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Need for high quality Firewire cable from external drive to MBP?


blaven

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I am using a Macbook Pro with an internal SSD and A+ as music server. My music is all stored on a 1TB external G-Tech Firewire Drive.

 

I use a Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB Cable between MBP and DAC.

 

How important is the quality of the Firewire Cable running from that external drive to the Macbook?

 

I do notice that the plug will occasionally toggle out of the Macbook with even the slightest movement, so was looking at a mild upgrade, like a Belkin or something.

 

Logically, I can't see why a higher end cable like say an AQ Carbon would do anything better. I can see how it might be helpful if carrying data to the DAC, but this is just carrying data from external drive to MBP.

 

I know enough to know that I don't know.

Aurender S10--> Berkeley Alpha USB—> Meitner MA-1 --> Audio Research REF6 Pre --> Audio Research REF-110-->Vandersteen Quatro CT Speakers

 

Sonore UltraRendu with Uptone power supply —> Meitner MA1

 

AQ Sky XLR Interconnects, Audioquest Diamond USB, Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB, Nordost Heimdall 2 AES-EBU

 

AMG Giro Turntable w Lyra Delos Cartridge —> Audio Research Ref 3 PhonoPre

 

HRS RXR Rack with Isolation Bases

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While a digital cable will not impart a difference in sound quality, tight terminals are always preferred. If nothing else, this will reduce friction on the contacts within the MBP and external drive....both fairly expensive to replace. Nothing too expensive.....a Belkin will do just fine.

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Thanks!

Aurender S10--> Berkeley Alpha USB—> Meitner MA-1 --> Audio Research REF6 Pre --> Audio Research REF-110-->Vandersteen Quatro CT Speakers

 

Sonore UltraRendu with Uptone power supply —> Meitner MA1

 

AQ Sky XLR Interconnects, Audioquest Diamond USB, Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB, Nordost Heimdall 2 AES-EBU

 

AMG Giro Turntable w Lyra Delos Cartridge —> Audio Research Ref 3 PhonoPre

 

HRS RXR Rack with Isolation Bases

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Pearstone FireWire 800 9-Pin to 9-Pin Cable - 3' (0.9 m) FW-9903

 

 

I have cut open many cables to cut the power leg going to my dac. These Pearstone FW cables are as well built internally as Oyaide, Audioquest, Granite, and the other expensive FW cables. And nice plugs. Actually better build than some and all of the ones in this price range.

Assumed you need a 9 pin to 9 pin. Available is other lengths. Never seen these for sale anywhere but B&H Photo.

 

2012 Mac Mini, i5 - 2.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM. SSD,  PM/PV software, Focusrite Clarett 4Pre 4 channel interface. Daysequerra M4.0X Broadcast monitor., My_Ref Evolution rev a , Klipsch La Scala II, Blue Sky Sub 12

Clarett used as ADC for vinyl rips.

Corning Optical Thunderbolt cable used to connect computer to 4Pre. Dac fed by iFi iPower and Noise Trapper isolation transformer. 

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Having read this review, I remain skeptical that a cable that is merely plugged into the computer, and not actively transferring data, could affect the playback of files preloaded into memory. And, in this case, for $700, I will not be purchasing one anytime soon.

What makes sense to me is to use the shortest cable possible, and pre-load entire albums into a RAM disk, so that the computer is not communicating with the external HD drive during playback.

 

I am also astonished that many of these high-priced cables are fitted with plastic connectors. Of course they fall out. There is nothing to hold them in their sockets.

I prefer FireWire 800 cables with metal connectors. These have little prongs, two on one side, and one on the other, that can be gently bent outward with a small screwdriver, if necessary. When clipped into the female connectors on the computer/HD, these hold more securely. Not sure where you can buy these in the aftermarket, but they are out there. G-Technology FireWire 800 drives include a .5 meter 800/800 cable like this, and a FW 400/800 cable, too.

 

DSC04141.JPG

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While there is always a debate regarding the impact of cables on actual performance I have been of the opinion that better interconnects, speaker cables and power cables can make a difference. When it comes to digital cables of all kinds (USB, FireWire, Optical etc) I am still a proponent and believe in having a reasonably well built cable I have never been able to reliably discern an audible difference. If you are experiencing a loose connection then most certainly get a good constructed cable to replace it but don't expect wonders of revelation for the sound.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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Having read this review, I remain skeptical that a cable that is merely plugged into the computer, and not actively transferring data, could affect the playback of files preloaded into memory. And, in this case, for $700, I will not be purchasing one anytime soon.

