In this post, we are going to discuss some of the best thunderbolt audio interfaces in 2020. Whether you are a DJ, music producer, or you just want to upgrade your audio performance from your computer, you need a powerful audio interface to maximize your music.
What is an audio interface? An audio interface is a device that helps to improve the sonic capabilities of a computer by allowing you to connect to various music media such as keyboards, microphones, guitars among other signals.
An audio interface connects to the computer via a standard USB port, PCI, firewire or PCMCIA slot. However, due to the advancement and changes in protocols, some of the old school connection slots are becoming obsolete. For this reason, when buying an interface check for the kind of connection protocol it has.
When it comes to audio interfaces, the thunderbolt audio interface is the most common. Because it is the fastest way to connect and it transmits signals faster thus reducing chances of any latency.
Benefits of using a thunderbolt connectivity
The following are some of the benefits that you will get when using a thunderbolt:
- It can be used on the Mac computer and other compatible PC laptops.
- It allows you to connect up to 6 devices at a go particularly the thunderbolt 3
- Does not experience loss of transfer speed
- It is faster than USB 2.0, 3.0 and 3.1
- Does not have latency issues
When you want to buy the best thunderbolt audio interface, look for the following salient features:
– DAW compatibility
Not all DAWs work for all interfaces, so you need to find an interface that is compatible with the DAW. The top DAWs are compatible with up to 90% of the interfaces.
But if you already have a DAW that you would wish to continue using, then you need to ensure that it is compatible with the website you are using.
To avoid experiencing the DAW incompatibility in the future, it is advisable to go for a DAW/interface combo from the same company. However, not all companies manufacture both the combos. Therefore, research well to find ones that are compatible.
– Input channel types
Another factor that you need to consider is the number of input channels. There are basically three types of input channels:
- Optical input – this is a digital kind of input which works with both a digital converter optical out and an outboard microphone preamp. These digital outputs can be used on both microphone channels.
- Line input – this kind of channels requires an additional outboard mic preamp which acts as the microphone channel.
- Microphone input – this is a channel that allows you to directly connect your mic to the interface.
However, if you want to use the interface just as it is without any additional mic preamps, then you need less inputs. Therefore, ensure the interface that you purchase has enough channel according to your needs.
– Interface connectors
There are 4 main types of connection options available on the audio interface to connect to the computer. They include the following:
- PCIE – for a long time, this was the primary connection for professional interfaces. It is very fast when transferring data and it offers additional processing power.
- USB – this is the most common type of connection. It is available in most home interfaces. One drawback with the USB connection is that it is very slow when transferring data.
- Thunderbolt – this is the most recent type of connection. It is faster than both the USB and firewire data transfer.
- Firewire – although it is becoming less popular nowadays, it is used in most high end home interfaces. The data transfer via this connector is faster than the USB.
The kind of interface connector that you will settle for depends on your budget. Mst importantly, whichever connection type that you settle for, ensure that it is compatible with your computer.
– Form factor
In layman’s language, the form factor is the shape and size of the interface. Interfaces are available in two main types:
- Rack mounted interface – as the name suggests, it is mounted on the rack. In terms of size, it is large.
- Desktop interface – this type of interface sits on the desk just next to your computer. In terms of size, they are small.
If you are a beginner, it is advisable to buy a desktop kind of interface. Why? Because it is easy to use, cheap and does not require any mounting. To start using it, you just plug in and start using.
On the other hand, if you are a pro, then you can go for the rack mounted interface. They are more flexible in signal routing, offers more I/O and organizable.
– I/O count
I/O simply refers to input and output count. Generally speaking, the I/O of an interface can range from as low as 1 to 2 to as high as more than 20.
The number of I/O that you will need will be determined by the number of media that you want to use at a go. For instance, if you are a sound engineer who records bands, then you need an interface with more than 16 I/Os. Also, if you are a solo artist, then you need an interface with 2 to 4 I/O counts.
Therefore, before you buy an interface, ensure that you know the number of tracks that you are going to use at a go.
– Phantom power
Microphones are available in three different types. There are those that are battery powered, electricity powered and without power.
The phantom power is the power that is produced from the interface which will make the microphone to record a sound.
For this reason, you need to know how your mics are powered so that you can buy an appropriate interface. For instance, if your microphones use electric power, then you should go for an audio interface that has phantom power.
“Best Thunderbolt Audio Interface“
1. APOGEE ELEMENT 88-THUNDERBOLT AUDIO INTERFACE
Apogee is a renowned company in the audio interface industry. It has carved a name for itself due to its high-quality and long-lasting products.
The Apogee Element 88-Thunderbolt Audio Interface comes with 4 XLR/TRS input combination plus and extra 4 standard XLR inputs. This gives you more freedom when it comes to the number of channels that you can use to connect.
Apart from that, it is a rack mount kind of interface with size 16×16 thunderbolt audio interface. This makes it ideal for studio use but you can also use it if you are playing live music.
The Apogee Element 88-Thunderbolt Audio Interface being a rack-mount type of interface, it is not portable.
One of the outstanding features of this interface is that it comes with element control software which gives you control of all the virtual hardware parameters such as monitoring the latency among others.
In terms of the audio quality, the Apogee Element 88-Thunderbolt Audio Interface is designed for users that are looking for the best audio quality above anything else. What’s more, this interface can handle up to 8 channels at a go. Therefore, it is ideal for professional sound engineers and musicians.
Apart from that, the Apogee Element 88-Thunderbolt Audio Interface is compatible with Mac only. And it uses the original thunderbolt connectivity.
It comes with ultra high-quality preamps and circuitry. In terms of design, the Apogee Element 88-Thunderbolt Audio Interface has a sleek design which makes it stand out from the crowd.
