The Thunderbolt audio interface is your computer’s primary interface for recording and playing audio signals. For recording, audio signals are converted from analog to digital, and for listening, the reverse is done. This audio interface replaces the PC or notebook’s integrated sound card and provides excellent sound quality and connectivity. If you want to make high-quality recordings on your computer, you’ll need an audio interface. Thunderbolt is particularly significant when it comes to Apple gadgets. If you’re using a Mac, a Thunderbolt interface is the way to go.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin X QUAD Thunderbolt 3 Audio Interface (APLTWXQ)
- Apollo Twin X allows musicians and producers to easily track, overdub, and mix with Elite-class A/D and D/A conversion, two Unison-enabled preamps,...
- Built upon UA’s 60-year heritage of audio craftsmanship, Apollo Twin X confidently outperforms everything in its class, with 127 dB D/A dynamic...
- Includes FREE download of LUNA Recording System, which transforms all Thunderbolt equipped Apollo and Arrow interfaces into a full-featured music...
The Apollo Twin X is the best thunderbolt audio interface in 2023. However, it is not a simple task. It is the ultimate audio interface for some. Others see it as a piece of completely overpriced equipment that could have been manufactured for a fraction of the cost. Controversial, powerful, and renowned are all words that come to mind when thinking of him. This is the best way to characterise Universal Audio’s new desktop concept. Despite all of the criticism about the device’s excessive pricing, it is of very excellent quality. Metal housing, high-quality buttons, crisp displays, and a master volume potentiometer that runs smoothly.
A locking mechanism protects the external power supply unit from accidental disconnection: enter the socket and turn it to the right – everything is in place! One Hi-Z instrument input and one headphone jack are located on the front panel (6.3 mm jack). The interfaces are entirely perforated metal on the underside and have two Kensington lock apertures (left and right). The Apollo is a noble ship on the inside. This has been greatly updated over its predecessors (the MK II versions sans the “X”), and you are now in the top tier of modern audio technology when it comes to D/A converters.
There’s a reason Apollo interfaces can be found at so many well-known studios all across the world of rackmount unit. The sound quality is excellent, not only in terms of value for money, but also in absolute terms for a studio one. Now we’ve returned to the point when the readership is split. Some people desire a thorough sound evaluation, which is invariably accompanied by flowery jargon. The other person like it to be done in a sober manner. If you merely evaluate features while purchasing audio plugins, you will certainly wind up with products from different companies. The Apollo Twin X is the first choice if you want a very well-equipped interface with extremely useful functions and outstanding workmanship, as well as sound that is in the “top of the line” level.
Apogee ELEMENT 88 – Thunderbolt Audio Interface with 8 World-Class Apogee Mic Preamps and Line Level Inputs
- 16 in x 16 Out Thunderbolt audio I/O Box
- 8 analog inputs with world-class mic preamps and selectable 48V phantom power for connecting microphones, instruments or line-level devices
- Single port Thunderbolt connectivity to Mac for ultra-low latency performance. 1. 41Ms round-trip at 96kHz with a 32 buffer setting
One of the Apogee ELEMENT 88 is one of the best Thunderbolt audio interfaces in 2023 for recording music to a Mac is the Apogee Element 88 walk. It incorporates the most advanced features of Apogee technology, resulting in a polished and cost-effective product. In the audio interface industry, Apogee is a name that needs no introduction. They’re the “Apple of the audio interface” industry, creating ultra-sleek, high-quality gear that oozes delicacy and exquisite sound qualities.
The flagship interface has Eight balanced front-panel analogue inputs, two rear-panel XLR outputs, two balanced 1/4″ outputs, two stereo headphone outs, and word clock I/O are all included in this 16-in/16-out audio interface. Eight of the Apogee’s superb microphone preamps are onboard, with phantom power and the flexibility to pick the thunderbolt and usb.
The Element Control Software is great, allowing you to have complete virtual control over your DAW. Surprisingly, there’s also a Control app for mobile, which is ideal for drummers. The Element 88’s circuitry and preamps are all of the highest quality. Other devices would struggle to match this level of sound quality. You shouldn’t have any problems with line level in this case.
