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Thunderbolt Display

This page is dedicated to compatibility and support of the Thunderbolt Option Card for Apollo and Apollo 16 with Mac OS X. The following information is subject to change and may not always be up to date due to OS updates or other factors beyond our control.

Last Updated: July 8, 2014

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Latest News & Updates Thunderbolt Option Card Info
System Requirements Hardware Installation
Thunderbolt PCIe Audio Drivers Thunderbolt Compatibility
Thunderbolt Connections Using Thunderbolt
Multi-Unit Cascading Thunderbolt 2 Information
Thunderbolt Chassis Compatibility

Latest Technical News

Note: This page is for Mac users running Thunderbolt PCIe audio drivers (UAD v7.7.1 or v7.8.1) with the Thunderbolt Option Card. If connecting to the computer via FireWire, refer to the legacy Thunderbolt support page.

  • Please review the information on this page carefully before using Apollo or Apollo 16 with Thunderbolt.
  • Info on this page applies to both Apollo and Apollo 16. All references to "Apollo" on this page apply to both Apollo and Apollo 16 unless specifically noted otherwise (Apollo Twin has its own support page).
  • UAD v7.7.1 and v7.8.1 introduces Thunderbolt PCIe audio drivers for Apollo and Apollo 16. For optimum performance, UAD v7.8.1 is recommended for all Thunderbolt Option Card users.
    Important: UAD v7.7.1 and v7.8.1 disable Apollo's FireWire ports. For more info, click here.
  • For important information about Apple Mac Pro (Late 2013) compatibility, click here.

Thunderbolt Option Card Information

About Thunderbolt Option Card documentation

This page contains all documentation related to the Thunderbolt Option Card (there is no separate manual). Please review the information on this page carefully before installing or using the device.

Thunderbolt Option Card product information

System Requirements

Thunderbolt Option Card system requirements

  • Apollo or Apollo 16 High Resolution Audio Interface
  • UAD Powered Plug-Ins software v7.7.1 or v7.8.1
  • Apple Mac computer with available Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 port
  • Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or 10.9 Mavericks
  • Internet connection to download software and authorize UAD plug-ins
  • Compatible VST, Audio Units, RTAS, or AAX 64 plug-in host application software
  • 3 gigabytes available disk space
  • Thunderbolt cable (sold separately)


  • For information about Apple Mac Pro (Late 2013) compatibility, click here.
  • Thunderbolt-equipped Windows PC computers are not compatible.

Thunderbolt Option Card Installation

Installing the Thunderbolt Option Card

  • Important installation note: When removing or replacing Apollo's expansion bay cover plate screws,* take precautions to ensure the screw head sockets do not strip by inserting the hex wrench* deeply into the screw head before rotating the screws.
    *4-40 x 1/4” button head cap screws, 1/16” hex wrench
  • The Thunderbolt Option Card is designed for easy installation by the user. Detailed instructions are provided in the
    printed Installation & Setup Guide in the retail package. To download the Installation & Setup Guide, click here.
  • For a YouTube video showing how the Thunderbolt Option Card is installed into Apollo, click here.
    Note: This this video is from the Winter 2012 NAMM trade show floor where the product was first announced, and shows a prototype card that has an OFF/ON switch. There is no switch on the shipping version of the card.

Thunderbolt PCIe Audio Drivers

Important: UAD v7.7.1 and v7.8.1 disable the FireWire ports on Apollo and Apollo 16

After loading the required firmware contained in UAD v7.7.1 or v7.8.1:

  • Apollo cannot be connected to the computer via FireWire
  • FireWire devices cannot be connected to the Apollo FireWire ports
  • UAD-2 Satellite and other FireWire devices must be disconnected from Apollo’s FireWire ports
  • UAD-2 Satellite and other FireWire devices can be connected to other FireWire ports, such as a:
  • Important: To reenable FireWire functionality, the Apollo firmware must be downgraded, and this firmware downgrade must be performed while connected via Thunderbolt. See "Reverting to FireWire connectivity" below in this section for details.