However, it lacks the MIDI output and input.
- It is rack mount type
- Compatible with mac
- Sleek design
- Supports 8 channels at ago
- Has no latency
- Ideal for professional musicians and sound engineers
- Lacks the midi output and input
2. Universal Audio Apollo x8P
This is the best thunderbolt interface in the market today. It is a thunderbolt 3 type of audio interface which comes with 8 microphone preamps. There is also the 7.1 surround sound monitoring, and HEXA-core DSP.
The Universal Audio Apollo x8p interface is meant for professional music recording and mixing. It comes with both I/O and power processing which allows you to use the UAD plugins. Apart from that, the Universal Audio Apollo x8p is compatible with both TB3 pcs and Mac.
The Universal Audio Apollo x8P features the Hexa-core processor which provides 6 DSP cores which gives the interface more power to process for effortless music conversion and recording.
In terms of sound quality, the sound is outstanding. It uses the latest high-end AD/DA technology which helps to boost the quality of the sound produced. With the Universal Audio Apollo x8P you will enjoy the best crystal clear and precise sound of the musical instruments.
The I/O slots of the Universal Audio Apollo x8P interface comes with 16×22 I/O which lets you to connect your monitor speakers and musical instrument accompaniments.
- Best for AD/DA conversion
- It is powerful 6 core processor
- Exceptional audio quality
- Comes with plugins
- Supports the 7.1 surround sound
- Enabled with 8 preamps
- Comes with an integrated talkback microphone
- Very costly
3. Audient iD4
Are you working on a budget but want the best audio interface? Then look no further than the Audient iD4. It features a 2 input and 2 output microphone preamps. Besides that, it comes complete with a phantom power which allows you to use the condenser microphones.
Also, the Audient iD4 has a DI level for plugging in musical instruments such as the guitar. In addition to that, there is a main output where you can connect either the speaker or dual headphone outputs.
Another thing about the Audient iD4 is that it is powered by USB and an extra apple camera connection kit. Also, it can support the iPad and iPhone connection.
However, the Audient iD4 lacks the MIDI connection. But it is one of the best audio interface available in the market at a pocket-friendly price.
- Comes with 4 mic preamps
- Comes with a phantom power
- Has a DI for musical instruments
- Value for money
- USB connection
- Comes with a camera connection kit
- None to note
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4. UNIVERSAL AUDIO APOLLO X6 – THUNDERBOLT 3
Are you looking for a high-quality AD/DA conversion interface with the lowest signal to noise ratio? Then the universal audio Apollo x6– thunderbolt 3 is all you need. It is compatible with both Mac 1 and 2 and it is coupled with a 6 core Hexa core processor.
With these features, it offers minimum latency with more than 50% audio units. Apart from that, it uses a unison preamp technology which gives you the freedom to recreate sounds that are near natural sound processing. This gives you the freedom to achieve a wide range of sound effects.
What’s more, the universal audio Apollo x6– thunderbolt 3 comes with an ADAT optical input and output which allows you to expand the capacity in order to suit your music needs. Apart from that, this interface uses the XLR inputs.
In addition to that, the universal audio Apollo x6– thunderbolt 3 is compatible with windows and Mac. Also, it connects via the thunderbolt 3. There are 8 line outputs which includes the R and L monitors.
Most importantly, the universal audio Apollo x6– thunderbolt 3 comes with a warranty of ne year.
However, one of the drawbacks of the universal audio Apollo x6– thunderbolt 3 is that it features 2 XLR/TRS inputs.
- Comes with an inbuilt talkback feature
- Has 16 UAD plugins
- Sleek design
- It is rack mountable
- Surround 5.1 feature
- Connects via thunderbolt 3
- Comes with a warranty of 1 year
- Compatible with windows and Mac
- It is expensive
5. PreSonus Quantum 2626
This is one of the most portable audio interface which uses the thunderbolt 3 connectivity. Moreover, it has an unbeatable price in the market.
The PreSonus Quantum 2626 is a rack mount kind of audio interface which does not have a metering capability.
One of the outstanding features of this interface is the back panel which connects to the input and output devices. Besides that, there are 2 TRS preamp slots, 2 line return ports, 8 line output, stereo monitor output. You can use the 8 line outputs to connect either other hardwares such as speakers.
There are digital connectivity clots which include the following wordclock, thunderbolt 3 connectivity port, I/O slot, optical Toslink among others.
One of the most amazing features includes the ultra-low latency of less than 1ms with outstanding speed. Moreover, whether you are tracking your music through the headphones or speaker, you will hear the sound immediately thanks to its TB3 bandwidth and razor fast speed.
In terms of audio quality, the PreSonus Quantum 2626 audio interface has an impressive sound quality with a near zero distortion. Also, it has low jitters thus ensuring that you only get crispy and pristine sound quality.
Apart from that, this audio interface operates on up to 192 kHz which gives you high definition mixing and sound recording. Also, there is a 115 dB dynamic range which makes sure that the sound you capture is near natural and smooth without any artifacts.
- Comes with a MIDI
- Uses the I/O channels
- Has one of the lowest latency performance
- Controlled microphone preamps
- Selection ports are versatile
- Comes with a talkback mic
- Supports the thunderbolt connection of up to 4 quantum audio
- Amazing audio quality
- Lacks an inbuilt DSP
Thunderbolt audio interface is the best there is in the interface market today. However, the best thunderbolt for you depends on your recording setup, preference and needs. But generally speaking, if you are looking for the fastest signal transfer with minimum latency, then thunderbolt connection is the best choice.
Whether you would like to record your music at home, or in a professional studio, you should consider using the thunderbolt interface. We can guarantee you that by using this interface, it will positively impact your final product and you will not regret investing your hard-earned money in it.