a FF800 and several adat expansions and a 16ch firewire mixer...

Last two years I have also been using a couple of Motu Ultralite AVBs and i really like the idea of AVB or AES67 or any open protocol to expand the possibilities.

One of the great things with using Linux is the ability to run and use stuff that other platform/vendors abandon for various reasons.. Usually to push customers to abandon their perfectly usable interface and purchase a new one (stating that apple/microsoft doesn't support the product anymore)
I have advocated the perfect freedom to use Linux and run whatever hardware as long as it is supported and you can still connect it to the computer since there is no reason to remove support for the device in the kernel for marketing reasons or other strategic odd reasons.

A year ago I installed a new Laptop for live gigs and practicing in my home studio and after some discussions on IRC I went for Ubuntu Studio 19.10 since it was revived and had gotten a new "Ubuntu Studio Controls" that did assist in setting up the audio/midi devices in a similar way like Kx-studio Cadense
Things went pretty smooth and I thought this could be a new baseline for all my audio boxes.

Later when Ubuntu Studio 20.04 was appearing as Alpha or Beta, they announced that Firewire support was being dropped and the user was suggested to upgrade their audio interface to a modern USB interface implying that Firewire is too old for anyone to even consider... That doesn't make sense too me really when many of the old rather expensive Audio devices I have are much better than most of the USB based stuff that is not super expensive and Firewire is a lot more stable with heavy load since the Firewire bus is designed to allocate and prioritize the bandwith from the beginning. Chaining devices from different vendors also usually works so it is really a great work horse when set up correctly.

I hope this trend to ditch Firewire is isolated to Ubuntu Studio and not a general trend in other distributions


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Re: Firewire audio devices

Post by GMaq »


I can't speak for Ubuntu Studio but I just released AV Linux 2020 with Kernel 5.4.28 and we have one User reporting that his M-Audio FW device no longer works like it did with Kernel 4.x.x and another User reporting that his old Presonus Firepods work as well as ever on both the old FFADo drivers and also on the new ALSA drivers..

The kernel developers are moving forward and merging in new drivers and USB quirks all the time and they have to focus on supporting state of the art gear with current protocols (ie USB-2/3). If FireWire is a dead protocol and the FFado team and ALSA Firewire teams are both letting it fade gracefully into oblivion then the mainline kernel people are not going to maintain it and as less and less people use it there will be less and less bug reports getting attention to keep it working. Big projects like Ubuntu are most likely not going to put up with headaches for a niche deprecated Audio protocol for an even niche-ier group of Ubuntu users.

"Progress" sucks sometimes... I hated giving up my Mackie ONYX FireWire mixer and I hated saying goodbye to 32bit Linux so I hear what you're saying.. BUT if you're going to keep FireWire working just like keeping old hardware running that still has the interfaces to run it you're probably going to have to start using older distributions or start compiling your own older kernels yourself that still support FireWire reliably..

Unfortunately sooner or later the signal to noise ratio of jumping through hula hoops to keep it running will no longer justify the effort but that is an individual choice of course.. I thought my recording world would end without the Mackie but it didn't..

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Re: Firewire audio devices

Post by ahellquist »

Thanks GMac for you input..

I understand that it might be the end of the road but as long as it is possible to run my devices even if i have to build my own kernel (i used to run Gentoo at one time so it will probably work fine) I will be a happy camper.

My problem is that I have One mixer, and at least 6 regular audio devices that are Firewire based, not counting USB and internal devices so it is a lot to gain if the ffado stack or alsa support for those will be available in one form or another in the future. Building kernels is fine but if newer kernels don't support the stack at all, I'll be out of luck. Firewire is still pretty easy to add in most computers with a Ti based controller card or an Apple Thunderbolt 2 Firewire adapter.. In my book it is still generic computer hardware with a fairly complete implementation (FFADO/Alsa?)
Since there are no more firewire devices appearing on the market, there is no need for new firewire devices but only maintaining the current code if necessary. I am no developer so I have no clue if that is a daunting task but hopefully it is not and it will be done by someone.

