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What Is a 6-Pin FireWire®?

Article Details
  • Written By: W. Joyner
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 10 August 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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A 6-pin FireWire® is a type of port on a computer or a type of connector on a computer peripheral. The designation “6-pin” refers to the number of pins, or circuits, in the port or connector. FireWire® connectors are also available in 4-pin and 9-pin configurations. The 6-pin version is commonly referred to as an alpha connector.

The number of pins referenced is indicative of the speed supported by the port. The 4- and 6-pin FireWire® connectors support speeds up to 400 megabits per second, and the 9-pin runs at a speed of close to 800 megabits per second. The distinct difference between the 4- and 6-pin connectors is found in the ability of the connector to supply power to a device. A peripheral that is running on a 6-pin FireWire® port might receive its power through the two extra wires, or pins, in the cable. A unit connected through a 4-pin interface will require an external power source.

FireWire® is a high-speed communications standard that is used to connect components through a serial bus interface. It originally was developed by Apple Computer and was later made available as an industry-wide application. FireWire® technology also might be referred to in the industry by other brand names and has been standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as IEEE 1394.

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In addition to the high transfer speeds offered by FireWire® technology, other benefits include the ability to connect multiple devices. A FireWire® connection can support as many as 64 devices on a single network. The components also can be directly connected to each other in a chain and can communicate with each other without passing data through the computer’s central processing unit (CPU).

Among the more common applications for FireWire® are video, audio and digital photography. The standard is a particularly popular choice for audio technicians who record or edit audio files because of its ability to pass the audio signal directly from the microphone to a mixing board or audio interface. This greatly reduces the latency factor of the signal and results in a higher quality of recording. The 6-pin FireWire® connector is especially well suited for such an application because of its capacity to supply power to the equipment.

Consumers can purchase 6-pin FireWire® cables in varying lengths, but the longest cable length supported by the standard is 15 feet (about 5 m). Signal repeaters can be utilized to lengthen the reach of a FireWire® network, allowing up to 16 cables to be linked together. Using this method, the network’s range can be extended to 236 feet (about 72 m). Comparatively, 9-pin FireWire® cables can be as long as 330 feet (about 100 m).

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