Thunderbolt interfaces may not be right for everyone, for the simple fact that most Thunderbolt products—hard drives and soundcards included—still cost noticeably more than their USB counterparts. Thunderbolt requires more in the way of support electronics, the cables themselves have entire chipsets in them, hence the increased cost.
|REVIEWED||Resident Audio T4||Universal AudioApollo Twin|
|PRICE||$499||Apollo Twin Solo $699 (1x DSP); Apollo Twin Duo $899 (2x DSP)|
|COMMUNICATION||Audio/MIDI over Thunderbolt||Audio over Thunderbolt, DSP for plug-ins in DAWs over Thunderbolt|
|SHIPS WITH||Driver/monitor software, 19.5″ Thunderbolt cable||Console software, Console Recall plug-in and the 10-plug-in Realtime Analog Classics bundle (download); AC power supply with international adapters|
|INPUTS||4 balanced mic/line combo ¼”/XLR inputs with optional phantom power||1 “Hi-Z” instrument input (¼” unbalanced), 2 balanced mic/line combo ¼”/XLR inputs with optional phantom power, digital optical input for: 2 channels S/PDIF optical or 8 channels ADAT optical|
|OUTPUTS||4 balanced ¼” line-level outputs; 1 stereo ¼” headphone output (optional second headphone out on Output 3)||1 stereo headphone output (¼” unbalanced), independent stereo Monitor outputs (¼” balanced), independent Line 3/4 outputs (¼” balanced)|
|AUDIO RESOLUTION||Up to 24-bit/96 kHz||Up to 24-bit/192 kHz|
|DYNAMIC RANGE||92dB (mic); 95dB (line); 91dB (inst.)||118dB (mic); 117.5dB (line); 117dB (Hi-Z)|
|WEIGHT||2.3 pounds (1.04 kg)||2.35 pounds (1.07 kg)|
|DIMENSIONS||10.6 x 4.4 x 1.8 inches (26.9 x 11.2 x 4.6 cm)||6.3 x 6.2 x 2.6 inches (16 x 15.7 x 6.6 cm)|
|MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS||Mac: OS 10.9 Mavericks or higher. PC: Windows 8 or higher||Mac with available Thunderbolt port; OS 10.8 Mountain Lion or OS 10.9 Mavericks; 4 GB available disk space; Thunderbolt cable (sold separately)|
Both interfaces take up close to the same overall footprint and weigh just more than two pounds. Likewise, both display extreme sturdiness with a metal alloy chassis that appear ready to take a pounding if they have to. Either one would make a suitable mobile recording/performing interface, as they’re small yet robust enough for travelling. Unfortunately, neither unit includes a second Thunderbolt port that you could use for daisy chaining other devices. However all current Mac computers have at least 2 thunderbolt ports, with the exception of the MacBook Air.
On the other hand, the Apollo Twin operates with a one-knob + LEDs interface. You choose the input and output sources with top-panel buttons, and the LED rings around the push-button big knob indicate the input or output levels for each source. There are also LED level meters for the input and output. Additional buttons let you choose options for the inputs, such as a low-cut filter, phantom power for mikes, a pad to avoid clipping, etc. Apollo Twin’s single knob feels handy and makes it a convenient desktop companion; pressing the knob works differently according to the mode, for example, muting all audio going to the Monitor outs.
With the onboard DSP and excellent plug-ins of the Apollo Twin Solo, it’s still very reasonably priced at $699—$200 more than the T4. A USB/Firewire alternative to the Apollo Twin, the MOTU UltraLite mk3 Hybrid includes onboard DSP and effects for a street price of $549. If you’re really on a budget it may be best to check out these budget soundcards.