2013 Mac Pro and Thunderbolt Audio

Trailerman

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Aug 12, 2010
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As release of the new Mac Pro draws clearer, do the musicians amongst us have thoughts on what they'll be doing for audio?

Thunderbolt audio is woefully under-catered for - in fact I don't know of a single dedicated Thunderbolt Audio product - and the PCIe+Chassis combination is a gamble (some products like the excellent MOTU PCIe-424 card don't work in a Thunderbolt chassis). Given that the new Mac Pro gives us pretty much no other expansion options, I'm wondering what us Logic Pro users are supposed to do. Are we going to have to use USB audio in a 2013 machine - surely not?

Any thoughts on the back of an envelope please.

Jules
 
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Trailerman

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Aug 12, 2010
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I'm going to buy this with the Thunderbridge:

http://www.apogeedigital.com/products/symphony-io.php
Sorry, I forgot about Apogee's Thunderbridge. Symphony is great, but pricey for the spec.

Only other options are Universal Audio's Apollo - which is really a Firewire interface with Thunderbolt DSP - and the ProTools thunderbolt interface. We already use ProTools HDX on a different system, but need some way of getting 72 channels of ADAT I/O from the new Mac Pro to the ProTools system. Doing that with Symphony's would cost around $12,000, and I'm not even sure it'll run more than 64 channels.

I wonder why pro-audio manufactures have been so reluctant to get behind Thunderbolt. It seems to offer everything pro-audio users need in a convenient format with great specs.
 

seisend

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Sorry, I forgot about Apogee's Thunderbridge. Symphony is great, but pricey for the spec.

Only other options are Universal Audio's Apollo - which is really a Firewire interface with Thunderbolt DSP - and the ProTools thunderbolt interface. We already use ProTools HDX on a different system, but need some way of getting 72 channels of ADAT I/O from the new Mac Pro to the ProTools system. Doing that with Symphony's would cost around $12,000, and I'm not even sure it'll run more than 64 channels.

I wonder why pro-audio manufactures have been so reluctant to get behind Thunderbolt. It seems to offer everything pro-audio users need in a convenient format with great specs.
yes, I guess Thunderbolt could be challenging in a technical way.
Apogee told me that they will definitely update the Symphony I/O with Thunderbolt inside. However, this will take some time since they will have to do a major internal redesign then.

Buy you can see this scenario with Software aswell: Apple offers Beta's for developers to adopt their software early on and 3rd party companies can't manage to get their software up and running until the release of a Apple OS and just start then to find a solution. I guess it's the same with thunderbolt, for many companies still a new territory which will become real within the next 2 years probably.
 

propower

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Jul 23, 2010
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Sorry, I forgot about Apogee's Thunderbridge. Symphony is great, but pricey for the spec.

Only other options are Universal Audio's Apollo - which is really a Firewire interface with Thunderbolt DSP - and the ProTools thunderbolt interface. We already use ProTools HDX on a different system, but need some way of getting 72 channels of ADAT I/O from the new Mac Pro to the ProTools system. Doing that with Symphony's would cost around $12,000, and I'm not even sure it'll run more than 64 channels.

I wonder why pro-audio manufactures have been so reluctant to get behind Thunderbolt. It seems to offer everything pro-audio users need in a convenient format with great specs.
TB is lagging in many places! Storage is still only a few choices ---

But Audio is the worst right now and I have no explanation for it other than R+D $$ vs profit. When the numbers work in our favor - products will happen...

Now:
1) AVID HDN will do most you want right now. 64 channels I/O Max :-(.
2) Brand new LYNX TB will be out this month. Somewhat less expensive solution - maybe
3) Not sure you can put enough UA Apollos together to do this
4) Symphony I am not well informed on

But where are the 72 ADAT I/O's coming from?? 9 old ADAT's? Is the data in some format that can bypass the ADAT i/o step. And- on your HDX system each interface has 8 or 16 ch of ADAT I/O. Can't you just uses as many channels as you have and take a few passes to get it into ProTools?

