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[linrad] Presonus FireBox and Linrad, Winrad, and Rocky with the SoftRock

Hi, All,

I got a Presonus FireBox 24 Bit /96 kHz sampling rate soundbox on Saturday at Dayton, and thought I should report on my results with it to the Winrad, Linrad, and SoftRock reflectors as there have been questions / mentions of this card on each of these reflectors, and I did have some significant 'issues' with the installation and use of the card.

Today I got around to hooking up the FireBox and playing with it and one of my v6.0 SoftRocks on 80 and 40 meters, using the PTS synthesizer as LO as usual.

The most severe problem with the FireBox occurs with Rocky 1.5, and I discuss it at the end of this email.

Thus far I have tested the FireBox using Windows XP on two computers. This first is my Dell Inspiron 600m Laptop. This has a 1.6 GHz Pentium M with 512MB of RAM. I have also tested the FireBox using Windows XP in my Dell Dimiension 8400 which has a 3.2 GHz Pentium 4 with 1.5 GB of RAM.

Both ot these computers did not come with a firewire port and thus needed to have a firewire port added, and I ran into some unexpected and troublesome issues with these ports.

I belatedly discovered the following 'small print' at the bottom of a page on the Presonus website that was referenced from their FireBox FAQ page [ http://presonus.com/compatibility.html is the URL] :
Hardware Incompatibility

- ATI RADEON 9000/9001 IGP video chipset. Symptoms are consistent clicks and pops during audio playback. This video chipset is only found in PC laptops and is entirely integrated as the computer's only video controller. We strongly recommend that you do not get a system with this chipset, as there is currently no workaround for this incompatibility.

- USB/firewire and s400/s800 combo cards are not compatible. Symptoms are usually no audio recording/playback but device will install and sync, erratic audio performance and rarely will not allow the device to install or sync. We recommend a firewire card that ONLY has s400 firewire connections and preferably with a Texas Instruments or VIA chipset.

- Firewire cards with NEC chipsets are not compatible. Symptoms are similar or the same as combo cards.

Some but not all of my problems were predicted based on the above.

It is NOT easy to find out what chipset a particular Firewire card uses, although I was eventually able to do it for each of the cards I tested.

I tested an Adaptec FireConnect 4300 PCI Card in the Dimension 8400. This has a Texas Instruments Chipset, is not a combo card, and works fine as predicted from the above.

Also in the Dimension 8400 I tested a StarTech PCI Firewire 800 Card. This is an 800/400 combo. With this card in place the Firebox was never recognized by the computer. This has Texas Instrument chipset. It was a total failure and I plan to return it.

In the Inspiron 600m Laptop I tested an Adaptec AFW-1430V FireConnect Notebook Cardbus Card. This used the NEC Chipset. Linrad and Winrad and CoolEdit all lock up at all speeds tested with this card. I returned it.

Also in the Laptop I tested the Dynex DX-FC202 400 Notebook PCMCIA card. It works at low sampling rates only. This was a surprise, as it uses the VIA chipset and is not a combo card. It 'should' have worked.

SIIG FireWire 800 CardBus. This was a pleasant surprise, although not a complete success. It is a Texas Instruments chipset based 400/800 combo card. Thus it would not be expected to work. But it worked somewhat better than the Dynex, working at up to 48 kHz sampling rates without problems.

It may be that the skipping and breakup I have when I try to exceed 48 kHz sampling rate on the laptop are not secondary to the Firewire cards. But I am able to play back previously recorded 96000 Hz sampling rate wave files and process them in Linrad and Winrad with no problems on the laptop when using the onboard sound [as discusses several months ago].

Although the FIrebox is reported to have better dynamic range than the Delta44, it has two problems relative to the Delta44 when used with my SoftRock 6.0.

First of all, its spectrum is signficantly less flat at 96000 Hz sampling rate. Look at
to appreciate this.

Secondly, there is a problem with imaging with the Firebox that is not there with the Delta44. Look at the same gif files at 24KHz and 76 KHz and also 17-18 kHz and 68-69 kHz to see what I mean. There are image problems with the Firebox that are not present with the Delta44. I checked and rechecked the connections to the Firebox to make sure they were solid and that the connectors were fully seated. I used the same cable for both the Firebox and the Delta44. So, while I would suspect a cable problem on the basis of the problem described, the cable is the same as that used for the Delta44 and the connections were carefully checked and no problems were found.

To make these comparisons between the Delta44 and the FireBox I just unplugged the 1/4 inch phono plugs coming from the SoftRock output to the Firebox and then plugged them into the Delta44 breakout box.

As an aside for those of you looking for hen's teeth, the red coloring of the main spectrum in the firebox gif is because, with its increased gain in the central part of the spectrum, the amplitude level just crosses the threshold that was set for 'strong' signals in Linrad. Nothing more.

So the Delta44 seems a better choice. Since I have not come close to saturating it here, the loss of dynamic range is outweighed by the other two factors noted.

I AM using the Firebox as OUTPUT from Linrad and Winrad [but not from Rocky--see below], as I can just plug my Heil Headset into it and it has a nice headphone volume control. But I don't know that I would recommend paying $300 for that functionality. The Delta44 is much cheaper and to me does a better job in ways I consider important.

And now to the major problem I have with the FireBox and Rocky. With ROCKY 1.5 there is NO evidence of any signal when the Firebox is used as input. This is with the proper input selected under 'settings', of course. And if I select the Firebox as output for Rocky, and the Delta44 as input, then I get input to Rocky and a nice spectral display, but no audio out. So Rocky seems to be able to get NO signal into or out to the FireBox. Why this happens, I have no idea. THe FIrebox does fine with output from Linrad and Winrad, and with standard Windows Sounds, and even plays my windows MP3 CDs! I am listening to a nice stereo recording of Bill Evans playing thru the FireBox as I type this note, and it sounds great!

I haven't tried Linux yet. But I believe there is BeBob available as a Linux Driver for the Firebox, and so if I can get it working there [or not] I will report back.

Any helpful comments on the above would be welcome. If you have gotten it working with an addon Firewire card and Rocky 1.5, I'd be most interested in your recommendations!


Roger Rehr

Roger Rehr

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