Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces

Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces - Top 5 (August 2022)

The Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces (August 2022)

The best thunderbolt audio interfaces offer fantastic opportunities to record high quality audio from several sources with minimal latency. Thunderbolt connections offer substantially higher bandwidth than USB and therefore offer low latency. They can support many inputs both analog inputs and digital inputs. They also come in many different shapes and sizes. Ranging from small form factor through to mountable rack models.

Thunderbolt audio interfaces range from large 'rack' styled devices. Through to pocket sized incredibly compact and durable audio interfaces. Some come with full colour LED/LCD displays for input and output levels. Others offer portability by being powered by batteries.

Whether you're looking to record a keyboard, guitar or vocals. The best way to setup your recording station is to plug into your computer and make tracks via an audio interface. Low and zero latency models are considered to be the best thunderbolt audio interface options on the market.

Overall we think thunderbolt is a great choice. They offer a significant speed boost when compared with most USB & firewire models. We've collected a list of the best thunderbolt audio interfaces on the market. Hopefully this review and recommendation list helps you find the right one.

The Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces Buyers Guide (August 2022)

  • 1. Universal Audio Apollo x8 Thunderbolt
  • 2. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII)
  • 3. Antelope Audio Antelope Zen Tour
  • 4. Presonus Quantum 26x32 Thunderbolt 2
  • 5. MOTU 828es 28x32
Universal Audio Apollo x8 Thunderbolt Image

Universal Audio Apollo x8 Thunderbolt

  • ✔ Record with near-zero latency
  • ✔ Easily connect to pro-level studio gear
  • ✔ Includes Power Supply
  • ✔ Track and mix with powerful HEXA Core processing

The Apollo offers a huge improvement on Universal's audio interface predecessors.

Universal Audio Apollo x8 Thunderbolt - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

The incredibly designed Apollo 8 from Universal Audio is a phenomenal rack-mount interface. Its ability to reach a high level of dynamic range allows for extreme clarity, depth, and intimate accuracy on any recording. With plenty of connectivity options, it’s possible to chain a few of them together. In the attempt to find the most optimal sound recording experience.

If you’re looking for create professional sounding recordings one thing is for sure. You’re going to require a professional industry leading audio interface. Something that will perform with the precision and stability needed for larger more demanding sessions. Cue in the Avid HD I/O. A high-performance Logic Pro|Pro Tools HD|Seris 8 x 8 x 8 analog and digital audio interface. One that’s designed to completely integrate with Pro Tools HD|Systems. The interface features premium A/D and D/A conversion and advanced circuitry. Giving you pristine sound quality and clarity and the lowest possible latency.

The Apollo offers a huge improvement on Universal’s audio interface predecessors. HD I/O features premium A/D and D/A conversion. Allowing you to experience improved audio fidelity and a sweeping dynamic range. Not to mention ultra-low jitter and the lowest possible latency in your recording sessions. With specific configurations, you can make use of built-in sample rate conversion. As well as a soft clip tool for hassle-free recording.

The Apollo I/O is delivered in three arrangements, so you have the option of picking the interface that best fits your connectivity needs. Additionally, you can increase your digital or analog I/O. By simply installing an HD I/O option card into one of the unused bays. You can install a single option card in HD I/O 8x8x8. Or a maximum of two additional cards in HD I/O 16×16 Digital. Although the HD I/O 16×16 Analog arrives with the max number of four cards, you can optimize your I/O by switching any card.

The Apollo audio interfaces completely integrate with Pro Tools|HD. You can achieve high levels of dependability, performance, and command of your outputs, inputs, and routing. Straight from within your Pro Tools interface. You’ll also experience an increased production quality and improved workflow fluidity than with any previous interface. If you desire to use your interface with Pro Tools| HD and alternative DAW software, you’re able to do so with ease.

Finding a great audio interface will improve the capability of your production setup and the quality of your sound. Let’s recap how you should choose the correct mac audio interface thats right for you. Start by gaining a general understanding of how you would want to connect your setup. Then consider the live instruments that you will be using. There are lots of audio interfaces on the market that are affordable, durable and support a wide array of amazing features that will get you on track to capture your required sound.

