I cover this topic in Killer Home Recording, but I’ve got to cover it here too.
I see person after person after person looking for an audio interface ask if either USB 2.0 or Firewire is better. The truth is they are both fairly similar. The specs are close enough. For all practical purposes, for the guy just wanting to make music at home, they are identical.
That I don’t have an issue with.
Then people ALWAYS start discussing which one has greater transient through-put and which one has better sustained bandwidth. Bla bla bla I don’t even have the terminology down. I can’t help but wonder, “Are there this many people out there who are designing or modifying audio interfaces?”. It just blows my mind that so many people are tearing into discrete surface mount technology in their garages.
The truth is no one I know is modifying their audio interface (preamp modifications aside).
So let’s talk about the Tascam US-1641. It’s a USB 2.0 interface with 14 analog inputs (8 preamps) and 2 S/PDIF inputs. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the engineers at Tascam know exactly what they are doing. Tascam has been a respected manufacturer of audio recording products for decades. I certainly have no reason to question their understanding. Most people on the forum probably aren’t in a position to argue with these people either.
I think it’s safe to say the Tascam guys tested the USB 2.0 method quite thoroughly before unleashing this beast to the public. To insinuate that the US-1641 is incapable of 16 simultaneous tracks of recording is also to insinuate that the designers simply through it together in a weekend and shipped it out the door. I have no idea how long R&D takes for an audio interface but I’m guessing it’s substantial. I have no idea what it costs to configure a factory to produce these things, but, again, I think it’s substantial! To say that Tascam or any other manufacturer of USB 2.0 audio interfaces is releasing products that simple are incapable of doing the job seems to be complete madness to me.
So What Is The Debate?
If USB 2.0 is totally capable of 16 simultaneous tracks or recording (probably more) day in and day out, what are we debating? People often make the claim that Firewire is better because of it’s persistent connection. What is guy recording at home going to gain?
Taking It Further
If a person really wanted to criticize a product for it’s computer connection method, we should take a look at all aspects of the design of that interface. What is the metal housing made of? I’m sure whatever the nearly retired space Shuttle Endeavor is made of is probably stronger. What about the power supply? I’m sure for $4,000,000 we can find a more stable power supply. What about input jacks for XLR and 1/4”? Are they gold plated? Wouldn’t that be better?
The truth is you can always find ways to make the design of a machine better, but that doesn’t mean that product itself will be any more effective at what it is designed to do. I’m don’t see how either USB 2.0 or Firewire is going to make better recordings more reliably. They both seem to be quite adequate.