About Thunderbolt PCIe audio drivers for Apollo and Apollo 16

  • UAD v7.7.1 and v7.8.1 use Thunderbolt PCIe audio drivers for Apollo and Apollo 16. FireWire drivers are not included.
  • Thunderbolt PCIe audio drivers provide high-bandwidth, low-latency performance on all Thunderbolt-equipped Macs.
  • This feature uses the PCIe protocol via Thunderbolt for all audio I/O and UAD plug-in processing. Because FireWire audio drivers are not included, Thunderbolt must be used for Apollo’s connection to the computer (the Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter cannot be used to connect Apollo to the computer).

Reverting to FireWire connectivity

To reactivate the ability to connect Apollo to the computer via FireWire (and/or to reenable the Apollo FireWire ports), the Apollo firmware must be downgraded to a version that supports FireWire.

Important: The firmware downgrade must be performed while Apollo is connected to a Mac computer via Thunderbolt. The firmware cannot be downgraded while connected via FireWire.

To revert Apollo to FireWire connectivity:

  1. Connect Apollo via the Thunderbolt Option Card to a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac computer.
  2. Power on Apollo so it will be recognized during UAD software installation.
  3. Download UAD v7.8.0 for Mac. Click here for a direct link to the software (or select "Apollo & Apollo 16 - FireWire" from the "Select Your Product" drop menu on the UAD v7.8 download page).
  4. Launch the UAD v7.8.0 installer and click through the screens to begin installing the software.
  5. During installation, the UAD software will prompt to downgrade the Apollo firmware. Click the "Load" button in firmware downgrade dialog window to initiate the process.
  6. After the firmware is installed, the "Power Off UAD Device" window appears. Power off Apollo using the front panel switch, then power it back on. The v7.8.0 firmware is now installed.
  7. Click "OK" in the Power Off UAD Device dialog window to allow software installation to finish.
  8. Restart the computer when prompted by the software installer.

Apollo's FireWire ports are reactivated and the unit can now be connected to Mac or Windows computers via FireWire using UAD v7.8.0 (or earlier).

Thunderbolt Compatibility

Combining UAD devices

UAD devices can be combined in a single Thunderbolt computer with the following limitations:

Thunderbolt Device Compatibility

  • The Thunderbolt Option Card is officially certified as Thunderbolt compliant and is therefore compatible with other certified Thunderbolt devices when used in the same chain.

Thunderbolt Connections

Connecting Apollo to the computer

  • Connect the Thunderbolt Option Card to the computer with a Thunderbolt cable (sold separately) using either option card port.
  • See the Multi-Unit Cascading section below for specific instructions on how to connect and use two Apollo units together via Thunderbolt.

Software co-install for different Apollo hardware models

  • UAD v7.7.1 and v7.8.1 are compatible with all Apollo hardware models (Apollo DUO, Apollo QUAD, Apollo 16, and Apollo Twin).
  • Connecting different Apollo hardware models to the computer simultaneously is not currently compatible.
  • Console sessions are not interchangeable between different Apollo hardware models.

Connecting additional Thunderbolt peripherals

  • Thunderbolt peripheral devices can be connected (daisy-chained) to the available port of the Thunderbolt Option Card.
  • Per the Thunderbolt specification, bus power is supplied to downstream (daisy-chained) peripheral devices. Apollo must be powered for the computer to recognize the daisy-chained device.

Thunderbolt and Mini DisplayPort

  • The Thunderbolt Option Card cannot be used by connecting it to a Mini DisplayPort connector. Although Thunderbolt and Mini DisplayPort devices have the same physical connector, the underlying communication protocol used by these devices is different.
  • The type of device port can be determined by the icon next to the port. Thunderbolt ports have a "lightning bolt" icon, while Mini DisplayPort ports have a "display" icon. The difference between these ports and icons is shown in the illustration below.