This Apogee audio interface is a high-end device with a wide range of features and quality preamps. It can handle up to 8 XLR TRS channels at once, with four of them being TRS. It’s a top-of-the-line interface for serious engineers and artists.
PreSonus Quantum 2626 Thunderbolt 3 Audio Interface
- The fastest Thunderbolt 3 audio interface around, with round-trip latency of less than 1 ms.
- 8 front-mounted ultra-transparent XMAX analog mic preamps give pristine quality.
- 24-bit/192kHz digital converters deliver amazingly clean sound with 120dB of dynamic range
Quantum 2626 is one of the Quantum family’s newest 24 bit/192 kHz Thunderbolt 3 audio interfaces, with a variety of connecting choices. The Quantum 2626, the related power supply, an ultra-quick handbook, and a licence for the Studio Magic plug-in suite are all included in the cardboard package, which you may acquire when you register the device with a free Presonus customer account on the company’s website.
There are eight analogue inputs and eight analogue outputs on the 2626. Front-panel inputs are configured as XLR combo sockets. This is where you can attach microphones and line-level devices. By pressing a button on the inputs in groups 1 to 4 and 5 to 8, phantom power can be turned on. Only the first two inputs can be used with high-impedance instruments. On digital audio interfaces, the Quantum 2626 has two SMUX-capable ADAT connectors. These, like the S/PDIF pair, are limited to 96 kHz.
Only the analogue sockets are accessible at sampling frequencies higher than this. The picture is completed by a MIDI and a word clock duo. Although the word clock with 70 ps jitter resistance isn’t the greatest on the market, having this professional function in this price range is a huge benefit! As a result, there is still work to be done in terms of signal quality. The bidirectional Apple Thunderbolt 2/3 adaptor makes the Thunderbolt 3 connection compatible with Thunderbolt 2.
The Presonus Quantum is one of the Quantum family’s newest 24 bit/192 kHz Thunderbolt 3 audio interfaces, with a variety of connecting choices. The Quantum 2626, the related power supply, an ultra-quick handbook, and a licence for the Studio Magic plug-in suite are all included in the cardboard package, which you may acquire when you register the device with a free Presonus customer account on the company’s website. There are eight analogue inputs and eight analogue outputs on the 2626.
Front-panel inputs are configured as XLR combo sockets. This is where you can attach microphones and line-level devices. By pressing a button on the inputs in groups 1 to 4 and 5 to 8, phantom power can be turned on. Only the first two inputs can be used with high-impedance instruments. On digital audio interfaces, the Quantum 2626 has two SMUX-capable ADAT connectors. These, like the S/PDIF pair, are limited to 96 kHz. Only the analogue sockets are accessible at sampling frequencies higher than this. The picture is completed by a MIDI and a word clock duo for no sound quality issues.
Although the word clock with 70 ps jitter resistance isn’t the greatest on the market for a pop music producer, having this professional function in this price range is a huge benefit! As a result, there is still work to be done in terms of signal quality. The bidirectional Apple Thunderbolt 2/3 adaptor makes the Thunderbolt 3 connection compatible with Thunderbolt 2.
Universal Audio Apollo Twin X QUAD Heritage Edition
- A special edition of UA's acclaimed Apollo Twin X interface — with a premium suite of 5 award-winning plug-in titles from Teletronix, Pultec, and UA...
- Elite-class A/D and D/A conversion derived from Apollo X rackmount interfaces paired with 2 Unison mic preamps deliver stunning models of classic tube...
- 2 Unison mic preamps offer stunning models of classic tube and transformer-based mic preamps and guitar amps
The Apollo Twin MKII X Duo from Universal Audio is a small desktop Thunderbolt 3 audio interface with two inputs and six outputs. Two mic line inputs are available, as well as optical or S/PIDF inputs. 2x line outputs, 2 monitor outputs, and 2 mic preamp outputs are also included. All I/Os are evenly distributed between the front and back panels.
It works on both Mac and Windows computers. The Apollo Twin MKII X is available in three versions: Solo, Duo, and Quad, which relate to the number of DSP power cores available for processing software plugins. The UA plugin bundle that comes with it is amazing and extensive.
