Top 10 Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces: Brief Info + Buyers Guide!

Top 10 Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces: Brief Info + Buyers Guide!

Introduction

Firstly, Thunderbolt is principally used within audio interfaces for Mac computers, nonetheless, there’s a growing variety of PCs that are showing on the market that are compatible.

Thunderbolt (notably Thunderbolt 3) connectivity offers a number of fascinating advantages, which include, permitting customers to connect as many as 6 devices to 1 port without experiencing a loss in transfer speeds.

Moreover, the Thunderbolt connection type is, normally, considerably faster than USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1, so you may be sure that latency problems are much less of a difficulty with these interfaces.

Most Thunderbolt audio interfaces available on the market are at present utilizing the Thunderbolt 2 protocol. Nonetheless, some producers like Universal Audio have begun to implement the usage of Thunderbolt 3. You in all probability need to know if this truly makes a distinction.

If we begin by taking a look at bandwidth, there’s principally a doubling of bandwidth with Thunderbolt 3. Utilizing Thunderbolt 2 (paired) you allow you as much as 20 Gbps whereas Thunderbolt 3 delivers a maximum of 40 Gbps.

One other distinction is that Thunderbolt 3 can present up to 100 Watts of energy to devices.

Some gadgets just like the Universal Audio Arrow may be fully bus-powered. Nonetheless, audio interfaces that require more than 100 Watts of power will still require extra power. So, are Thunderbolt 3 audio interfaces worth it?

For many of us, it could imply an upgrade to one of Apple’s newest computers. It could be necessary sooner or later, however, we don’t imagine Thunderbolt 3 is value buying a brand new computer for. In our view, the one audio interface that actually benefits from it right now could be the Arrow.

thunderbolt audio interfaces

Performance

With the interfaces selected in this article, you shouldn’t have an issue with sound performance. In case you are taking a look at different models, keep an eye fixed for reviews complaining about sound quality issues, together with preamp hiss.

Non-professional interfaces usually have average quality preamps. In the event that they’re pushed a little bit hard to compensate for a weak audio signal, they could blow and produce undesirable interference.

Mic preamps

Whenever you want to record with microphones, you’ll routinely need a microphone preamp. For this reason, you will need a minimum of one preamp as a home recorder. The electrical signal emitted by the mic is initially too quiet and too weak to be ample for great-sounding recordings.

That is why a microphone preamplifier is commonly needed. First, it will amplify the mic signal sufficiently and produce it to what’s often called the working line degree.

For the mic preamplifier constructed into an audio interface, the fundamental requirement will probably be that they should work tonally as neutrally as possible or with no discoloration or noise. It implies that the audio interface can simply be used universally when it comes to sound. If extra sound coloring is desired, exterior preamplifiers will probably be used first but in a basic manner.

Low latency

As we’ve already talked about, Thunderbolt is the quickest exterior connection out of these three choices. This implies it has the lowest latency, in different words, it has tremendous low to no delay throughout recording and playback.

For instance, it takes 4.5 milliseconds round-trip for a signal to travel via a USB connection. That appears fairly quick till you contrast that with how quickly a Thunderbolt signal travels. With Thunderbolt, it takes 1 millisecond, that’s sooner than it takes sound to travel from the beat of a kick drum to the drummer’s ear.

Extra reliability

Not surprisingly, Apple and Intel created Thunderbolt connectivity, and since then, they’ve carefully guarded the protocol for the creating and implementing of those units.

Due to this, it makes compatibility much less of a trouble because you know every single Thunderbolt system is simply as suitable along with your computer as the next one. You may be assured a Thunderbolt-ready audio interface will probably be appropriate with a computer that accepts Thunderbolt connectivity — the truth is, it’s guaranteed.

We just want to let you know that we’ll list these Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces in no particular order. They’ll be randomized as we don’t wish to sort them from best to worst.

