howto fix mackie onyx firewire under osx 10.5.5

After upgrading Waynemanor Studio’s Intel-based Mac to OSX 10.5 (10.5.5), I was unable to get the Mackie Onyx 1640 FireWire interface to stream audio successfully to/from the Mac. When playing audio from the Mac to the Onyx (just from the System Preferences Sound panel, selecting the Onyx FireWire 0838 output for system sounds and clicking the Purr sound – no DAW software), I’d get the spinning beachball for ~10s, then stuttering, clicking, popping sound would come out. Actually running my DAW made things worse; the application would hang, and Force Quit didn’t help. (Power cycling the Onyx allowed the Force Quit to work.)

Mackie lists this audio driver rollback (PDF) on their website, but the first try at it didn’t work. Here’s how I managed to finally get everything working correctly under Apple OSX 10.5.5:

  1. Sign up for an Apple Developer Connection account. It’s free, and required to download the software you need.
  2. Download both the FireWire SDK 26 for Mac OSX and the FireWire SDK 24 for Mac OSX.
  3. Mount both image files and install the package files from both (FireWireSDK26.pkg and the confusingly-named FireWireSDK23.pkg). This will create directories under /Developer on your system drive.
  4. From /Developer/FireWireSDK26/FireWireComponents, install the Leopard Final drivers. Reboot.
  5. From /Developer/FireWireSDK26/FireWireComponents, install the FireWireAudio 2.4 drivers. Reboot.
  6. Select Software > Extensions on the left-hand browser. Look for AppleFWAudio, and make sure it is version 2.4.0.
  7. From /Developer/FireWireSDK24/FireWireComponents, install the FireWireAudio 2.0.1 drivers. Reboot
  8. From the Apple menu, select About this Mac, then click the More Info button to start System Profiler.
  9. Select Software > Extensions on the left-hand browser. Look for AppleFWAudio, and make sure it is version 2.0.1.
  10. Go to the System Preferences > Sound panel and try sound output to the Onyx Firewire 0838. It should sound clear as a bell.

I don’t know why installing the latest SDK FW base drivers and the FireWireAudio 2.4 drivers first was required before the 2.0.1 drivers would correctly fire up, but it was. One warning: do not install the Leopard FireWire (not FireWireAudio) drivers from the 24 SDK. This caused my machine not to boot correctly, and I had to repair it using another machine.

Here’s hoping this helps someone out in the wild. I’d post it to the Mackie forum, but the moderators there have yet to enable my posting rights. :(