How to Get Firewire Audio Interface Devices To Work With Thunderbolt 3 USB-C Without Losing Audio Quality

Have you ever used Firewire audio interfaces?

Most of them are now outdated and retired from the recording studios. Maybe the upcoming versions of DAWs won’t support them as well.

However they are NOW not an ideal choice for recording studios, some of them are still considered very good even by modern standards.

SUCH AS, MOTU 896 Firewire is known as a legendary audio interface when it comes to conversion quality.

EVEN, I have one piece in my studio.

BUT, what if you want to upgrade your Mac PC or a Windows computer to the latest hardware and software? The problem is there is no Firewire output in the latest Mac computers.

Well, solutions are there.

You can easily connect your Firewire audio device to the latest iMac with the help of certain adapters.

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BUT, not all Firewire to USB-C adapters is compatible with the new iMac. So in this guide, you will learn how to connect firewire to USB C in audio devices.

Tip: If you want to know more about USB-C you can refer to PCmags article on USB-C

That’s the reason you should read this guide till the end.

What is Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)

what thunderbolt 3 cable

Thunderbolt 3 USB C is the latest version of the thunderbolt. Where thunderbolt 1 and 2 required an external power source to operate in active mode, thunderbolt 3 can operate in both active and passive mode.

In passive mode, thunderbolt 3 provides a top speed of 20Gbp, while the active thunderbolt 3 cables provide 40Gbps speed.

Thunderbolt 3 can be used for several types of data transfer works and also works as USB-C cables. Even USB-C Cables can be used as thunderbolt 3 as long as you use good quality cables.

Any USB-C device can be used with a Thunderbolt 3 port so you can use USB-C audio interfaces like Motu M-4 with any computer that has a thunderbolt-3 connection.

But, Thunderbolt 3 devices can not be used with USB-C ports as they use discrete Thunderbolt chips to function.

Firewire To Thunderbolt 3 USB-C On iMac and other Apple computers

This process is done by one of my friends who had tried to connect his MOTU 896 Firewire with his latest edition iMac.

He researched with a handful of adapters by purchasing and returning them on Amazon and other marketplaces and finally got the audio interface working smoothly.

To go with the same process you’ll need 3 things,

  1. A Firewire 400 to 800 adaptor which supports Apple computers. (Only if you have a Firewire 400 device because there is no adaptor available for firewire 400 to USB C).
  2. A Firewire 800 to Thunderbolt adaptor which also should support Apple computers.
  3. Apple Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 USB-C adaptor that you can buy on Amazon or from sweetwater.

These 3 adaptors will make your life a lot easier with Fire-wire audio interfaces and Apple computers.

Here’s a tutorial video on how to use those 3 adaptors to get the system to work properly.

How to Connect Firewire To Thunderbolt 3 USB-C in Windows Computers

Just like Apple systems we need the above 3 adaptors to connect Firewire devices to Windows computers.

I’ve provided the list of adaptors here once again.

  1. A Firewire 400 to 800 adaptor (Only if you have a Firewire 400 device). It can be of any brand.
  2. A Firewire 800 to Thunderbolt 2 adaptor
  3. Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 USB-C adaptor.

That’s it…

Now follow the below video tutorial to connect your Firewire audio interface with a Windows computer via Thunderbolt 3 port.

Actually, I have the latest Windows laptop with a thunderbolt port and got this technique worked successfully on this.

The Motu 896 Fire-wire is successfully connected with my computer’s thunderbolt port without any data loss and connection errors.

However, Thunderbolt USB-C ports are much faster than Firewire ports you should not expect the speed you get with the thunderbolt device.

BUT, when you are struggling in connecting your old Firewire devices with thunderbolt-only computers, such as iMac, Mac Pro, and other Mac-based devices then this technique works great.

If you have a USB-C audio interface and want to connect it to a Firewire port then there is a USB C to Firewire adaptor also available on Amazon.

FAQ On Firewire Audio Interface to Thunderbolt 3 USB-C

Can I get lossless audio quality in Firewire to thunderbolt 3 USB-C connector?

It depends on the data transfer load. If you transfer data more than the capacity of Firewire capacity then the quality will lose. BElow the data threshold, there is no quality loss.

What is the price of Firewire to thunderbolt 3 USB-C connector?

It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, it will cost anywhere between $25 to $100.

How do I connect FireWire 400 to Thunderbolt?

I have already shown above how to connect FireWire 400 to Thunderbolt.

