I wonder if anyone would like to weigh in on their experience using firewire interfaces.

I have a MOTU Ultralite mk1. I would be EXTREMELY happy with it, if it didn't flake out and lose contact with my laptop every now and then. I could be tracking in Logic, and all of a sudden Cuemix disappears because the device has dropped its connection.

I'm going to start performing with my laptop soon, and I feel pretty nervous about taking the Ultralite onstage. I'm wondering if I would be better off getting a simple little USB interface. (I'll be using max 4 channels out. Nothing too taxing.)

I understand that fw is better suited than USB for multiple channel tracking. But what have people's experiences been with stability? Do I just have a dud unit? Can others attest that Firewire might not be the most reliable thing to bring on stage?



Thanks for all the help, friends. I can clarify the power situation. I am using the power supply that came with the device, plugged into a power strip, plugged into a Furman PL-8 Series II.

The Ultarlite does have two ports, and I should judiciously keep track of whether it is just one of them that cacks out. I've had the device for a couple of years, so I'm way beyond warranty.

8 Answers 8


Yeah, I'm guessing your problem is power. I've used 2 Motu Travelers for live stuff for a while, and I've never had a problem. But then again, I'm using external power. If you're using a laptop and bus powering, make sure that your FW bus is actually providing full voltage. Some laptops skimp on the voltage on FW and USB ports. You might want to try changing ports. Speaking of which, I've also run into bandwidth and resource limitations when trying to run my Digi 002 and FW DV video output on the same firewire channel. Same symptoms - my 002 would chug along fine for a while, then just drop out. This is universal for both desktops and laptops. Try to figure out which port is on which channel and make sure that you're not pulling any resources from the channel with the Motu on it.

I have seen a Motu or two develop a bad firewire port. You may want to have yours checked out if you can't fix it some other way.

Hope some of this helps. Let me know if you need any clarification!

  • Thanks, Colin. I've clarified my post. And I fear that it might be a bad port. Booo! I'm way beyond warranty. And for the work I'm doing right now, I really don't need so many inputs. It would probably be smarter for me to buy a new device than to fix the firewire ports. Cheers.
    – MtL
    Commented Mar 25, 2010 at 0:13

I have an Echo Audiofire 4. it's rock solid and I've trusted it for live performance on a number of times. check for electrical problems, more often than not they are the source of glitches.

  • Thanks, georgi.m. I'll check out that device. (I've clarified my electrical situation in the original post.)
    – MtL
    Commented Mar 25, 2010 at 0:11

I have used Focusrite's Saffire Pro 10 interface for 3 years and it has been rock solid. One important thing to consider may be, making sure that your laptop's firewire has a TI (Texas Instruments) Chipset.

Firewire problems I came across so far were mostly because of chipset incompatibality.

  • Thanks, Selcuk. I'm using a MacBook 2.1. How do I check the firewire chipset? I don't see anything like that in System Profiler.
    – MtL
    Commented Mar 25, 2010 at 0:15
  • Sorry buddy I am a PC. :) Check out some forums and you will find information about the chipset configuration of your specific model. Commented Mar 25, 2010 at 23:14
  • Ha! John Hodgman sprang to mind. Ironic, because I've been listening to "The Areas of My Expertise" this week. Thanks for the help. Cheers.
    – MtL
    Commented Mar 26, 2010 at 13:51

I'm on my third MOTU 828mkII, but the pattern was odd: Problems with my first unit, then a second replacement unit, and this third one has been utterly problem-free, now I've had it for years. Very, very weird. In addition, about 75% of gear failures I've had are power-supply related, even devices with external transformers/wall warts.

The lesson is that problems do happen and if you're serious about doing anything live, invest in redundancy. That said, modern gear should generally be relatively problem-free unless there are just basic manufacturing or software compatibility issues.


Are you powering the MOTU only via Firewire or do you use an external power source? If you have a choice to power it up with an adapter, I'd go for that. It would probably be more reliable.

  • I've clarified my post. But aha! I forget that I COULD even power it from my laptop. I should test that and see if it's more reliable. That would be ironic.
    – MtL
    Commented Mar 25, 2010 at 0:12

I encountered the same problem you had with a m-audio ozonic fw interface and with a m-audio 410. it seems the cause is a voltage drop in the electric circuit. you can try to solve it with a voltage regulator. i had to try it too but a strange thing happened: i updated the (ozonic) driver to the new version and the problem almost disappeared.


I've been using an M-Audio Firewire 410 for some time. I like its functionality but I don't like it for reliability. And the fact that you have to turn off your computer when you connect it is just too annoying. I once had a live performance with it, using an old white iBook, and it started to act strange just before the show. Maybe I hot-swapped it against the rules, but I had to restart the iBook and somehow it took 10 minutes to come back to life. I wouldn't use it in such a situation again.

So I bought an Apogee Duet, and never had any problems with it. It just works fine all the time, and it integrates with (Apple) software nicely. So I absolutely prefer the Duet to the 410, and would use the Duet on stage without hesitation.


I find that Digidesign's 003R works really well, I use a Focusrite Octopre for the mic preamps and have never had a problem. I used the 002R before and found it to be just as reliable, and when I need to go mains free I use the MBox pro, which is again rock solid. I have always found Firewire to be extremely reliable.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.