Entries in thunderbolt (24)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Focusrite have today announced the Saffire PRO 26 audio interface.
The Saffire Pro 26 is a 18 in/8 out interface using FireWire or Thunderbolt™*
Saffire PRO 26 connects to a Thunderbolt port via a FireWire to Thunderbolt adaptor (not included) or directly to a FireWire 800 port with the cable provided. Focusrite claim that its dual-protocol compatibility (Firewire and Thunderbolt) means it will work seamlessly for years to come with the next generation of computers. The unit has four mic/line pres, two of which have high-impedance instrument capability and 8dB pads, plus two additional TRS inputs; two independently-controlled headphone outputs, six TRS line outputs and a ‘loopback’ facility for routing audio between software applications via Saffire MixControl.
Our friends at Absolute Music have produced this video showing an install of a Pro Tools HD system using the Magma Roben.
The video features their product specialist Tom Osborne who talks you through their latest Pro Tools HD build.
Using the Magma Roben-3TS-R PCIe to Thunderbolt chassis, a Mac Mini server as the main CPU and the Sonnet RackMac Mini. This means that everything is easily rack mountable. The set-up is all running from an APC UPS.
Look at what we found out about at BVE in London. Avid have qualified Sonnet’s Thunderbolt 2 expansion chassis range for use with Pro Tools HD Native and most importantly Pro Tools HDX. We will bring you more details as we get them but we saw both the rack mount version on the HHB stand and the desktop version on the Holdan stand who are UK distributors for Sonnet.
Sonnet claim they are whisper quiet, which was hard to verify scientifically on a noisy trade show floor but Mike had to put his ear very close to the desktop version to hear anything at all and was very impressed with what he didn’t hear! They use big slow spinning fans and have plenty of natural ventilation all of which will help to make sure they are as quiet as possible.
Our friends at HHB are very impressed too, they feel this is the solution that we have been looking for. We are arranging to get a chassis for review as soon as we can arrange it so we can check it out in much more controlled conditions.
The Echo Express II will take 2 cards and is good for an HD Native system and other half length cards, and the Echo Express III can take up to 3 full length cards and is good for 3 HDX cards which would be a monster system. The rack mount Echo Express III also has two 5.25” bays that can put a range of options into including fitting 4 SSD drives into one bay and with the price of SSD drives dropping this again makes for a very powerful and versatile unit to use with all the contemporary Mac computers.
Jed from Universal Audio sat down with Russ Hughes from Pro Tools Expert for this exclusive interview about the UAD Apollo Twin desktop UAD powered interface.
James from Pro Tools Expert gets an exclusive first look at the new UAD Apollo Twin desktop audio interface from Universal Audio, find out what he thinks in this extended show and tell video review.
Stuart McCredie got in touch with us to report his finding whilst using his MacBook Pro in response to our story on the new and Old Mac Pro.
In that response Stuart also commented…
Heavy use tracking the band all week via thunderbolt chassis & HDX. Faultless.
So in the light of concerns about the noise levels from Magma chassises we asked Stuart to expand on his experiences with a Magma chassis and his 15” Retina MacBook Pro with Haswell 2.6GHz, 16GB ram & 1TB ssd. Stuart told us…
The Magma EB3T with the quiet fan they retro fitted on its lowest setting (which Avid don’t recommend) is just about usable in the room you’re mixing in.
You can’t record any vocals or acoustics with it on. I’d say it’s not as quiet as my old 12 core Pro. I’ve emailed Magma about it & waiting to hear back. I have no idea about the noise generated by the new Roben chassis fans (seems likely it’ll have been designed for machine rooms to me) but the new Sonnet Echo Express III is meant to be the quietest yet. But I really don’t want to have to consider a rackmounted solution as the portability of the Magma is great.
Magma & Avid need to find a quieter portable solution. I was horrified when I first got mine & set up the initial fan they sent me as per Avid’s instructions. Its clearly designed to be portable & sit next to a laptop or iMac, but it is so noisy that it needs to be in a machine room or iso-rack yet thunderbolt cables at that point on 2m in length. The 10m Thunderbolt cable that Apple now sell in the Apple Store will help but all in all its a bit of a shame.
Do you have any experieces of the current Magma chassises, especially the Thunderbolt capable ones? How noisy do you find them? Can you track with them in the room? Have you tried using any of the other Thunderbolt expanion chassises like the Sonnet one that Stuart referred too? Please do tell us your experiences whether they are good or bad, Thanks.