Presonus Firestation Info. - Aron Nelson
Update 2-6-2009 OS X 10.5.6
2X2.8Ghz Quad Core Mac Pro - It works! I set mLAN auto connector to 44.1Khz and clock to EXTERNAL in the preferences. On the Firestation, CLOCK is INT and 44.1 is lit. So it still works fine. I have not tested MIDI in a long time. Bizarre! MIDI works as well. Amazing.
Update 2-22-05 OSX 10.3.7
Unbelievable, it works for audio. I haven't tested MIDI on the Firestation in a long time, but audio works. Hot-swapping any firewire device will render the interface useless until you disconnect then reconnect with the mLAN auto connector, but it works.
Part of it may be that I am using a dual G5 now. Oh well.
Update 8/26/04 OS X 10.3.5
Every time I record at 44.14K I get a spike in the audio. It happens on the 2nd 16th of some audio files. It's a full volume spike of 5-6 frames.
I have absolutely no proof, but in my mind it's a bug. I've talked to Yamaha and was basically told my machine is too slow (which it probably is). It's a 550Mhz TiBook which has worked for me in the past very reliably. I have been able to work with the Firestation in 9 and X in the past.
Here's the real deal. Basically a portion of the mLAN processing which was handled in hardware in the Firestation is now handled by the host computer. That's why you see the massive increase in Mhz requirements for 10.3.x for mLAN.
Regardless of this, I cannot and refuse to believe that my 550Mhz machine cannot record 2 channels of audio reliably.
I believe those repeatable spikes are from the driver - not the application since it happens with other programs and I think it's a bug in the mLAN driver.
I have since found that my Firestation should work under 9 and XP, so I think I'm considering getting rid of it.
When I see a MOTU 828 record under OS X on a G3 iBook, I know my computer should be able to do 2 tracks without these problems.
If mLAN cannot record 2 tracks under OS X with the Firestation because my computer is too slow, I think that Yamaha should reconsider how they write their drivers because the reality is that almost every other device can easily record 2 tracks on my machine. Even the cheap Griffin iMic.
Update 8/24/04 OS X 10.3.5
I updated my Firestation to support the newest drivers. (V1.0.2b). I am able to get sync every single time under OS X using the mLAN Auto Connector, which BTW does not auto connect anything. In fact, the sample rate popup is not even sticky! (forgets every time!).
Using Logic Audio, I noticed spikes in the waveform and after recording Logic would tell me that the waveform is clipped (usually 5-6 samples). Yep, full on spikes in the data! What I found is that with 48Khz, I cannot record for more than 2 mins without the Firestation losing sync completely and Logics meters becoming pegged with noise. If I record with 44.14K there will be 1 spike per track right near the beginning of the audio and then it will eventually start pegging the meters with noise.
I tried with a demo of Tracktion and even before I started recording I could see the spikes in Tracktions meters.
These spikes are being generated by the driver I believe. If I "listen" to the Firestation, I don't see these spikes.
End result, a completely useless recording device at this date. Very depressing. If you know of a fix, contact me.
It's possible that Apple has still not fixed the problem where you need to boot into OS 9 to setup the Firestation before you can use it under X. I left my Firestation turned off for a couple of days and now it will not “sync” to OS X. As usual, I started in 9,opened the mLAN doc and clicked on Apply.
After that the Firestation now “syncs” to OS X. This is bad for people that only own computers that boot into X.
OK, 10.2.5 is out, I installed it immediately. The good news is that the Firestation is working with it perfectly for audio. The bad news is that MIDI is totally screwed up. I used the internal MIDI of the Firestation and I get high notes when I play low notes, weird mistriggers – there's something wrong in the parsing routines of the driver. It is totally useless.
Logic's transport shows chords when I am playing notes etc..
I tried quitting the program etc... nothing. Let me know if it works for you.
Good new is that my USB interface, the Roland UM-1S works perfectly.
With the Roland, audio instrument latency is low (256 on the buffer) and CPU usage seems fine. I ran some quick tests and the preliminary indications is that you should get better performance under X! I was able to play a song synced to a QuickTime movie that was starting to slow down under 9. It ran perfectly fine under X and in fact had much better performance.
Apple, fix the MIDI problems and it will be great!
OK, I have gotten the Firestation to work in OS X. However, it is not reliable IMO. The biggest problem is that the Firestation needs to be already "setup" and ready to go before it is connected to OS X.
What does this mean? It means that you need to boot into 9, get the Firestation setup by loading an mLAN patchbay document and choosing apply. I have found that if you don't do this, the Firestation can get into a state where it will not work with OS X at all, no matter what I do.
You can tell if it's working properly by the mLAN/44.1 green LED. If it's blinking and you are booted in X, you don't have sync and it will not work. The mLAN/44.1 green LED should remain solidly lit under X and only flash for a short period sometimes while launching Logic or other CoreAudio applications.