Listed below are our Top 10 Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces for 2021:

1. Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad Heritage

Poised to be the middle of a home studio or portable rig, the Universal Audio Apollo Twin X QUAD Heritage Version desktop 10×6 Thunderbolt 3 audio interface combines the sound, feel, and stream of analog studio recording with highly effective QUAD Core real-time UAD processing and a hearty bundle of 25 stellar UAD plug-ins.

Furnished with elite-class 24-bit / 192 kHz conversion akin to the favored Apollo X rackmount interfaces, the Apollo Twin X QUAD offers musicians, producers, songwriters, and audio engineers the considerable worth of crystal-clear, high-resolution recording and mixing with low distortion (-117 dB) and immense dynamic range (127 dB).

The interface has two XLR-1/4″ mic/line combo inputs and a 1/4″ Hi-Z input, all with Unison integration for exact UAD emulations of basic analog preamps impart the classic character of your selecting on microphone and instrument recordings whereas bypassing the unpredictable nature of previous gear.

Because of the switchable low-cut filter, pad, polarity inversion, 48V phantom power, and stereo linking on every analog input, you possibly can effectively optimize your incoming signals with easy buttons on the Apollo Twin X QUAD’s face. Along with the 2 major analog inputs, you possibly can record as many as eight extra channels by connecting exterior preamps with ADAT or S/PDIF optical outputs to the TOSLINK optical input port on the Apollo Twin X QUAD.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad Heritage

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Universal-Audio-Apollo-Twin-X-Quad-Heritage
Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Quad Heritage
  • Monitor functions with controls for Mono, Mute, DIM, and ALT
  • Design: Desktop
  • For Mac OS and Windows
Features:

  • 24 bit / 192 kHz AD/DA converter
  • 2 Unison microphone preamplifiers
  • +48 V Phantom power
  • Integrated talkback microphone

2. MOTU 828ES

The MOTU 828es is certainly not an inexpensive audio interface. It’s a rack-mounted gadget with USB 2.0, Thunderbolt, and AVB connection choices. It belongs within the skilled class and delivers an expert recording quality.

Nevertheless, it’s an intermediate model in MOTU’s Thunderbolt/USB/AVB class. Flagship models price even 50% more than the 828es. The 828es is a current addition to the collection roster and gives a superb compromise between the value and the performance quality that MOTU interfaces are well-known for.

The 828es is a comparatively current model. It’s the direct successor of the favored 828 Mk. III and encompasses an extra intuitive management software program, improved processor, and a bit gentler studying curve.

This model is the primary of MOTU’s large audio interfaces to have two preamps in the front. The models made to this point had preamps in the back. It additionally boasts common connectivity with the included Thunderbolt, USB 2.0, and AVB ports.

The entrance panel is also geared up with control room buttons. These embrace A and B speaker selectors (these mean you can verify mixes on two units of monitors), mute, talk, mono, and Net ID buttons.

The 828es comes with the traditional reverb and compression much like the LA-2A compressor. The EQ takes after its British analog console counterpart. The DSP engine has big headroom and delivers distinctive high quality.

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS For US Customers For EU Customers
MOTU 828ES
MOTU 828ES
  • 48V Phantom power
  • 8 Balanced line inputs and outputs
Features:

  • 24 Bit / 192 kHz
  • ESS Sabre32 Ultra DAC technology
  • Integrated DSP for EQ, Compressor and Reverb
  • 2 XLR/Jack 6.3 mm mic/guitar inputs with integrated hardware limiter
  • Thunderbolt connector (compatible with TB 1 and 2)

3. Presonus Quantum 2626 Interface

This unit has eight front-panel XLR-1/4-inch combo inputs. Channels 1 and 2 support mic or Hi-Z signals, and channels 3-8 are for mic or line-level sources. You don’t see that many interfaces with eight inputs on the entrance. Significantly for home setups without patch bays, it’s a handy design.

Every channel additionally has its personal front-panel Gain knob accompanied by an LED that lights up green, yellow, or pink, relying on the input stage. Fancy metering it isn’t, but it’s enough. For extra detailed input metering, you may open the included Universal Control software program, which gives ladder-style meters for every input and output channel.