The plugins are primarily analogue emulations of various compressors and classic amplifiers, to name a few. It’s a fantastic addition, and the plugins are of exceptional quality. There’s also the LUNA recording programme, which is only available on Mac.
The Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII X Duo audio interface is a small, portable device that takes up minimal space on your desktop interface. The very low latency is a benefit, thanks to the DSP cores and T-3 compatibility. The Duo version was offered primarily for this purpose.
It’s a happy medium between the two other options for sound sources. If you want to limit the workload on this item to a minimum, the Solo is the way to go. If you’re going to pound it with plugins, DAW integration, or whatever else, the Quad is the way to go. The Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Duo Thunderbolt audio interfaces, on the other hand, do a good job in most circumstances and have good sound quality.
Unfortunately, all Twin X audio interface types require a 12V external power supply to function. Given its small size, it would have been good if this device could run on computer power. However, it isn’t a major issue. It’s critical to note that the supplied software for the UA Twin X can cause problems with both Mac and Windows operating systems. On the Mac, you may be required to install a kernel extension, which is inconvenient. The drivers for Windows have a tendency to crash, and the programme can have troubles with 32bit apps. These aren’t common occurrences, but they do happen.
Universal Audio Apollo X8P Thunderbolt 3 Audio Interface
- 16 x 22 Thunderbolt 3 audio interface with class-leading 24-bit/192 KHz conversion
- Realtime UAD HEXA Core Processing for tracking through UAD plug-ins at near-zero latency regardless of audio buffer size
- 8 Unison-enabled mic/line preamps, giving you fully authentic preamp emulations from Neve, API, Manley, SSL, and more
With eight unison mic preamps, HEXA-core DSP, and up to 7.1 surround sound monitoring, the Apollo x8P is the best Thunderbolt 3 audio interface overall. The Apollo x8P audio interface is designed for professionals who want to create a cutting-edge studio for epic recording and mixing. This audio interface has a lot of I/O and processing capacity, so you can use some of the most demanding UAD plugins. The Apollo x8P uses Thunderbolt 3 and is compatible with the latest Macs and TB3 PCs.
The Apollo x8P has a Hexa-core CPU with six DSP cores for faster recording and transcoding. This six-core CPU, unlike the built-in sound cards, can handle demanding and sophisticated recording and post-production duties. You can use Manley, API, or other channel strips to run several UAD plugins or to perform real-time tracking.
When it comes to audio interfaces, sound quality is crucial. Universal Audio, as an industry leader in cutting-edge audio interfaces, utilised high-end AD/DA technology for the highest and most pristine sound quality possible. The Apollo x8P has 24-bit/192 kHz converters and innovative analogue circuitry for the finest sound quality in the class. Enjoy crystal-clear audio that sounds exactly like your musical instruments.
This features Dual-Crystal clocking, which provides distinct crystals for 44.1/88.2/176.4k and 48/96/192k sample rates, allowing you to take your conversion to the next level. The two dedicated crystals ensure consistent clocking and extremely low jitter (less than ten picoseconds), resulting in immaculate and artifact-free recordings for the greatest audio quality.
To connect your musical instruments and monitor speakers, the thunderbolt connection has 16 x 22 simultaneous inputs/outputs. When recoding using microphones, the eight Unison mic preamps onboard provide audio amplification synergy core. The eight Unison inputs are a mix of XLR/TRS jacks that can be used to connect microphones or line-level devices. DB25 two connections offer 8 × 8 analogue line-level I/O on the Apollo x8p. If the Apollo x8p’s Hexa-core processing, analog outputs and eight preamps weren’t enough, it now supports 7.1 surround sound monitoring. 7.1 surround sound is a fantastic feature, especially when creating music for video games.
The Apollo x8p is the ultimate dream for professional music engineers aiming to create landmark songs and hits. It is both premium and expensive. While the Apollo x8p has a premium price tag, it is well worth it. It has six UAD DSP chips, and its cutting-edge A/D and D/A conversion provides the clearest, most pristine sound with the least amount of noise. Apollo x8p is compatible with the newest Thunderbolt 3 Macs and PCs. This powerful Thunderbolt 3 audio interface has plenty of input and output slots for connecting your instruments and mics, as well as lighting your studio. Universal Audio Apollo X8P is the Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces.
