In part 1 of our series of articles doing the compatibility tests the manufacturers don’t have the time to do, I now have a compatible motherboard (see Appendix 1 at the end for a compatibility list) and so we started by installing a Thunderbolt card and undertaking some initial tests. In part 2 we are going to try using the Avid HD Native Thunderbolt unit with an HD Omni attached connected via my new Thunderbolt card.
This test was done using the equipment listed at the end of this article (see Appendix 2). Any results may not be duplicated when you try it on your system and we do not accept responsibility if anything goes wrong if you try this for yourself.
Avid's System Requirements
Not a mention of Thunderbolt for Windows, but it does mention PCIe, which is a good sign as Thunderbolt is effectively a PCIe bridge. I’ve also seen inside an HD Native Thunderbolt box (not the loan unit!), and it is essentially the same as the HDNative PCIe card, which makes sense as it keeps manufacturing costs down.
It is also useful to know that when you install Pro Tools HD the first time, it automatically installs the HD drivers, even if you don’t have a HD card installed. So, being mindful that this is not officially supported by Avid, I went ahead and plugged it in. The usual window came up....
Note the little exclamation mark. When I clicked OK, I got this....
Well, we know this already, but I will once again say that this is not certified or supported by Avid or their resellers. Consider yourself warned, not just by Avid and PTE, but by Windows as well! But being as this is the whole point of these tests, I pressed on....
And once I told Windows to stop looking in Windows Update, it happily installed all the drivers. I fired up ProTools, holding down the “N” key to select the playback engine, and got this....
So far, so good. I then got this message....
Which I couldn’t quite work out since I’ve got oodles of RAM on my system.
That said, I hadn’t done a hard reboot though, and I noticed that while my RME was happy at 256 samples HW Buffer size, the HD Native was wanting to be at 1024. So I switched off my RME, and rebooted, thinking there might be some conflict going on.
I was right. Upon rebooting, ProTools was more than happy with the HD Native Thunderbolt & HD Omni interface.
You get all the Monitor section windows, and apart from reporting it back as Thunderbolt, it all seems the same as the PCIe version.
However, I/O Setup seems to take a long time to open, and there’s some GUI corruption when you click to select between analogue, ADAT & AES (which I can’t show in a screen grab), though that could be another one of the well-known GUI corruptions in Windows....
But that aside, nothing seems insurmountable, and this is the result....
Pro Tools happily plays back a busy 7.1 mix, while the Omni folds down to the headphone output. After the HD Native Thunderbolt with HD Omni rig had settled down a bit, I switched my RME back on, to see if they would play nicely together. All was good, and I was able to send ADAT to my RME and out through my monitors. I’m even able to switch quickly between playback engines, and all is happy..
As usual with Pro Tools, it doesn’t seem to like having too many choices during install, but once it works itself out, it’s happy again. So, on my Windows Thunderbolt system, Avid HD Native Thunderbolt is pretty much plug’n’play.
Please remember that these are my results – others experience may vary.
Next time – The AJA T-Tap!
A very very big Thank You to HHB Communications / Scrub for arranging the loan equipment, and being willing to let me try these tests.
Appendix 1 - Asus Compatible Motherboards
- RAMPAGE V EXTREME
- MAXIMUS VII FORMULA
Appendix 2 - Test System Spec
- Asus X99-A, Intel X99, S 2011-3, DDR4, SATA III 6Gb/s, SATA RAID, PCIe 3.0 (x16), ATX
- Intel Core i7 5820K Unlocked, LGA 2011-3, Haswell-E, 6 Core, 3.3GHz Base, 3.6GHz Turbo, 15MB Cache
- 16GB (4x4GB) Corsair DDR4 RAM
- 600W be quiet! Straight Power 10 80PLUS GOLD Rated PSU
- Gigabyte GTX660Ti 2GB GPU, 2xDVI, 1xHDMI, 1xDP
- Asus ThunderboltEXII DUAL PCIe
- Startech.com Thunderbolt Docking Station w/ Thunderbolt Cable - HDMI/Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0, GbE,
- Fractal Design Arc Midi Case
- Windows 7 Pro Service Pack 1