Thunderbolt 3 is the most sought-after interface for audio production and DJing. Its two Thunderbolt 3 ports enable you to work with a third party USB device or connect other accessories, such as MIDI controllers. It also boasts very low latency, making it an ideal choice for live performance applications.
The “thunderbolt audio interface” is a type of audio interface that connects to a computer via Thunderbolt 3. The best six are listed below.
The comprehensive guide to finding the finest Thunderbolt 3 audio interface to help you get the most out of your music production.
You’ll need more powerful hardware than the built-in sound card in your PC if you’re a music producer, DJ, or seeking for professional audio performance from your computer. Audio interfaces enhance a computer’s sound capabilities by allowing you to connect various music devices such as microphones, keyboards, guitars, and other signals.
In this post, we look at the top Thunderbolt 3 audio interfaces on the market.
Why should you use a Thunderbolt 3 audio interface?
Standard USB ports, Firewire, PCI, and even PCMCIA slots are used to connect audio interfaces to your computer. However, when new protocols enter the market, some of the connection slots are fast becoming outdated. Because the new MacBook exclusively comes with Thunderbolt 3 connections, you won’t be able to connect audio interfaces using Firewire or traditional USB ports unless you want to spend money on dongles.
Because of its increased 40Gbps speed, Thunderbolt 3 is not only future-proof, but also ideal for commercial and demanding music creation, particularly when connecting numerous instruments at the same time.
You may daisy-chain up to six Tb3 audio interfaces for improved recording, mixing, and music creation, just like any other Thunderbolt 3 device. Tb3 is an excellent choice for sound professionals that want crystal clear sound and low latency throughout the recording and processing process.
Choosing an Audio Interface for Thunderbolt 3
Audio interfaces aren’t all created equal. Specific characteristics should be considered depending on the demands of your production area in order to get the most out of the tb3 audio interface. What’s key is to figure out how you’ll utilize the audio interface first, so you don’t waste money on things you won’t use in your studio.
The total number of inputs and outputs
The amount of inputs and outputs you need is determined by the kind of work you’ll be doing with the audio interface. You’ll need an audio interface with several XLR microphone inputs if you’re intending to capture audio with numerous professional microphones. A single XLR input, on the other hand, be enough for recording voice-overs.
In addition to XLR inputs, line-level TRS inputs are used to connect items like keyboards to your audio interface. Line level inputs are preferable to XLR mic inputs since they reject noise well and don’t need amplification for decent sound quality. Microphones, on the other hand, produce weak signals, necessitating the use of an audio interface with integrated preamplifiers to improve sound quality.
Combo inputs, which combine a three-pin XLR with a 1/4′′ TRS input, are seen on high-end audio interfaces. You may use the same connector to connect your professional microphones and other devices, such as keyboards.
The amount of line-level outputs is crucial in the production process for DJs and game developers. When deejaying, use an audio interface with at least four line-level outputs. Two outputs may be used to connect stereo speakers and two outputs can be used to connect headsets for cueing tunes.
In gaming, surround sound is crucial. To get a true 7.1 surround sound system for generating audio for video games, you’ll need up to eight outputs. You can connect up to seven surround sound speakers and a subwoofer with this, or settle for 5.1 surround sound if the audio interface only has line level outputs.
Please keep in mind that the more inputs you have, the more electrical equipment you may utilize at the same time. In the case of a band, many mic-level slots enable you to record with multiple microphones, and numerous line-level inputs allow you to connect various equipment such as mixing desks, CD/DVD players, synthesizers, and preamplifiers.
The Importance of Phantom Power
Mics come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are powered by batteries, while others use energy from the host to take up sound. Phantom power comes from audio interfaces and is used by microphones to capture sound. Choose an audio interface that supports phantom power if you have microphones that need energy to work (48V PH Power).