How can I use the legacy firewire audio interface devices on a USB-C port?

You can use legacy firewire audio interface devices on a USB-C port through FireWire to USB-C connectors.

Conclusion

Audio recording technology is continuously evolving over time. Decades back, the system was in the analog domain.

Then digital audio recording technology was born.

Evolution continued…

Especially, in device connectivity, we’ve seen 7 major generations.

The very first connection type was USB 1.1 and now we are using a thunderbolt 3 USB-C connection.

Every generation provided us with more speed and data accuracy.

BUT, with time our favorite hardware becomes outdated just only because of connectivity upgrades.

These types of techniques help us a lot in using our old devices with the latest computers.

I hope this tip will help you in connecting your old Firewire audio interface to the latest computer with Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, thunderbolt 3 to firewire 400, or firewire 400 to thunderbolt 3 devices.

And, don’t forget to share this tip on your social media channels to help others.

Good day…😊

You may also like to read,

Gautam Roy is a recording engineer and a blogger from India. He loves music, writing, and travelling. He is also an active investor and a successful entrepreneur.

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14 thoughts on “How to Get Firewire Audio Interface Devices To Work With Thunderbolt 3 USB-C Without Losing Audio Quality”

  1. I will note that a USB type C connector can fit both a USB type C port and a thunderbolt3 port. and the thunderbolt 2 to 3 adapter is not USB-C unless I am mistaken and Apple actually made one of those but I don’t think they did. USB-C is both awesome and really annoying because it combines so many different things like HDMI, thunderbolt, USB, display port not into one port but into one port with multiple protocols. And if your device doesn’t support the protocol your other device has……..

    those are some great videos, I’ve had a few chats in the comments.

    Reply
  2. Hi!
    Thank You for this article. I want to buy new M1 Mac and I use MOTU 896HD with firewire port. Should I expect any MOTU drivers issues after connection with your method?

    Reply
    • That could be a problem. M1 macs need drivers designed specifically for M1, and unless MOTU has ported the M1 drivers specifically over to M1 *AND* apple has ported firewire-over-thunderbolt , you might be out of luck.

      Welcome to the world of planned obscelessance. And its a damn shame, I have some really nice firewire gear too.

      Reply
      • Stuff not made for the M1 runs fine with an emulation technology called Rosetta 2. This includes VST’s and interface drivers. Apple did a great job carrying mission critical into their future, Planned obscelessence is a boogeyman.

        Reply
  3. Nice article, very helpful. Would this work if coonect to Thunderbolt 3/USB C hub or should connected straight to the Mac?

    Reply
  4. I’ve been able to use my Rme Fireface 400 with this method, but everytime I restart the computer I need to unplug and then replug the adapter in order for windows to see it.
    Do you have the same problem?

    Reply
  5. I have an ancient EZQuest Firewire external hard drive, which I never use but always expected I would be able to use with my current iMac 2020 27 Inch desktop by using the correct adapter. You mention “audio” connections but not just connecting any Firewire device. Is there any solution to my problem? I have some digital photos on that drive that I haven’t stored elsewhere. Thanks for all your help on this.
    Jim Haberman

    Reply
    • Firewire to USB C Converters work well with all firewire devices, but I suggest you to first checkout the details of that firewire-USB C adaptor on Amazon along with the customer reviews, their official websites, review websites and forums before buying.

      Reply
  6. Hi,
    I tried your setup using Thunderbolt 2 to thunderbolt 3 USB-C + Thunderbolt 2 to Firewire 800 + F800 to F400 cables with my Dell G3 3500 laptop running under windows 11. I want to be able to use my Echo Audiofire 12 Audio interface on it.
    It happens to behave not correctly. When i try to read a wav file on bandcamp or Ableton. I get a glitch sound for 1 second then nothing anymore.
    I can see Ieee 1394 Controller (coming from Thunderbolt 2 to Firewire 800 cable) and the correct Echo Audiofire 12 peripheral under configuration panel.
    But things goes wrong somewhere. Does anybody experimented same issue or have any idea of what i could miss or did wrong ?

    Reply
  7. hi there, i have a motu 896 mk3, not hybrid, and was working super well on an old mac til i died basically. i got a “new” second hand machine but its running OS monterey and have all the dongles to connect it, i realise the drivers will be an issue as they were only issued until OS 10.14. any way around this? thanking everyone in advance.

    Reply

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