Looking for the best Thunderbolt audio interface? If you have been to the market or you have searched online, you must have got a lot of options. But does all of them worth the money. No, a big No. The market is full of cheap quality or even worse, fake products. Moreover, an audio interface might be right for you but not for a professional or vice-versa.
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So we picked up few of the best thunderbolt audio interfaces. But before moving on to the list, let me tell give you a brief introduction about the Audio Interfaces and Thunderbolt so that you choose a best one for you.
Well, an audio interface relates to any hardware that can increase the audio capabilities of a computer is called an audio interface. An external sound card is also an audio interface. These audio interfaces come handy when your computer sound output is not that good.
Also, If you plan to work on music production and to improve the quality of the music on your computer, you will most probably need an audio interface. Audio interfaces have built-in ADC and DAC. It also deals with the bit depth as well as the sample rate.
Though your computer also has a built-in sound card the performance of that is usually not as good as external sound cards. Moreover, you don’t get the controls and ports for tuning various settings and connecting a lot of audio devices to record or play from them. High-end audio interfaces support all types of recordings.
You also have to analyze your requirements, how many outputs and inputs you need. Do you need DSP, MIDI connectivity or you are looking for something that helps you in making music from mobile? It is good if you have Thunderbolt port and also you have to set a budget.
Thunderbolt interface is a bit different to the interfaces like USB and FireWire. It uses the PCI-E interface that is used in the computer to use the superfast graphics card and NVMe SSDs. As a result, you get ultra-fast data transfer speeds. Thus, it becomes ideal for sound with exceptionally high rate and correspondingly low latency. Now you must have got an idea about the thunderbolt audio interface, let’s see the best ones.
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Starting the list in ascending order of price, we have Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 in the first place. It has 20 inputs and 20 outputs with 8 Focusrite Mic Preamps. It offers the legendary sonic performance and unmatched flexibility. It has the new generation multi-channel FireWire/Thunderbolt audio interface. The eight Focusrite Preamps ensures low distortion and noise. It has high-quality ADC and DAC along with JetPLL jitter reduction technology so that you get the pristine audio quality and reliable synchronization.
A total count of 40 inputs and outputs makes it ideal for professional users. Plus, two separate headphone buses are provided with different controls on the front panel. The Saffire MixControl delivers an 18 x 16 DSP mixer that ensures excellent output routing and monitoring. There is an anti-thump circuit that protects your speakers from spikes while starting and shutting down. Overall, this audio interface packs the controls for any set-up from basic stereo to full 7.1 surrounds.
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Moving ahead, we have Apogee Element 24 which is specially designed for the MAC platform. It features ten inputs and 12 outputs with Thunderbolt performance for low latency sound. As we are talking about the sound quality, a high-quality ADC provided in the Element 24 captures every minute detail of your recordings into your computer.
Whether you want to record drums, dynamic vocals or delicate strings, The Apogee’s advanced stepped gain architecture does the job like a pro. It optimizes the sound in the gain range of 0 – 75 dB for a superior bandwidth and low distortion. Its high-quality D/A converter will let you hear more definition and clarity in each track. The higher ends will sound crisp, and low ends feel tight and natural. Plus, the Thunderbolt connectivity makes it even better as it offers the incredible low-latency performance and excellent audio stability.
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Focusrite Clarett 4Pre sounds excellent with up to 119 dB dynamic range. It produces the high-quality 24 bit 192 kHz sound and comes with specially-designed mic preamps with a different analog ‘Air’ effect.’ That’s where it shines over the other audio interfaces of its category. The Thunderbolt connectivity offers the ultra-low round-trip latency. You can record and monitor with your favorite DAW plugins in real time which means you won’t need multiple mixes, add-in DSP or any other type of special processing.
