Apple aren't making it easy for pro-audio people, that's for sure.
After a friend's MacBook Pro 15in 'Santa Rosa' -- the last machine to use a TI 1394 chip -- had its onboard NVIDIA GPU fail and Apple refused to repair it (despite Apple's own admission and willingness to fix), he was co-erced by the Apple Store's resident [s]Idiot[/s]Genius to buy a new machine, so he came home with a brand new MacBook Pro 15in with a 2.66 GHz Core i7 (aka MacBookPro6,2, model A1286-2353, or MC373LL/A) and enlisted my help transferring everything over.
Bear in mind that he uses Windows XP Pro (w. SP3), Cubase SX 3 and Ableton Live 8 exclusively -- he bought the MacBook Pro solely to run Windows because of the sturdy aluminum casing, and it was a quarter the price of a Toughbook. His Fireface 400 had worked flawlessly on the older 'Santa Rosa', especially once he'd followed Timur's Tweak Guide.
Unfortunately, this new MacBook does not have an ExpressCard slot, and also uses an Agere revision 8 chip feeding a single FW800 9-pin connector, which exhibits exactly the same faults as the revision 6 -- the Fireface 400 is totally incapable of maintaining sync, either under Windows XP or via Mac OS X 10.6.4 (tested with Ableton Live 8). Within five seconds of the interface being activated (either by ASIO or by CoreAudio) the master outputs develop a 2.6 Hz ticking which rapidly evolves to a chirping noise.
The Fireface 400 is running the latest firmware, and the latest drivers for each OS were downloaded and installed.
Things I have tried, with no success:
- Applying all manner of Microsoft's 1394-oriented hotfixes to XP SP3
- Installing XP SP2 and applying appropriate hotfixes.
- Install and update Ableton Live 8.1.4 as only audio app onto fresh XP SP3 install -- sync noise persists.
- Install Propellerhads Reason 4.01 as only audio app onto fresh XP SP3 install -- sync noise persists.
- Downloading a pirate version of Cubase 5.1.2 and installing it onto yet another fresh install of XP SP3, in the hope that its newer ASIO structure may help -- sync noise persists.
- Installed Windows 7 Professional (32-bit), ensured Boot Camp was up to date (version 3.1 build 2318) and latest FF400 driver for Win7 installed, then installed Ableton Live 8.1.4 as only audio app, using ASIO Fireface for output -- sync noise persists.
- Replace Fireface 400 with M-Audio Fire interface -- sync noise happens then the interface dies with no audio.
- Insert Oxford-based Sarotec self-powered external hard drive as a hub between MacBook Pro and the Fireface, using 9-pin to 9-pin cable between Mac and drive, and 6-pin to 6-pin cable between drive and Fireface -- sync noise persists.
- Insert Oxford-based Sarotec self-powered external hard drive as a hub between MacBook Pro and the Fireface, using 9-pin to 6-pin cable between Mac and drive, and 9-pin to 6-pin cable between drive and Fireface -- sync noise persists.
With all Windows-based test above, I opened the Fireface control panel and under the Fireface(1) tab, SyncCheck reported "No lock" for all three entries. Changing clock mode had no effect. Enabling DDS and changing the frequency will adjust the frequency of the ticking/chirping proportionally. Changing buffer size would reset the Fireface but the ticking would begin again almost immediately.
Sorry, chaps, but as far as this reasonably exhausting testing shows, the MacBook Pro's current implementation of 1394 is absolutely useless for pro audio, no matter which OS you're using. If you want to use a laptop and OSX (or as my friend does, Windows via Boot Camp), you have one choice -- use a MacBook Pro with an ExpressCard slot and put a TI-based 1394a/b ExpressCard controller in it.
Thankfully, our lemon-laws allow me to wield a crowbar at the Apple [s]Idiot[/s]Genius into accepting the new MacBook Pro back for a full refund, and my friend is going to buy an Asus we've located that still uses TI for onboard 1394.
(Ever wondered where the refurbished Macs on the Apple Store website come from? Now you know )