What makes sense to me is to use the shortest cable possible, and pre-load entire albums into a RAM disk, so that the computer is not communicating with the external HD drive during playback.

 

 

I did an unintentional blind test on myself once. I was comparing an SD card to a Firewire drive. I thought the sound was better with the SD card until one trial, when the card didn't show nearly as much improvement over the Firewire drive as it had on prior tracks. When I got up at the end of the track and walked over to the computer, I saw I'd forgotten to unplug the Firewire cable from my laptop. I unplugged the cable and the SD card went back to sounding better.

 

These days I have all my music on SD cards. After copying the tracks I want to play to a RAMdisk, I eject the SD card and physically take it out of the slot. Of course people may not want to fiddle this much, and perhaps others won't hear a difference. If all you want is a decent Firewire cable, I'm sure there are many around that are just fine and fairly inexpensive. I happily used an Audioquest Forest, about $25-$30, for a long time, but you certainly don't need to spend even that much to get a cable that will stay connected.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Pearstone FireWire 800 9-Pin to 9-Pin Cable - 3' (0.9 m) FW-9903

 

 

I have cut open many cables to cut the power leg going to my dac. These Pearstone FW cables are as well built internally as Oyaide, Audioquest, Granite, and the other expensive FW cables. And nice plugs. Actually better build than some and all of the ones in this price range.

Assumed you need a 9 pin to 9 pin. Available is other lengths. Never seen these for sale anywhere but B&H Photo.

 

My notion mirrors this cable configuration. See if you can run the FW drive with its own ps and disable the power cables in the FW cable. You may even be able to try this with a small tag of masking / painters blue tape strategically placed to cover the FW power connection at the plug port. If this is a fairly static cable connection set up, you might try a small piece or two of blue tack on either side of the connector plug to devices to hold them in place better.

 

I've also read that if you can power your HD (music library files) with a good quality linear ps (ie acopian) rather than the switching wall wart ps, that can provide further sonic improvements. I have plans to do this myself eventually.

 

Kenreau

Synology NAS> Aurender W20> AQ Wel AES/XLR> Devialet 200> AQ Castle Rock Bi-Wire> Vandersteen 5As.

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I did an unintentional blind test on myself once. I was comparing an SD card to a Firewire drive. I thought the sound was better with the SD card until one trial, when the card didn't show nearly as much improvement over the Firewire drive as it had on prior tracks. When I got up at the end of the track and walked over to the computer, I saw I'd forgotten to unplug the Firewire cable from my laptop. I unplugged the cable and the SD card went back to sounding better.

 

If I understand you correctly, you are stating that merely having the FW drive connected to the computer with an inexpensive AudioQuest FW cable caused a degredation in SQ, even though you were playing your files from SD cards.

The reviewer that I referenced insisted that merely having the FW drive connected to the computer with an expensive AudioQuest FW cable resulted in improved SQ, even though he was playing his files from RAM memory.

In neither case was the FW HD actually communicating with the computer. Interesting.

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If I understand you correctly, you are stating that merely having the FW drive connected to the computer with an inexpensive AudioQuest FW cable caused a degredation in SQ, even though you were playing your files from SD cards.

The reviewer that I referenced insisted that merely having the FW drive connected to the computer with an expensive AudioQuest FW cable resulted in improved SQ, even though he was playing his files from RAM memory.

In neither case was the FW HD actually communicating with the computer. Interesting.

 

Interesting, I think consistent, and possibly pointing toward a mechanism. If the effect on sound of the FireWire connection depends not on what it does with the data, but on its impact to the overall electrical characteristics of the system, such as available paths for noise conducted through power and ground, then these effects make sense. A cable that does a better job with such noise would provide better sound; and the best SQ would come from completely cutting off any additional pathways for such noise, by eliminating the HDD connection altogether.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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I am using a Macbook Pro with an internal SSD and A+ as music server. My music is all stored on a 1TB external G-Tech Firewire Drive.