Audio Interfaces for Thunderbolt 3
|Image||Product||Details||Get a Quote|
|Apollo Twin X QUAD Heritage Edition by Universal Audio||Desktop form factor 10 input / 6 output I/O channels 24-bit/192kHz audio resolution 2 mic preamps Yes, there is a DSP built-in with four cores. Included Apollo Console, LUNA Recording System (Mac only), LUNA Recording System (Mac only) macOS and Windows 10 or later are the supported operating systems.||Look into Amazon.|
|Apollo x8p Heritage Edition by Universal Audio||Rackmount is a form factor. 16 input / 22 output I/O channels 24-bit/192kHz audio resolution 8 mic preamps Yes, there is a DSP built-in with 6 cores. Included Apollo Console, LUNA Recording System (Mac only), LUNA Recording System (Mac only) macOS and Windows 10 or later are the supported operating systems.||Look into Amazon.|
|The PreSonus Quantum 2626 is the best Thunderbolt audio interface for the money.||Rackmount is a form factor. 26 input / 26 output I/O channels 24-bit/192kHz audio resolution 8 mic preamps No DSP built-in Included Studio One Artist, Studio Magic software, and Ableton Live Lite are examples of software. Operating systems: macOS, Windows 10 or later||Look into Amazon.|
|Apollo Solo Heritage Edition by Universal Audio||Desktop form factor 2 input / 4 output I/O channels 24-bit/192kHz audio resolution 1 mic preamp Yes, 1 core DSP built-in LUNA Recording System (Mac only), Apollo Console are included in the software package. macOS and Windows 10 or later are the supported operating systems.||Look into Amazon.|
|Zen Q Synergy Core by Antelope Audio||Desktop form factor 14 input / 10 output I/O channels 24-bit/192kHz audio resolution 2 mic preamps Yes, there is a DSP built-in with two cores. No software is included. macOS and Windows are the two operating systems available.||Look into Amazon.|
|Zen Tour Synergy Core by Antelope Audio||Desktop form factor 18 input / 26 output I/O channels 24-bit/192kHz audio resolution 4 mic preamps Yes, there are four cores in the DSP built-in. No software is included. macOS and Windows are the two operating systems available.||Look into Amazon.|
1. Apollo Twin X QUAD Heritage Edition by Universal Audio – Best Thunderbolt 3 Audio Interface Overall
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Universal Audio has a long history of providing high-quality audio interfaces and preamps, and the Apollo Twin X QUAD Heritage Edition might be the ideal audio interface for your home studio. It’s a 106 desktop interface for Mac and Windows PCs with 24-bit/192kHz capability and a Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.
The Apollo Twin X QUAD Heritage Edition is made of high-quality, long-lasting materials. All of the controls, including a talkback mic, 48V phantom power, a high-pass filter, mute, alternate speakers, and more, are located on the front panel. The talkback option allows you to communicate with the artist without having to leave the area.
This model includes four SHARC DSP processing cores, which provide enough of DSP capability for simultaneously executing many UAD plugins. To get you started, the Apollo Twin X QUAD Heritage Edition includes a range of UAD plugins, including compressors, amp modelers, preamps, and more. The LUNA program, a low-latency and fully-integrated DAW for Mac, is also included.
In terms of I/O, this interface can handle ten inputs and six outputs at the same time. It includes two mic/line inputs, one guitar Hi-Z input, and an optical input with up to eight channels. The mic and Hi-Z inputs are all Unison-enabled, which means you can use Unison plugins to create that vintage mic preamp or guitar amp sound. Two line outputs, two specialized monitor outputs, and a stereo headphone output handle output.
Overall, the Apollo Twin X QUAD is a good choice if you’re searching for a reliable and professional desktop audio interface to update your studio. World-famous producers and professional studios employ these top-of-the-line interfaces. However, if you don’t use many plugins, the Apollo Twin X DUO will provide similar performance and speed at a far lower price.
The Apollo Twin X QUAD Heritage Edition by Universal Audio is an excellent Thunderbolt 3 interface that combines a compact desktop format with professional standard A/D conversion and plenty of DSP power to run multiple instances of the top of the line UAD plugins.
- Tracking with a near-zero delay
- Exceptional audio quality
- UAD plugins are fantastic.
- I/O that is adaptable
- There isn’t a Thunderbolt 3 cable provided.
2. Apollo x8p Heritage Edition by Universal Audio – Premium Thunderbolt 3 Interface
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The Apollo x8p Heritage Edition by Universal Audio is a rack-mountable Thunderbolt 3 interface designed for professional producers and audio engineers. It features high-quality 24-bit/192 kHz conversion and simultaneous 18 input and 22 outputs, including eight Unison-enabled mic preamps.
The Unison technology, which enables you integrate virtual preamps like Neve, API, SSL, Helios, Manley, and more into the Apollo Console in real-time, much like having a real preamp in the studio, is a standout feature here, just as it is on the Apollo Twin X. Because all of the work takes place inside the interface, it consumes no resources from your computer. The Audio Apollo x8p can handle more than 20 instances of UAD plugins because to its six DSP processors.
Teletronix LA2A, UA 1176LN, Fairchild 670, UA 610B, and Pultec EQP1A are among the UAD plugins included in the Audio Apollo x8p Heritage Edition. You also receive the LUNA DAW and Apollo Console software, which allows you to process, mix, and route UAD plugins in real time.