The Gain knobs are staggered in their placement. As an alternative of the top row controlling channels 1-4 and the underside 5-8, it alternates from the top to bottom diagonally. We discovered this complicated at first, particularly when reaching for a channel whereas merely glancing to the side. However, we got used to it.

The preamps are PreSonus’ XMAX selection, which the company touts for their clear sound, low-noise, and 115 dB of dynamic vary. Phantom power is switchable in two parts: 1-4 and 5-8.

The other front-panel controls embody a big Main knob, which handles the monitor outputs, and a pair of gain controls that accompany two 1/4-inch TRS headphone outputs. A power-status gentle show blue when the interface is correctly synced to a clock source and red when it isn’t.

PreSonus Quantum 2626 Interface
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Presonus-Quantum-2626-Interface
PreSonus Quantum 2626 Interface
  • 192 Sampling rate
  • 24-Bit resolution
  • 8 Microphone amplifiers with up to 60dB gain
Features:

  • 2 Combo input sockets (mic / instrument) and 6x mic / line inputs
  • 8 x 6.35 mm TRS line outputs, galvanically coupled
  • 2 x 6.5 mm TRS jack sockets for the main outputs
  • 2 x ADAT optical as well as S / PDIF, MIDI and BNC word clock I / Os
  • Insert for channels 1 and 2

4. Focusrite Clarett 8Pre 18×20

Focusrite has continued its notable audio legacy with the Clarett 8Pre, one of many new products within the company’s Thunderbolt-based Clarett range of interfaces. The Clarett 8Pre is a 1U, 18-in/20-out audio interface that includes eight mic preamps together with A/D and D/A conversion at sample rates as much as 192 kHz and intensely low latency. The result is a reasonably priced, easy-to-use Thunderbolt interface that sounds nice and is the right basis for a mid-level studio or portable recording setup.

The Clarett 8Pre is constructed into a smooth 1U rack-mount chassis. Input and output are via eight analog inputs, ten analog outputs, stereo S/PDIF I/O and eight channels of ADAT I/O. A pair of front-panel mic/line/instrument inputs present quick accessibility even when the system is racked. The system consists of BNC word clock output to slave exterior digital units to the interface; nevertheless, the lack of word clock input makes it tough to slave the Clarett to a different system.

Additionally included on the rear panel are MIDI out and in. Customers who require extra ADAT I/O should contemplate the Clarett 8PreX, which provides 26 inputs and 28 outputs in addition to 16 ADAT inputs and outputs. The 8PreX—$300 more than the 8Pre—additionally offers 48V phantom power switches on every individual channel in distinction to the 8Pre’s bank switching on channels 1-4 and channels 5-8.

Clarett’s stunningly quiet mic pres have a notable 118 dB dynamic range with a 20 Hz-20 kHz frequency response and 57 dB of gain. Every mic pre provides Focusrite’s AIR characteristic, which is independently activated on every channel through the Focusrite Control software. Activating AIR alters the preamp’s impedance and permits a “transformer resonance impact” that gives the air and clarity of a transformer mic pre (e.g., Focusrite’s ISA preamp).

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS For US Customers For EU Customers
Focusrite-Clarett-8Pre-18×20
Focusrite Clarett 8Pre 18×20
  • 24-Bit / 192 kHz
  • 18 Inputs and 20 Outputs
Features:

  • 8 Clarett Mic-Preamps with Air-Mode
  • Low-noise (-128dB EIN)
  • 118 dB dynamic range
  • +48V Phantom Power
  • DIM and Mute Function

5. RME Fireface UFX+

The UFX+ includes a really insane quantity of I/O. On the analog aspect, you should use the four included XLR/TRS combo jacks on the front of the unit, in addition to the eight line-level inputs on the back. For outputs, there are six TRS and a pair of XLR jacks on the back, and two headphone outputs on the front.

In case your math abilities are not that good, then you know that brings the UFX+ to 12 analog inputs and outputs, with the headphone jacks every accounting for 2. The digital I/O brings the number way up, segmenting 64 channels to the MADI protocol and 16 channels through ADAT.