 

I'm a little late to the thread here, but I'll toss in my 2 cents anyway. (Blaven, you might want to check out a long report I made about the "sound" of FW interfaces:My Deep Dive: Media Storage Interfaces...

The net of it was that as far as FW goes, FW400 sound better, and is best on drives that have only FW400 ports and no FW800 or USB options. But such enclosures are rare these days, and your G-Tech probably does not have a FW400 port. (And no, it does not matter if your Mac only has a FW800 port; my tests used a 6pin>9pin adapter or cable.)

 

Anyway, as far as a FW cable that stands the best shot at being a slight improvement, what you want is one that has the power leg cut. Those both remove any possible drain on the computer's PS, and also eliminate another noise path. I have been buying these--a nice quality product with tight fitting ends--and getting great service from: USBFireWire.com They offer lots and lengths and any termination combo you wish.

To have them cut the power line for you, you need to phone in your order. I can't remember what reasonable price they charged for that extra service (between $8 and $12 as I recall). They then clamp a ferrite over where the incision was made. They do this all the time as there is a lot of call for it from people who daisy-chain FW devices and from some high-end video camera/production people.

 

Regards,

Alex C.

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Interesting, I think consistent, and possibly pointing toward a mechanism. If the effect on sound of the FireWire connection depends not on what it does with the data, but on its impact to the overall electrical characteristics of the system, such as available paths for noise conducted through power and ground, then these effects make sense. A cable that does a better job with such noise would provide better sound; and the best SQ would come from completely cutting off any additional pathways for such noise, by eliminating the HDD connection altogether.

 

Again, check the power pins…

 

Also, the Firewire spec does have the OS polling the drive every once in a while. There is some sore of "keep alive" signaling going on. Otherwise, for a dismounted drive, even Disk Utility would not see it connected when it polled all buses for mountable volumes.

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Interesting, I think consistent, and possibly pointing toward a mechanism. If the effect on sound of the FireWire connection depends not on what it does with the data, but on its impact to the overall electrical characteristics of the system, such as available paths for noise conducted through power and ground, then these effects make sense. A cable that does a better job with such noise would provide better sound; and the best SQ would come from completely cutting off any additional pathways for such noise, by eliminating the HDD connection altogether.

 

Your statement seems logical, however, reading the review (link on post #4 of this thread), the reviewer is adamant that his system sounds better with the FW cable plugged in, but not in use, as opposed to it being completely disconnected from the computer, as you suggest.

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With the intent of further slimming down the OSX, are there any resident programs that have no use on a dedicated music server but have a tendency to use resources, programs that could or should be eliminated?

I suppose Flash will attempt to establish network access for update checks so could be a likely candidate...any suggestions?

Cheers,

WDW

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With the intent of further slimming down the OSX, are there any resident programs that have no use on a dedicated music server but have a tendency to use resources, programs that could or should be eliminated?

I suppose Flash will attempt to establish network access for update checks so could be a likely candidate...any suggestions?

Cheers,

WDW

 

Sorry...wrong thread !

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Your statement seems logical, however, reading the review (link on post #4 of this thread), the reviewer is adamant that his system sounds better with the FW cable plugged in, but not in use, as opposed to it being completely disconnected from the computer, as you suggest.

 

Well then he's just wrong. ;)

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Or, that $700 FireWire cable acts as an antenna, and attracts magic SQ out of the air.

 

Well, I took that part of the review with some grains of salt:

a) It was done 2 years ago, and the software and techniques used now have advanced a bit;

b) The portion where he talks about "preloading" tracks with the early version of Decibel and then disconnects the FW cable/drive is a little odd (and nowhere earlier in the review does he seem to acknowledge that even "memory" players are affected by the interface over which they get the file from);

c) The kind of change you get from disconnecting/connecting an unused interface (though we know that polling and voltage connection still takes place) ranks as a pretty subtle thing compared to the effects of those interfaces on the transmitted data itself (see prior reports). So while it is quite possible that he interpreted the effect of the continued attachment as somehow complementary for his system, I suspect if Blackburn revisited it with a more up-to-date set-up he might recognize it as something other than better.

 

Sadly, I can not find any information on if the AudioQuest FW cables lift the power leg or not. I think that would be an important thing for prospective buyers to know.

