Universal Audio has released a new ultra-portable Thunderbolt 3 interface that runs its DSP powered plug-ins, Arrow. Recently, we'd heard from friends there that something exciting was coming "next Thursday," i.e. the beginning of the 2018 NAMM Show. But one or more European dealer sites appear to have leaked it early, and UA followed with the official press release. At least, that's what we're assuming. If Arrow was meant to be released early and there's something else cool coming from UA, so much the better. That they say it's already shipping suggests that second possibility.
Either way, it looks like UA has packed a lot of power into what's meant to be a travel-ready recording interface ostensibly for singer-songwriters. Clearly derived from the Apollo, the first big deal is that it interfaces via Thunderbolt 3 over a USB-C connection, and that cable also delivers the power. Two main mic/line input channels live around back, and feature phantom power, phase invert, low cut, and a 20dB pad. One channel can also be taken over by the hi-z instrument input on the front. Audio resolution goes up to 24-bit / 192kHz.
DSP power is equivalent to a UAD-2 SOLO accelerator and, for the uninitiated, is used to run a stable of plug-ins that don't tap your CPU and are considered by many to be the best effects, amp emulations, and models of classic front-end recording gear in the industry. Speaking of front-end, the Arrow also borrows Apollo's "Unison" technology, which is unique among audio interfaces and possible because of the onboard DSP. With Unison, one can track through mic preamp and other emulations upstream of hitting the DAW, just as though one were plugging into hardware before going to tape.
UA bundles different plug-ins with different hardware packages, and here the Realtime Analog Classics bundle reflects the singer-songwriter focus. You can always buy more, and UA regularly runs special deals on bundles.
Importantly, we think that songwriter bent or not, the Arrow's bandwidth and internal DSP make it a great choice for anyone who performs live with a laptop that does Thunderbolt over USB-C, e.g. the latest MacBook Pros. If you're wondering, yes, it works with Windows, too. It's also an ideal "B" interface for travelers who have an Apollo in the home studio (as is my situation - SF), because owning any UAD plug-in for one system means you can use it on all of them; the presence of the hardware just is the copy protection
We're looking forward to getting our hands on this pint-sized powerhouse at NAMM. U.S. estimated street price is $499. Now if UA would just apply all that wonderful DSP to some soft synths ...