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Tips for achieving FireWire bliss

The FireWire 800 (1394b) sockets on the Paca and Pacarana provide a high speed data link between your audio interface, host computer and Kyma. If you treat them with the same care and attention you would give to a high-speed sports car (and don't lend out your keys), they will serve you speedily and well for many years to come! The following tips will help keep your Paca(rana) running in top form.

Top Ten Tips

  1. Avoid plugging or unplugging the FireWire cables when your audio interface, computer or Paca(rana) is powered on
  2. When plugging in the FireWire cable, make sure that the cable is connected in the correct orientation (not upside down)
  3. Be gentle with the FireWire connections, they require very little force to be connected properly
  4. The FireWire cable should plug straight into the connector on the back of the Paca(rana) and the cable should not have any tension on it
  5. Use 1394b bilingual cables (see diagram below)
  6. For extra protection, use a FireWire 800 or FireWire 400 hub; leave the Paca(rana) permanently connected and do all plugging/unplugging into the hub
  7. Make sure you connect to the correct FireWire bus (your computer may have more than one)
  8. For fastest speeds, connect the Paca(rana) directly to the FireWire 800 port of your computer or to a FireWire 800 hub (rather than through a FireWire 400 device or hub)
  9. You can use the two Paca(rana) ports to daisy-chain devices, but the daisy-chain only works while the Paca(rana) is powered on
  10. When using an Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter, all of these same tips apply


Don't Get Thrown Under the Bus (Power)

If your computer is powered on when you plug or unplug a FireWire cable, there is a a small chance that the high-voltage FireWire bus power could be briefly connected to the low-voltage FireWire data connections. If this happens, the FireWire ports of the Paca(rana), the computer, and/or the audio interface can be damaged. So, please turn off your audio interface, computer and your Paca(rana) when changing FireWire cables around.

Handle with Care

The connection surfaces of FireWire plugs and sockets are on the side of the connector and not on the end of the connector. "Pushing harder to make sure it's really plugged in" does not improve the FireWire connection; in fact, pushing harder only stresses the electrical connections and mechanical anchors of the socket.

All FireWire 800 connectors are sensitive to pressure and cable movement. The FireWire cable should plug straight into the connector on the back of the Paca(rana) and the cable should not have any tension on it. That includes tension due to gravity pulling on the cable, so whenever possible, try to run the cable across a table or desk rather than letting it hang off the edge. The FireWire connection can become unreliable if the cable connector is at an angle to the Paca(rana) connector or if there is any pressure applied to the connector.

Never unplug a FireWire connection (or any other kind of connection) by the pulling on the cable. To disconnect a FireWire connection, grasp the FireWire connector where it meets the socket and gently pull the connector straight out.

Parlez-vous FireWire?

The bilingual 1394b connector has a narrow notch that provides a better friction fit and is less likely to disconnect due to tension on the FireWire cable. The image below compares the bilingual and beta 1394 connectors (notice the size of the notch on the top front of each of the connectors):


The 1394 standard specifies that the bilingual connector must be used on 1394b to 1394a cables and are permitted on 1394b to 1394b cables. The standard also specifies that the beta connector is permitted on 1394b to 1394b cables only. (The reason for the restriction is to prevent FireWire-800-only devices from being connected to FireWire 400 devices.)

Unfortunately, the FireWire cable manufacturers do not always follow the standard which means that you will sometimes find the bilingual connector on one end of a FireWire 800 to 400 cable. Since it is not possible to rely on the cable manufacturer having used the correct connectors, it is important to inspect any FireWire cables that will be used to make sure that they use the narrow-notched bilingual connectors.

Use the Hub-and-Spoke System

If you will be moving your Paca(rana) (or plugging/unplugging FireWire cables) often, it is a good idea to use a FireWire hub as the central point for connecting all of your FireWire devices.

When using the hub, you would connect each FireWire device (computer, Paca(rana), audio interface) to the hub. This helps reduce some wear-and-tear on the FireWire connectors of each device and can help prevent any cable and connector mishaps from damaging more than one device.

Belkin FireWire 400 Hub UniBrain FireWire 800 Hub

Get on the Right Bus

Sometimes, a computer will have more than one FireWire bus (for example, when a FireWire expansion is added to a computer that has built-in FireWire). If this is the case, make sure that the Paca(rana) and its FireWire audio interface are connected to the same bus.

Use the Express Lane

You will get the highest performance out of Kyma (faster communications and faster downloading of Sounds and samples) if you connect the Paca(rana) directly to a FireWire 800 port on your computer. If you are using a FireWire 800 hub, you will get the same high performance.

An Electronic Garland

The two FireWire ports on the Paca(rana) can be used to daisy-chain FireWire devices.

For example, you could connect the computer to one FireWire port and your audio interface to the other. When the Paca(rana) is powered on, the Paca(rana), computer, and audio interface are connected to one another on the same FireWire network. When the Paca(rana) is turned off, none of these devices is connected to each other.

Thundering Fire

An Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter provides a FireWire 800 port indistinguishable from a built-in FireWire 800 port. All the same tips apply when you're using a Thunderbolt/FireWire adapter cable.

-- KurtHebel - 01 Jul 2013

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