 

Personally, after all of my direct experience and reporting on them, I have moved away from directly attached Firewire drives.

I should try a careful Thunderbolt drive connection (by careful, I mean an enclosure/adapter that has only a TB interface, and one which uses external power). But for now I am VERY happy with my switch-bypassing, Jumbo frame, bonded-pair Ethernet set-up. My music server is headless anyway, and all those OWC Mercury Elite Pro FW drives line up very nicely on my desk.

The only thing connected to my music server is an Ethernet cable and my USB DAC (plus my Swenson linear PS prototype). This Ethernet shared drive set-up sounds markedly better than even my best FW connection (that best was a FW400-only drive with a very short 6>9pin cable with power wires cut, fed by a linear PS). If you know what music stored/played from an SD card on a mini sounds like, then you know what I am getting with this EN config.

 

Cheers,

ALEX C.

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...Personally, after all of my direct experience and reporting on them, I have moved away from directly attached Firewire drives.

I should try a careful Thunderbolt drive connection (by careful, I mean an enclosure/adapter that has only a TB interface, and one which uses external power). But for now I am VERY happy with my switch-bypassing, Jumbo frame, bonded-pair Ethernet set-up. My music server is headless anyway, and all those OWC Mercury Elite Pro FW drives line up very nicely on my desk.

....Ethernet shared drive set-up sounds markedly better than even my best FW connection (that best was a FW400-only drive with a very short 6>9pin cable with power wires cut, fed by a linear PS). If you know what music stored/played from an SD card on a mini sounds like, then you know what I am getting with this EN config.

 

Cheers,

ALEX C.

 

Hi Alex,

 

Please redirect me if I overlooked this some where. I've read a number of your posts, with great interest, back during the holidays as I have a similar macmini music server set up and I have recently maxed out my Oyen 2TB minipro drive (music library) (attached by FW) I was intending to just purchase another 2TB Oyen and daisey chain them and acquire linear ps for them and call it good enough. I read a number of times the Oxford chipset in these Oyen minipro drives were the cats meow and wanted to stay with them (until something new came along, like your findings)

 

Your recent positive sound quality comments about accessing your music library files via a NAS and ethernet have me rethinking this. Rather than sourcing another 2TB Oyen drive, 2 Linear PS, etc. I may just change course and got this route. Could I trouble you to make a recommendation on a NAS set up I might look into? Knowing what you now know and hear, what would get if in my position? I currently have ~2.3 TB of music files to contend with. Is there any prefered NAS build or configuration, chip sets, etc?

 

If this is too much of a thread high jack, I can move it elsewhere.

 

Thanks

Kenreau

Synology NAS> Aurender W20> AQ Wel AES/XLR> Devialet 200> AQ Castle Rock Bi-Wire> Vandersteen 5As.

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I read a number of times the Oxford chipset in these Oyen minipro drives were the cats meow and wanted to stay with them...

 

The Oyens are nice for 2.5" drives. All my drives are 3.5", so I use the OWC units--they are all with Oxford chipsets as well. I do wish that Oyen would sell its Minipro Thunderbolt-only enclosure as an empty or with a hard drive. I'd like to try that, but they only offer it with an SSD.

 

 

Your recent positive sound quality comments about accessing your music library files via a NAS and ethernet have me rethinking this.

 

I am actually not a NAS guy. I am sure that some could be very good--especially if they allow for adjustment of MTU over Gigabit Ethernet, or even with other protocols like UDP/NFS or as a SAN. But I know a lot of people use them as UPnP "drives" and that I am opposed to.

Plus, the key to my set up is that I bypass the Ethernet switch and connect the 25 -ft. Cat6a (the thick and mighty BlueJeans/Belden) cable direct from my desktop controlling/drive sharing mini to the headless music mini. (The use of an Apple Thunderbolt>Gigabit Ethernet Adapter at the desktop is the other part of the trick--it allows me to run a second EN cable (from the adapter) to my switch so I still have net access. (Read this thread for more on that: http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f8-general-forum/uh-oh-i-beat-my-sd-card-trick%3B-bypass-your-ethernet-switch-and-make-your-external-drives-sound-close-ram-disk-using-apple-thunderbolt-ethernet-adaptor-and-second-network-connection-18475/#post277280)

 

Hope this helps. Sorry for the OT folks.