Rounding out the I/O are single AES3 digital input and output XLRs, bringing the whole variety of inputs and outputs to 94. The distribution between the back and front panel is smart, with pertinent and often changed I/O on the front, and extra static choices on the back.

On the front panel, you have the 4 mic preamps match with combo jacks, the headphone outputs, a single pair of MIDI I/O jacks, and a USB slot for memory. Essentially the most notable connection is the USB input, which lets you record onto a thumb drive or exterior hard drive as a main or backup choice.

First launched back in 2011 with the UFX, DURec (Direct USB Recording) has been significantly improved on the UFX+. Now, the technology can support as many as 76 simultaneous channels of recording and playback.

In case you are operating the UFX+ with a computer, both in a studio or live setting, you may access RME’s TotalMix software program, which has always been out there to be used with all RME interfaces. TotalMix has grown to be rather more refined with time and introduced little to no issues in use.

RME Fireface UFX+
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RME-Fireface-UFX
RME Fireface UFX+
  • Up to 24 bit / 192 kHz
  • 94 input / 94 output channels
  • TotalMix FX software
Features:

  • Integrated monitor controller
  • SteadyClock
  • DIGICheck
  • Stand-alone operation with Setup Recall
  • Colour display on the front

6. Steinberg AXR4

The audio business is progressing and advancing in leaps and bounds, and the AXR4 Thunderbolt 2 Audio Interface pulls no stops in slotting itself on the forefront of a number of these new technologies. It’s Thunderbolt, so it’s some of the quickest information transfer accessible on the market, but additionally boosts the power to record as much as 32 bit/384kHz if and when required.

There are few world-class preamps thrown in for good measure, and SSPLL jitter reduction expertise. As if that weren’t enough, there’s AXR DSP mixing software program, an additional mixing matrix before your DAW with additional routing, audio processing, and monitoring choices. The AXR4 would serve actually any engineer on the planet well, however is priced to match. Nevertheless, with all of the options onboard and contained in the 1U unit, you could never need another interface.

The AXR4, regardless of the large listing of specs, flagship technologies, and options, will solely occupy one space in your rack. Due to this fact, while you inevitably purchase a second, they’ll only collectively occupy two spaces. The AXR4 boasts an enormous maximum of 28 inputs and 24 outputs if expanded totally through the D-sub or digital connections on the back of the unit.

On the unit itself you’ve got 4 preamps, all with combo XLR/jacks and all 4 preamps feature emulations of the Rupert Neve Designed SILK processing discovered on more high-end Rupert Neve Designs preamps and processors. The 4 onboard preamps have combo XLR/jacks for connecting mics or alternatively for connecting guitars, basses, or keys immediately and utilizing plugins to record or just monitor your takes because the Thunderbolt 2 connecting provides ultra-low latency.

Steinberg AXR4
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Steinberg-AXR4
Steinberg AXR4
  • 28 x 24 Matrix mixer
  • 48V Phantom power
Features:

  • 2 Mic / Line / Instrument combo inputs: 6.3 mm XLR / jack
  • 2 Mic / Line combo inputs: 6.3 mm XLR / jack
  • 8 Line inputs: 6.3 mm Jack
  • 8 Line outputs: 6.3 mm Jack
  • 2 ADAT / S/PDIF inputs and outputs
  • AES/EBU Sub-D25

7. Lynx Aurora (n) 24-TB3

The U.S.-made Lynx Studio Technology Aurora(n) line represents a quantum leap within the performance, flexibility, channel count, and features of accessible A/D and D/A converters, and in value. The brand new 1RU modular platform, an entire redesign of the unique Aurora, is offered in variations supporting from 8 to 32 inputs, and with USB, Pro Tools|HD and HDX, Thunderbolt, and Dante connectivity choices.

