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A box that converts AES to firewire/usb?
Old 4th June 2003
Lives for gear
Zep Dude's Avatar

A box that converts AES to firewire/usb?


I'm trying to go from a nice outboard converter to my laptop for hi end remote recording. The easiest and cheapest way would be to find a box that has AES/ebu signal input and send it via firewire or USB2 to the laptop. I only need two channels.

Of course I can spend $1000 and do this but it would be paying for alot of channels and AD/DA I won't use. Is there a cheaper dedicated box?


Old 5th June 2003
Lives for gear

I actually was looking for such a thing and spoke to a lot of people this past NAMM show, but got a lot of blank stares. They all see mlan/firewire as an entry level, cram it all in one box kind of thing. It makes sense that you'd have to put a lot into a box to raise the profit against the software r&D, when you think about it. Maybe when the software is widespread and the hardware is cheap, someone like HOSA will make one.

In the meantime, there's no card that goes aes to firewire. Your only option is pcmicia, and the best option there is the RME Digiface, which has a pcmcia card that connects to a breakout box with stereo aes/spdf, 24 channels of lightpipe, and 2 midi i/o. It works up to 96k. I have one I'm selling for $550 if you are interested (new street is $850).

Email me if you are interested,

[email protected]
Old 6th June 2003
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Zep Dude's Avatar

I'll consider it, thanks. The other option is to just get an AES to spidf converter for $75 and then one of the many cheapo boxes that convert spidf to Firewire/usb. I have to find out if this degrades the signal. For that matter, I'm curious is any of these firewire/usb interfaces have sonic issues -I mean, let's face it, ALL computer based DAW's have some issues.
Old 6th June 2003
Lives for gear

None of the usb/firwire boxes will have very good pll's, so there is a hit with sound. There will be more jitter.

But more problematic with computer audio in general, and especially with these firewire/usb things, is the driver reliability. From basic "does it even work" to how low you can or, more likely, can't get your latency, there are a lot of variables in these things since they are all, with the exception of the apogee, consumer level.

The usb drivers tend to consistently be a pita due to the nature of usb- the system is constantly polling and juggling the bus, making it pretty flaky for the rigid timing demands of audio. I haven't seen a single usb audio box that lived up to its promises.

Firewire is much better, but again the drivers are the issue. It is damn hard to program that stuff well, and Apple is constantly shifting things under the developers, who are little tiny companies without resources to always keep up. Only a couple of companies seem to get it well. It will be interesting to see how many of them will consistently continue updating software in two or three years for legacy boxes as Apple keeps shifting the os.

One major point to watch is to make sure you know how they do their low-latency cue monitoring. Some follow the super cheap analog model, where the analog in gets switched to the analog out, which makes two problems: it comes out panned left or right, or all your audio goes mono!!! (talk about garbage you wouldn't even think someone would consider). Some will do asio direct monitoring, and will have the same problem as above unless they have a cuemix application to do routing and panning (this is what the RME box does), and some won't deal with it at all. Look carefully.

Sorry to go to such detail, but I've been burned a lot in the world of host-based audio, and I've learned you really have to read between the lines a lot.

Go to the user forums of anything you would consider buying before spending any dough. If you find any problems, run away.
Old 6th June 2003
Lives for gear
atticus's Avatar
I bet we could do something like this.
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