Desktop compatible interfaces are a great option for Entry and Mid-Level Producers. Rack-mounted interfaces are perfect additions to Mid-Level and Pro-Level producers. Producers who have vast audio production knowledge and are looking to ramp up their output to the max.

Making music with a simple setup of headphones and a laptop can only get you so far. At some point audio production becomes an issue. Having a well routed and professionally optimized production setup will greatly enrich your sound design, production and workflow.


Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII) Image

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII)

  • ✔ Handles processing, instead of overworking your PC/Mac
  • ✔ Built-in talkback microphone
  • ✔ Less than 2ms round-trip latency
  • ✔ Ultra high-quality audio interface

Ultra high-quality, low latency audio interface

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII) - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

The Apollo Twin MKII Solo by Universal Audio can be accurately described as the creme-de-la-creme of audio interfaces when it comes to the quality of its components and its overall build. The unit provides 2 XLR/TRS combination inputs, an optical input, as well as 4 line outputs, making it decent for musicians who only need a few inputs for simultaneous recording.

Now, the main selling point of this audio interface lies in the unit’s internal circuitry and the connectivity type (being thunderbolt), which mean that it can provide sub-2ms round-trip latency, which is extremely low! The audio interface comes with a Universal Audio Plugin Bundle, which includes: Legacy versions of the LA-2A, 1176LN, Pultec EQP-1A, plus Softube Amp Room Essentials, Raw Distortion, 610-B Tube Preamp & EQ, and more

Additionally, the interface has some other useful features, such as a built-in talkback microphone, which is ideal for a professional studio environment.

The Apollo Twin is an EDM industry favorite. In fact, in a recent NGHTMRE Snapchat he can be seen using this great interface while teasing one of his newest releases. With a sturdy build and unique look, the Apollo Twin is also an excellent interface with the tone feel and flow of an analog controller. This interface differs from most of the others that we have covered as it requires a Thunderbolt connection to be used with your computer. If you’re looking for an industry leading interface for a professional sound, look no further than the Apollo Twin.

A scaled-down alternative to Universal Audio’s flagship Apollo 8 and 16, the original Apollo Twin has been giving ‘the rest of us’ access to those mythical Unison preamps, first-class I/O and swanky UAD plugins for three years now.

The new Apollo Twin MkII is essentially more of the same, but with a few minor improvements, and an optional DSP upgrade. Let’s start with what’s stayed the same.

The top panel centers on a satisfyingly oversized knob, controlling Monitor or Preamp input levels, as selected with the two buttons flanking it; and six Option buttons, contextualised by an LED icon strip, that again change function depending on whether the unit is in Monitor or Preamp mode. Input and output metering are provided by four five-segment LED ladders.

The back panel and front edge house two combi Mic/Line inputs. It also has a Hi-Z quarter-inch guitar input (overriding Mic/Line 1 when occupied), four quarter-inch output jacks (two Monitor, two Line). Not forgetting the stereo S/PDIF out, Headphones out and a TOSLINK port. This last port is for adding up to eight analogue inputs via ADAT.

Still a desktop-format 2-in/-6-out interface with 24-bit/192kHz capabilities, the Apollo Twin MkII would be almost indistinguishable from the original were it not now black rather than silver. It connects to your Mac or PC via Thunderbolt, but it has to be powered from the wall; and while the original Twin (still available) could be had in a USB 3 version, it’s not clear whether the MkII will follow suit.

Also a ‘DSP box’ for powering UAD plugin effects (VST/AU/AAX/RTAS), the Apollo Twin MkII features the same game-changing Unison preamps as its predecessor, fed by the Mic/Line and Hi-Z ins. These enable a gradually expanding subset of UA’s classic hardware emulation plugins to be inserted directly into each input path. Physically reconfiguring the preamp’s impedance and gain staging. As an alternative to the regular algorithmic modeling of valves, transistors, amps, EQ. This results in near-zero-latency monitoring and/or recording through them.

When we first reviewed the Twin, there were only three Unison plugins available – the UA 610-B (bundled), the UA 610-A and the API Vision. Since then, they’ve been joined by the Manley Voxbox, Neve 1073 and 88RS; eight guitar and bass amps by Ampeg, Fender and Marshall; and three distortion stompboxes, including the bundled Pro Co Rat emulation, Raw. All of them sound and feel great, and Unison remains a huge and unique selling point for the Apollo Twin MkII.