MOTU 828es 28×32 Thunderbolt USB 2.0 Audio Interface
- 28-in/32-out Thunderbolt 2/USB 2.0/AVB Audio Interface with 2 Microphone Preamps
- Built-in Mixer with Onboard DSP Effects - Mac/PC/iOS
- Word Clock I/O
The 828es is a professional choice with 60 channels (28-in/32-out) from MOTU, a well-known company in the music industry. The value for the money and how light this audio interface is are arguably the most impressive features (only 0.3kg).
Because of its excellent value for money, the MOTU 828es could be a good choice for a small to mid-sized recording studio. You’re unlikely to find another alternative with as many inputs and outputs at such a low price. You can connect this audio interface via USB connection as well, however Thunderbolt will have reduced delay.
Focusrite Clarett 8PreX 26-In/28-Out Thunderbolt Audio Interface with 8 Mic Preamps and Extended I/O
- Eight Clarett Mic Pres - lots of gain, low noise and distortion, extra headroom for instruments - 'Air' effect switches in an analog model of the...
- Exceptionally low latency over Thunderbolt - record and monitor with DAW plug-ins in real-time; precision digital 24/192 conversion and up to 119dB...
- Exceptional I/O capability - 26-in/28-out in a 2U rack space, featuring S/PDIF, ADAT I/O, MIDI I/O, and word clock I/O - dual headphone outputs
Focurite is known in the pro audio industry for its great entry-level interfaces like the Scarlett Solo and Scarlett 2i2. The Clarett 8PreX is one of their top-of-the-line audio interfaces, and it ranks in the middle of the best Thunderbolt audio interfaces on the market. This 26-in, 28-out interface contains 8 mic preamps on the back panel that can be accessed via independent 1/4′′ line inputs or female 3-pin XLR connectors. On the back, you’ll find ten 1/4′′ line outputs, one BNC word clock I/O, two optical I/Os, one MIDI I/O, and one S/PDIF I/O.
Gain knobs, high-pass filters, phase inversion, and phantom power are all available on the front panel for each mic pre. With a slope of 12 dB/octave, the high-pass filters cut -3 dB at 80 Hz. The mic preamps offer a feature called “AIR” that slightly alters the frequency response to mimic Focusrite’s vintage ISA preamps. Each mic pre’s level is displayed on the display panel. Overall, this is a really well-rounded and well-designed interface from a trustworthy company.
The unit’s 8 custom-designed microphone preamps, which include a distinctive analog-sounding “air” effect mode, are where it really shines. This mode reproduces the sound of Focusrite’s classic transformer-based ISA preamps, giving it a more vintage, distinctive sound… And it’s a sound that’s been responsible for tens of thousands of chart-topping singles.
Zoom TAC-2R 2i2 Thunderbolt Audio Interface
The Zoom TAC-2R is nearly identical in size and features to the previously discussed Resident Audio T2, but there are two key differences (aside from minor aesthetic differences): the frequency range, with the Zoom TAC offering a significantly higher range, at full fidelity, of 192kHz, whereas the T2 can only go to 96kHz, and the price, which is most likely the biggest difference.
Zoom has a tendency for cramming the most features into the smallest container possible, and the TAC-2R is no different. This unit is ideal for the travelling musician who wants to write and record on the road.
It has two combination XLR/TRS inputs, each with its own phantom power switch, making it excellent for situations where you only require it on one channel. The machine also has a MIDI input and output, making it suitable for anyone who wants to attach a keyboard or synth to it.
Finally, the machine offers two dual-balanced line outputs, one for each feed, as well as a headphone output. The Zoom TAC-2R also lets you switch between stereo and mono monitoring with ease, which is really useful.
Overall, as previously mentioned, if you’re searching for a lightweight and compact audio interface with a combination of XLR/TRS inputs and outstanding sound quality (24-bit/192 kHz).
