Thunderbolt Explained — What Does it Mean For Your Studio?

Thunderbolt Explained — What Does it Mean For Your Studio?

October 18, 2012 10:20:58 PM PDT

Over a quarter century ago — when Human League topped the charts, Ronald Reagan was president, the Mac Plus debuted, and Compaq started building computers with blazingly fast 16MHz CPUs — the FireWire interface was conceived. It came into prominence (along with USB) in the mid-90s, is still current, and will continue to serve us well for many years to come.But in today’s data-hungry world, where hard drives are measured in terabytes instead of megabytes, pro audio recording is trending toward higher resolutions, video is high-definition, and both audio and video streams must flow fluently throughout a system, the need to transfer huge amounts of data among computers and peripherals has become critical.Intel’s Thunderbolt™ protocol was devised with today’s rapacious data appetite in mind. However, if your first thought is, “I guess all my FireWire, USB, eSATA, Ethernet, and other interface-dependent devices are about to become doorstops — as well as my PCIe cards,” note that all of these can work with Thunderbolt. A basic Thunderbolt-to-FireWire adapter costs under $30 (as does a Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter cable), and there are Thunderbolt-to-PCIe card boxes that accommodate full-length PCIe cards. So while Thunderbolt looks to the future, fortunately it doesn’t forget the past.

How data flows within the Thunderbolt interface.
Laptops can now utilize the processing power of multiple PCIe cards with Thunerbolt expansion chassis' like the ExpressBox 3T from Magma or the sleek Echo Express from Sonnet.
Universal Audio's Apollo Audio Interface was the first pro audio peripheral to offer Thunderbolt connectivity to the audio interface market.

— Craig Anderton