I'm an on-again/off-again musician who's actually more talented at the audio side than playing. I've done a lot of setup and mixing for live events, plus some recording over the years. I'm looking to put together a minimalist live/home studio setup from used gear but I'm running into a problem: nothing over 5 years old is supported by modern MacOS or Windows.

Here's the thing with audio gear: it's not like the new stuff is any better. A Mackie Onyx mixer from 2004 was highly-capable for live mixing and recording when it was released, and it's still just as good today! A key feature of these mixers is that every input channel also shows up over its Firewire interface, allowing you to create a live mix while also capturing the individual channels for later work.

It's not like the fundamentals of analog/digital conversion have changed since 2004. Instrument and microphone input levels haven't changed. My analog compressor hasn't changed. Furthermore, on the tech side, USB and Firewire devices are usually "class compliant," meaning they follow a standard I/O protocol for audio input and output, and should not need manufacturer-specific drivers. On MacOS, the Core Audio driver should handle any class-complaint device.

Despite all that, according to Mackie, this mixer won't work with any modern computer, even though it's class complaint. Audio interfaces from other companies are similar; older class-compliant devices aren't supported, and it's unclear if they'd work with the Core Audio driver or not.

Here's my question for the Cake community: what's your experience using older gear with modern computers? Do class-compliant devices continue working regardless of what the manufacturer says, or do they become door stops? Is the situation any better or worse between MacOS and Windows 10?

I'm picking on Mackie because my personal need is for a recording mixer (or failing that, mixer plus audio interface). But I'm really asking about the general issue of interfacing computers with any music/pro-audio gear that has a USB/Firewire/Thunderbolt connection.

📷: SoundOnSound