Multichannel I/O on laptop: Dead horse?

I have an Acer laptop with an AMD Turion 64 processor. I use it to record rehearsals using a Mackie mixer (a 2404 VLZ3), using the mixer’s built-in USB connectivity to route each of the four buses to an Ardour track. Works a treat.

But I’m beginning to find (surely you saw this coming) that four tracks are no longer enough.

So, I’m considering getting one of the many fine FireWire interfaces supported by FFADO. Looking at the device support database on, I find many devices whose status is “reported to work” or better, are obsolete. Ah well, such is the state of (non-)cooperation between hardware manufacturers and the Linux world.

I have my eye on the PreSonus FP10. says it’s “reported to work”. I’m willing to give it a try.

My laptop has a Cardbus slot, and I have an IEEE1394 (FireWire) card for it. I’ve used it many times to connect external hard drives and a video camera, so I’m pretty sure it works OK. But the lappy is getting old, and I can foresee that it will have to be replaced eventually.

Here’s the problem: As I look around, I see many very nice new laptops with speedy CPUs and reasonable prices. But almost none of them seem to have a CardBus (or ExpressCard) slot anymore. They have USB2, USB3, eSATA, HDMI, … but no FireWire and no way to get FireWire.

This I find very discouraging. What is the future of multichannel audio I/O on laptops? How much do you have to spend anymore to get a laptop with FireWire or an ExpressCard slot? Is there some new technology on the horizon that I’m not aware of? Or are we just stuck?



A friend of mine has just encountered the exact same issue…he has the F/W interface but can’t find a new laptop with F/W or Cardbus.

OTOH if you don’t mind secondhand you should be able to find something that will work with your current laptop. I recently found a Mackie Onyx 1640 with the F/W option on ebay for a little more than half the price of new and it works great with 16 channels with my 2.0GHz CoreDuo laptop. I have at least a couple of users on my forum with Presonus firepods (FP10) that work great with FFADO BTW.

Of course it depends on your viewpoint but if your laptop is up to it keep it out of the landfill and benefit from the many Windows/Mac users that just have to have the latest greatest and are ditching perfectly functional hardware. Some Linux users see this as a detriment but it can be a real opportunity if you can find the right gear at the right price.

Just an opinion for what it’s worth…

Hi Don,

I’m in the midst of my biennial search for a laptop. I’m pretty rough on laptops and sadly don’t expect (or get) any more than about two years of reliability out of them.

The exceptions are the Apple offerings from which I’ve gotten about 3 years (except for the 3 month old 15" MacBook Pro that I ran over with a car), but they are significantly more expensive, especially now that you have to buy the huge 17" version just to get an ExpressCard slot. Stupid. They do all have FireWire, though, and run Linux fairly well these days.

In any case, my current criteria include, among other things, a FireWire port and an ExpressCard slot, which can be adapted to Cardbus, at least with RME hardware.

I’ve not had a huge amount of success finding machines with both (there are some, though), but I have found plenty with either one or the other.

What have you looked at, and perhaps more importantly, how much do you want to spend? I tend to spend more rather than less on such things, so I’m not really in tune with what’s available in the, say, $500 range, but I’ve seen quite a few things from Dell and Lenovo in the $700-$1000 range with one or the other of the required ports.

Allow me to say that Lenovo’s and to a lesser extent Dell’s websites, are are extremely frustrating, inconsistent, and overly complicated. It’s really quite a chore to dig out the info on which models have which features.

But I digress.

Seriously, let me know what you end up with; maybe it’ll help me decide!


Thanks for the replies.

I was looking in my B&H catalog, and saw that they have a Lenovo IdeaPad Z565, which sports an ExpressCard/34 slot, for under $600. That doesn’t seem too bad. (I checked the web site, and it says it’s in stock.) Now my question becomes: Do I snap it up, supposing that it’s part of a dying breed, or is it OK to wait until the need arises? This model seems to be widely available, so it’s not quite dead yet.

Up to now, my philosophy has been that it never hurts to postpone a technology purchase, because the price/performance ratio only improves over time. But this situation seems to invalidate that theory, because essential features are being lost, at least at the lower end of the market.

I’ll probably just wait, and buy secondhand if necessary.


I have a HP EliteBook 8540p with a i7 620m processor. It has a 4-wire firewire interface, I have never tried it, but it should work, as it is a R5C832 chip.
Hope it works, as I am thinking of buying the Behringer firewire thingy when ffado gets stable support for it.

The laptop also has a PC card slot, but I don’t have anything that fits that port either :slight_smile: