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Entries in thunderbolt (30)

Testing Round Trip Latency On The Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt

Russ tests the new Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt for round trip latency, sending audio out of the interface and then recording it back into Pro Tools to see how fast it really is. You may be surprised by the results.

Watch this free video here

About The New Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt 

The all new Apogee Ensemble is the first Thunderbolt 2 audio interface to offer superior sound quality, the lowest latency performance and the most comprehensive studio functionality all in one box. Ensemble includes 8 Advanced Stepped Gain™ mic preamps, monitor controller functionality including talkback, front panel Guitar I/O, two headphone outputs and digital connectivity for a total of 30 x 34 I/O. Blending acclaimed innovations, groundbreaking new features and an effortless user interface, Ensemble empowers you to capture inspiration  when creative lightning strikes.

Launched in 2007, the first Ensemble re-defined the possibilities of the personal studio interface, setting new standards of quality, simplicity and value. Winning  that year’s TEC Award for Digital Audio Technology, Ensemble went on to become the preferred interface for thousands of hit-making producers, engineers and artists. Now, with 30 years of digital audio expertise and the latest technological innovations, Apogee has re-built Ensemble to introduce the next generation of music creation technology.

Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt Review - Thunderbolt 2 Audio Interface For Mac

Updated on Sunday, December 14, 2014 at 11:08AM by Registered CommenterPro Tools Expert

We sometimes get people saying how amazing it must be to get gear to review all day. To be honest it’s a bit like working in a chocolate factory, the novelty soon wears off and in fact it can have the opposite effect and leave one cynical and unmoved by most new offerings.

So when Apogee announced the new Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt, I even surprised myself by how excited I was after reading the specification. As I’ve already said I’m rarely excited by new product announcements, but I wanted to be the one reviewing the Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt.

Why? It seemed to tick all the boxes for what I needed in terms of an interface, I was days away from moving to a second Apollo, but neither the Apollo or the Apollo 16 had exactly the I/O I needed for my workflow. Thankfully I have an Apollo Twin and a 4-710D, as well as an Octo card so I still have an Apollo tracking workflow when I need it, I couldn’t live without my UAD stuff.

Highlights

  • 30×34 Thunderbolt™ 2 Audio Interface for Mac
  • 8 Mic preamps with up to 75 dB of gain and Advanced Stepped Gain circuit
  • Thunderbolt connectivity for ultra-low latency (1.1ms round trip with Logic Pro X)
  • Front panel Guitar I/O with Class A JFET inputs, dual mode re-amp outputs
  • Talkback functionality with built-in mic and control button
  • 2 PurePower headphone outputs
  • 10 separately assignable analog inputs
  • 16 analog outputs of premium Apogee conversion
  • Core Audio optimized DMA engine frees up Mac CPU for plug-ins and software instruments

However the large I/O count on the new Apogee Ensemble along with the flexible connectivity looked like it was designed just for me…how often does that happen? I have to be honest and say that I’ve become less and less happy with my Avid Omni interface, not because of the sound, but because I’ve always seemed to be working around it to get what I need, including if you recall having to replace a noisy fan. The only other reason for owning the Omni was that it gave me an easy way into Pro Tools HDX, which to be frank for a composer using a lot of virtual instruments (of which there are zero running AAX DSP) was becoming somewhat of a waste of time and money for my needs - I use the Apollo solution when I need to track with plug-ins at low latency. I’m not tracking orchestras or mixing Hollywood blockbusters so I’m really not going to miss the HDX. This is not to say that HDX is not of use to some such as large studios or sound stages, but in my experience and for my needs it offered no real benefit. I’m also unable to use it when working in other DAWs as they can’t take advantage of the DSP, so I wanted an interface that was not just limited to a single application. A recent survey we ran showed that around two thirds of us are using two or more DAWs in our work so interfaces need to be able to deal with that.

Anyway back to the review, getting hold of the new Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt was proving difficult, right now it’s easier to find unicorn poo, they seem to be in short supply. However thanks to Richard at Eastwood Sound and Vision one finally arrived at Pro Tools Expert HQ.

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How To Re Amp Guitar With The Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt Tutorial: Video

In this free video tutorial for Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt users Russ shows how to re-amp a guitar using both the guitar input and output method and also using a stereo input. He covers the settings in Pro Tools, connections to the Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt and also using the Maestro Software.

This is what Apogee say about the Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt. The Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt is the first Thunderbolt 2 audio interface to offer superior sound quality, the lowest latency performance and the most comprehensive studio functionality all in one box.

Ensemble includes 8 Advanced Stepped Gain™ mic preamps, monitor controller functionality including talkback, front panel Guitar I/O, two headphone outputs and digital connectivity for a total of 30 x 34 I/O. Blending acclaimed innovations, groundbreaking new features and an effortless user interface, Ensemble empowers you to capture inspiration when creative lightning strikes.

Launched in 2007, the first Ensemble re-defined the possibilities of the personal studio interface, setting new standards of quality, simplicity and value. Winning that year’s TEC Award for Digital Audio Technology, Ensemble went on to become the preferred interface for thousands of hit-making producers, engineers and artists. Now, with 30 years of digital audio expertise and the latest technological innovations, Apogee has re-built Ensemble to introduce the next generation of music creation technology.

Drobo Mini External Hard Drive Review And Tested With Pro Tools

More and more of us are working from home, many in a single room with no machine room where we can put our noisy and hot gear, it’s all in the same space. I’ve been on an ongoing mission to try and create a one-room ‘silent’ studio, regular readers of the blog will have seen my other efforts to achieve this, such as replacing the fan in my Avid Omni interface, hard drives are another area where noise can emanate.

I’ve been a listener of the ‘Mac Observer’s Mac Geek Gab Podcast’ for several years. One product they have been waxing lyrically about for several years is the Drobo. I’ll let the Drobo people explain how it works.

In a nutshell the Drobo connects to your computer or network and provides redundant data protection without the complexities of traditional RAID. Dynamically expand storage any time. Drobo currently holds up to 36TB, depending on the model, using any combination of 3.5” disk drives or 2.5” drives for the Drobo Mini. The Drobo family offers Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, Ethernet, iSCSI, and other connectivity options, so you get the data protection you need along with the speed and interface you want.

Through a series of upgrades and other buying decisions I’ve found myself with 3 2.5” SSD drives and so I decided to see how the Drobo Mini would work in my studio environment. In short the Drobo Mini is a 4 bay 2.5” drive host with Thunderbolt and USB3 connectivity, so it seemed the ideal Drobo for me to test. In addition to the 4 drive bays in the front the Drobo has a 5th mSATA SSD drive bay on the base where you can install an mSATA SSD. Drobo call this the ‘Accelerator Bay’ and claim it can give the Drobo a further speed boost.

Setting Up The Drobo Mini

I got it out the box, then I popped open the front cover and pushed and clicked the drives into place, no tools required. One thing to note, once you push your drives into place then as soon as the Drobo starts up for the first time it will format them, so make sure you’ve got all your data off any existing drives before you do this. Then I plugged in the external PSU and had a small battle to line up the PSU (it’s one of those one’s similar to the one used on the UAD Apollo Twin that locks in place) and getting them in can be a bugger. This was in fact the hardest part of setting up the Drobo.

Then I downloaded the Drobo Desktop software and installed it on my Mac.

I connected the Drobo to my Mac Pro ‘Trash Can’ via Thunderbolt and then powered it up. After a cool little light show the Drobo lit up with the Green surround lights and blue legend at the bottom to tell me that all is well, and hey presto it showed up on my desktop.

Best of all it was running and super quiet - giving my ultra-quiet Mac Pro a run for its money in the silence stakes.

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Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt – How To Begin Recording In Pro Tools 11 - Video

The gang over at Apogee have made this helpful video for those using the Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt.

We are expecting the new unit at Pro Tools Expert for an Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt review very soon.

If you are thinking of investing in this feature packed audio interface from Apogee then check out this video.

Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt Highlights

  • 8 Mic preamps with up to 75 dB of gain and Advanced Stepped Gain circuit
  • Thunderbolt connectivity for ultra-low latency (1.1ms round trip with Logic Pro X)
  • Front panel Guitar I/O with Class A JFET inputs, dual mode re-amp outputs
  • Talkback functionality with built-in mic and control button
  • 2 PurePower headphone outputs
  • 10 separately assignable analog inputs
  • 16 analog outputs of premium Apogee conversion
  • Core Audio optimized DMA engine frees up Mac CPU for plugins and software instruments

Watch Apogee Ensemble Thunderbolt – How To Begin Recording In Pro Tools 11 video

Universal Audio Announces UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt DSP Accelerators

Our friends at Universal Audio have announced the new UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt  DSP Accelerators. 

UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt DSP Accelerators are a sleek, powerful way for Thunderbolt-equipped Mac users to “supercharge” their systems and run larger mixes filled with rich, DSP-intensive plug-ins. These desktop-friendly units provide full access to UAD Powered Plug-Ins, including exclusive plug-ins from Studer, Ampex, Lexicon, Neve, Manley, SSL, and more.

UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt DSP Accelerator Models

Available in QUAD or OCTO models with a choice of four or eight SHARC processors, UAD-2 Satellite Thunderbolt DSP Accelerators can also be integrated alongside UAD-2 PCIe cards and Thunderbolt-enabled Apollo interfaces, including Apollo Twin, Apollo, and Apollo 16 — for truly scalable mixing power.

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ICYCube 4 Bay eSATA & USB3 External HDD Enclosure Review

If you are looking for an enclosure to keep all your hard drives in then the ICYCube 4 bay may well be the one for you.

There’s a lot of discussion about Thunderbolt these days and often to the detriment of USB3, however in many cases when it comes to moving data, although the quoted specs of both formats may be different, in the real world there is often not a lot in it.

A second consideration is that the same drive with a Thunderbolt connection instead of USB3 is going to set you back a lot more. Add to this the cost of Thunderbolt cables and the idea of using USB3 is far more attractive than you may think. 

With this is mind we tested the new ICYCube MB561U3S-4S 4 Bay USB 3.0 & eSATA External HDD Enclosure. It is a 4 bay enclosure that uses both USB3 and eSATA. It houses both 3.5” and 2.5” drives, which can be mixed in any way you wish.

Our test unit has 3 Seagate Barracuda 3TB 7200rpm drives and a Crucial 1TB SSD.

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Sonnet Echo Express III-D Desktop Thunderbolt 2 Expansion Chassis - Review

Thunderbolt is appearing on more and more computers, especially Apple Macs. In fact nearly every Mac in the current range offers Thunderbolt connectivity.

Thunderbolt offers speeds of up to 20gbps, which for those working in creative sectors is a must for either data bandwidth on audio/video streams or for moving large amounts of data from hard drives. No one likes to see a progress bar that runs into minutes or even hours.

The Sonnet Echo Express III-D Desktop Thunderbolt 2 Expansion Chassis is aimed at the high-end user who needs a Thunderbolt equipped chassis that holds multiple full length PCIe 2.0 cards. In this case the Echo Express III-D can hold 3 full length cards and so could house 3 HDX cards.

Sonnet Echo Express III-D - The Unit

Unboxing the unit you immediately feel the quality of the build and finish with its sleek black finish and attention to detail. Then you unscrew 8 screws and slide the lid off to reveal the internal workings and find that the inside of the unit is just as well designed and manufactured as the outside. 

They say when it comes to design it is the small things that matter and it is easy to see that Sonnet have taken a lot of time to build something of quality, partly by paying attention to the small things as well as the large ones. 

We are not usually ones to make comparisons with other products but having reviewed the Magma ExpressBox 3T chassis some time ago, the Sonnet wins hands down when it comes to design and build quality. Everything about the Sonnet Echo Express III-D speaks of quality. There are nice touches like a lock to secure the Thunderbolt cables and pre-drilled holes for those needing BNC connectivity.

It also seems that the Sonnet design team did basic science at school and so have put the fans for cooling on the top of the unit, allowing nature to take its course and to assist the powered fans in cooling the unit. Rather than the air being pulled through the unit the fans simply remove it as it build up, a smart move.

Sonnet Echo Express III-D - In Operation

Setting up the Sonnet Echo Express III-D is a breeze. Simply remove 8 screws, slide off the cover and then insert your cards as required. For this we installed a HDX card, UAD Octo card and an ESata card to utilize the third slot. The HDX card requires a power supply and Sonnet have made sure there’s plenty of connections for the cards to pull power from. Then it’s a case of securing the cards with a nice Mac style card clamp, which again is built like a tank and would probably secure a Pitbull let alone these cards

Then it is a simple case of sliding the cover back on, plugging in the power and Thunderbolt cable and then installing the drivers for your cards, that is if they are not already installed on your rig.

We tested the unit with the new Mac Pro ‘trash can’ and opted to use the top Thunderbolt port, this is because of the way Apple have distributed the bandwidth across the Thunderbolt ports, see here, so we wanted to make sure we were taking advantage of the maximum amount of bandwidth.

One thing that did fox me for a little while was locating the power switch on the unit. There isn’t one, instead the unit powers up when a Thunderbolt cable is connected to the computer. There may be a very good reason for this and may have something to do with the Thunderbolt protocol, although my Lacie drive has a power switch. I personally hate not having a power switch on units for two reasons. The first is noise, when I’m not using stuff I don’t want it to be wirring around in the background and so I’ll turn stuff off or unmount drives when not in use. The second one is the unnecessary use of power, I’m not a tree hugger but at the same time I am aware of the rising cost of energy and the environmental impact of wasting it. Perhaps someone from Sonnet can comment on this, I hope it wasn’t to save money as this would really be a case of ‘sinking a ship for a ha’porth of tar.’

Sonnet Echo Express III-D - Noise Levels

In the world of modern creative production more and more of us are working from home, or in production rooms that do not afford us the luxury of machine rooms, or even a cupboard. I have that exact set-up so have become somewhat of a noise freak when it comes to choosing equipment, noise levels are often right up the list of my buying priorities. It seems a little pointless to be buy mics and pre-amps with low noise floors only to have a load of noise in the background from other equipment.

I’m pleased to say that although the Sonnet Echo Express III-D produces some noise, the combination of placement of the two larger brushless fans make them very quite. Certainly quite enough to exist in the same room. They even vary in speed depending on how hot the cards get inside the unit.

Sonnet Echo Express III-D - Conclusion

I have never been a huge fan of external chassis, not because I don’t understand the need for them, but up until now most of the offerings I’ve seen seem to be a little unpolished both in design and execution. Sonnet have changed my mind with the Sonnet Echo Express III-D Desktop Thunderbolt 2 Expansion Chassis.

The Sonnet Echo Express III-D Desktop Thunderbolt 2 Expansion Chassis allows me to use Pro Tools HDX and my UAD Octo cards with my Mac Mini, MacBook Air and my newly acquired Mac Pro ‘trash can’ (which will be written about more in coming weeks).

As already written in this review the Sonnet Echo Express III-D is well thought out, beautifully designed and built like a tank. The operational noise is excellent and will perform well even under the most taxing loads.

Thanks to the deal I got from the excellent gang at HHB Scrub I have chosen to purchase the unit, which is the best way of saying it gets my Editors Choice Award.

If you are looking for a Thunderbolt Expansion chassis then check out the Sonnet Echo Express III-D, it’s the best one we’ve seen.

Full specs, compatibilty, dealers and price can be found here

MOTU Announce New Thunderbolt/AVB Interfaces

MOTU have announced three new high end interfaces offering not only class compliant USB 2.0 but Thunderbolt and AVB networking.

The three units announced as as follows:

1248 - 4 mic inputs, 8 analogue inputs, 8 analogue outputs, ADAT I/O and s/pdif I/O

8M - 8 mic/line inputs, 8 analogue outputs, ADAT I/O, s/pdif I/O 

16A - 16 analogue inputs and outputs, ADAT I/O. s/pdif I/O

DSP Mixer With Web Control

There are several features announced which make these new interfaces particularly interesting. They all feature on board DSP with a 48 input mixer and on board EQ, dynamics and reverb. The control of the mixer, system settings and routing, rather than being controlled via a software application, is via a web app allowing control from any web enabled device over Wi-Fi.

AVB Protocol

The addition of AVB compatibility allows use of several devices, connected via cat5 cables for a large, flexible, low latency networked audio solution, all controllable via a mobile devices. MOTU have announced an optional 5 port AVB compliant gigabit ethernet switch to connect multiple interfaces. Of course the usefulness of such a system is seriously affected by the 32 I/O limit imposed on non HD Pro Tools systems but the potential of systems such as these is really interesting. The potential for AVB interfaces to be distributed around a building via cat5 with web based control via Wi-Fi sounds exciting to me.

If you don’t know about AVB take a look at my two part series on networking and audio Part 1 and Part 2.

Lacie Offer New Life For E-Sata Owners Considering Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt is appearing on more and more Macs and some PCs and yet many professionals are sitting with E-Sata disk technology. Thunderbolt drive bays continue to be costly solutions and so making the switch to Thunderbolt can be painful and offputting.

If you have been considering using Thunderbolt but find yourself in this situation then you may not be aware of the LaCie eSATA Hub Thunderbolt Series.

Features Of The LaCie eSATA Hub Thunderbolt Series

  • 10 Gbit/s Thunderbolt interfaceFull dual eSATA 3Gbit/s speeds
  • Software RAID compatible using 2x eSATA drives for increased speed or data redundancy
  • Dual Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining up to six compatible storage devices together
  • A single cable can connect up to six Hubs for a total of 12 eSATA devices
  • Mini DisplayPort backward compatible for daisy chaining with other digital devices such as monitors and compatible cameras
  • Optimized for LaCie d2 Quadra and 4big Quadra hard drives

Greater Flexibilty

Since Thunderbolt’s 10Gbit/s provides more than enough throughput to accommodate eSATA’s full 3Gbit/s transfer speeds, your drives are no longer restricted by the ExpressCard/34’s maximum bus speed of 2.5Gb/s.

The LaCie eSATA Hub Thunderbolt Series supports daisy chaining, so owners of computers with a single Thunderbolt connection can also use this to connect both existing eSata drives as well as a Thunderbolt audio interface.

Thunderbolt technology also supports two channels—one dedicated for data, and the other for video—each with 10Gb/s of bandwidth. This means you can push and pull audio/video data without reducing bandwidth.

One word of advice, please check compatibilty with your drive on the Lacis site before purchasing as some legacy drives are not supported.

Price is £149 and more information can be found here