I have had 2 occasions where I had to go back to 9 and "apply" changes to get the Firestation to work under X again. The mLAN patchbay does not work in Classic mode so you cannot "apply" the mLAN patchbay settings in Classic/X.
This is a bummer since newer computers cannot boot into 9 which will render the Firestation unable to get sync under X. Hopefully some info will come about on how to get the Firestation so we can "reset" and "apply" our mLAN patchbay doc setttings under X.
Right now, to get it working, the most reliable way is to boot under 9. Apply your mLAN patchbay document, verify that EXT mLAN/44.1 is solidly lit. Boot back into X and then leave your Firestation on and plugged in.
From my testing, you do not need to launch Audio MIDI Setup application at all. Even if you do, you can choose the Firestation as a device but the sliders and parameters are disabled. This does not seems to affect performance as you can still choose the inputs and outputs in Logic etc...
There is a bit of good news. Logic's performance meter under X is ... nothing!!!!! Nothing is lit with the Firestation using 8 ins and outs!
This document was created to help new users of the Presonus Firestation with the Macintosh. It is working for me with Logic Audio 5 and Vision 4.5 under OS 9.
I received my Presonus Firestation on Sept. 9th, 2002, here are the issues I encountered.
Important, enable receive on your device!
First of all, check out the web site for the quick setup guide. Do the following before you setup the mLAN patchbay and OMS Setup! As of 9/12/02 the information was still not updated on their web site.
Before you setup the mLAN patchbay and OMS Setup, you must first open the mLAN control panel (Apple Menu->Control Panels->mLAN control panel) and click on "Receive". If you don't do this before setting up the mLAN Patchbay, you will not have 16 items like the quick start describes.
I have verified that all Firestations ship with receive disabled so this is a major problem since no shipping Firestation will receive data as shipped. This means no MIDI in, no audio in either.
Once you open the control panel and check receive you can continue on and setup the mLAN patchbay, OMS Setup and the rest of the quick setup guide.
In the mLAN Patchbay, you need to setup the 16 FROM and TO items as follows:
FROM should have:
PRESONUS mLAN-FIRESTAT 0078 Output 1 44.1kHZ, IEC958
PRESONUS mLAN-FIRESTAT 0078 Output 2 44.1kHZ, IEC958
etc... Outputs 1-8
TO should have:
YAMAHA MacDrvr MacDrvr Input 01 44.1kHZ, IEC958
YAMAHA MacDrvr MacDrvr Input 02 44.1kHZ, IEC958
etc... Inputs 1-8.
Basically the MacDrvr is the computer itself.
Then you need to setup the next set of 8:
FROM should have:
YAMAHA MacDrvr MacDrvr Output 01 44.1kHZ, Raw
YAMAHA MacDrvr MacDrvr Output 02 44.1kHZ, Raw
etc... Outputs 1-8
TO should have:
PRESONUS mLAN-FIRESTAT 0078 Input 1 44.1kHZ, Raw
PRESONUS mLAN-FIRESTAT 0078 Input 2 44.1kHZ, IEC958
etc... Inputs 1-8.
You need to setup the MIDI port in a similar fashion. Map the FIRESTATION to MacDrvr and vice versa.
What all of this does is map the Firestation ports to the virtual input ports of the Macintosh. The first set of 8 map the Firestation output ports to the Macintosh virtual input ports (the ports you see in software). The 2nd set of 8 map the Macintosh virtual output ports to the Firestation input ports.
Choose EXT and mLAN
If you are using the Firestation with a Macintosh, you must have EXT chosen on the front panel under CLOCK and mLAN chosen as the clock source. You must do this to avoid clicks.
Setup your buffers in the mLAN control panel.
On my Powerbook G4, I was able to setup my computer with 15 buffers, Buffer Length of 1 msec for Send and 11 Buffers, Buffer Length 2 msc for Receive. The Receive settings seem to need the most attention. I have found more buffers and shorter lengths to be better than less buffers and longer lengths in terms of latency. With these settings, software synthesizers are playable and recordable - much better than the stock settings.
Presonus has since posted a good .PDF about setting your buffers. Using the article as a guide I was able to reduce my latency by a significant amount - although still not as low as the internal AV of my Powerbook.
In the mLAN control panel, the Isochonous Ch. area will have "Barber poles" spinning. Usually this means it's waiting for something to happen, but in this case, it means communication is ok. This is somewhat in violation of user interface guidlines, but it is good to know that it will never stop spinning unless something's wrong.
Setup Logic's ASIO settings
In Logic, Audio->Audio Hardware & Drivers->ASIO->ASIO Buffer Delay In, set this to -2 for accurate audio timestamping. Out can be left on zero.
Always Apply your mLAN Patchbay settings after altering settings in mLAN control Panel
Yes, after making changes in the mLAN control panel, you need to go into the mLAN Patchbay and click Apply.
Always turn on Firestation, plug into Firewire port in Macintosh, then start up your Macintosh.
