The M Audio Firewire 410 Review – AKA “a troublesome Firewire Interface Device”

Some reviews are easy to conduct. The M Audio Firewire 410 review was simple enough because I used it in my personal music system for over 2 years.

Picking on a poor performance, but otherwise innocent product is probably easier to do than praising a wonderful product.

Sure, there will always be a few lemons, but reliability issues are getting less frequent with every passing year.

M Audio Firewire 410

This firewire device is one of the most sought after and popular devices on the market. I think mostly due to it’s low price. There are more searches for this device than any other professional firewire interface on the internet.

Why I care:

I had bought this unit not for an M Audio Firewire 410 Review page but to actually use the product myself in a budget Active digital crossover speaker system that I was building. I used the Firewire 410 as a DAC for an HTPC build that I was doing as illustrated here.

The Firewire 410 was is used to output 6 channels of individual audio for 2 stereo loudspeakers. The configuration was as follows: 2 outputs were used for the bass drivers. Two outputs used for the midrange drivers. And two outputs used for the tweeter speaker drivers.

The digital crossover slopes were handled in the digital domain by either a Thuneau Allocator light or the Foobar 2000 crossover dll component.

The M Audio Firewire 410 as sampled here can also be used for a professional recording and mastering device provided that you don’t need more than 4 analog inputs and 8 analog outputs. There are also digital inputs and outputs here so you can bring more than just 2 channels into the device. The firewire inputs and outputs give this interface the added functionality of being able to input and output at firewire speed or 400Mbps through the PC or Mac. My experience with this unit is only with 3 different PCs.

On paper the M Audio 410 is a sweet unit. And, if you use it in a specific way it can work very well.

A M Audio Firewire 410 review (device) such as this can also be used in a Home Theater system.

You can output the signal from your HTPC or Home theater PC to a firewire device (such as the M Audio) and then to your receiver or preamplifier.

I tried this solution as well and it works very well. Any multi channel firewire interface should be able to do this. The DAC quality in these units tend to be very high as these are built for high quality recordings used in the pro industry. The uses for multi channel are only limited to your imagination with a firewire interface.

You could also use a device such as this to implement a PC based room correction filter and then output the analog outs as well.

This M Audio Firewire 410 Review was met by some frustration, namely – random crashing:

So I have some notes on keeping this baby from acting up, these tips were learned over the course of my two years experience with this firewire device.

1. Use the 4 pin to 6 pin firewire cable or do not use the external power adapter and use the 6 pin firewire cable. If you use the 6 pin firewire cable and an external power supply you may experience unexplained crashes and instability.

2. This unit does not like to switch from the digital inputs to internal clocking. It gets confused often and crashes. This unit likes the internal clocking method of a PC the best. But if you set it to take an S/PDF signal from optical or coax it will work fine if you use that input constantly. Switching back and forth is what seems to make it unstable.

3. Shut down the computer when you are finished with your use. This unit likes to be reset by shutdown on a regular basis.

4. If playing back music through the analog outputs and, using the 1394 connection for surfing the internet you may get interference from the card. Hitting stop on playback or disconnecting the internet device will stop the digital sputtering.

5. Do not try to hot plug this device unless you want to burn out your firewire card on the PC and or the firewire plug on the M Audio firewire 410. If you do this by accident restart the computer. Sometimes the reset will fix the problem.

6. If the PC fails to locate the firewire 410. Turn off the PC, unplug it, and then turn off the M Audio firewire 410. Unplug both the power and the firewire cable from the PC. Let is sit for 2 minutes, reconnect and reboot. If this doesn’t work restart the computer with the firewire 410 NOT plugged into the PC. When you restart it the second time it will often get the clue that it was not and now is connected. It may want to reinstall the boot loader file in this case. Let it reinstall the bootloader file.

7. You must use this Interface box with a Texas Instruments chipset 1394 firewire card. Do not try to use a firewire card with a different brand chipset. You are likely to fry your chipset on the motherboard or on your PCI firewire card or both. At the very best you may experience dropouts and digital sputtering.

This may seem like a lot of hassle and honestly it is. But there are some things that the 410 can do very well for the cost of this product.

• If you are bringing 2 analog signals into the computer applying processing and playback via the 8 analog outputs it will work fine.

• If you play back PC music to 2 or any of the 8 analog outputs it will work fine.

• The sound quality is actually quite good for the price.

• The DAC sound quality is quite excellent for the price.

• When you get it running smoothly and understand what makes it crash; you can avoid 90% of the frustration of this device.

 

What to avoid doing to limit Software Crashes – M Audio Firewire 410 Review results:

• Some operation needs may cause you to constantly run into the 410’s instability issues. The main action that confuses this unit is when you need to manually switch from a digital to an internal feed.

o This unit can auto sense internal PC music playback including switching from 48k to 44.1, or even 88.2 and 96k.

• But it cannot auto sense the S/PDIF incoming signal

o The act of manually switching this back and forth is where I had major problems. Although, sometimes it would do it without complaining.

o When you do switch manually to SPDIF through a fiber optic audio cable or coax audio cable you will need to switch back to “internal” in order to read any PC playback data. It cannot auto switch by itself.

• This unit seems to like Windows 7 better than Windows XP (in my experience)

o I am using this unit on a Win 7 PC now and have experienced no problems thus far – but I am also using all of the tricks I have learned listed above.

The good news is that this is a very inexpensive and high sound quality option if it has the inputs and outputs that you are in need of. I eventually outgrew the capabilities of this machine and put it to use elsewhere on another project. It is still in use today and working quite well but this is only after I learned to use all of the above methods for smooth operation. If you get one; do yourself a favor and adhere to my described M Audio firewire 410 review ‘anti crashing’ techniques above.

This is a high performance device (sonically for the budget) but should only be used by a consumer who is willing to work around its limitations and quirks. I have used this unit for other digital audio recorder reviews and audio editing software reviews with success over the last few years.

However, I have become quite accustomed to the quirks of this device and know how to fix problems should they arise. You may be tempted to look into audio mixer reviews of other products, but doing so will almost certainly involve substantially more investment.

Summary – M Audio Firewire 410 Review:

Echo Audiofire 12 firewire device

I have been able to troubleshoot this device and it has served me for over 2 years.

But many folks will be driven into the madhouse if they don’t treat this thing carefully. It can be very finicky and frustrating to work with.

So, tread lightly if you are considering it for purchase, although by now it has been replaced by the M Audio Profire 610 but I have heard that it has similar issues as the 410 did.

In case you are wondering; I am using the Echo Audiofire 8 Firewire Interface Device/ firewire DAC, in place of the M Audio Firewire 410 review.

So far, the Echo is working out beautifully and I have not had a single crashing incident. The DAC in the AudioFire 8 seem to be of higher quality too. I will post a full review of this unit in the coming months.

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