This interface provides other excellent features such as 7.1 surround sound and a talkback mic that can benefit huge recording studios. With two Thunderbolt 3 ports, you can daisy-chain up to four Apollo interfaces to get more DSP power and I/O to meet the growing demands of your studio. Overall, the Apollo x8p Heritage Edition by Universal Audio isn’t on this list because of its brand name but because it offers everything you need for professional tracks and mixes.
The Apollo x8p Heritage Edition by Universal Audio packs even more I/O, more DSP processing power, professional-class converters, and Plugins of excellent quality, making it the best Thunderbolt 3 audio interface for large recording studios.
- Audio of a professional quality
- Tracking with a near-zero delay
- Awe-inspiring performance and a plethora of input/output options
- Mic preamps that are genuine and of good quality
- Support for 7.1 surround sound and talkback
- Plug-ins and recording software are included.
- There isn’t a Thunderbolt 3 cable provided.
PreSonus Quantum 2626 – Best Thunderbolt Audio Interface for the Money
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The PreSonus Quantum 2626 is an affordable Thunderbolt 3 interface with professional standard 24-bit/192 kHz capabilities. It offers Thunderbolt 3 support and I/O that is adaptable up to 26 inputs and 26 outputs along with high-quality converters and preamps at an unbeatable price.
Because of the integrated plugins, Universal Audio interfaces are pricey. The PreSonus Quantum 2626 audio interface is less expensive, but it comes with a number of input and output slots, as well as a full-featured recording software (the Studio One) and the Studio Magic Plug-in Suite.
The PreSonus Quantum 2626 is a rackmount device that takes up 1U of rack space. Unlike the Apollos, this audio interface doesn’t include metering; instead, it has eight immaculate XMAX mic preamps, headphone ports, and a few knobs on the front panel. Two of the mic preamps include both XLR and Hi-Z connections, while the other six are mic/line combinations. Even additional I/O is available on the rear panel for connecting your instruments and output devices.
The PreSonus Quantum 2626 audio interface is the only Thunderbolt 3 audio interface featuring MIDI input and output ports, allowing you to connect an old-school controller, synth module, or any other compatible devices.
The PreSonus Quantum 2626 offers exceptional speeds and ultra-low latency (less than 1ms) without sacrificing audio quality. Because of the blistering speed and quick tb3 bandwidth, you can hear speech instantaneously whether you’re tracking with monitor speakers or headphones.
With minimal jitter and near-zero distortion, the sound quality is outstanding, giving sharp and clean audio quality for hit recordings. The PreSonus Quantum 2626 has a 192kHz sampling rate for high-definition mixing and recording, as well as a 115dB dynamic range to guarantee you capture all you need for a smooth, natural sound with minimal artifacts.
While it lacks the Apollos’ great plugin suites, the sound quality of this audio interface is exceptional, rivaling the best high-end alternatives available. It has a latency of less than 1ms, making it one of the quickest audio interfaces on the market. This mid-priced audio interface outperforms the more expensive models on the market, and it offers exceptional value if you’re willing to forego the Apollos’ complimentary UAD plugin packs.
The PreSonus Quantum 2626 is a Universal Audio interface with outstanding sonics and premium features that would otherwise cost you more. With an extra MIDI input and output, which is not accessible in most Thunderbolt 3 audio interfaces, the I/O selection is outstanding.
- The performance is really low-latency.
- Included is a talkback microphone.
- Mic preamps that can be controlled
- Up to four Quantum audio interfaces may be daisy-chained via Thunderbolt.
- Ports are available in a variety of configurations.
- MIDI I/O should be included.
- There is no DSP built-in. Because your computer conducts all of the work, make sure it’s a powerful one.
4. Apollo Solo Heritage Edition by Universal Audio – Most Portable Thunderbolt 3 Audio Interface
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For those seeking for a portable Thunderbolt 3 audio interface, the Universal Audio Apollo Solo (Heritage Edition) is a great choice. It’s a straightforward 24 desktop interface with all of Apollo’s newest capabilities, including 24-bit/192-kHz audio conversion and real-time UAD processing. The interface is small and light, making it simple to pick up and go.
The Apollo Solo is bus-powered, which means it can take power from the computer to which it’s attached, eliminating the need to tote along a bulky power brick. This allows you to take the interface with you and record tracks almost anyplace.
On the front panel, you’ll find all of the settings, including a Hi-Z input for guitars and a headphone output. The interface is connected to your computer through a Thunderbolt 3 connector on the rear, as well as two Line outputs and two Unison-enabled mic/line inputs. You can only utilize two of the three inputs at a time, despite the fact that there are three in total.
