Digidesign and Pro Tools’ FireWire400 Problem

Digidesign Rack+003

Digidesign has a giant problem on their hands. What you see above is Digidesign’s highest end recording system using the Pro Tools LE software, which is the most popular version of the Pro Tools software made. Normally, you could pair this piece of hardware with a Mac Pro and have a seriously strong audio setup, with no worries about the limits of your computer hardware. This is the setup I use to produce my podcasts, record my music, and it’s what I run my studio with. Now, virtually all Apple systems will not work with the standard in professional audio out of the box*.

Mac Pro Back PortsTake a look to the right and you’ll see the ports on Apple’s recently released Mac Pro. Take a look at the ports offered for input on the Mac Pro and look at the ports offered for output on Digidesign’s hardware. Nothing matches.

Apple has recently all but killed the FireWire400 ports on all of its machines, save the white plastic MacBook. They’ve upgraded their machines to FireWire800 and left the old standard in the dust. I have long criticized Digidesign for their lack of updates to their hardware and not keeping up with Apple’s operating system updates, and this doesn’t hurt my argument. Each time a new version of OSX is released, audio engineers who want to be using the latest and greatest have to walk a delicate line to determine if it’s safe to upgrade my systems without completely killing the software that allows me to make my living.

I’m not sure who to blame for this. Digidesign has always been behind the times when it comes to its hardware. The Rack 003+ is the only piece of hardware that is forward thinking in my mind. Apple seems to be pushing everyone off the FireWire400 standard, which is annoying, but it’s been happening for a long time. The iPods were the first to go from the FireWire train, and next they removed it completely from the aluminum MacBooks. The MacBook Pro redesigned with only a FireWire800 port. that should have been a giant red flag to Digidesign, because that means that they were locked out of the Apple laptop market with their higher end Pro Tools LE systems. I have checked the Pro Tools product news, but there’s no announcement being made. Apple’s to blame for removing the ports, but ultimately having a better standard is a good thing. Digidesign doesn’t change very often because their hardware just works. They tend to not mess with it very often, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

The bottom line is that no matter who is right or wrong, Digidesign needs to play catch up to Apple’s hardware. Until then,

*There are two Pro Tools LE systems that work using USB. Those systems are the MBox Mini and MBox Micro, and I would not consider either of them production hardware.

9 thoughts on “Digidesign and Pro Tools’ FireWire400 Problem”

  1. I don't see this as being quite as big a deal as you do; there are 9pin->6pin firewire cables/adapters. I realize this adds an extra step since that cable is not included in the box, but you can get one for roughly $10.

  2. to expand slightly: in my view, this is somewhat similiar to how DV cameras never came with the firewire cable or how printers never come with a USB cable.

  3. But the impetus shouldn't have to be on the user to be up to speed about what's going on about Digidesign's lack of updates to their hardware line. Maybe they should be offering cables for free or even acknowledging that the new machines aren't compatible with the hardware out of the box. Each time an new version of OSX is released, Digireminds everyone to calm down and not upgrade because Pro Tools might not work. they should at least be doing that this time around.

  4. I got the Firewire 400 – 800 adapter cable. And with it, connected Digidesign 003 to my iMac I5……. NO GO! The “LINK” pilot light in the 003's rear panel isn't lighting. Though Protools LE installed successfully, it just couldn't see my 003.

    Yes Rob, major problem…. I can't work. Major investments going-down the drain.
    It's a brandnew cable, so, what's wrong?

  5. I got the Firewire 400 – 800 adapter cable. And with it, connected Digidesign 003 to my iMac I5……. NO GO! The “LINK” pilot light in the 003's rear panel isn't lighting. Though Protools LE installed successfully, it just couldn't see my 003.

    Yes Rob, major problem…. I can't work. Major investments going-down the drain.
    It's a brandnew cable, so, what's wrong?

  6. The solution to this is nothing more than using a cable with different connectors on each end. Digidesign’s glacially-slow reaction times are annoying, but this is a total non-issue.

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