A MIDI in and out port may be found on the back of the interface if you travel with a small MIDI keyboard or simply want the possibility of expanding this unit later. If you’re going on a trip, this unit’s portability will come in handy. Even the phantom power component is bus powered, so you may record wherever you are without needing to bring a separate power supply.
MOTU 1248 Thunderbolt Audio Interface
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The MOT 1248 is one of the most capable Thunderbolt audio interfaces available. Two 1/4′′ headphone outputs, two 1/4′′ high impedance instrument inputs, and gain knobs for the main outputs are all on the front panel. Gain knobs, 48 V phantom power, and pad switches for the 1248’s four mic preamps are featured on the front, along with a huge blue LCD display that shows an overview of all of your I/Os.
MOTU interfaces are widely used in studios across the world because they are dependable, offer excellent sound quality, and are inexpensive. It’s the same with the MOTU 1248 Thunderbolt Audio Interface. This is their main interface for all of their next-generation high-performance products, and it combines revolutionary features with incredible audio quality to give you a fantastic experience.
This audio interface has 2 x 8-channel ADAT optical, 8 x 12 balanced analogue with distinct main and monitor outs, 2 hi-Z guitar inputs, and 4 mic inputs, giving you everything you need to build your own personal studio in one device. The entire number of outputs is 34, whereas the total number of inputs is 32. Even though the MOTU 1248 Thunderbolt Audio Interface does not record, it can be used to do so by integrating it with Adobe Audition or another DAW. It also has tremendous production qualities, including incredible analogue to digital converters and 192 kHz recording.
This sound interface also comes with a portable 19′′ rack case, allowing you to take your own studio with you everywhere you go. Because it includes a clock I/O, the MOTU 1248 Thunderbolt Audio Interface will time stamp all of your recordings. It has an excellent MTC capability despite the lack of MIDI features. This sound interface also features a dual headphone feature that lets you send headphones to both the artist and yourself while recording.
Antelope Audio Zen Tour Channel Interface
- 4 mic pres & 4 line/hi-z ins with phantom power, 8 analog outs, 2 headphone and 2 reamp outs, plus an array of digital I/O, built-in talkback, and a...
- FPGA-based hardware models of vintage gear and equalizers, at no cost
- 24-bit, 192 kHz audio and Antelope’s signature flawless conversion
Check out Antelope Audio Zen Tour if you’re searching for a portable thunderbolt audio interface with a lot to offer. It also features USB 2.0 high-speed capability.It’s little, yet it’s jam-packed with information. To begin with, it looks fantastic! The touch screen control displays channel volume metering and allows you to simply alter parameters. The iOS/Android app can also be used to edit all of these things. There are plenty of ins and outs in this unit. On the back, it contains four XLR/jack combo inputs and four Hi-Z jack inputs.
A pair of headphone outputs and a pair of re-amp outputs on the front of the box provide lots of options, while the rear outputs can be used to connect two pairs of studio monitors. You’ll also be glad to learn that the ADAT connections on the side allow you to expand the unit up to 16 channels.
It even features a built-in talkback mic for usage throughout the recording session. If that wasn’t enough, it also functions as a conventional USB port.
RME Fireface UFX+
- 94 channels input plus output, 188 channels in total ARC USB remote with 15 assignable buttons, an encoder wheel, and a TS jack TotalMix FX for iPadTM...
- The Fireface UFX+ becomes the center of any multitrack studio because it is able to handle up to 94 channels I/O with ease
- With unprecedented flexibility, compatibility, the inclusion of DURec (Direct USB Recording) and RME’s famous low latency hardware and driver...
The RME Fireface UFX+ USB 3.0 & Thunderbolt Audio Interface is a great option if you need a lot of I/O and excellent sound. This interface provides excellent sound and a user-friendly workflow that you will undoubtedly like. The RME Fireface UFX+ USB 3.0 is distinguished by its 188 output and input channels. With these channels, you can mic up to ten drumkits at once and still have enough to spare.
