Focusrite Saffire LE and Mac OSX 10.5 and Later

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Focusrite Saffire LE and Mac OSX Leopard and Later

[Revised to cover Yosemite in May 2015 and El Capitan Apr 2016. This is for Mac owners: sorry, but I'm afraid I know virtually nothing about Windows*.]

According to Focusrite, the Saffire LE Control software only works with OSX Tiger 10.4 or Snow Leopard 10.6; not with OSX Leopard 10.5  or later. . .

But it can . . .maybe not quite as Focusrite intended, but then . . . 

In fact, as far as Tiger goes, it seems only to be capable of functioning in 10.4.10 (not other versions) and/or only if you delete the AppleFWAudio from Extensions and replace it with AppleFWAudio v2.1. Unfortunately, none of Apple's updates (including those to 10.4.10) install that, and all the links you find on Google are now defunct. (Both Motu and Focusrite once supplied the appropriate package, but don't any more.)  It was, I think, in Apple Software Developers Kit SK23, wherever Apple have stashed that away now. I couldn't find that either, but you may be luckier. So forget trying to use a Saffire LE with Tiger. . . 

However, Saffire LE Control can be made to work in Leopard (and Mavericks,Yosemite and El Capitan: see below) despite what Focusrite says, with a bit of care. You will not be able to use any Focusite plug-ins, but if you are going to use Logic or Audacity to make your recordings and edit them, that in fact doesn't matter; they've got everything you'll need anyway.

First, though, ignore the installation disc that came with it. None of the plugins or extras it will install can be registered any more, and you will be pestered with your browser opening and continually sending you to a '404' not found webpage, at best. (It's tricky to remove what does this: it has to be done manually, there's no 'uninstaller'.)

Download Saffire Control LE v1.4 from the Focusrite downloads site. eBay won't allow an external link but it's uk [dot] focus rite [dot] com [slash] downloads [question mark] product=Saffire+LE

The instructions tell you to replace the earlier Saffire Control in Applications with it, but don't worry: it needs no installation except simply dragging it to the Applications folder.

G4 laptops (and presumably desktops) will run it, though trying it on mine, you can't always (this may depend on the type of Mac laptop or desktop) use the front panel buttons to switch from Line to Mic input: you have to use those on the software control panel.

Handily, however, generally on startup, after a few seconds (and hopefully, if you've connected the Saffire to active monitors and left the volume at 11) will automatically switch to Line level input (the green LED) from Mic/Instrument level (orange LED), But just in case: either ensure the input level control on the front panel is at minimum, or your active monitors (or if you're using a power amp feeding passive monitor speakers the power amp is switched off)  are. 

G5's (and probably Mac Pros) seem to present a different problem. Usually, the Saffire LE won't be recognised by AudioMIDISetup or the Sound Preferences panel, or only for seconds and then the Firewire connection drops. (The exasperating message telling you appears superimposed on the control panel; Focusrite's only advice is to 'check your Firewire connection' which is frankly, useless.) If you have so far been defeated, as I was for several weeks, it's worth trying these steps.

First, only use the Firewire 400 connection on the desktop Mac. (The Saffire LE may not establish a Firewire  connection with a Firewire 400-800 cable, or if any other device is connected to the FW 800 socket. This doesn't seem to apply to a G4 laptop, for some odd reason nor as far as I can tell Intel Macs generally.) And, initially, don't daisy-chain Firewire devices through the Saffire. You can try that later, the order in which they're daisy chained may affect whether the  Saffire LE is recognised at startup or not. 

Don't use the FW 800 port for anything if you're using an old PPC Mac.  I'm not sure why doing so may stop the Saffire connecting, or whether it only messes things up if you use a FW800 to FW400 connection, but since one assumes that for the moment the main thing is to get the Saffire LE actually functioning,  you can experiment with that later, too.