Port Icons

Using Thunderbolt

Apollo behavior with the Thunderbolt Option Card

The specific differences when using Apollo with a Thunderbolt connection versus a FireWire connection are:

  1. Data for audio I/O and UAD plug-ins used in the DAW is streamed via PCIe instead of FireWire. Therefore FireWire bandwidth limitations no longer apply, and higher UAD plug-in instance counts can be achieved (within the constraints of available UAD DSP).
  2. The minimum processing buffer of 512 samples for UAD plug-ins streamed via FireWire no longer applies. PCIe can use smaller buffers, therefore latency is reduced for UAD plug-ins used in the DAW.
  3. FireWire tuning via the UAD Bandwidth Allocation parameter is no longer applicable. The FireWire panel in the UAD Meter & Control Panel application does not appear when Apollo is connected via Thunderbolt, so the parameter is unavailable. Similarly, the FireWire bandwidth gauge in the UAD Meter does not appear.
  4. LiveTrack mode is available for UAD plug-ins used in the DAW. When enabled, LiveTrack mode reduces UAD processing latency via PCIe even further. LiveTrack is useful when playing virtual instruments through UAD plug-ins.

Note: Specific FireWire behaviors still apply when UAD-2 Satellite is connected. See "Using UAD-2 Satellite with the Thunderbolt Option Card" below for details.

General usage notes

Thunderbolt bandwidth

  • Although Thunderbolt has much higher data bandwidth compared to FireWire 800 (dual 10 Gigabit lanes for Thunderbolt versus 800 Megabits for FireWire 800), it is still possible to run out of Thunderbolt bandwidth. This can occur when very high-bandwidth Thunderbolt peripherals such as high-performance RAID storage arrays, multiple Thunderbolt displays, and similar devices are connected in the same Thunderbolt chain. Bandwidth considerations are especially a factor at high session sample rates.

System Sleep

System sleep is supported with the Thunderbolt Option Card and Thunderbolt PCIe audio drivers (in UAD v7.7.1 and v7.8.1). However, disabling sleep when using DAW software is generally recommended. For optimum results when using Apollo with DAW software, follow these guidelines:

  • Disable sleep. Open the System Preferences*>Energy Saver panel and drag the “Computer Sleep” slider to “Never” (far right position).
  • Before sleeping the system, quit any DAW software using UAD plug-ins.
  • If UAD-2 Satellite is connected, system sleep MUST be disabled. Sleep is not compatible with UAD FireWire devices.

*System Preferences.app is located in Applications/Utilities, or click the Apple icon in the menu bar (upper left of screen) and select “System Preferences” from the menu.

Using UAD-2 Satellite with the Thunderbolt Option Card

  • When UAD-2 Satellite is connected to the same system as a Thunderbolt-connected Apollo (via a FireWire port on the computer or the Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter), the following conditions apply:
    1. UAD plug-ins in the DAW loaded on UAD-2 Satellite stream via FireWire, while those loaded on Apollo stream via PCIe.
    2. FireWire tuning with the UAD Bandwidth Allocation parameter is applicable for UAD plug-ins running on UAD-2 Satellite. Since UAD plug-ins in the DAW that are loaded on Apollo still stream via PCIe in this configuration, FireWire tuning is applicable only for those UAD plug-ins running on UAD-2 Satellite.
    3. A minimum processing buffer of 512 samples for UAD plug-ins in the DAW applies for UAD-2 Satellite.
  • Realtime UAD Processing is always available for Apollo's inputs via the Console application, regardless of configuration (even when I/O buffer values are high and/or when UAD-2 Satellite is connected).

Multi-Unit Cascading via Thunderbolt

Note: This section only applies when connecting to the computer via Thunderbolt and UAD v7.7.1 and v7.8.1. If connecting Apollo to the computer via FireWire, see the Apollo support page for multi-unit cascading information.

About Multi-Unit Cascading

  • Multi-unit cascading is available for a maximum of two Apollo or Apollo 16 units.
  • Both units must have the Thunderbolt Option Card installed.
  • Combining Apollo with Apollo 16 in one computer system is an incompatible configuration.
  • Combining Apollo or Apollo 16 with Apollo Twin in one computer system is an untested configuration.
  • Three or more Apollo devices cannot be combined in one computer system.
  • For all details and complete operating instructions with two Apollo units, see "Chapter 6: Multi-Unit Cascading" in the Apollo Software Manual.