The Apollo Solo is equipped with the same class-leading converters found in Universal Audio’s premium interfaces. Unison technology allows you to load authentic amp emulations from Neve, API, Fender, and others, but you’ll be restricted to a few instances due to the Solo’s single DSP core. Regardless, whichever plugin or effect you put into the DSP, the Solo performs well.
The Apollo Solo Heritage Edition by Universal Audio delivers high-quality and professional standard recordings on the go. The fact that it does not require external power makes it easy to take on the go.
- All-metal design is lightweight and durable.
- Audio quality is excellent.
- Plugins of excellent quality
- Due to a single DSP core, it can run a few plugins.
5. Zen Q Synergy Core by Antelope Audio – Bus-Powered Thunderbolt 3 Interface with Plenty of I/O
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The Zen Q Synergy Core by Antelope Audio is another bus-powered audio interface with a Thunderbolt 3 connection. It’s a 14×10 desktop interface, meaning you’re getting plenty of I/O here compared to the Universal Audio Apollo Solo. If you want to record and monitor multiple voices and instruments on the go, the Zen Q Synergy Core from Antelope Audio is the ideal choice.
Two mic/line inputs with preamps, two Hi-Z inputs, digital expandable ADAT input (up to eight channels), stereo monitor outputs, two line outputs, and two stereo headphone outputs are among the features of the Zen Q Synergy Core. That’s a great collection of inputs and outputs for recording a small to medium band in the studio or any on-location session.
This interface has 24-bit/192kHz conversion, real-time effects processing, and real-time simulation of classic mic preamps. The sound quality on this device is incredible, and the plugins are top-notch. It features DSP built-in cores that handle all of the processing, allowing your computer to focus on other tasks.
Zen Q Synergy Core from Antelope Audio comes with a standard USB connector. It adds some delay, but for a lot less money, you’ll get most of the features and speed.
Zen Q Synergy Core by Antelope Audio is an excellent Thunderbolt audio interface that provides plenty of I/O, high-quality preamps and converters, and a suite of plugins for professional-level recording in the studio or any location.
- I/O options are many.
- Preamps that are in tip-top shape
- Processing of plugins in real time (37 plugins included)
- There is no need for a separate power supply.
- DSP built-in
- There is no Thunderbolt cable supplied.
- There isn’t a talkback microphone.
6. Zen Tour Synergy Core by Antelope Audio – Signature Antelope Sound with I/O that is adaptable
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The Zen Tour Synergy Core by Antelope Audio is a desktop upgrade to the Zen Q Synergy Core bus-powered interface, bringing even more I/O and more DSP power to handle the real-time processing of multiple plugins. Antelope Audio claims this interface can handle up to 256 plugins simultaneously, made possible by the four DSP built-in chips and two FPGA chips.
The Zen Tour Synergy Core offers 16/22 simultaneously I/O, including four mic/line preamp inputs, four Hi-Z instrument inputs, two reamp outs, and dedicated stereo monitor output. You can expand the I/O using the ADAT & S/PDIF ports. The front panel has all the controls and knobs, including a talkback feature to communicate with artists in another room easily.
With minimal distortions and near-zero latency, the Zen Tour Synergy Core provides trademark Antelope sound. High-resolution audio up to 24-bit/192kHz may be recorded, mixed, and played back. Preamps, equalizers, compressors, and reverbs are among the 37 real-time plugins included with the interface. Overall, the Zen Tour Synergy Core is one of the most powerful desktop interfaces on the market, with capabilities and sound quality that equal some of the finest rackmount interfaces.
The Zen Tour Synergy Core by Antelope Audio is an Expensive desktop interface, but it provides all the I/O you need with plenty of DSP power, 37 plugins, and ultra-low latency Thunderbolt 3 connection. It’s a powerful desktop interface for professional-grade recording studios.
- Mic preamps that are crystal clear and discreet
- I/O that is both flexible and extendable, including reamp outs
- DSP with four cores onboard
- Microphone with built-in talkback
- Desktop space is limited.
- On the pricey side
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Thunderbolt audio interface worth it?
A: The Thunderbolt is one of the most expensive audio interfaces you can buy and its also in a very different class. But if you have the money to spend, then I would say go for it because we all love paying for quality!
What is the highest quality audio interface?
A: That is difficult to answer because each device can have different features. However, the best quality audio interface would be a USB DAC and headphone amplifier combination with good drivers inside of it.
What audio interfaces do professional studios use?
A: Typically, studios use a combination of interfaces such as Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 USB Audio Interface and Presonus E-Studio Project 16.
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