Date: March 17th, 2005
Written By: Michael Carter
Edited by: Nathan Glentworth (Owner, Head Editor & Hardware Reviewer)
Product Submitted by: M-Audio
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Weighing in at an MSRP of $749.95 USD, this is an attractively priced unit, considering the specs and capabilities.
Included in the package:
The FireWire 1814 unit
A removable cable bundle, that has the S/PDIF, word clock, ADAT, and MIDI connectors
Two firewire cables, one 6 pin, one 4 pin
The included software is comprised of the install CD, with a manual in PDF format
Ableton Live Delta
ProSessions Sound and Loop Library demo CD
Overall, it's a nice bundle to get you started, with the basic versions of the two most popular recording and sequencing software in use today. The ProSessions disk was a nice addition, as well, with a well-rounded sampling of the available loops in the entire library. As an added bonus, you can upgrade both Reason and Ableton to the full retail versions at a discount.
INSTALLATION & SETUP
Now that we've gone through the specs, let's hook this puppy up.
Intel P2 2.4ghz
Shuttle AS/45GT/R mainboard, using the rear FireWire headers
1gb Kingston PC3200 RAM
Maxtor 200gb Diamondmax 9 HDD's
M-Audio LX4 Studio Monitors
Studio Projects B3 condenser mic
M-Audio Oxygen8 portable midi controller
Audio Technica ATH-F40fs studio headphones
Obviously, this is a FireWire only unit, so you have to have FireWire in your system, whether onboard or through a PCI card. The included cables are short, 3 feet, so you need to place the unit somewhere close to your computer. While this may seem to be a dumb decision, the 1814 is primarily intended as a mobile interface, for use with a laptop. The 6 pin cable allows the 1814 to be bus-powered, while the 4 pin cable is for smaller laptop connections, and does not provide bus power. In my case, my rear FireWire ports don't provide bus power, so I have to use the included AC adapter for power. For this test, I used my LX4's in 2.1, rather than 5.1, as most studios won't be using 5.1 for music mixing.
Following the Quickstart instructions, installation was relatively painless. First, install the drivers. The software will then prompt you to shut down your machine, connect the FireWire cable, then turn your machine back on. This is an important step. Do not connect the 1814 first, nor with the computer turned on. M-Audio warns that doing so, if using bus power, can damage your firewire ports. Once the machine is back on, the software installation automatically finishes, and installs the control panel. On a side note, the driver that came on the included CD was two revisions behind the currently available one, so I advise that you go to M-Audio's website, and download the current driver, then follow the install procedures using that file, rather than the CD. The newest drivers are also 64 bit enabled, so AMD users can get the full benefit of their FX processors, once Windows XP 64 is released. This is a very nice touch, and one of the first consumer-level programs I've seen to integrate and fully support 64 bit extensions.
Although ASIO drivers can usually coexist with other soundcard drivers peacefully, it's really dependent on your machine. It's recommended that you remove any PCI soundcards and disable onboard sound in the BIOS, so as to prevent any conflicts between drivers. While this isn't a huge deal for a studio guy, it's something to keep in mind if your recording machine is also your gaming machine. A bit more on that later.
Now, let's get into using this device.
There's four sections to the control panel, but the fourth is simply an "about" tab, that gives info on firmware and software revisions and dates. The other three are used to configure the 1814 for your particular application.
The first panel controls your input signal. For anyone familiar with mixing boards, these controls are fairly self-explanatory. When using the 1814 as a regular souncard, the SW 1/2 RTN controls your computer audio (MP3, games, etc).
The second panel controls your output bus. These controls are self-explanatory. A typical setup would be to have your studio monitors connected to 1/2 out, then assign the level controller to the output buses, for easy monitor level control.
The third panel is where you determine your digital ports, sync source for ADAT, and other detailed tweaks. Typically, you can leave these settings alone, unless your hardware specifies a different sample rate.
In most cases, you'll rarely touch the control panel. These are basically "set and forget" settings, since the majority of your level control will actually be done within whatever program you're using to record. The number of options, while relatively small, are well thought-out, useful, and easy to understand. It's a nice change to the typical control panel that includes bells and whistles you'll never use, and in some cases, degrade overall performance, or conflict with external software controls. And, as you can see from the screenshots, the control layout is well thought-out, and familiar to anybody who's ever used a mixing console before. No surprises there, which is a nice touch. No having to flip through a 100 page manual to figure out what Button X does.