Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

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Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

Post by jdstamper » Wed Oct 31, 2018 5:05 pm

I need a new audio interface. Hoping to get some help on these 2 questions ...

1. Any thoughts about Thunderbolt vs USB2.0 vs USB3.0? I was thinking Thunderbolt would be a good idea for the future ... but today USB 2.0 is more prevalent. I'm on an older PC, and I know Thunderbolt requires the motherboard has to be compatible. There are a few audio interfaces with both Thunderbolt and USB 2.0, but selection is pretty limited.

2. When can we expect new audio interfaces to hit the market? ... from companies like Focusrite, Presonus, Steinberg ... any ideas?


Just a little background ... My old audio interface is a Tascam FW1884 firewire, a beautiful design, but it finally died. Looking around, I like the Focusrite products, but I'm not stuck on it. I'm looking for 6 or 8 analog inputs. In my studio I like to have a lot of inputs, mainly to keep mics & instruments plugged in and ready to grab. But it's mostly just me recording, I don't very often record more than 1 or 2 tracks at a time. That's just recording, sometimes my mixes can involve 50 tracks, not usually, but sometimes. My old interface also has 8 analog outputs which can support surround mixes (5.1 or even 7.1) but to this day I've never been asked to do a surround mix.

Thanks, Jim
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Re: Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

Post by Len911 » Thu Nov 01, 2018 12:23 am

Well Jim,you have a multitude of options. I'm not too sure about thunderbolt or usb3, you can buy a pc card for thunderbolt at least for a pc, so MB doesn't need to include it. Many mfgs don't yet see an improvement or need for usb3 yet. If you
want to keep several channels hooked up and ready to go, perhaps a mixer and a patch bay,just a mixer? You could use, say a 500 series preamp and compressor if you don't like what the mixer has. Some a/d converters, besides having usb or thunderbolt, might have spdif or aes digital in and out. I have a RME adi2, an older model that doesn't have usb, but has spdif out to a pcie soundblaster card spdif/in/out. Some mb have spdif in/out. Budget-wise,if you aren't recording a full band
and one thing at a time, 2 channels is all you really need. So, basically for an audio interface you need an a/d converter, preamp, maybe a compressor, any and all other features, and a digital output of some sort, whether it's thunderbolt, usb, spdif
or aes. HTH.
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Re: Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

Post by jdstamper » Thu Nov 01, 2018 8:19 am

Thanks Len. I thought that you can't add Thunderbolt to an older PC unless the motherboard is designed to support it, which sounds like there may be a specific chipset required, but I'm not sure.

I'm looking at lots of interfaces and scenarios, but I'm bogged down by what type of connection to get for the future, to get maximum lifespan out of my next audio interface. I had my old one for 12 years! :) :geek:
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Re: Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

Post by Len911 » Thu Nov 01, 2018 8:53 am

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/ ... E&c3nid=98
PCI Express 3.0 x4 Interface
As long as you have an open pcie 3.0 slot open, it can be a x4 or even x16. the chipset is on the expansion card, like a graphics card... integrated graphics means the chipset is included on the motherboard.

As far as the future, ?,however, usb 3 is backward compatible to usb 2, and pcie slots have been around for awhile.

https://www.sweetwater.com/shop/studio- ... -surfaces/ if you scroll down to the heading What's new in mixers, there's a 32 channel usb 2.0 mixer, a mackie with multiple options like wifi and ethernet... I think it's fairly safe to go usb.
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Re: Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

Post by jdstamper » Thu Nov 01, 2018 1:57 pm

Your responses spurred me to dig deeper. Based on what I've read, when adding Thunderbolt, you need to be sure that your motherboard has a Thunderbolt header.

Also that your Thunderbolt header is compatible with your Thunderbolt PCI-e card, and that your BIOS will support Thunderbolt.

I currently have a Gigabyte motherboard from 2010, Intel X58 chipset ... and I don't think it will support Thunderbolt. Of course the motherboard is getting old, so I could go ahead and upgrade the PC now, but I had hoped to postpone that awhile longer. :(

The ideal for me "might" be an audio interface that has both USB (for now) and Thunderbolt (for the future), I know MOTU has a few interfaces like that.
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Re: Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

Post by Len911 » Thu Nov 01, 2018 4:20 pm

jdstamper wrote:Your responses spurred me to dig deeper. Based on what I've read, when adding Thunderbolt, you need to be sure that your motherboard has a Thunderbolt header.

Also that your Thunderbolt header is compatible with your Thunderbolt PCI-e card, and that your BIOS will support Thunderbolt.

I currently have a Gigabyte motherboard from 2010, Intel X58 chipset ... and I don't think it will support Thunderbolt. Of course the motherboard is getting old, so I could go ahead and upgrade the PC now, but I had hoped to postpone that awhile longer. :(

The ideal for me "might" be an audio interface that has both USB (for now) and Thunderbolt (for the future), I know MOTU has a few interfaces like that.
with pcie, you wouldn't use the mb header, but yes,your bios would need to support thunderbolt, and thunderbolt 3 seems to be the standard now. the mb headers are for running cable to a cable bracket,such as this for spdif, there's 3or 4 pins on the mb, that goes to a bracket that mounts a jack or port. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Gigabyt ... 01946.html

This is only my opinion, and it really depends on what else you might do on your pc apart from audio, but audio recording itself doesn't require a super fast interface, or intensive processor, however if you use a lot of virtual instruments and effects
all going at once on many channels, it might, or if you wanted to transfer data at 40gbps like maybe transferring the contents of one super fast ssd to another, that are not limited by say sata3 bandwidth, but most of that is for convenience than real
necessity.