To be honest, I mainly use my Ultralite AVBs and very rarely my fw gear but not being able to use it at all ever would be sad.

Time will tell if FW will work and the possibility to run old kernels, old ffado and modern DAW and plugins still exist.

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Re: Firewire audio devices

Post by gennargiu »

Hi i have a maudio firewire solo and work perfect with kernel official basic and rt on debian buster + repository kx studio with cadence jack. I used studio music 64 remix distro based on debian buster and kx studio or mx linux 19 always debian buster based + repo kx studio. Problems and not recognized in av linux april 2020. I have not tested the new ubuntu studio 20.04. :roll:

Hp Elite 8200 3,1 Ghz - 16 Giga Ram Hd 2 Terabyte - studiomusic64-Ubuntu Studio 18.04-Ardour 5,12 - Mixbus 5
Asus X54c - studiomusic64- Mx Linux 19.3-Ardour 5.12- Mixbus 5-RPI3 + Raspbian Buster- Rpi4 (4giga ram)

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Re: Firewire audio devices

Post by PhilNSicab »

I have a M Audio Firewire solo, and it worked with linux mint 19.
The process to make it work was as follow :

1. First it can be a good idea to save your system state with timeschift or another tool, so that you can go back to you system as it is now.
2. Install ffado drivers which allows to configure firewire devices :
ffado-dbus-server, ffado-mixer-qt4, ffado-tools, libffado2

3. Reboot your computer
4. Lauch ffado-mixer and see if you can select the soundcard output.
5. search for jackd in synaptic and install :
jackd2-firewire, jackd2, qjackctl, jackd, pulseaudio-module-jack
Give priority to jack for realtime.
You can edit this priority in the terminal :

Code: Select all

sudo nano /etc/security/limits.d/99-realtime.conf
Add the following lines in the file if they are not in it :

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@realtime   -  rtprio     99
@realtime   -  memlock    unlimited
Also add you user to the audio group. In the terminal :

Code: Select all

sudo gpasswd -a $USER audio
6. Reboot.

7. For information, jack and pulseaudio can't be used at the same time. Usual application like your web browser send their sound to pulseaudio, so they launch pulse audio. So if you launch jack you can't use your web browser and vice versa.
pulseaudio-module-jack connects pulseaudio to jack which allows pulseaudio application to send their sound to jack.
When you boot your computer you have to launch jack before pulseaudio. So launch qjackctl and jack before opening your web browser.

8. If you need less latency, install the kernel linux-lowlatency

Code: Select all

sudo apt-get install linux-lowlatency
9. You can save the fact that you boot from the lowlatency kernel by doing

Code: Select all

sudo nano /etc/default/grub
And make sure the following lines are in the file :
Then do

Code: Select all

sudo update-grub
Now when you boot you choose the lowlatency kernel in grub. Then your computer will remember your choice (it will automatically boot from the last used kernel).

Now I have linux Mint 20 based on ubuntu focal, and I have not reached to have sound on the sound card. If any one can help I 'd be glad.

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Re: Firewire audio devices

Post by PhilNSicab »

The M-Audio Firewire solo works perfectly on Linux Mint 20, based on Ubuntu focal, and is very easy to configure :

1. (Optional) For lowlatency, install the lowlatency kernel :
sudo apt-get install linux-lowlatency

2. Install the ffado driver which allows to configure firewire devices :
in synaptic, just install ffado-mixer-qt4

This also install the following dependencies :

3. Reboot.

4. Open the ffado-mixer, go in the mix tab, in the column mixer 1/2 click on "stream 1/2 In" for stream on headphones.
This mix tab also allows you to chose all the inputs or outputs.

Done!! No need for jack. But For information I have been also able to use jack afterwards, chosing the alsa driver.

Now I would like to automate the 4rth step. Anyone knows how to do this?

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