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Just how big a deal is Thunderbolt?
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stratton
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#1
14th April 2012
Old 14th April 2012
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Just how big a deal is Thunderbolt?

I'm likely going to buy the UA Apollo and I'm thinking about buying a laptop that doesn't have Thunderbolt.

The laptop does have eSata which I really like for external drives, but is Thunderbolt worth configuring a system for? My guess is that it would be best for those looking for lowest possible latency for VIs.

I have the Lynx 2A ( PCI, and still happy after all these years) but I am looking forward.
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15th April 2012
Old 15th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stratton View Post
I'm likely going to buy the UA Apollo and I'm thinking about buying a laptop that doesn't have Thunderbolt.

The laptop does have eSata which I really like for external drives, but is Thunderbolt worth configuring a system for? My guess is that it would be best for those looking for lowest possible latency for VIs.

I have the Lynx 2A ( PCI, and still happy after all these years) but I am looking forward.
Hi Stratton, I've ordered an Apollo (currently on a backorder) and I really dig what is inside the box (I/O, great convertors, realtime UAD DSP, etc) and it's portability. But, I would not be as excited about it, if it did not have Thunderbolt capability expansion. Now, no one has actually been able to test it yet, since the Apollo TB I/O card is still a few months away from release. But, the promise of TB speed and from what is stated in the Apollo literature is that the TB I/O will allow the Apollo to get better performance (lower latencies and more DSP plug-ins) similar to what we get using UAD-2 PCIe cards. PCIe type performance from an external UAD device is what finally sold me on the Apollo. Using FW, you compromise that performance (less DSP plug-ins available, 512 sample or higher sample latency when using UAD plug-ins from your DAW). I suspect the improved Apollo performance using TB will provide a better overall end user experience.
I would try to get a laptop with TB to keep your options open for future TB expansion , if I were you. I just bought a brand new Mac Mini and along with FW800 it has a TB port just waiting for my Apollo.

Cheers,

Billy Buck
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stratton
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15th April 2012
Old 15th April 2012
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Thanks for the info and perspective, Billy Buck. I'm going to opt for Thunderbolt I/O on my next DAW.
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15th April 2012
Old 15th April 2012
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Thunderbolt is totally unnecessary for anyone who isn't recording a ton of tracks all at once. Fw800 is perfectly fine for that application. Also, fw is backwards compatible from tb, so future compatibility should not be an issue either.

I would not be rushing out to use thunderbolt for a few years unless it was absolutely necessary to fulfill a large track count. In audio, new almost always = glitchy.
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15th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dasnub View Post
Thunderbolt is totally unnecessary for anyone who isn't recording a ton of tracks all at once. Fw800 is perfectly fine for that application. Also, fw is backwards compatible from tb, so future compatibility should not be an issue either.

I would not be rushing out to use thunderbolt for a few years unless it was absolutely necessary to fulfill a large track count. In audio, new almost always = glitchy.
FW is one of the buggiest communication protocols, even USB 2. and USB 3. are better, and more stable/reliable protocols for both midi and audio.

imho. TB is a big step forward, it's the near future. and I'm glad it was developed (don't ignore it) ! I would not buy a computer without TB support at this time. It's just a matter of a little more time.
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16th April 2012
Old 16th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muziksculp View Post
FW is one of the buggiest communication protocols, even USB 2. and USB 3. are better, and more stable/reliable protocols for both midi and audio.
not my experience

I will never use any flavor of USB for any audio application
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16th April 2012
Old 16th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dasnub View Post
Thunderbolt is totally unnecessary for anyone who isn't recording a ton of tracks all at once. Fw800 is perfectly fine for that application.
For that application? You mean using UAD-2 devices? Sorry, that is not correct. UA highly recommends using PCIe over FW everytime, when it comes to maximizing the UAD-2 performance. When it comes to the high speed demands of huge UAD DSP I/O data transfers, faster is always better. I know this from personal experience. Don't believe me, this is from UA's own FAQ:

What are the advantages of using Thunderbolt as opposed to FireWire?