Here's an on-topic FW related link: OWC Oxford FW400 Enclosure

This is one of the few quality enclosures still available (maybe not for much longer?) with just FW400 and USB2.0. It's just $45 (they also sell them with drives installed--Hitachi I think--but I prefer to choose my own single-platter drives), and I find it sounds a lot better than any of the other multi-port OWC Mercury interfaces I have (the others have combinations of FW400/800, eSata, USB3.0). Speed is really not an issue (except at b/u time!), and I like the sound of the electrically quieter interfaces.

 

Anyway, for those who do use Firewire, for goodness sake, order a cable with the power wires cut and see what you think.

 

Ciao,

ALEX

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Thanks Alex, I will read that this weekend. It just dawned on me, I also have an older macmini available in my office. I need to look into that control (macmini) to audio (macmini) configuration as well.

 

Kenreau

Synology NAS> Aurender W20> AQ Wel AES/XLR> Devialet 200> AQ Castle Rock Bi-Wire> Vandersteen 5As.

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Hi Alex,

 

I am reading your posts with great interest and am learning a lot, thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

 

You say that you prefer to choose your own single-platter drives.

Do you mind saying which make and model you prefer?

 

I use an Oyen Mini Pro HD for music storage, with a FW800 connection, and am considering following your steps and try an OWC FW400 enclosure with an Ethernet connection.

 

I'll also look into ordering a FW cable with power wires cut (I don't dare try cutting them myself) to try with the Oyen Mini Pro.

 

Thank you very much in advance,

 

Gilles

MacBook Pro (OS 10.10.4, 16GB RAM, OCZ Vertex3 SSD, external Oyen HD w FireWire, Audirvana+ 2.5.4, BitPerfect 2.0.2) -> Mapleshade Clearlink USB Plus cable -> UpTone Audio USB Regen w UpTone Audio Ultracap LPS-1 -> Wavelength Brick v3 DAC -> Transparent Wave Link interconnects -> Luxman R-1050 -> Transparent Music Wave Plus speaker cables -> ASW Cantius 504 speakers

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Hi Gilles:

 

The single platter 3.5" HD I have been buying lately is the Western Digital Green WD10EZRX. It is only 1TB though. I can not recall if there are any/many single platter drives above 1TB. Look around in The HDD Platter Capacity Database: The HDD Platter Capacity Database

 

If you share a volume via the Mac-to-Mac Ethernet connection as discussed in the thread I started, then you really don't need to worry about getting a FW400 or other "quiet interface" drive. I thought I reported somewhere that it is only the directly connected (to the music rendering computer) devices that matter. Once you go with the Ethernet, the only thing that seems to matter (to SQ) then is the Ethernet cable, any switch in the middle (avoid it), and the Ethernet MTU setting (set for "Jumbo" 9000 frames at both ends).

 

I have 3 OWC drives with different interfaces on my desktop, plus internal SATA, and even an SD card. With the Ethernet connection, it does not matter which of those I share and pull tracks from, they all sound the same. (I tested this by creating a playlist in A+ populated with 5 copies of the same test track--each instance pointing to the file on a different drive. BTW, this is essentially a blind test since all the tracks appear the same on the playlist--the only way to know which was which is to move one file on one drive and then see which playlist listing no longer plays.)

 

As for the power-lifted FW cable, again please check with USBFireWire.com. Good service and prices.

 

Best,

ALEX

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Thanks Alex for the info on your preferred HDD.

 

You did in fact report on the direct connection of devices; good thing for me you repeated it.

 

Best,

 

Gilles

MacBook Pro (OS 10.10.4, 16GB RAM, OCZ Vertex3 SSD, external Oyen HD w FireWire, Audirvana+ 2.5.4, BitPerfect 2.0.2) -> Mapleshade Clearlink USB Plus cable -> UpTone Audio USB Regen w UpTone Audio Ultracap LPS-1 -> Wavelength Brick v3 DAC -> Transparent Wave Link interconnects -> Luxman R-1050 -> Transparent Music Wave Plus speaker cables -> ASW Cantius 504 speakers

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