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I'm completing an audio recording setup.

Equipment:

  • Macbook 13" Retina late 2012 with Two Thunderbolt ports
  • One Focusrite Saffire audio interface (Firewire 400)
  • One OWC Mercury external SSD drive (Firewire 800)
  • I already own One Thunderbolt/Firewire adapter

Question: what is the optimal setup for these devices? Specifically, will I get full Firewire 800 speeds if I purchase a second Thunderbolt/Firewire adapter and run the external FW800 drive alone on that port?

I gather from reading other threads that, if I am to use only the one adapter, I would place the FW800 drive first in the chain, and the FW400 audio input last. However, it also appears that, if the FW400 device "talks a lot," it can still slow down the speed of the FW800 device. So, the question is whether that same behavior might happen even if the devices were each on its own adapter through separate Thunderbolt ports?

One might presume both devices would operate at optimum speed if on separate ports, but perhaps the internal architecture of the Macbook still handles them as if on one port?

Thanks.

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Each Firewire controller will be treated independently by OS X, and each controller will have its bandwidth set by the slowest device connected. So you could daisychain your devices but will only see 400Mb/s throughput, requiring you to use separate Firewire adapters if you wish to see your OWC drive running at full speed.

  • Thank you. Is this from your own experience/testing, or from knowledge of the MacBook architecture? My System Information (MacBookPro 10,2) shows one Thunderbolt Bus with two ports. So the question would seem to be whether each Port has its own chipset talking separately to its own connected devices. The bus itself should have more than enough throughput, as long as the protocol for the devices attached to each port is negotiated separately. – BerkeleyBernie Feb 6 '15 at 1:46
  • We're talking about two very different interfaces here, Firewire and Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt provides a connection to the internal PCI Express bus for attached peripherals. Firewire devices operate using a completely different protocol and do not directly communicate with the PCIe bus, requiring a Firewire-PCI bridge/controller to interface with the host computer. The Firewire protocol dictates the FW bus speed is set by the slowest device, regardless of the possible throughput offered by Thunderbolt/PCIe. (More...) – ScunnerDarkly Feb 6 '15 at 9:13
  • So, the result is the same - mix FW400 and FW800 devices on the same bus and you'll only see FW400 speeds. This comes as a limitation of the FW controller, so to bypass it you really need more than one controller. Using two Thunderbolt Firewire interfaces, one on each Thunderbolt port, will give you the maximum available Firewire performance. And yes, this is all from experience, 15 years of using Firewire-equipped Macs ;-) – ScunnerDarkly Feb 6 '15 at 9:20

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