Now ensure that AudioMidiSetup defaults on startup to 'Built-in Audio' and nothing else. If running 'Repair Permissions' with Disk Utility doesn't fix that, you may have to delete any other devices (specially Soundflower, which does seem to have a habit of wanting to be top dog in AMS ) from AudioMIDISetup and just leave the basic 'Built In Audio'.  Check, on startup, that if the Saffire LE is recognised as the preferred source in AudioMIDI Setup, the same is also true in Sound Preferences and if not, select Saffire LE as the input or output device as appropriate. Getting it right in AMS does not always change the Sound Prefs default!

(It may help to create an 'Aggregate Device' for the Saffire LE, and maybe another for Soundflower routing, but I haven't got around to that yet. One thing that also may stop anything like Soundflower constantly insisting it should be the 'preferred' input/output in AudioMIDISetup and/or Sound Prefs, may be, it has been suggested, to create an 'aggregate device'—which doesn't actually either need to do anything or route anything. )

Hopefully, what should now happen is that when the Saffire LE is connected to the Mac  (turn the gain down if you have a line level input connected!)  and the Mac started up, the lights for Inputs 1 and 2 will glow orange and then shortly turn green. (Connected to my desktop G5 Mac, you can switch from line level to Mic using the controls on the Saffire's front panel, but you can only use the software to change them with the G4 laptop. Don't ask me why, I have no idea.)

Everything should now work although the rotary gain controls on the software control panels will be sluggish to move with a mouse; so much so, with Leopard you may be effectively restricted to analogue inputs 1&2 and/or the front panel Mic inputs for which you can use the front panel gain control knobs, unless you can avoid having to change the gain more than marginally 'on the fly' in a a recording situation, which could be a bit restrictive. 

OR . . .partition a hard drive, or set up a new one just for audio recording, and install Snow Leopard on it . . .apparently everything (apart from the plugins) seems to work as it's supposed to then . . .I haven't actually tested this, but an owner, and Focusrite, assure me it does.

With luck—as long as people can find this—it may save a lot of frustration. I must have wasted many, many hours on Google getting absolutely nowhere until I got it working this way by sheer fluke. (And only, very irritatingly, after I'd bought an alternative . . .)

Saffire LE with Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan:

I haven't tested the Saffire LE much on Mavericks, and just tried it out with Yosemite. On Mavericks, it appears to work as above, though the Saffire Control Panel is, people say, sluggish.

On Yosemite—currently installed with the Saffire LE connected to a Mac Mini—it also appears to work as above, though external USB hard drives when turned on seem to affect it automatically defaulting to Line Level input. 

In Yosemite though, the Control Panel, however, can only be used for routing the input channels and output channels, muting outputs, or changing the sample rate from the usual default of 48kHz. It's useless for changing input and output levels (seems impossible to get the 'virtual' knobs to rotate at all) and the level indicators either freeze altogether or take forever to react. The sliders seem to work OK.

You can switch from Line to Mic/Instrument using the front panel buttons; and use those rotary input/output knobs for inputs 1&2, and a pair of outputs and/or the headphone socket for monitoring. The 'Track/Soundcard' button appears to function, but doesn't light up or seem to do anything obvious that tells you you've switched; that, I imagine is a good reason why someone suggested creating an 'aggregate' device in AMS for routing. Haven't got around to that. Channel muting buttons seem to work.

(Since I needed an outboard unit I could use more or less irrespective of the Mac OSX, I replaced my Saffire, so what you read hear is as far as I got.   If, however, you have a Focusrite Saffire LE , Yosemite, Mavericks or El Capitan, please try it out and comment below to help others.)

Assuming that you are using either Logic or at least Audacity to record (and if you aren't why not? Audacity's free) that is not a problem. Once you've set the routing and sample rate, you can use the fascia level controls on the Saffire and those in Logic or Audacity and forget about Focusrite's control panel.

*If you're using a Windows OS for sound recording, er . . .why? (Don't answer that anybody.) A Mac's inbuilt ADC and DAC is pretty damn good: have been for years, and professionally I spent a lot of time listening to digital converters starting way, way back. A sad life, but there we are . . . 

Addendum (El Capitan):

A correspondent has told me that the Saffire software actually works with El Capitan; no information as yet as to any limitations.

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