I just want to finish this CD, Presonus.
July 22, 2010 3:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm the "everything that runs on electricity" technical advisor for a local band. We're in the process of wrapping up the first CD, and the recording set up is killing us. Am I missing something here with the Presonus Firestudio? How can we just finish editing the CD without it crashing every hour?

We're recording using Cubase LE 4.0.3, Build 2233. We're running Vista Business SP1 64bit on an HP/Compaq 6710b laptop, with a 1.8 GHz Core 2 Duo and 4GB ram. Our recording interface is a Presonus Firestudio, with the latest firmware ( and driver ( Evidently you can't use just any old firewire interface, so the Firestudio is being run through a SIIG nn-pcm312-s2 firewire card1. We're recording everything at 96k3, and buffer sizes really don't change any of our issues.

It's been a little unstable throughout the process, but now it's just unacceptable. Today, Cubase just completely ignores the stop button after our guitarist is done recording in many of the sessions - it just keeps on playing the other tracks, and won't stop until I stop it with the task manager. This, of course, loses the recorded track. Other times, it just locks up. I can provide more specific situations, but it's just so. un. stable. The computer isn't being maxed out (nor was my octo-core, 6GB ram desktop when I tested it out, with similar results), so I'm left thinking that a)Cubase just doesn't work, 2)Presonus makes stuff that doesn't work, or c) I don't know what I'm doing, and recording audio has a whole different type of physics when compared to anything one does with a computer.

I hope it's A or B. Or maybe I'm just missing Vista's secret "enable better firewire performance" switch?

It's possible that I've set this up all wrong, but between this question and anecdotal advice from others in the industry, I'm pretty convinced that Presonus equipment just has some major issues. Either way, any help would be appreciated.

1The head of the band is doing a lot of the recording on his own, and during our first set of issues, he called up Presonus who told him that we needed a specific Texas Instruments firewire chip, otherwise the Firestudio wouldn't communicate with the PC properly2. Go figure.

2The band leader has been in the industry forever, both in bands and managing mainstream bands, but doesn't know much about the tech, so everything he says I have to take everything he says (or passes along) about computers with a grain of salt.

3He says2 that record labels love 96k, because if they want to do anything with surround sound, they have to have all of that sound quality to be able to split things up into the proper channels. I've never heard of surround sound CDs (or whatever it is they do), but he says it's a big deal. I can accept him knowing what he's talking about there, but only being able to turn 96k into surround sound? I don't get it. It's a muti-track recording environment. How does bitrate have anything to do with channels?
posted by niles to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, this is just my experience, not everyone's but... I used a PreSonus FireBox for quite a while as a recording setup, and it, and its Firewire 'support' was possibly the worst hardware technology I've ever used. There was simply no end to the trials of how to turn it on in the right order, at the right time, for it not to crash, and then when it was unplugged or turned off, how to still have some kind of audio functionality on my machine. Really, a trainwreck from day one.

I switched to a TC Electronic Konnekt 6 and have never looked back. Of course, it's mono-mic, so you'd need something more serious. But, the drivers for Presonus gear are not your fault, they're terrible.
posted by tmcw at 3:43 PM on July 22, 2010

1: are you recording to the internal HD of the laptop, as in, the same one where Cubase is installed? how full is the hard drive?

sample rates of 96k means a lot of data; even if you're not recording more than a track or two at once, you're still playing back all the other tracks off that drive, and asking the HD to do a lot at once. With ProTools LE, at any rate, they recommend that you record to a drive other than the system, and when working with high track counts to split them across multiple drives.

you could test this theory by opening up a new session, creating a single track, and recording one take with it, and see if you get the same weirdness with the stop button.

2: is there a microphone input on the laptop? if you can set cubase to see that as the input, i would try disconnecting the firebox, restarting the computer, creating a new session and recording something through that input. again, try the single-track method to rule out the possibility of high track counts being part of the issue. If you're using the mic in on the laptop and there are still problems, it's not the firebox.

96k may be preferred, but surround mixes do not require higher sample rates in order to be split into different channels.The label will need individual tracks or stems for surround mixing; you can't make a true surround mix from a 2 channel stereo file. The sample rate or bit depth is not, strictly speaking, an issue.

