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Topic: Noisy Firewire on Laptop

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  1. #1

    Noisy Firewire on Laptop

    After getting my courage up, I\'ve decided to play some live gigs with Gigga on my laptop. The laptop is a Compaq 2175US, with Athlon XP 2400, 1 GB memory, internal firewire and USB1, running XP Pro. For audio I\'m using an M-Audio Firewire 410 box on the laptop\'s firewire port. An external 120 gig, 7200 RPM, 8M buffer hard drive contains the samples, and is attached to a cardbus USB2 card (the external drive can attach via firewire also). I use an M-Audio MIDIsport 2x2 USB midi interface hooked up to the laptop\'s USB1 connection. Functionally all this works, and latency is adequate but not awesome.

    The problem is hideous digital audio grunge from the 410. All I have to do is scroll the laptop\'s video to make it occur. It makes all manner of obnoxious squeaks and whines while loading instruments. Changing firewire cables and moving the 410 around doesn\'t make any difference. When I tried the same gear on my desktop machine with a PCI firewire card, audio from the 410 was perfect. So I can only assume the firewire circuitry on the laptop is messed up and propagating internal laptop noise.

    I\'ve ordered a cardbus card that has both USB2 and firewire to see if the card\'s firewire interface is quieter. If not, I suppose I could scrap the 410 and go with an Echo Indigo, then attach the external drive via firewire where hopefully it will work despite the noisy firewire connection. But I\'d rather use the 410.

    Has anyone else experienced anything like this and if so, how did you solve it?

    Thanks,

    - Steve

  2. #2

    Re: Noisy Firewire on Laptop

    Firewire is digital, so the problem isn\'t noise, at least not in the analog sense.

    The problem is likely that your laptop is running out of CPU cycles. The separate 1394 solution may help offload the responsibility of the CPU. It may help. Maybe you need to increase the buffer size in Giga.

    Also note that laptops use 4-pin 1394, which has no power. I assume that you\'re using a separate power brick for the 410. A faulty powersupply could cause the problem. Do you use the same brick and a 4-pin connector to the desktop?

    Best of luck.

  3. #3

    Re: Noisy Firewire on Laptop

    Hi Jon,

    [ QUOTE ]
    The problem is likely that your laptop is running out of CPU cycles. The separate 1394 solution may help offload the responsibility of the CPU. It may help. Maybe you need to increase the buffer size in Giga.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Hmm. The noise is perhaps worst when loading large .gsp files. I wouldn\'t think the CPU would be very busy just doing that.

    [ QUOTE ]
    Also note that laptops use 4-pin 1394, which has no power. I assume that you\'re using a separate power brick for the 410. A faulty powersupply could cause the problem. Do you use the same brick and a 4-pin connector to the desktop?

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Good point. I\'m using the 410\'s wallwart power supply with a 4-pin 1394 on the laptop. On the desktop I plugged in the wallwart but used 6-pin 1394 since that cable was handy. The desktop\'s PCI card has a 4-pin 1394 connector too so I\'ll try that.

    The cardbus card I ordered is here . It has both 4- and 6-pin 1394 connectors and what looks like a jack for its own power input. We\'ll see if it helps when it shows up in a week or so.

    Thanks for the help,

    - Steve

  4. #4

    Re: Noisy Firewire on Laptop

    You say there is noise when loading gigs, so I assume that the noise happens when you aren\'t playing anything. Very strange indeed!

    My best guess is that the 1394 chip in your laptop is flaky. If so, the new card will solve that.

    You might contact the manufacturer and describe the problem in detail. Maybe they know something that we don\'t.

    Good luck.

  5. #5

    Re: Noisy Firewire on Laptop

    This problem is finally solved. The culprits are the cheezy power supplies for both the laptop and the external firewire drive. The wallwart power supply for the Firewire 410 is fine. A new Cardbus interface card didn't make any difference. Curiously, the 410's headphone outputs are _always_ dead quiet- it's only the line outputs that get noisy.

    When I run the laptop on AC power with a charged battery in place, my noise level is maybe 20% of what I get without a battery. If I run something that doesn't need an external hard drive (i.e. some VST instruments) on battery alone, audio is dead quiet.

    I did manage to get a better external hard disk case with better power supply. But I'm not sure what I can do about the laptop. The laptop power supply is 1.85V @4.5A, and I doubt I can find a better one than the original OEM supply. Even if I could, I don't want to lug a big power supply around with the laptop- at that point I'm better off going with a rackmount or something.

    - Steve

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