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Firewire Vs. USB Information Modular Synthesizers
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear

Firewire Vs. USB Information

I ran across this site that explains the differences, strengths and weaknesses of firewire and usb applications, I thought it would be a good resource to share with all of you.

Firewire vs. USB: A Comparison IEEE 1394 IEEE 1394a IEEE 1394b USB1.1 USB2.0 USB 2.0 Hi-Speed-Best Computer Online Store Houston Buy Discount Prices

The conclusion = USB is good for compatibility, almost every computer has USB these days, but for more data/storage intense applicatioins, firewire has a better sustained throughput, allowing it to have greater transfer speeds than USB, making it ideal for external harddrives (Not to mention firewire is capable of 30V of power compared to USB's 5V, making it easier to power an external harddrive without a bulky power brick).

E-SATA is another option for external harddrives, because it offers internal harddrive speeds, so it's a lot faster than USB or Firewire in that case, but E-SATA doesnt provide any voltage, which would make it less useful in mobile applications.
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear
LoopQuantum's Avatar

Something really pertinent to us audio folks, however, is the idea of how the data transfer takes place. USB2 is, while slightly faster, isochrynous. Firewire is asynchronous.

What does this mean?

Imagine a 1 lane highway with a speed limit of 200 mph. Now imagine a 4 lane highway with a speed limit of 70 mph. In theory, both roads would move the same amount of traffic in a given time, but which road would you feel safer on?

To bring the analogy home....think of USB as the 1 lane road, and FW as the 4 lane. This is especially important to us, as audio is generally, to make nondestructive editing possible, rendered as lots of little files. So that 1 lane road gets pretty scary.

In addition, the article sites one of the weaknesses of FW to be compatibility........really?? How commonplace are PCI, PCIE, and PCMCIA FW cards these days?

ESata is something that this judgment could PERHAPS be made about, but not FW, not these days.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to marry firewire. We'll write from the honeymoon.
Old 29th August 2007
Lives for gear

I think they were just saying that because USB is absolutely the standard right now, firewire doesnt come standard on nearly as many machines as USB. of course you can buy a card but if you take your drive/peripheral to a friends house, the chances of them having firewire is much less than USB..

this is where the harddrive enclosures that offer firewire in addition to USB would be very beneficial.. you could use the drive absolutely anywhere but still take advantage of the faster firewire capabilities.
Old 30th August 2007
I think a good indicator of USB 2.0 for audio is the number of true USB 2.0 high speed interfaces available. I think you can count them on one hand. On the other side of the fence you have firewire - you could fill a whole encyclopedia with firewire interfaces. It is absolutely true that there are FAR fewer firewire capable PC's on the market than USB 2.0, but firewire's a good, reliable way to go, so audio has embraced it.

Usually people refer to USB 2.0 as "burst transfer". It's fast, but can't seem to maintain the fast speed. Pretty inconsistent.
Old 30th August 2007
Gear Maniac
mwd's Avatar

USB is "technically" faster but as mentioned is a burst method which is great for small files, mice, keyboards and printers.

FW's streaming method excels at large files making it shine on audio/video apps.

For me eSATA's been blowing em' both in the weeds.
Old 30th August 2007
Lives for gear

yeah, but esata is far from being as popular and it can't provide its own power... that makes it less good looking to us mobile users...

also, I think ESATA is only good for maybe highspeed harddrives, most devices dont even use up the potential speed that they are being provided via firewire and USB... its when you get into the data heavy ones that the speed becomes an issue, also why USB is more popular.
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