(i've never used the FireBox - i have a digimax FS which i use in conjunction with a 002 via lightpipe for additional inputs. It works fine, but doesn't rely on drivers. )
posted by dubold at 4:34 PM on July 22, 2010

FWIW, I have had horrible luck using most any outboard gear box and Vista... is there anyway you can do a separate install of XP and try that (in a partition)? (Anytime I had problems with gear and Vista, I tried using said gear on a XP SP2 box and it worked flawlessly) (Profire 2626, other M-Audio stuff, Mackie, etc)
posted by peewinkle at 7:12 PM on July 22, 2010

Also, never heard of the 96K thing.... sounds like smoke to me
posted by peewinkle at 7:13 PM on July 22, 2010

96k may be preferred, but surround mixes do not require higher sample rates in order to be split into different channels.The label will need individual tracks or stems for surround mixing; you can't make a true surround mix from a 2 channel stereo file. The sample rate or bit depth is not, strictly speaking, an issue.

Seconded. Your bandleader is misinformed.

Now, as far as the Firestudio is concerned... Oh, man. I used to sell digital recording gear for a living, and stories like yours are the reason I stopped recommending this device to people.

I actually own one (running it on a Mac Mini desktop), and while I think it sounds good, it's easily the most temperamental piece of equipment in my setup.

One of the reasons I leave my music Mac on all the time is because I got sick of the Firestudio randomly deciding that it didn't want to sync with the computer (I love Macs but I'm no Apple fanboy - all computers have their weird issues). It's been replaced once under warranty, and if you visit the Presonus support forums there's serious grumbling about the unit from both Windows and Apple users. It seems like the product was rushed to market with just-okay firmware and they've been trying to play catch-up ever since.

I'm not sure if downgrading to XP (as suggested in this thread) will solve anything. In this instance I wouldn't worry about Cubase, other than possibly turning off multi-processor support in the options, assuming that's available in LE (counter-intuitive, I realize, but I've seen it clear up weird performance issues). Your Presonus tech person is correct about one thing - audio over Firewire on Windows can be crazy finicky. Is there somewhere you can maybe rent a Tascam or MOTU unit for comparison's sake? Even if it's only for a session you'd know right away.
posted by tantrumthecat at 10:48 PM on July 22, 2010

Response by poster: dubold: it is the system drive, and we have seen slight performance issues from that, but nothing that I'm concerned about. I will give your internal mic idea a try.

everyone: XP probably isn't an option at this point in the game, but for the second CD, we'll have a different machine. It's slated to have Windows 7, but if that has potential issues à la Vista, I can see about getting XP.

I'm glad it's not just me having issues here. Out bandleader said (see my 2nd footnote) that Presonus has the best sound ("no fogging") for some sort of analog/tube conversion he wants to run, so I don't know if he'll switch devices on this CD, but that will be happening for the next one, as far as I'm concerned.

There's enough shops involved with this project that I think I can snag a demo recording system from some other company, so any additional recommendations would be most helpful.

But hey, at this point I'm just glad I'm not going off the deep end here and doing something obviously wrong (and that my gut was right about 96k recording). Thanks for that reassurance, hivemind.
posted by niles at 7:30 AM on July 23, 2010

As far as other recording software goes, if you are used to Cubase, the closest thing I've found to it is Adobe Audition. Abbelton Live 8.0.1 seems to be decent, but there is a steep learning curve there if you're not familiar with it. Of course Pro-Tools is what most people use, but I prefer Audition, to be honest, for straight audio work.

But it sounds as if the band leader is a bit fussy/out there, so your choice may vary.

Also, as a side note, I have clients that have Windows 7 and an array of different interfaces, the 32-bit version seems to work flawlessly with anything you throw at it, the 64-bit version does not support a lot of drivers (or visa-versa, I suppose).... just a heads up....
posted by peewinkle at 10:24 AM on July 23, 2010

firewire recording with windows laptops can be a pain in the ass. i got mine working about four years ago and i dread the day my laptop gives up the ghost.

what finally solved my issues (aside from getting a specific firewire card) was reinstalling windows xp on the laptop as if it were a standard desktop. laptop settings apparently share all sorts of IRQs to save battery power but cause all sorts of horrible collisions when a resource hog (like a multi-track firewire interface) is added to the mix. Installing windows as a desktop spreads things out over IRQs better and almost entirely eliminates the problem. i've had maybe a handful of (minor) glitches in the past four years.
posted by noloveforned at 8:50 AM on July 28, 2010

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