Firewire might have reached end of life on Windows & macOS, but it’s alive and kicking in penguin land! Let’s see what it takes to get set up and if it’s right for you.

Have questions about your setup? Ask in our forums.


PCIe FIREWIRE CARDS

In the studio I use both Syba SY-PEX30016 and StarTech PEX1394B3 PCIe expansion cards. Plug them in and you’re good to go. You will also need a FireWire 400 6-pin cable

PCIe firewire card.

ALSA DRIVERS

The ALSA firewire stack is part of the Linux kernel. That means most interfaces will be detected automatically. This is great for listening to music, playing games, and making the occasional video call. 


FFADO DRIVERS

The FFADO project provides open-source drivers for most FireWire based pro-audio devices. These are the drivers you want If you plan on using your interface with a digital audio workstation. 

In order to use the FFADO drivers, you have to prevent the ALSA drivers from loading.

1. Create a blacklist.conf in /etc/modprobe.d/ that includes your device. 

sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
Blacklisting ALSA drivers.

Common firewire chipsets

snd-fireworks
snd-bebob
snd-oxfw
snd-dice
snd-firewire-digi00x
snd-firewire-tascam
snd-firewire-lib
snd-firewire-transceiver
snd-fireface
snd-firewire-motu

2. Update your initramfs image.

sudo update-initramfs -u

3. Once that’s complete, you will need to restart the machine for the changes to take effect. 

NOTE: This will prevent Pulseaudio and PipeWire from detecting the audio interface. To reverse this delete the blacklist.conf. 


4. Install Jack 2, FFADO, ffado-mixer, and qjackctl. On Debian-based systems, you can do the following.

sudo apt install jackd2 jackd2-firewire ffado-mixer-qt4 qjackctl

5. Now you can select the firewire driver from the dropdown menu in qjackctl.

Qjackctl setup screen.

5. If your interface has an internal mixer, you might need to configure it. You can do that with ffado-mixer. 

FFADO mixer.

FIREWIRE KERNEL SUPPORT

Firewire will be supported on Linux until (at least) 2029. After that, it will require a new maintainer or risk being dropped from the mainline kernel.


COMPATIBILITY LIST

I maintain a list of firewire interfaces that I have personally tested.


WHERE TO BUY?

Ebay, Reverb, Guitar Center, and Music Go Round are my usual haunts.


RECOMMENDATIONS?

If you’re looking for a general purpose interface that JustWorks™ check out the MOTU Traveler MK1.  


WHAT TO AVOID

Anything from Universal Audio. 


Have questions about your setup? Ask in our forums.

VennStone

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