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Thunderbolt Display

This page is dedicated to compatibility and support of the first-generation Thunderbolt Option Card for Apollo and Apollo 16 when using FireWire audio drivers. 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 Product Information
System Requirements Hardware Installation
Before Connecting Thunderbolt Connections
Using Thunderbolt FireWire Connections
Thunderbolt 2 Compatibility

Latest Technical News

Note: This page is for users running the first-generation Thunderbolt Option Card with UAD v7.7.0 and earlier or UAD v7.8.0 which includes FireWire support. If using UAD v7.7.1 or UAD v7.8.1, or the newer Thunderbolt 2 Option Card, see the Thunderbolt support page for PCIe audio drivers.

  • For important information about Apple Mac Pro (Late 2013) compatibility, click here.
  • UAD version 7 software introduces multi-unit cascading for up to two Apollo or Apollo 16 units. When the Thunderbolt Option Card is used for the host computer connection, both units must have the Thunderbolt Option Card installed.
    Important: When multi-unit cascading via Thunderbolt, power on the expander unit before the monitor unit.
  • Very early Apollo units with original firmware require a firmware update and this update must be performed while connected via FireWire. For details, see Before Connecting below.
  • To use the Thunderbolt Option Card with Apollo, UAD v6.3.1 or higher software is required.

Product Information

About Thunderbolt Option Card documentation

This page contains all user 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

Minimum System Requirements

The Thunderbolt Option Card requires:

  • Apollo or Apollo 16 High-Resolution Audio Interface
  • UAD Powered Plug-Ins software v6.3.1 or higher
  • Apple Mac computer with available Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 port
  • Thunderbolt cable (sold separately)

Notes:

  • Apollo has additional system requirements. See the Apollo support page for details.
  • (Win) Thunderbolt-equipped computers running Windows operating systems are not supported.

Hardware Installation

Installing the Thunderbolt Option Card

  • Important note about Thunderbolt Option Card installation: 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.
  • The Thunderbolt Option Card is designed for easy installation by the end 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 that shows 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, because the host computer connection is now automatically detected when Apollo is powered.

Before Connecting the Thunderbolt Option Card

Apollo updates may be required via FireWire to enable Thunderbolt connectivity

  • Very early Apollo units with original firmware require a firmware update. This initial update must be performed while connected via FireWire. Subsequent firmware updates can be applied via Thunderbolt.
  • The required firmware is in the UAD Powered Plug-Ins v6.3.1 (and higher) installer. To enable Thunderbolt on these earlier units, follow the update instructions below, but connect Apollo to the computer via FireWire instead of Thunderbolt for the initial update.
  • If you're already using Apollo with v6.3.1 or higher, no further updates to software or firmware are required and Apollo will be recognized when connected via Thunderbolt.
  • The Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter can be used to perform the initial firmware update that enables Thunderbolt connectivity.

Update Apollo using the latest UAD Powered Plug-Ins installer

  • After connecting Apollo to the computer and powering it on, install UAD Powered Plug-Ins v6.3.1 (or higher) software.
  • Update Apollo’s firmware if prompted by the UAD software. If a firmware update is performed, turn down any connected speakers then power off and power on Apollo. After power cycling, Apollo is ready to be used with Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt Option Card Connections

Connecting Apollo to the computer

  • Connect Apollo to the computer with a standard Thunderbolt cable (not included) using either option card port.
  • UAD version 7 software introduces multi-unit cascading for up to two Apollo or Apollo 16 units. When the Thunderbolt Option Card is used for the host computer connection, both units must have the Thunderbolt Option Card installed.
  • See the Apollo support page for specific instructions on how to connect two units together via Thunderbolt for multi-unit cascading.
  • Combining Apollo with Apollo 16 is an unsupported configuration.

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 peripheral devices. Note: Apollo must be powered for the computer to recognize the daisy-chained device.
  • (OS X 10.6 and 10.7 only) When running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or 10.7 Lion, connect Apollo as the last device in the Thunderbolt chain. Otherwise, it may not be possible to start the computer. This issue is resolved in Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

AVOID these Thunderbolt connections

  • Connecting Apollo to the computer with Thunderbolt and FireWire simultaneously (connect via one cable only)
  • Connecting Apollo to more than one computer simultaneously (applies to Thunderbolt and/or FireWire connections)
  • Connecting Thunderbolt devices to Apollo when FireWire is used for Apollo’s computer connection
  • Connecting or disconnecting Apollo while a DAW is active
  • Connecting or disconnecting peripherals while a DAW is active

Using Apollo with 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 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 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 (and Apollo's Console application) 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 to an Apollo FireWire port. See FireWire Connections below for more info.

General usage notes

  • Items on the Apollo support page still apply when using Apollo via Thunderbolt. The only exception is items in the Optimizing FireWire Performance section on that page do not apply when connected via the Thunderbolt Option Card.
  • For optimum results, connect and power Apollo and all Thunderbolt/FireWire peripherals before starting the computer. See the "Powering Apollo" section on the Apollo support page for details.
  • Important: When multi-unit cascading via Thunderbolt, power on the expander unit before the monitor unit. See the "Powering Apollo" section on the Apollo support page for details.
  • Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion improves Thunderbolt reliability versus previous operating systems. For this reason, we recommend using the latest version of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or 10.9 Mavericks when using the Thunderbolt Option Card.

Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter

  • The Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter has been tested in-house and there are currently no known issues when using it with Apollo.
  • When Apollo is connected to a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac with this adapter, Apollo behaves exactly as if it were connected directly to a FireWire 800 port. There are no operational or bandwidth differences in this configuration.

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, et cetera, are connected in the same Thunderbolt chain (especially at high session sample rates).

FireWire Connections with Thunderbolt Option Card

Using Apollo's FireWire ports via Thunderbolt Option Card

  • While Apollo is connected to the computer via Thunderbolt, both of Apollo’s FireWire ports remain active and they can be connected to FireWire peripheral devices such as UAD-2 Satellite (see related points below) and hard drives.
  • Both of Apollo's FireWire ports are on the same FireWire bus. The total available bandwidth of the FireWire ports on the rear panel of Apollo is 800 Mbps when Apollo is using Thunderbolt.
  • Avoid connecting or disconnecting FireWire peripherals while a DAW is active.
  • Apollo’s FireWire ports do not supply bus power.

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 Apollo's FireWire port or directly to the computer's FireWire port), 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 both UAD-2 Satellite and Apollo.

  • 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).

Host computer connection via FireWire

  • When the Thunderbolt Option Card is installed, Apollo can be connected to the host computer via Thunderbolt or FireWire. The Thunderbolt Option Card does not need to be removed for a FireWire host connection. The type of host connection is automatically detected when Apollo is powered.

Thunderbolt 2 Compatibility

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

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