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Most of them are now outdated and retired from the recording studios.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 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 latest iMac with the help of certain adapters.
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)
Thunderbolt 3 USB C is the latest vesrion of thunderbolt. Where thunderbolt 1 and 2 required 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 provides 40Gbps speed.
Thunderbolt 3 can be used for several type 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 2020 edition iMac.
He had researched with 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,
- 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)
- A Firewire 800 to Thunderbolt adaptor which also should support Apple computers.
- Apple Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 USB-C adaptor.
These 3 adaptors will make you life a lot easier with Fire-wire audio interfaces and Apple computers.
Here’s a tutorial videos on how to use those 3 adaptors to get the system 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 in Windows computers.
I’ve provided the list of adaptors here once again.
- A Firewire 400 to 800 adaptor (Only if f you have a Firewire 400 device). It can be of any brand
- A Firewire 800 to Thunderbolt 2 adaptor
- Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 USB-C adaptor.
Now follow the below video tutorial to connect your Firewire audio interface with Windows computer via Thunderbolt 3 port.
Actually I have a Latest Windows laptop with 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 a way faster then 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, this technique works like 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.
Audio recording technology is continuously evolving over time. Decades back, the system was on analog domain.
Then digital audio recording technology was born.
Especially, in device connectivity we’ve seen 7 major generations.
The very first connection type was USB 1.1 and now we are using thunderbolt 3 USB-C connection.
Every generation provided us more speed and data accuracy.
BUT, with time our favorite hardware becomes outdated just only because of connectivity upgardes.
These type of techniques help us a lot in using our old devices with 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.
SO, don’t forget to share this tip on your social media channels to help others.
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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.