Double-Check OMS Setup
In OMS Setup, double click on the mLAN icon and make sure Sequence 1 is chosen for Send Port 1 and Receive Port 1. Make sure you have a device created in OMS and that it is connected to the mLAN icon with left and right arrows and a device ID of 1. (device ID value doesn't matter in this case).
If you have done all of the above, your Firestation should be working properly.
If you use the MIDI ports of the Firestation with Software Synthesizers like the EXS24 under Logic, playing many notes with the sustain pedal held down can create a situation where MIDI input just "stops". In fact, sometimes playing notes on the keyboard will cause the notes to play 1 or 2 secs later! I don't know if this is a Logic Audio problem or mLAN OMS driver problem. If you use a USB MIDI interface such as the Edirol UM-1, this will not happen. Sometimes, switching into the Finder and back to Logic will fix the problem until it happens again.
MIDI latency does not feel consistent when controlling software synthesizers. With my setup, the Edirol USB MIDI interface has better timing and feel than the Firestation MIDI input/output. Check out this article regarding latency and jitter! In addition, using USB MIDI and Mac AV yielded much better performance and feel than with the Firestation when playing and recording software synthesizers like the ESX 24. Perhaps with Mac AV chosen, Emagic has once again eliminated latency by providing constant latency which is bypassed when using the Firestation! Latency jitter is possibly reduced with USB MIDI due to smaller buffers.
As stated above, all shipping Firestations have receive disabled in the mLAN control panel. You must check receive in the mLAN control panel before you can receive/record any type of data with the Firestation. This must be done before setting up the mLAN Patchbay.
Software Monitoring (or thru) does not work at all with Logic Audio 5 or 4. This does work with Vision 4.5.
Your machine cannot sleep with the Firestation connected under OS 9. Somehow the Firestation prohibits sleep on the computer.
Anywhere from 10% to a 33% of your entire CPU (audio) is used when the Firestation is connected. This is on my Powerbook G4. Unplugging the Firestation and restarting will "free" the CPU and allow you to gain back CPU use when going back to Mac AV in Logic.
It is possible by using the mLAN patchbay, to disable the input ports (so you can't record) and set the output to only ouputs 1 and 2. I found that by disabling the input ports, the "Firewire Traffic" meter is reduced from 43% to 20%. I don't know how much this affects CPU audio performance but it's worth a try for mixing down. Unfortunately, you cannot "just enable 2 input ports" for recording and disable the rest. It's either a bug or limitation in the mLAN patchbay - either all 8 inputs are active or none at all. It looks like a bug since there are menu drop downs for each entry with an associated disconnect choice - but choosing one affects all entries.
OK, it is possible to disable inputs and outputs using the mLAN ASIO control panel. I have done so successfully and will report back if this helps CPU performance. 9/21/02, this did not help much; disabling inputs via the mLAN patchbay works better.
What I did find was that if you disable all input ports via the mLAN Patchbay, the "Firewire Traffic" meter goes down to 20% and this does make a difference. I would suggest switching between active input ports and disabled ones for mixing down. Apparently the Firewire traffic does bog down the CPU.
The Firestation seems like a solid hardware device. The preamps sound good and the overall sound of the unit is very clean. As of 9/12/02 there are no OS X drivers available. The drivers seem to be written by Yamaha so support of the drivers and bug reporting seems unclear. As of 9/12/02 there is only 1 tech support person on call so wait times can be long. Sometimes a call back can take more than a day. Tech support is friendly and helpful.
The unit takes up quite a bit of CPU power just handling the Firewire port, this may be a factor when considering a purchase.*
The MIDI Port is at the moment serviceable but IMO a USB MIDI interface is a must if you want the best performance. I think the smaller buffers of the USB interface possibly reduce latency jitter. I don't like the MIDI/SPDIF adaptor that hangs off the back of the unit. It looks like the cords will break at some point. I have no idea how much a replacement adaptor would be.
Update 1/12/03, I have found a good use for the Firestation MIDI port. It works perfectly for receiving MIDI Time Code. Send LTC to your SMPTE to MIDI converter and connect the MIDI out of the unit to the MIDI in of the Firestation. Now use your USB interface for MIDI input to your sequencer. It works great.
You get lower latency using the USB interface and you get to use your Firestation MIDI in for MIDI Time Code for sync to video.
The unit performs well stand-alone as an A/D, D/A converter and line mixer. The line inputs 1 and 2 take precedence over the Mic preamp inputs. A nice touch are low impedance inputs for XLR, high impedance 1/4" in the "middle" of the XLR for guitars etc.., and line level inputs on the back.
The best prices I received for the Firestation were from:
RME Tech Info Very good info on latency/jitter. Also many articles of interest regarding digital audio.
* I just tried a MOTU 828. Installation was a lot easier and the unit worked right away. I think that latency was slightly less and it didn't not draw as much CPU resources. It was a nice box, but the hardware-wise the Presonus is much more.