So, apart from the color change, what else is new? Well, UA has apparently beefed up the AD/DA converters, for even more dynamic range and less distortion, but the MkI was so outstanding in this department that you’ll be hard pushed to tell the difference – it’s still the cleanest, most transparent-sounding interface in its price range.

Other than that, the MkII sees a refinement of its studio workflow with the addition of a talkback mic and front panel access to a few of the monitoring functions of the Console software (see It’s not just the hardware).

The Talk button activates the talkback mic (the tiny hole below the knob), which can be sent to the outputs of your choice for control room communication or quick recording of notes and cues. The Dim button lowers the monitor output level, the Mute switch kills it entirely, and the Mono button switches between stereo and mono output for playback system compatibility checking. Very nice.

In Monitor mode, four of the Option buttons – which weren’t used at all by MkI – now come into play, necessitating the addition of a new row of icons to the LED strip, which has been made a bit deeper to accommodate them.

Apollo’s creed Apart from the Quad Core option, the Apollo Twin MkII is the very definition of an iterative upgrade. If you’re already a happy owner of MkI, the talkback mic and extra monitoring control alone aren’t reasons enough to reinvest. If, however, you’ve been hankering for more DSP than your existing Twin affords you, your day has come – have at it. And, of course, newcomers to the world of Apollo and UAD now get even more for their money, which can only be a good thing.

Given how much we loved the original Apollo Twin, it’ll come as no surprise that the MkII again wins our highest possible recommendation. Far more than possibly the best audio interface ever made. This is a musically empowering hardware/software hybrid. Capable of elevating even the humblest of home and project studios to genuinely professional-quality heights.

Compatibility
  • Mac & PC
  • Supports all major DAWs
Features
  • 2 x 6 audio interface
  • Highly reputable brand
  • Rather compact, metal chassis
  • Near to zero-latency (2ms according to reports)
  • SHARC DSP for running UAD plug-ins without burdening the computer CPU
  • Unison technology providers classic tube and transformer-based preamp models
  • Talkback microphone
  • Warranty: 1-Year Manufacturers Warranty
Technical Specs
  • Thunderbolt connectivity
  • 2-in / 6-out
  • 2 XLR/TRS combination inputs
  • Optical In
  • 4 line outputs
  • Powered by a 12v power supply
  • 24-bit/96kHz resolution
  • 48v Phantom power
Pros
  • Ultra high-quality audio interface
  • Rather portable
  • Handles processing, instead of overworking your PC/Mac
  • Built-in talkback microphone
  • Less than 2ms round-trip latency
  • Comes with full UAD plug-in bundle
  • 1-year manufacturers warranty

Antelope Audio Antelope Zen Tour Image

Antelope Audio Antelope Zen Tour

  • ✔ 24-bit, 192 kHz audio and Antelope’s signature flawless conversion
  • ✔ Guitar amp modeling and effects processing with virtually 0 latency
  • ✔ Touchscreen control panel
  • ✔ 32 channels via Thunderbolt and 24 channels on USB

If you want a high-quality audio interface for studio, rehearsals and gigs you have to look at this.

Antelope Audio Antelope Zen Tour - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

The Antelope Audio Zen Tour is a portable USB Audio Interface that contains Antelope's award-winning 24-bit / 192 kHz Analog-to-Digital converters and Digital-to-Analog converters, as well as Zero Latency Monitoring technology, making it the go-to interface for traveling musicians, DJs or anyone who is on the road. The Zen Tour is an interface with performance, versatility and ease of use unsurpassed in the industry. Antelope's innovative design eliminates the need to make complex choices and trade-offs. With the Zen Tour, you get it all. Streamlined control and simple operation is further enhanced with exclusive Plug-And-Play presets, which are optimized for the most popular audio recording and live performance applications.