A quick glance at the front panel reveals four mic/line inputs with phantom power switchability. There are 8 line inputs on the back, as well as a Multichannel Audio Digital Interface (MADI) that can handle up audio resolution of up to 64 channels (24-bit 48kHz, AES/EBU) and provides up to 2 channels. It also includes 2x ADAT Optical, allowing you to record 16 channels at 24-bit up to 48kHz like a recording studios.
On the front panel, there are two stereo headphone jacks and eight balanced line outputs, including two XLR 64 MADI, sixteen ADAT, and two AES. The Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 ports on the RME Fireface UFX+ USB 3.0 connect to the PC as well. It also works with any DAW thanks to the TotalMix FX software’s drivers.
You’ll note that the channel count lowers a little in USB 2 mode, because you can only squeeze enough data through the USB 2 to your PC. To increase the number of physical channels, the UFX+ allows you to connect a variety of third-party analogue and digital I/O solutions, such as MADI devices and ADAT converters.
The RME Fireface UFX+ USB 3.0 says that the TotalMIx FX can completely replace a normal studio mixer. The TotalMix FX software mixer allows for unlimited routing of the interface’s inputs and outputs, as well as latency-free monitor mixes and DSP-accelerated effects.
It also comes with peak and RMS metering, as well as remote control via your iOS smartphone. It also includes a high-quality plug-in bundle to help you get started with your mixing creativity.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Thunderbolt interface?
Thunderbolt is a high-speed input/output (I/O) technology developed by Intel that allows for fast data transfer between computers and peripherals, such as external hard drives, displays, and audio interfaces.
How fast is Thunderbolt?
Thunderbolt 3 has a maximum data transfer rate of 40 Gbps (gigabits per second), which is twice as fast as Thunderbolt 2 and four times as fast as USB 3.1. This allows for lightning-fast transfer of large files and data sets.
What devices can I connect to a Thunderbolt interface?
Thunderbolt interfaces can be used to connect a variety of devices, including external hard drives, displays, audio interfaces, and other peripherals. Thunderbolt 3 interfaces also support USB-C connectors, so you can connect USB-C devices as well.
Do I need a Thunderbolt interface if I have USB-C?
While USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 use the same physical port, Thunderbolt 3 offers faster data transfer speeds and more connectivity options than USB-C. If you require high-speed data transfer or need to connect multiple devices simultaneously, a Thunderbolt 3 interface may be a better choice.
Can I use a Thunderbolt interface with a Mac or a PC?
Yes, Thunderbolt interfaces are compatible with both Mac and PC computers, as long as they have a Thunderbolt 3 port or a Thunderbolt 3 adapter.
Are Thunderbolt interfaces expensive?
Thunderbolt interfaces tend to be more expensive than other types of interfaces, such as USB or FireWire. However, they offer faster data transfer speeds and more connectivity options, making them a good choice for professionals and power users who require high-performance I/O.
Can I daisy-chain devices with a Thunderbolt interface?
Yes, Thunderbolt interfaces support daisy-chaining of up to six devices, so you can connect multiple peripherals using a single port. This can help reduce cable clutter and simplify your workspace.
Is a thunderbolt audio interface better than a usb audio interface?
Thunderbolt connections have a few advantages over USB connections, including higher data speed, which lowers latency while monitoring audio and boosts the capacity to handle audio effects and plugins in real time.
Why should I use a thunderbolt interface?
Thunderbolt offers its own set of benefits. It is closer to the hardware and produces much larger bandwidths and slightly lower latency, but this is only visible with multi-channel interfaces, which are not included in this group. Thunderbolt is also a pain in the neck when it comes to hot plugging, so you might have to restart the computer every now and again if it loses connectivity — not cool on stage. However, Thunderbolt has a big advantage: it can transmit substantially more current. As a result, high-quality, compact interfaces don’t need a separate power supply. That’s cool in any situation, not just when you’re on the road a lot. The Thunderbolt version of the Universal Audio Apollo Twin X is the greatest example here.
Are Thunderbolt audio interfaces also compatible with Linux?
Thunderbolt audio interfaces are primarily intended for use with Apple and Mac computers. If you require a Linux audio interface, consider the Behringer Xenyx Audio Interface, Yamaha AG03 3- Audio Interface, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen), Tascam US-44, or Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 Mk2.