Lynx has designed its new 192 kHz/24-bit Aurora(n) converters to be future-proof. Digital audio gear generally is a vital investment for any proprietor, however, with Aurora(n) you aren’t locked into a set configuration. The mixture of FPGA chip technology, modular design, and Lynx’s new L-Slot enlargement cards permit you to keep current with firmware updates and to reconfigure your system as your needs evolve, maximizing your return on funding.

Lynx has launched the Aurora(n) line with an alternative of three modules — digital (AES3+DAT), mic preamp, and analog summing — with extra choices planned. The long-run-proof design lets you begin with eight, 16, or 24 channels and later add I/O in groups of eight. And for those who decide to change your recording platform (Lynx supports OSX and Windows) or add networking, you’ll be able to always swap out the LSlot card for a distinct connectivity alternative.

To match the efficiency of those new converters, Lynx has additionally included two audiophile-quality headphone outputs, every with independent stage controls. Uniquely, all Aurora(n) models include an onboard Micro SD player/recorder that gives up to 32 channels of direct recording and playback. The front panel TFT LCD shows levels and functions and supports future upgrades.

Lynx Aurora (n) 24-TB3
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Lynx-Aurora-n-24-TB3
Lynx Aurora (n) 24-TB3
  • 24 Bit / 192 kHz
  • 24 Line inputs and outputs via Sub-D connector
Features:

  • 2 Audiophile headphone outputs with independent volume controls
  • 1 IN & 3 OUT word clock with Lynx SynchroLock 2 technology
  • Remote control of all functions via NControl software
  • Windows and OSX compatibility

8. Universal Audio Apollo Solo TB3 Heritage Ed

The Universal Apollo Solo Heritage Version has all the advantages of the favored Apollo Solo, together with class-leading UA audio conversion, two Unison mic preamps, and SOLO Core real-time UAD plug-in processing. And it goes a step additional, with a software program suite of 5 award-winning UAD plug-in titles, that includes Collections from Teletronix, Pultec, and UA.

A trademark function of Apollo is its real-time UAD Processing, letting you run the total library of UAD plug-ins at near-zero latency. Taking you a step further, Apollo Solo Heritage Version provides you 5 premium plug-in titles price over $1,300 — together with the total suite of UA’s Teletronix and 1176 compressors, all Pultec EQs, UA 610 Unison mic preamps, and Pure Plate Reverb. These premium Heritage Version titles are along with Apollo Solo’s included “Realtime Analog Classics” bundle, providing you with probably the most accurate library of traditional analog emulations included with any professional audio interface.

Apollo Solo Heritage Version features two Unison-enabled mic preamps, letting you record by exacting mic preamp emulations from Neve, API, Manley, SSL, Avalon, Helios, and Universal Audio. A Universal Audio unique, Unison is a proprietary hardware-software integration that nails the tone of that sought-after tube and solid state mic pres, together with their input impedance, gain stage “sweet spots,” and component-level circuit behaviors.

Unison’s expertise can be found on Apollo Solo’s front-panel Hi-Z instrument input, offering dead-on impedance and gain matching for guitar and bass amp models from Fender, Marshall, Ampeg, and even more.

Universal Audio Apollo Solo TB3 Heritage Ed
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Universal-Audio-Apollo-Solo-TB3-Heritage-Ed
Universal Audio Apollo Solo TB3 Heritage Ed
  • For PC and Mac
  • 24 bit / 192 kHz
Features:

  • 2 Microphone/Line combo inputs: XLR/Jack 6.3 mm
  • Hi-Z instrument input: 6.3 mm jack
  • Stereo headphone output: 6.3 mm jack
  • 2 Line outputs: 6.3 mm jack (L/R)
  • Requires Thunderbolt 3 connector, adapter are not supported

9. Antelope Zen Q Synergy Core

Antelope Audio interfaces supply plenty of highly effective features similar to high-quality conversion and clock, a set of included real-time effects, and DSP mixing. The brand new Zen Q Synergy Core embodies that tradition.