As a compact USB audio interface that includes microphone preamplifiers with adjustable gain, headphone amplifiers. As well as an advanced DSP mixer. The Zen Tour is a complete solution for recording a band, singer/songwriter, or solo musical performance. The Zen Tour's input channels are loaded with premium-grade components that are hand-picked from the Antelope Audio sound bard for their sonic purity and transparency.

The Zen Tour has an extremely powerful yet highly intuitive design that makes recording and mixing extremely easy. It is the perfect choice for recording musicians, vocalists, and sound engineers. It is designed with the professional musician in mind, who needs to capture audio in the most straightforward way possible.


Presonus Quantum 26x32 Thunderbolt 2 Image

Presonus Quantum 26x32 Thunderbolt 2

  • ✔ Very good sound quality
  • ✔ Rack mountable
  • ✔ Control session using an iPad or Android tablet
  • ✔ Built-in talkback microphone

Another excellent choice for professional studios

Presonus Quantum 26x32 Thunderbolt 2 - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

Presonus Quantum is the first audio interface to combine the sonic character of an analog console with the flexible connectivity, state-of-the-art digital technology, and world-class audio processing of a state-of-the-art digital workstation. With Quantum, recording and mixing engineers can now seamlessly meld the best of analog and digital technologies, and use the same amazing interface for both live recording and studio production.

The Presonus Quantum is the right tool for any project, large or small. It provides the quality, flexibility and cost-effectiveness that professionals need. This device is the heart of a project studio, but it's also an excellent choice for anyone starting a home studio, a mobile rig or a small church sound system. It is an audio interface for Mac OS and Windows that utilizes true 32-bit analog-to-digital converters and delivers the best audio quality that we've ever heard from an interface in this price range.

Presonus Quantum is the ultimate professional recording interface for the home studio. This full-featured USB 2.0 and thunderbolt audio interface is capable of 24-bit/192 kHz audio quality. With outstanding mic pre-amps, unique direct monitoring capabilities and pristine digital conversion. You will get professional-quality recordings with the Presonus Quantum.

The Quantum delivers the quality and performance you expect from Presonus, now at an affordable price.


MOTU 828es 28x32 Image

MOTU 828es 28x32

  • ✔ Incredibly sound quality
  • ✔ Rack mountable
  • ✔ Expandable (up to 5 additional MOTU devices)
  • ✔ Web-app control

Lowest latency times (1.6ms roundtrip) and designed to perfection

MOTU 828es 28x32 - Read Review See The Latest Price On Amazon Now

The MOTU 828es has to be our favourite audio interface featured on the list. Why? Well, it offers so much functionality and in-turn, ease of use, that we can’t not love it.

Firstly, this is a rack-mountable interface that has both USB and Thunderbolt connectivity, which is quite rare to see.

It comes with 28-inputs and 32-outputs ranging from the mass of available XLR/TRS, Line, MIDI, ADAT and S/PDIF ports.

Due to the quality of its internal circuitry, and the ESS Sabre32 Ultra DAC Technology, it can provide an impressive 1.6ms of round-trip latency, which is less than any other interface featured on this list.

And whilst we’re on the topic of the ESS Sabre32 Dac Technology, this is the same technology used in MOTU’s ultra-expensive 1248 model.

However, the really attractive part of using the MOTU 828es is the ability to remotely control the interface, using any device, via the web-app feature, which is ideal for recording/live situations where you want to see how something sounds from another physical location. As well as this, the MOTU 828es can be expanded, by adding up to 5 additional MOTU devices together, in case your home/professional studio needs to expand operations.

Additionally, the unit provides a talkback mic, A/B mix buttons, and even the ability to connect a footswitch to remotely control the talkback microphone, whilst you’re busy using your hands.

Overall, when taking into account all of the above, including the pros and (not so many) cons, it’s clear why we really like the MOTU 828es.

