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Recording Interfaces 2019: Thunderbolt vs USB 2/3/C vs ?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Kevan Campbell, Jul 3, 2019.

  1. Kevan Campbell

    Kevan Campbell Bergantino Artist, Vibe9 IEM Artist Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2008
    Austin, TX
    Hey y’all! So I’m finding myself in a need for my first *good* recording interface for my home/bedroom “studio”. There’s quite a bit of changes gone on since I bought my old Presonus with FireWire 400 connectivity years past, and I’m curious what everyone’s thoughts are on data transfer and possible latency with Thunderbolt versus the different incarnations of USB, or versus some other connection.

    My computer in question is an iMac with both USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt ports, so I couple technically run either. Just wondering if anyone has any advice or could discuss out both strong and weak points of either connection in relation to recording music?
  2. Aloe


    Apr 10, 2016
    usb 2/3/c doesn't matter, they all perform the same.
    Thunderbolt (even v1) is improvement to all them, including speed and stability. uhm, generally.

    that is: some folks report that a really good USB 2.0 interface (like BabyFace) is not worse than a slow Thunderbolt one (UAD Twin), in both performance and stability, but I wasn't able to check it by myself.

    I used to have a USB Focusrite Scarlett, now have two Thunderbolt Claretts and not willing to look back. the obvious downside is that now I'm kinda locked to Macs (in Windows world getting a working Thunderbolt setup is harder).

    P.S. If I were on market now, searching a sound interface with best performance, I believe, it would be Presonus Quantum. I actually like how Claretts sound and to my opinion they provide a more versatile I/O (like line inputs with variable gain), but YMMV.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
  3. usb-c is far superior to usb-2 not just in the possible performance, but it delivers much more power so - for example - you can built bus-powered interfaces that have sufficient headphone amps etc.
    Some new interfaces - like the studio from Arturia - have usb-hubs integrated. Thunderbolt and usb-c both are much faster than usb 2.0. Question is if the manufacturer uses the speed or just sells the same technology with a new connection type. It depends a lot on the use-case what makes sense for you. If you record 20 channels at once and use a lot of plug-ins that you need to monitor in real-time you will have different priorities than someone who is recording 1 or 3 channels at once using outboard gear and monitor directly.
  4. Frank Tuesday

    Frank Tuesday

    Jul 11, 2008
    Austin, TX
    USB 2 can carry 42 channels of audio at 48kHz 24 bit, 22 at 96k or 10 channels at 192kHz. Unless you are exceeding those limits, the USB data transfer limits aren't much of a concern.

    What matters? High quality mic preamps & ADCs, the ability to sample at 192k, adequate I/O for your needs. Line inputs that bypass the mic pre are great, as you can add a high quality pre to your signal chain in the future.
  5. Aloe


    Apr 10, 2016
    err, first I assume you mean USB 3.1, not Thunderbolt by `usb-c`. latency is same on 3.1 and 2.0. Thunderbolt 3 is using the same USB-C connector BTW.
    second, bus-powered audio interfaces are more prone to hum than having a separate supply.
    third, USB 3 connections are emitting more RF noise than 2.0. (like messing up with your wireless devices in 2.4GHz spectrum.)

    I really don't see the point of USB 3.1 for audio interfaces: it is not faster than 2.0, but even more noisy.

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