The Zen Q is a tabletop unit that’s a shade beneath 8 inches wide and weighs less than 2 kilos. Antelope considers it the “large brother” of the Zen Go Synergy Core launched before. Both are portable and bus-powered, however, the Zen Q has the next I/O count and options Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, making it even speedier than the USB-C Zen-Go.

The top of the unit options digital meters and a number of other key control buttons. The included Control Panel utility gives access to the unit’s full function set.

The Zen Q has 4 analog inputs, together with a pair of mic/line/Hi-Z combo jacks on the back panel and two 1/4-inch Hi-Z instrument inputs on the entrance. Outputs embrace two 1/4-inch TRS monitor outs and a pair of 1*4-inch TRS line outs. Two independently adjustable 1/4-inch TRS stereo headphone outputs round out the analog connections.

One other inviting side of the Zen Q is the collection of 37 free plug-in effects that include it. These include Auraverb (Reverb), VCA160 (VCA Compressor/Limiter), FET-A76 (FET Compressor/Limiting Amplifier), BA-31 (Germanium Mic Preamp), Tweed Deluxe (Tube Guitar Amp), Plexi 59 (Tube Guitar Amp), and plenty of others.

Antelope Zen Q Synergy Core
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Antelope-Zen-Q-Synergy-Core
Antelope Zen Q Synergy Core
  • Compact desktop design
  • AD/DA conversion: 24 bit / 192kHz
Features:

  • 2 Discrete ultra-linear preamps with 65 dB gain and 48 V phantom power
  • With 37 analogue modelled Synergy Core effects
  • Proprietary 64-bit Acoustically Focused Clocking (AFC) technology
  • Synergy Core onboard platform with 2x DSP & 1x FPGA chip

10. MOTU 8M AVB

The MOTU 8M – Thunderbolt and USB Audio Interface With AVB Networking and DSP (24×26, Eight Mic/Line/Instrument) is designed for studio recording, put in sound, and stay sound reinforcement purposes comparable to mixing a band in a membership or music venue.

The 1U 19″ rack-mountable system options eight balanced combination microphone/line/instrument inputs with individually switchable +48V phantom power and pads, v-limiting circuitry to forestall clipping, eight analog outs, one front panel stereo headphone output with gain management, 2 x 8-channel ADAT optical, and RCA S/PDIF (with sample rate conversion). Extra I/O might be added to the system via AVB networking.

The audio interface makes use of ESS Sabre32 Ultra converters to offer a dynamic range of 123 dB (A-weighted 20 to 20,000 HZ) on balanced TRS analog outputs, a THD+N score of -110 dB, and a complete system latency of 32 samples (0.66 ms) whereas recording at as much as 24-bit 192 kHz decision. An entrance panel backlit 324 x 24 LCD supplies detailed metering for all analog and digital I/O in addition to provide a GUI for adjusting hardware settings.

Utilizing Thunderbolt connectivity, the audio interface can stream 128 audio channels in and 128 channels out to the interface’s bodily outputs, the DSP-powered 48 digital routing matrix, or AVB audio network streams. The interface may also use high-speed USB 2.0 (3.0 suitable) utilizing class-compliant drivers to work with most digital audio workstations.

MOTU 8M AVB
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MOTU-8M-AVB
MOTU 8M AVB
  • Thunderbolt and USB 2.0 port as well as AVB connectivity
  • 24-Bit / 192 kHz
Features:

  • 8 x Mic / Line / Instrument input Combo XLR / 6.3 mm jack
  • 8 x Balanced line output 6.3 mm
  • 2 x ADAT input and output with S-MUX
  • Word clock input and output
  • 1 x Stereo headphone output

Conclusion

Well, by the looks of the introduction and the details for these 10 picks of thunderbolt audio interfaces, we come to a conclusion that the TBolt is pretty powerful and definitively the best pick for the audio interface when it comes to working in a professional environment.

In the list above, we have picks that are affordable and some that are class A and are best picks when it comes to picking TB interface. We hope that this guide will be helpful for you and that you will go for some of the picks we prepared.

If you are having any questions in regards to this topic, feel free to contact us in the comment section. Until then – have a nice workflow!


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