Focusrite new software makes it even easier for routing steps and monitoring. It has a compact architecture that features 18 inputs and eight outputs, including four front-panel multi-function inputs, four independent line inputs and line outputs, stereo S/PDIF I/O and dual headphone outputs. Also, you can add eight channels of digital mic pre using the eight channels of ADAT-format digital input. It is faster and easier to work on, and hence we featured this on our list of best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces.
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PreSonus Quantum 2 features the maximum no of inputs and outputs in its price range, with a total of 46 inputs and outputs. Its extremely low–latency and superb audio quality makes it a budget-oriented professional audio interface. Plus, the high-speed Thunderbolt connectivity and direct-to-DAW architecture, with no DSP have made it even better over its predecessor Quantum.
The unmatched audio quality with 24-bit 192 kHz converters with 102 dB dynamic range and a right amount of expandability make it a great option. You can expand the input and output up to 80 when you need. And the recallable XMAX Class A analog microphone preamps ensure deep lows, smooth highs, and a rich overall sound. The Quantum 2 comes with Studio One software integration provides you a complete recording solution.
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One of the best professional Thunderbolt Audio Interface under $1000 is UAD’s Apollo Twin MkII. It features 2×6 Thunderbolt audio interface for Mac and Windows with world-class 24-bit/192 kHz audio. It delivers enhanced audio conversion with the feel, flow, and tone of analog recording. You can cascade up to 4 Apollo interfaces and 6 UAD-2 devices over Thunderbolt which you will find useful as your studio grows.
The Apollo Twin MkII has a small form factor that provides the simplicity and ease of operation that we need. It has a 2 LED strip that shows input selector, high-pass filter, power pad and phase inverter and two-channel link. It gives you the flexibility for Real-time tracking and monitoring through Unison plugins. The MkII sees a refinement in the workflow with the addition of the talkback mic which can be activated using the talk button MkII.
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The Apogee Element 46 is the big brother the Element 24 audio interface mentioned above. It is great for any musician who records at home or in a small studio. It is a 12 IN x 14 OUT Thunderbolt Audio Interface for Mac including four analog inputs, two headphone outputs, and stereo speaker outputs. The single port Thunderbolt connectivity gives ultra-low latency performance with 1.41 ms round-trip at 96 kHz at 32 buffer setting.
The Element Control software for Mac gives access to all the settings and I/O controls of the audio interface right at your computer screen. Plus, with the Apogee control remote, you have eight buttons and a control knob right at your fingertip. No doubt, Apogee Element series delivers ultimate recording quality and performance at fantastic prices.
If you want even more I/O ports, you can go for the Apogee Element 88 which is great for the bands. It is a 16 IN x 16 OUT Audio I/O box. You will also get an Apogee Control hardware remote free with the Element 88. The Apogee Element 46 is an excellent option under $1000 but if you want more I/O then go for the Element 88.
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Now, moving on towards the advanced audio interfaces for professionals we have the Antelope Audio’s Zen Tour. You won’t have to buy DSP expensive plugins; Zen Tour packs something better. The new hardware-based FPGA effects make recording even more creative. It includes cab simulations, EQ and compressor simulations, guitar amps and the versatile AuraVerb reverb.
It comes with the unbeatable amount of I/O for a device of that size. This USB and Thunderbolt audio interface easily cover the need for a small band. Talking about the I/O and controls Zen Tour includes four switchable Mic/Line inputs, four more HiZ/Line ins, and eight analog outs. There is a talkback button on the front panel and two preamp outs, two independent headphone amps.
Its powerful Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) that has enhanced its capabilities of parallel processing so that you can get the lowest latency levels compared to others on the market. A high-resolution touchscreen makes it even more convenient to control and monitor the settings and I/O. The Zen Tour can also be managed using the Antelope Audio’s Software Control Panel that is available for OS X and Windows. You also get the app support for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.
We hope you like our article on the Best Thunderbolt Audio Interface that we recommend you to buy today. Questions or feedbacks are welcome in the comment section below. Thanks for visiting!