FireWire Audio Headache

February is the month of the RPM Challenge. You know, record an album in a month… I’ve done it before, and was going to do it again, and to do it, I use a Behringer FCA202 FireWire audio interface.

Of course I also decided to upgrade to Snow Leopard this month, and for some odd reason, that rendered the FCA202 useless. It just wouldn’t show up anymore in the System Preferences as an audio input/output device. It did show up as a FireWire device though, so that was odd.

I ended up trying to replace the AppleFWAudio.kext kernel extension, zapped the PRAM, deleted cache files, removed audio units, different cables, using the power supply, tried logging in as another user, and on and on… I rebooted from my 10.5.8 backup and it showed up, so it must have been something specific to 10.6. I tried it on my MacBook Pro (10.6) and… it didn’t show up! Ugh, over to the Mac mini (10.6) and it showed up fine. I gave up for the night, convinced it was a 10.6 issue. The next day I tried it on a Mac Pro and MacBook Pro (both 10.6) and it worked, and then tried again on my MacBook Pro and it worked… so now it seemed that it was just the iMac I normally use to record to that wasn’t working. (I blame the “not working” on my MacBook Pro the night before to being tried/frustrated/bad cabling.)

I was pretty fed up by now, and sick of searching for possible solutions… I did find a post somewhere about the CoreAudio SDK and how it may install/updated the needed audio extensions to fix FireWire audio issues. One problem though, the CoreAudio SDK was last updated in 2005! But, the answer to that one was to install Xcode. I did that and like a little bit of magic, it worked.

System Preferences - Sound

So now I should be back in business, with the Behringer FCA202 showing up and selectable as an audio input/output device.

I wanted to blame Behringer for this weirdness, but honestly, it was something weird with my own Mac. I’m still not sure what it was, but I really should consider doing a clean install next time. My system has probably built up way too much cruft over the years.

Oh, and just a note… I’m not convinced this is the end of the issue. I left the Mac up and running last night, and this morning the Behringer disappeared again. But I’ve read that is can happen, and a quick unplug/replug of the unit fixes it. So… as long as that doesn’t happen while I’m recording, I may be ok. (This problem I’m more tempted to blame on Behringer…)


RPM is done!

Yes, the RPM Challenge comes to an end again… and I’ve got another album.

This one is titled “Navasio” and features 5 songs which provide 36 minutes of music. And you know what, I’m pleased with it. I actually like listening to it, which I find amusing. Even if everyone else hates it, I think I’ll still listen to it, and enjoy it… so that’s cool.

I took a very different direction this year. In 2008 I was really just continuing the way I created music in 2007, which was… grab guitar and bass, plug them into my Mac, fire up GarageBand, find a beat, and start recording. Last year’s effort was pretty disjointed, but there were a few songs I really liked. It was a good learning experience, and that’s enough.

Since 2008 I’ve moved up to using Logic instead of GarageBand, and also upgraded to using a Firewire audio interface (the Behringer FCA202.) I know that some people think Behringer is crap, or it’s inexpensive for a reason, but it served my purposes quite well. I had no complaints, it just “worked” which was good.

Navasio I also realized my old Washburn sounds like… total crap. No matter what I did, it still sounded like crap. Keep in mind, it’s a cheap guitar, and I’ve had it for like 20 years, and it only has 5 strings, and… it’s crap. Old pal Milton loaned me an Ibanez he had on hand, and that was better (and I used it on the first song I recorded) but after the first few days of February my kids were kind enough to loan me their Fender (yes, they have a better guitar than I do) and the Fender sounded great! My old Ibanez bass still sounds fine, and while I’d love a Fender bass, I can’t justify that quite yet…

Ah yes, the process… So in 2008 I would write/record a song, and immediately upload it to and then post it on this blog. It was quite a process. The whole “making a song” was typically compressed into a few hours. At the end though, it was more like, I just did the last song… it didn’t feel like I completed an album, so this time, I worked on all the songs until the last day of February. That’s not to say I didn’t still record most of them in one sitting (some I did, some I didn’t) but I did a lot more listening, and spent more time mixing and engineering the tracks (but not enough!) I would have loved to have had another few days to do mixes, listen, and tweak things… but at some point, you gotta be done, and with RPM, that point is February 28th.

So by now you’re like… “Shut up already, let’s hear it!” and yes, yes… soon… I’ve got it out to a few people to get their opinions. People who also make music, or who I think might like it based on the genre it may inhabit. But rest assured, it will be available soon… online, for free, under a Creative Commons license… cuz that’s how we do it around here….