Multi-Unit Cascading: Wiring

  • In all multi-unit cascading setups, specific hardware wiring connections are required. The specific connections differ for Apollo and Apollo 16. See the wiring diagrams below.
  • Connect only the monitor unit to the host computer. The expander unit is connected (daisy-chained) to the monitor unit only, not the host computer.
  • A Word Clock cable (75-ohm BNC cable) must be connected from the Word Clock Out on the Monitor unit to the Word Clock In on the Expander unit.
  • ADAT (Apollo) or MADI (Apollo 16) is required for the mix bus integration when multi-unit cascading.
  • (Apollo) Both ADAT ports (S/MUX) must be connected when multi-unit cascading at sample rates of 88.2 kHz or 96 kHz.
  • (Apollo) Monitor, headphone, and auxiliary outputs must be connected to the Monitor unit only.
  • (Apollo 16) Monitor and cue outputs must be connected to the Monitor unit only.
  • Wiring diagrams for both possible Thunderbolt multi-unit cascading setups are below.

Multi-Unit Cascading: Wiring Diagrams

Multi-Unit Cascading: Power Up Sequence

When multi-unit cascading, the order in which the Apollo monitor and expander units are powered on is important for proper initialization. For optimum results, follow the recommended power up sequence:

  1. Shut down (power off) the host computer system
  2. Power off all connected devices (Apollo, UAD-2 devices, hard drives, etc.)
  3. Confirm monitor/expander designations and all device wiring (see "Multi-Unit Cascading: Wiring" section above)
  4. Power on all external devices except Apollo
  5. Power on the Apollo monitor unit
  6. Power on the Apollo expander unit
  7. Start the host computer

Multi-Unit Cascading: Clocking

  • Internal clocking:
    • When the Apollo units are properly wired, all system clocking and clock settings are automatically configured by the device drivers.
    • In the Interface panel of the Console Settings window, set the clock source to Internal unless specifically clocking to an external (non-Apollo) device.
    • When the clock source in the Console Settings window is set to Internal, “EXT” will illuminate on the designated expander unit hardware’s front panel.
  • External clocking:
    • When using an external clock with Apollo multi-unit cascading, both Apollo units are automatically configured by the device drivers to use the external clock when the Clock Source specified in the Interface panel of the Console Settings window is set to External.
    • When the clock source in the Console Settings window is set to External, “EXT” will illuminate on the front panel of both the monitor unit and the expander unit.

Multi-Unit Cascading: Operation Notes

  • To facilitate Realtime UAD Processing and the mix bus integration within the Console Mixer when multi-unit cascading, one device must be designated as the monitor (master) unit and the other as the expander (slave) unit.
  • In driver I/O list ordering, the monitor unit I/O precedes the expander unit I/O, and the expander unit I/O labels are preceded with "2" to differentiate from the monitor unit I/O.
  • Monitor Outputs: When multi-unit cascading, both units share the same monitor mix bus. The monitoring speaker system must be connected to the monitor outputs of the monitor unit. The monitor outputs of the expander unit are disabled.
  • Monitor Knobs: The monitor knob on the front panel of expander unit, and its surrounding green LED ring, are disabled. Use the front panel monitor knob on the monitor unit (or the monitor level controls in Console or the Console Recall plug-in) to adjust the monitor output level.
  • Aux, Headphone, Cue Outputs: When multi-unit cascading, the send mix buses of both units are summed and these buses are sent to the monitor unit only. The associated outputs on the expander unit are disabled.
  • Flex Routing: When multi-unit cascading, inputs in Console can only be directly routed (via Output menu) to hardware outputs of the same unit.
  • Multi-unit cascading is unavailable at sample rates of 176.4 kHz or 192 kHz.
  • (Apollo only) Auxiliary bus 2 is unavailable when multi-unit cascading with Apollo.