In general terms, Thunderbolt is 12 times more powerful than FireWire 800, and 20 times more powerful than USB 2. Thunderbolt support gives Apollo ultra-fast UAD-2 PCIe performance running through a cable with no noticeable bandwidth limitations. So, in simple terms, you’ll be able to run many more plug-ins with lower latency inside your DAW versus FireWire. This is especially exciting when combining multiple Apollo interfaces and UAD-2 Satellite units in a single setup.



I have a computer that has both Firewire 800 and PCIe slots, should I buy the PCIe card or the Firewire version?

We developed UAD-2 Satellite to give our customers access to UAD Powered Plug-Ins on Intel-based Macs with Firewire connections (like iMacs and MacBook Pros) — many of which don’t have PCIe slots. Of course, UAD-2 Satellite will work in and alongside Intel Mac-based UAD-2 PCIe systems (like Mac Pro towers) as well. The major difference between PCIe and Firewire is bandwidth and latency. In this regard, UAD-2 PCIe systems have inherent advantages over UAD-2 Satellite. For customers mixing on Intel-based Macs without dedicated PCIe slots, and for customers who want UAD-2 plug-in portability, a UAD-2 Satellite system is a great choice. But for customers with both PCIe and Firewire, more plug-ins can theoretically be run on the UAD-2 PCIe card system with less latency.

So why can’t I run as many UAD plug-ins on my UAD-2 Satellite QUAD as my UAD-2 QUAD PCIe? A QUAD is a QUAD, right?


This is purely a Firewire bandwidth issue. Assuming you don’t run out of DSP to run the plug-ins you want, it all comes down to the available bandwidth of the Firewire bus. Think of a two-lane highway versus a seven-lane freeway; on the seven-lane freeway, more cars can get through simultaneously. Similarly, plug-ins require their own I/O stream in order to be heard, and Firewire has a limited amount of streams compared to PCIe.

The available Firewire bandwidth can also become constrained depending on other Firewire devices on the Firewire bus (such as an audio interface). The more devices using the Firewire bus, the less bandwidth available to the UAD-2 Satellite. All that said, the UAD-2 Satellite can run a large number of plug-ins, more than enough for an average session.


Thunderbolt will give us the PCIe UAD performance (seven lanes) that is currently lacking with FW (two lanes) external devices. Also unlike FW, you can daisy chain multiple TB devices without compromising high speed data transfers. That is why UA is pushing TB and why they have it as an optional card for the Apollo. You will be seeing more TB enabled external UAD-2 devices in the future as FW becomes more of a secondary option.


Cheers,

Billy Buck
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16th April 2012
Old 16th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy Buck View Post
For that application? You mean using UAD-2 devices? Sorry, that is not correct. UA highly recommends using PCIe over FW everytime, when it comes to maximizing the UAD-2 performance. When it comes to the high speed demands of huge UAD DSP I/O data transfers, faster is always better. I know this from personal experience. Don't believe me, this is from UA's own FAQ:

What are the advantages of using Thunderbolt as opposed to FireWire?

In general terms, Thunderbolt is 12 times more powerful than FireWire 800, and 20 times more powerful than USB 2. Thunderbolt support gives Apollo ultra-fast UAD-2 PCIe performance running through a cable with no noticeable bandwidth limitations. So, in simple terms, you’ll be able to run many more plug-ins with lower latency inside your DAW versus FireWire. This is especially exciting when combining multiple Apollo interfaces and UAD-2 Satellite units in a single setup.



I have a computer that has both Firewire 800 and PCIe slots, should I buy the PCIe card or the Firewire version?

We developed UAD-2 Satellite to give our customers access to UAD Powered Plug-Ins on Intel-based Macs with Firewire connections (like iMacs and MacBook Pros) — many of which don’t have PCIe slots. Of course, UAD-2 Satellite will work in and alongside Intel Mac-based UAD-2 PCIe systems (like Mac Pro towers) as well. The major difference between PCIe and Firewire is bandwidth and latency. In this regard, UAD-2 PCIe systems have inherent advantages over UAD-2 Satellite. For customers mixing on Intel-based Macs without dedicated PCIe slots, and for customers who want UAD-2 plug-in portability, a UAD-2 Satellite system is a great choice. But for customers with both PCIe and Firewire, more plug-ins can theoretically be run on the UAD-2 PCIe card system with less latency.

