Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces 2018

10th Aug 2018

Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces 2018

In this article Music Matter round up the best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces for 2018, including many popular brands such as: Focusrite, Universal Audio, Antelope & More.

So why Thunderbolt – or more accurately, Thunderbolt 2.0? Well essentially Thunderbolt is a vast improvement on USB and Firewire, it's effectively a hardware interface that combines PCI Express, DisplayPort and DC Power all in one cable. While the latest Firewire has an impressive bandwidth of 800 Mb/s Thunderbolt 2.0 completely blows it out of the water with an incredible 20 Gb/s. So why does this matter when it comes to audio interfaces? In its purest form Thunderbolt can transfer huge amounts of data from your audio interface to your laptop or computer, imagine trying to capture the clearest HD 4K video, that's a lot of data and why shouldn't it be the same for your audio tracks, with Thunderbolt you can quickly and easily record the clearest audio at an extremly high resolution.

When looking to buy a Thunderbolt audio interface be sure to include these important points into your thinking: What types of input and output connections are on the interface, they could be mic, line or MIDI and also be aware of digital I/O such as ADAT, S/PDIF, DB25 and SMUX, so make sure they match what you specifically require. For the moment Thunderbolt is only compatible with Apple Mac computers so make sure you have the right connection before buying. Another important point to consider is the audio quality, a clear indication of the recording and playback quality is the Bitrate and resolution so for example; 24 bit/192 kHz is faster at processing than 24 bit/96 kHz and therfore should result in higher recording and playback quality.

Key Points To Consider Before Buying A Thunderbolt Audio Interface

1. Universal Audio Apollo 8 UAD-2 QUAD Thunderbolt Audio Interface

Apollo 8p is a dramatic update to one of the world’s most popular professional audio interfaces, delivering enhanced sound with the tone, feel, and flow of analog recording. This 16 x 20 Thunderbolt 2 interface features eight onboard Unison™ mic preamps perfect for mobile rigs and tracking full bands.

Built on genuine UA analog design and next-generation A/D and D/A conversion, Apollo 8p also features powerful UAD-2 QUAD Core processing, letting you run UAD Powered Plug-Ins in real time. With sound that surpasses anything in its class, Apollo 8p rivals modular converters costing twice the price, in a sleek new package.

Music Matter Recommends:

Considered the most popular of the Thunderbolt world, it's ultra low latency, pure quality preamps & UAD Plugins make this a must have Thunderbolt Audio Interface.

Order The Universal Audio Apollo 8p UAD-2 QUAD Today:

2. Focusrite Clarett 8Pre X Thunderbolt Audio Interface

The Clarett 8 Pre X features innovative new microphone preamps designed specifically for the Clarett series which provide plenty of gain with the lowest possible distortion and noise ratio allowing for a crystal clear signal. Additionally they also include a unique "Air" feature which emulates the analogue model of the iconic Focusrite ISA microphone preamps to provide a true analogue style tone at a fraction of the cost.

Music Matter Recommends:

The Focusrite Clarett Pre X comes with the New Clarett preamps model with the classic ISA design and also boasts the Best in class dynamic range: 116dB A/D and 118dB D/A. Paired with the Latest Thunderbolt technology ensures interface latency of under 1ms and 24bit, 192kHz sample rates results in unbelievable audio recreation.

Order The Focusrite Clarett 8Pre X Today:

3. Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt Audio Interface

The new Ensemble – a 30x34 Thunderbolt™ 2 audio interface for the next generation of home, project and professional Mac-based studios. Blending the best of Apogee’s acclaimed innovations from products like Symphony I/O , Duet , Quartet and JAM with ground-breaking new features and the power of Intel’s Thunderbolt technology, Ensemble provides everything you need to record, edit, mix and master professional quality audio on your Mac using Logic Pro, Pro Tools or any Core Audio based DAW.