Multi-Unit Cascading: Driver I/O Complement

  • The specific inputs and outputs that are available to the DAW when multi-unit cascading depends on the model (Apollo or Apollo 16) and whether or not PT Mode is enabled.
  • Avid Pro Tools allows 32 channels of I/O with non-Avid branded audio interfaces. Because Apollo audio streams exceed this count when multi-unit cascading, some Apollo I/O channels are unavailable in PT Mode when multi-unit cascading.
  • Enabling PT Mode changes the driver I/O complement. Quit all audio applications before changing the PT Mode setting.
  • PT Mode changes Apollo’s driver I/O numbering and names. If a DAW project saved with PT Mode disabled (or saved prior to UAD v7) is subsequently opened when PT Mode is enabled, the DAW’s channel I/O assignments may need to be adjusted in the Pro Tools I/O Setup window.
  • The specific driver I/O complements for all available multi-unit cascading configurations are listed in the driver I/O tables below.
  • In the multi-unit I/O driver tables, the designated monitor unit I/O is in the left columns and the designated expander unit is in the right columns. In the tables and the driver I/O labels, the expander unit I/O is prefixed with the number 2 (e.g., “2 LINE 1”).

Multi-Unit Cascading: Driver I/O Tables

Note: All driver I/O tables are available in the Apollo Software Manual.

Thunderbolt 2 Information

Apollo and Apollo 16 are compatible with Thunderbolt 2

Apple has released three computer models that feature Thunderbolt 2 ports. The released Thunderbolt 2 computer models are:

  • 13” MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Late 2013)
  • 15” MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Late 2013)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)

The main points to understand about Thunderbolt 2 compared to Thunderbolt 1 are:

  • The primary benefit of Thunderbolt 2 is to enable the use of 4K video displays.
  • Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 1 have the same total amount of bandwidth, however Thunderbolt 2 allows for larger simultaneous throughput that is required for 4K video resolutions.
  • When connecting a Thunderbolt 1 devices into a Thunderbolt 2 port, it causes the port to behave like a Thunderbolt 1 port.
  • In general, if 4K resolutions aren’t required, Thunderbolt 1 is more than capable for even the largest audio production needs.

You can still use Thunderbolt devices such as Apollo with the Thunderbolt Option Card, or a Thunderbolt 1 chassis with a Thunderbolt 2 computer, and still be able to use 4K displays. This can be achieved in the following ways:

  • MacBook Pro with Retina Display (13/15-inch, Late 2013): Use the dedicated HDMI 1.4 port, which supports 4K resolutions.
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013): The new Mac Pro features 3 sets of dual Thunderbolt 2 ports (6 ports total). Use a dedicated set of Thunderbolt 2 ports for 4K displays and a separate pair for Thunderbolt 1 peripherals.

For information about Universal Audio compatibility with the Mac Pro (Late 2013), click here.

Thunderbolt-to-PCIe Expansion Chassis Compatibility

About Thunderbolt-to-PCIe Expansion Chassis Compatibility

Specific Thunderbolt-to-PCIe expansion chassis products (listed below) are tested in-house to verify compatibility with UAD-2 PCIe cards.

Thunderbolt Chassis Operation Notes

  • Thunderbolt is compatible under Mac OS X only.
  • For optimum UAD performance with Thunderbolt-to-PCIe expansion chassis products, connect and power all Thunderbolt devices before the computer is powered on.
  • For optimum Thunderbolt performance, Mac OS X 10.8.2 Mountain Lion (or higher) is recommended.
  • For Thunderbolt 2 information, click here.

Tested Thunderbolt-to-PCIe Expansion Chassis Models

The specific Thunderbolt-to-PCIe expansion chassis models from manufacturers listed below have been tested with UAD-2 PCIe cards. The results of these tests are noted beneath the specific models.

Note: The chassis models below are individually tested to work with UAD-2 cards. Using chassis models from different manufacturers together in the same Thunderbolt chain is an untested configuration.

Sonnet Technologies

Status: Compatible. All of the above chassis models are tested in-house for use with UAD‑2 PCIe cards. Although other Thunderbolt-to-PCIe chassis models from Sonnet Technologies are not specifically tested, we are not currently aware of any issues with the other chassis models from this manufacturer.


Status: Compatible. Both of these chassis models are tested in-house for use with UAD‑2 PCIe cards.

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