I recently built a new computer, it was a little challenging because my left hand is still paralyzed from my stroke, so if I can do it you can also. The thing is, the new i3 chips have as many cores and speed as an i5 did a year ago, and are more economical,at least until the tariffs kick in,lol! There are other improvements also, like pcie ssd cards that mount on the mb, that are faster than sata3. That said, the thunderbolt mb are expensive and fewer available than pcie and usb 2 and 3.
Again, things like what ad/da converters, and what if any premium preamps and compressors you might rather have recording 1 or2 channels at a time, versus 20 channels of a cheaper chain of preamps and compressors? I use spidif in/out on a cheap
$100 pci soundcard. I use an rme adi2 a/d d/a converter, rather than the sound cards a/d d/a converter. There are just so many options available today, and it really depends on your needs, wants and budget, so what is of more value to me will be in some or many ways different. My goals and philosophy have been to focus on one or two channels of console type signal chain and skimp on things that don't affect the integrity of the signal. And then there are a few things like reference monitors or reference headphones that don't affect the integrity of the signal itself, but which are necessary as a reference for mixing.
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Re: Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

Post by jdstamper » Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:25 am

Len,

Sounds like you've found a great low cost way to put it all together. It makes a lot of sense to spend your $$ on fewer preamps that are better preamps. I agree with you about custom built PCs too, I really like going that way. There's a good company here that builds to specs. They built my last 2 PCs and I'll probably go there again, saves me some time & effort and their cost is very reasonable. I was hoping to defer a PC upgrade a little longer but it all depends what I decide on the audio interface.

As for adding a pcie, it's a confusing topic. Like the link you sent earlier https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/ ... E&c3nid=98 , that card comes with a header cable and looks like it connects to the motherboard header. But I've read different things from different sources

I hope your making progress with your recovery too!
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Re: Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

Post by Len911 » Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:58 pm

Thank you Jim. I'm going to run an example of something by you, just to kind of give you something to think about or explore. Basically, you've said you aren't looking to upgrade your computer just yet. You would like an interface with
I'm looking for 6 or 8 analog inputs. In my studio I like to have a lot of inputs, mainly to keep mics & instruments plugged in and ready to grab. But it's mostly just me recording, I don't very often record more than 1 or 2 tracks at a time.
. https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... th-effects, a mixer, then a patchbay, to make things simple. https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... -nys-spp-l
500 series rack https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... horse-cube
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... amp-and-eq
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... or-limiter

The total for everything is $1179. So the advantages, usb mixer for 6-8 channel of instruments that are plugged in and ready to go, along with the patchbay, along with internal preamps you could patch and use external single channel, preamp/eq, and compressor. The thing with the 500 series modules, they are easy to swap modules, so if all you needed was 3 or 4 modules for a channel, you don't need to buy another rack, and say in the future you added to your collection of preamps, eq, compressors or whatever, you could swap out modules for whatever configuration you desired in your chain. It's hard to wrong with a $90 mixer and an $80 patchbay, even if you wanted something else. And I don't see any of the 500 series modules
becoming useless or obsolete. If you buy a 6-8 channel interface of one brand, that's what you are stuck with, so basically the 500 series allows you to use 1 power supply with all of the 500 series brands and components, so you can mix and match, and not be buying a power supply every time you buy a standalone unit. It might be that you'll not need an eq and/or compressor to record, and prefer to do that in the box, so you could buy 3 preamps instead, or maybe one expensive Neve or API or other preamp.
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Re: Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

Post by jdstamper » Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:54 pm

Wow Len, thanks for laying that out for me. It's a very different kind of solution, I never would have thought of doing it this way. I'm aware of 500 series but never owned any.

It may have some future limitations, like max sample rate appears to be 48K, but that works for me today.

Very interesting option. Thanks, Jim
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Re: Audio Interfaces - Thunderbolt? USB? or ??

Post by Len911 » Fri Nov 02, 2018 11:26 pm

ok, so we could move up from that mixer who's a/d converter's sampler rate from 48khz, to 96khz, with any one of these from audient, one of these may be all you might ever need, with the option of still moving into the 500 series,
https://vintageking.com/catalogsearch/r ... &q=audient or if you want 192khz, https://vintageking.com/spl-crimson-usb ... -demo-deal

I told you there are many options. These options are a major upgrade from the $99 mixer option and could postpone any future upgrades to the 500 series, or perhaps you might only want a 1 or 2 slot 500 series for a compressor and/or eq?

The decisions are really sort of your budget and how many inputs and the convenience to have more or less, and also the differences in various features. The SPL crimson for example has 2 headphone amps and 2 stereo speaker sets and midi.
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