Music Matter Recommends:

Although The Apogee Ensemble is Mac only & hasn't got the DSP options as other Thunderbolt Interfaces it more than makes up with it's simple but in-depth controls & beautiful display, plus it boasts super low latency & dedicated re-amping facilities.

Order The Apogee Ensemble Today:

4. RME Fireface UFX+ Thunderbolt Audio Interface

The RME Fireface is jam-packed with features and functions that result in exceptional audio quality and functionality, perfect for the digital musician. To start the Fireface features up to 94 channels as standard with the MADI connectivity taking the unit up to 188 channels of I/O. As well as the 94 channels of pristine audio, the Fireface also features DUREC (Direct USB Recording). The unit also features RME's rewnoned low latency hardware and driver designs, making it perfect for studio use.

Music Matter Recommends:

One of the most unique features of the Fireface is the DuRec (Direct USB Recording) function. This function provides an integrated digital recorder, directly recording to a USB memory device such as a USB memory stick or hard drives (Up to 2 TB capacity) making it perfect for recording a range of applications from DJ mixes to vocal and demo takes.

Order The RME Fireface UFX+ Today:

5. Antelope Audio Discrete 4 (Basic FX) Thunderbolt Audio Interface

Discrete 4 Basic includes the basic FX pack allowing you to use 2 channel strips with 2 FX instances each. Enter the world of authentic vintage effect modelling and explore the sound of iconic and expensive FX units. The pack features 50+ Antelope Audio FPGA FX, which are authentic digital re-creations of classic hardware processors. The included effects and processors can be used in your preferred DAW using the AFX2DAW plug-in, allowing you to control many of these classic, high quality processors, right inside your favourite DAW.

Music Matter Recommends:

The Antelope Audio Discrete series features the highest of quality in mic modelling, emulate the most famous of microphones from across the generations from BAE to FET. This interface also arguably boasts the best clocking to date.

Order The Antelope Discrete 4 (Basic FX) Today:

Thunderbolt Audio Interface Comparison Table

 Apollo 8pClarett 8pre XEnsembleFireface UFX+Discrete 4 (Basic FX)
Input / Output 16 in / 20 out 26 In / 28 out 30 in / 34 out 94 in / 94 out 22 in / 32 out
Connection Thunderbolt 2.0 Thunderbolt 2.0 Thunderbolt 2.0

USB 3, Thunderbolt 2.0

Thunderbolt, USB 2
Bit Rate / Res 24 / 192 kHz 24 Bit / 192 kHz 24 Bit / 192 kHz 24 Bit / 192 kHz 24 Bit / 192 kHz
System Windows PC, Mac OSX Windows PC, Mac OSX Mac OSX Windows PC, Mac OSX Windows PC, Mac OSX
Phantom Power


Yes Yes


Mic Inputs 8 8 8 16 4
Analog Inputs 8 TRS / XLR Combo 8 TRS / 8 XLR 4 TRS / XLR Combo, 8 TRS, 4 XLR 4 TRS / XLR Combo 4 TRS / XLR Combo
MIDI Inputs NA 1 x 5 Pin Female NA 1 x 5 Pin Female NA

Analog Outputs 8 Line Out, 2 Stereo Monitor 8 Line Out, 2 TRS Stereo Monitor 2 TRS Stereo Out 6 Line Outs, 2 XLR Stereo Out 4 Line Out, 2 TRS Stereo Out
MIDI Outputs NA 1 x 5 Pin Female NA 1 x 5 Pin Female NA
Headphone Outputs 2 x TRS (6.3mm) 2 x TRS (6.3mm) 2 x TRS (6.3mm) 1 x TRS (6.3mm) 4 x TRS (6.3mm)
Bus Powered No No No No Yes
Software UAD Realtime Analog Classics Plus Focusrite Control, Red 2 & 3 Plug-in Suite Maestro Total Mix FX FPGA Mic Modelling

Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces: Best Of The Rest