 

Compatibility
  • Mac & PC, iOS*, Android* & Linux*
  • Supports all major DAWs

 

Features
  • 28-in/32-out audio interface
  • A very well-known and reputable brand
  • Rackmountable
  • Sturdy aluminum metal chassis
  • Near to zero-latency (1.6ms according to their website)
  • Check mixes instantly with A/B buttons
  • Web app control from any device (iOS, Android, Linux, Mac, PC, etc)
  • Ability to expand network and connect up to 5 MOTU interfaces
  • Plenty of input/output types
  • Talkback mic
  • Warranty: 2-Year Manufacturers Warranty

 

Technical Specs
  • Thunderbolt 2 (Thunderbolt 3 compatible) & USB 2.0 connectivity (USB 3.0 compatible)
  • 28-in / 32-out
  • 2 XLR/TRS combination inputs
  • 8 Line inputs
  • 8 Line outputs
  • MIDI input/output
  • 2 x ADAT optical input/output
  • S/PDIF input/output
  • Powered by a power supply
  • 24-bit/96kHz resolution
  • 48v Phantom power

 

Pros
  • Built-in talkback microphone (and remote use using a footswitch)
  • A/B mix buttons
  • Less than 1.6ms round-trip latency
  • 2-year manufacturers warranty

More Information Regarding Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces (2022)

What is an Audio Interface?

In essence an audio interface allows you to take audio signals and pump them in and out of your computer. The decision on which one is right for you simply comes down to a combination of your budget and how you like to work. Simplistic models exist that simply convert analog audio signals to digital audio signals on the way to your computer. This is because your computer will have software such as pro tools that is able to understand digital audio signals. Allowing you to layer, manipulate and refine the sound and then pump out to a speaker or amplifier. The audio interface will convert your digital audio signals back to analog signals on the way out of your computer. This way the speaker is able to play the sound for you to hear. These types of audio interfaces are known as AD/DA (Analog to Digital/Digital to Analog) converters.

Audio interfaces have a variety of different ports, inputs and outputs. A headphone output is fundamental in modern day interfaces. Allowing you to listen to the sounds without the need for an amp other outputs. Many inputs can exist on a single interface. They can include mic, line, analog and digital inputs.

What Is A Thunderbolt Audio Interface?

Thunderbolt audio interfaces are hugely popular at the moment. This popularity is growing however one issue is that thunderbolt ports are mostly found on Apple devices and don't support Windows PCs.

Thunderbolt interface connections are much much faster than both usb and firewire alternatives. This makes then ideal for supporting 10's if not 100's of audio channels. This might be a little overkill for more modest setups at home studios etc but it will offer as some level of 'future proofing' especially as thunderbolt ports become more and more prolific on modern hardware devices.

Thunderbolt audio interfaces come with some fantastic benefits considering todays demand for speed and performance. Transfer of data is increased which is great considering the size of this data is growing due to the industries move towards high resolution audio recordings. With higher data transfer speeds you can expect thunderbolt audio interfaces to be low latency options. The sound quality is greatly improved if latency is low and bandwidth is high. Having a high bandwidth allows you to support higher sound quality modes.

Thunderbolt Audio Interface Price Range

The price of top quality audio interfaces has fallen dramatically in recent years. This is great news if you're looking to get hold of a device that will give you a fantastic sound without costing the earth. This is because many brands have taken their previous generation thunderbolt interface models and repackaged them. Usually with some modern nuances to create a budget model of their current range. Don't be put off by this, these audio interfaces are still great value. They might not have all the latest bells and whistles but they get the job done. Which means you don't need to pay substantial amounts of money for them.

Depending on what you want to achieve, you'll priorities different features when finding the best thunderbolt audio interfaces for your situation. If space is an issue you'll look for a small to medium sized interface. One that provides you a great experience and end result while not taking up a large portion of your limited space. If you're in need of a portable audio interface then you'll probably rule out any rack mountable models. Instead you'll be looking for small battery powered options.

Thunderbolt Audio Interface Inputs & Outputs

Audio interfaces come with a range of inputs and outputs. Some will have line inputs, mic preamps, headphone outputs, mic inputs & many other inputs and outputs. Make sure the model you consider has what you need. If you're kitting out a home studio then you'll be looking for the best thunderbolt audio interface which features (such as phantom power) the inputs and outputs you need at an affordable price range.

Some of the best thunderbolt audio interfaces come with software as part of the package. Pro tools is a popular editing software that we've seen offered as part of audio interface packages in the past. Purchasing an audio interface that comes with a reputable editing software is a great way to justify paying more for your audio interface. This is because you're saving money elsewhere.

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