So why can’t I run as many UAD plug-ins on my UAD-2 Satellite QUAD as my UAD-2 QUAD PCIe? A QUAD is a QUAD, right?


This is purely a Firewire bandwidth issue. Assuming you don’t run out of DSP to run the plug-ins you want, it all comes down to the available bandwidth of the Firewire bus. Think of a two-lane highway versus a seven-lane freeway; on the seven-lane freeway, more cars can get through simultaneously. Similarly, plug-ins require their own I/O stream in order to be heard, and Firewire has a limited amount of streams compared to PCIe.

The available Firewire bandwidth can also become constrained depending on other Firewire devices on the Firewire bus (such as an audio interface). The more devices using the Firewire bus, the less bandwidth available to the UAD-2 Satellite. All that said, the UAD-2 Satellite can run a large number of plug-ins, more than enough for an average session.


Thunderbolt will give us the PCIe UAD performance (seven lanes) that is currently lacking with FW (two lanes) external devices. Also unlike FW, you can daisy chain multiple TB devices without compromising high speed data transfers. That is why UA is pushing TB and why they have it as an optional card for the Apollo. You will be seeing more TB enabled external UAD-2 devices in the future as FW becomes more of a secondary option.


Cheers,

Billy Buck
That's all well and good- if it works perfectly out of the gate. Personally, having seen new protocols introduced before, that seems unlikely. You can have all the bandwidth you want, and it's worthless if the interface drops out, stutters, has clicks and pops, etc.

I'd rather have a stable fw interface with a uad satellite myself- even if that meant running fewer plugins. Thunderbolt is a $2000 gamble right now.
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16th April 2012
Old 16th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dasnub View Post

I'd rather have a stable fw interface with a uad satellite myself- even if that meant running fewer plugins. Thunderbolt is a $2000 gamble right now.

I guess we will have to wait until the Apollo TB I/O is released this Summer to see who is right then. I'll bookmark this thread and update it once I get my Apollo TB successfully running on my Mac Mini. I am confident that UA knows what they are doing and won't disappoint! $2000 gamble? I outta go to Vegas!

Cheers,

Billy Buck
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16th April 2012
Old 16th April 2012
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Thunderbolt = Convenient PCIe 2.0

That's the big deal for me. You will soon be able to have say am Avid HD TB interface. Which will work like the card. You will have your HD IO(s) in the studio but if you wanted you could take it out with a MacBook pro and an Omni HD interface. Studios could upgrade to more compact systems and use a couple of TB Chassis for expansion. Now when you switch computers you wont need to transfer cards. Just plug in the old chassis and your good to go.

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16th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by projektk View Post
Thunderbolt = Convenient PCIe 2.0
I like that equation Very TRUE indeed.

The future is going to be very sweet with TB

Hmmm... I wish we had TB a few years ago, I'm not getting younger, hope it becomes the norm-protocol pretty soon.

Cheers,
Muziksculp
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16th April 2012
Old 16th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
not my experience

I will never use any flavor of USB for any audio application
USB actually has a larger throughput than FW 400... It's just some companies that have developed crumby drivers that have given USB its current reputation.

Don't get me wrong... I won't use USB either. It's just companies like JoeCo that can record MADI 56 channels to a USB portadrive that really amaze me.
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16th April 2012
Old 16th April 2012
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USB treats devices like a hard drive. The computer takes the information as fast as it can. The protocol handling is often handed off to the host computer in the USB driver as well. So a USB device can potentially create data bottlenecks and CPU drag. This can lead to drop-outs, glitches, and unexpected halts. Not saying it will but it can, especially at high track counts.

"Firewire" treats everything as a network device. The throughput protocol is handled by the firewire chip itself and each data stream has a bit rate attached to it. So a firewire stream has reserved bandwidth on the the I/O buss. There are no unexpected dropouts or glitches and the CPU is unaffected. You reach a maximum buss data saturation and that is the end. It just doesn't go beyond that.

USB2 vs. Firewire? USB can do a single data stream faster but it's theoretically easier for a computer to handle high track counts with firewire... All things being equal, anyway. It clearly depends on the manufacturer's hardware and drivers -never mind that there are a gajillion USB chip manufacturers of varying quality and only a few Firewire chip makers and "we" know which ones to look out for. It's likely that you can hook two Fireface 800s to one firewire port and get ~100 channels of I/O AND I don't think USB could handle that without hiccupping. BUT, both can handle ~50 or more 48/24 tracks in one direction so... what do you really need? In the end, both protocols are just translating to the PCI buss... and that is exactly what TBolt is like: a direct connection to the PCI buss.

This is why TBolt is awesome. It's a reserved bandwidth high speed buss with a direct connection to the motherboard's southbridge, without an intermediary translation step like USB or Firewire. Instant lower latency!!! (although future TB cables with processing on them to go to optical and back will probably add some latency). SO, Purportedly if you connected a UAD PCIe card into the end of a TBolt (with a sonnet echo express or whatever) on a MacBook Pro then you have the same result as plugging on into the internal slot of a big azz tower machine.

The concept of having PT HD cards in an expansion chassis is pretty damn appealing.

Last edited by manysounds; 16th April 2012 at 03:54 PM.. Reason: clarity
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16th April 2012
Old 16th April 2012
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Fingers crossed that the TB promise is delivered...
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16th April 2012
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If it realizes its potential, its nothing short of an all-out game changer.
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16th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billy Buck View Post
I guess we will have to wait until the Apollo TB I/O is released this Summer to see who is right then. I'll bookmark this thread and update it once I get my Apollo TB successfully running on my Mac Mini. I am confident that UA knows what they are doing and won't disappoint! $2000 gamble? I outta go to Vegas!

Cheers,

Billy Buck
It has nothing to do with proving "who is right." I just offer a word of caution to anyone being a first adopter of a new protocol. If you don't need it, and just want it to have it, youre taking an unnecessary risk in my opinion. If you do need the bandwidth and lower latency, and fw is unusable for you, then by all means go out and buy the first one off the shelf.

Don't get me wrong. Thunderbolt has awesome potential and I love that it's being implemented... Im just not a fan of early adoption in that kind of stuff.
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16th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G0G0MRM0J0 View Post
USB actually has a larger throughput than FW 400... It's just some companies that have developed crumby drivers that have given USB its current reputation. .
Throughput is worthless if it measured as an average against time. Only uninterrupted throughput is worth a damn.

Quote:
Originally Posted by manysounds View Post
USB treats devices like a hard drive. The computer takes the information as fast as it can. The protocol handling is often handed off to the host computer in the USB driver as well. So a USB device can potentially create data bottlenecks and CPU drag. This can lead to drop-outs, glitches, and unexpected halts. Not saying it will but it can, especially at high track counts.
It can and it has. It's all I need to know. A deeper understanding of the innards of the protocols is not necessary, in fact it can induce a false sense of complacency. Once burned, twice shy.
stratton
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16th April 2012
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Thank for all your input, and the under-the-hood stuff.

I'm usually not an early adopter, but in this case I'm more comfortable opting for a rig with Thunderbolt I/O than not. Potential growth vs. certain limitation.
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17th April 2012
Old 17th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dasnub View Post
Don't get me wrong. Thunderbolt has awesome potential and I love that it's being implemented... Im just not a fan of early adoption in that kind of stuff.
Yes, I agree about the potential pitfalls of being an early adopter. Typically, I do take a wait and see attitude. But in the case of the Apollo, I have faith that UA will deliver the goods. When Intel had their press conference about 14 months ago formally introducing the new Thunderbolt technology, UA was one of a handful of companies that saw it's potential and quickly pledged support for the new high speed standard. I knew then, that UA was going to go TB in a big way. I think in the not too distant future all external UAD devices will be TB compatible and that will make using such devices that much more appealing.

Cheers,

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17th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dasnub View Post
Thunderbolt is totally unnecessary for anyone who isn't recording a ton of tracks all at once. Fw800 is perfectly fine for that application.
There are other aspects that make Thunderbolt attractive.
I preferred to buy a new iMac instead of a MacPro.
The iMacs only have FW800, not PCI-e, and I found my Lynx Aurora just wouldn't function properly at 96khz on FW. I also wanted to use UAD2 plug-ins and bought a satellite, but that made my FW performance even worse.
Trying to use FW audio interface and FW external drive was impossible without even adding FW UAD.
So Apollo and the emergence of a few TB drives has sorted all those issues out for me.
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17th April 2012
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yea, i wish the new imacs and macbooks would come with 2 fw ports. would make life easier
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17th April 2012
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It wouldn't matter because they'd be all on the same buss anyway. Even the firewire ports on the Mac Pro are all on the same buss, which means the performance would be no different than daisy chaining.
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Also, for those who are waiting for more affordable Thunderbolt drives, you can consider this instead, if you have one of the typical "quad" interface drives with Esata:

LaCie - LaCie eSATA Hub

It's a thunderbolt to esata adapter. It will give you more bandwidth and faster speeds, plus get your drives off the firewire chain, freeing it up for what you really need.


They announced this a few months ago, and have now announced that it's now shipping, but doesn't yet seem to be showing up anywhere. Hopefully soon.
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17th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nst7 View Post
Even the firewire ports on the Mac Pro are all on the same buss, which means the performance would be no different than daisy chaining.
I think the MacPro has 2 x FW busses, plus the PCI-e of course.
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17th April 2012
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This thread in itself is a good example of why some people put a lot of hope in Thunderbolt.

Neither Firewire nor USB has a persistently good reputation among people trying to record a band or even a multi-miked drum-kit, whereas PCI-e has a much better track record when it comes to stability.

Since Thunderbolt IS pci-e, I think it is no wonder that people have high hopes. I do, too!
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17th April 2012
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I don´t get why everyone get´s so giddy about TB before Apple has really put out ANY real information and specs for developers!!

Having stable and great performing thunderbolt drivers is still some time away for anything audio.... I´d never put my money into anyone promising to get it right.....

it´s a great future connection to the cpu, with great bandwidth etc., but there´s more promising audio protocols atm. in my opinion!


I´d rather focus on DANTE e.g.


sorry, don´t get the hype..... a simple MH 2882 or ULN2 + a UAD Satellite can do much more, and it can do it NOW!
there....I said it...... *sigh*
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18th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomdarude View Post
I don´t get why everyone get´s so giddy about TB before Apple has really put out ANY real information and specs for developers!!

Having stable and great performing thunderbolt drivers is still some time away for anything audio.... I´d never put my money into anyone promising to get it right.....

it´s a great future connection to the cpu, with great bandwidth etc., but there´s more promising audio protocols atm. in my opinion!


I´d rather focus on DANTE e.g.


sorry, don´t get the hype..... a simple MH 2882 or ULN2 + a UAD Satellite can do much more, and it can do it NOW!
there....I said it...... *sigh*
This is the point I'm trying to make.
#28
18th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomdarude View Post
I don´t get why everyone get´s so giddy about TB before Apple has really put out ANY real information and specs for developers!!
Just to set the facts straight here:
Apple has had very little to do with Thunderbolt, other than being the early adopters and coining the term "Thunderbolt" -which is now owned by Intel. Thunderbolt was wholly and completely developed by Intel as "Lightpeak"

So, your uninformed spittle should be aimed at Intel
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18th April 2012
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18th April 2012
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OK, how many channels would it take to saturate a Thunderbolt connection? I imagine it's a pretty high number, more than most people will ever use. Personally I am getting 16 48K channels in via USB2 and it's working well.

TB will be more important to the video crowd, as indie video types start shooting 4K uncompressed video instead of 1080p.
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