PS- DUC or GS will get you a lot quicker answers for this kind of stuff.. I feel for you! I waited a long time hoping for an alternative before buying into HD Native TB. Working well for me but my I/O needs are set with 16 channels...
 
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propower

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Jul 23, 2010
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TB to Firewire connector cable should work perfectly, allowing Firewire audio hardware to be run from the nMP. My MR816csx will just move across, easy.
I am fairly certain there are no FW based interfaces that can be stacked for 72 channels of I/O
 

cscotto

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Jul 11, 2013
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UAD Apollo

I will most likely get the UAD Apollo. I use UAD plug-ins on a PCIe card in my current Mac Pro. Of course, that won't be an option on the nMP. The Apollo has the Sharc chips that run the plug-ins built-in, solving one problem. It also has a port for inserting a Thunderbolt card. It also has firewire. I can run it with my current MP, and when I move to the nMP in the second or third generation, it will be Thunderbolt ready. The cost is high. With the the Thunderbolt card, the interface is $3000.00.
 

propower

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Jul 23, 2010
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IMO -
The first company to the table with a $1.5K ish kind of interface with
~16 ch i/o (could be only 8 analog but 16 way better)
Fast converters (20 samples or less ea. way max)
TB connectivity with daisy chain port
Rock solid driver
Decent mic pres
Giving 2.5ms latency at 44.1/32
and 1.5ms latency through host at 96/64

gonna sell a LOT of units!

TB IS PCIe (lite) on a cable. Should make audio interfaces just like plugging in a card - without the card! Been on Macs now for three years and going forward the only way into a mac. PCIe is SO ..... 2012... :)
 
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lozion

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Jan 12, 2006
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Montreal, Canada
72 Adat I/O is alot and expensive to achieve via TB. Why is 64 not enough?

AVID's Thunderbolt HDN gives you 64 I/O to which you would have to add either Avid digital interfaces (16 adat I/O per box) or if using a MADI bridge you could get a couple of Antelope Orion boxes or SSL Madi converters...
 

Trailerman

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Aug 12, 2010
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72 Adat I/O is alot and expensive to achieve via TB. Why is 64 not enough?

AVID's Thunderbolt HDN gives you 64 I/O to which you would have to add either Avid digital interfaces (16 adat I/O per box) or if using a MADI bridge you could get a couple of Antelope Orion boxes or SSL Madi converters...
I realise our case is a slightly unusual one. I write and arrange in Logic Pro X on a Mac Pro, but mix on a separate Mac Pro running ProTools HDX. I route all of my audio from the Logic machine to the ProTools machine via 72 channels of lightpipe - 3 x MOTU 2408 Mk III interfaces on the Logic system, to a bunch of HD interfaces on the ProTools rig. I work on both systems at the same time, with ProTools slaved to Logic for automation.

In short, I'm using the ProTools rig like an old fashioned mixer, with 72 channels coming from my Logic system, and a bunch of other hardware attached.

So in order to keep the same workflow, which works superbly and I have no intention of changing, I need something to replace the 3 2408's and give me the same 72 channels of ADAT I/O. In an ideal world I'd just keep them and move the PCIe-424 card that connects them to the host, into a thunderbolt PCIe chassis. Problem is, MOTU cards don't work in a chassis, and there's no word on whether this will ever be addressed.

Sorry this got so longwinded. One thing I've looked into is audio-over-LAN, but I'm unconvinced about robustness, unclear on whether the drivers will work properly with ProTools and Logic, worried about whether the network can handle 72 channels (on top of other data already flying around it) and unable to find a system that can handle more than 64 channels. So back to the drawing board I guess ....

Many thanks for all the extremely helpful input and suggestions.

Jules
 

lozion

macrumors regular
Jan 12, 2006
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Montreal, Canada
I realise our case is a slightly unusual one. I write and arrange in Logic Pro X on a Mac Pro, but mix on a separate Mac Pro running ProTools HDX. I route all of my audio from the Logic machine to the ProTools machine via 72 channels of lightpipe - 3 x MOTU 2408 Mk III interfaces on the Logic system, to a bunch of HD interfaces on the ProTools rig. I work on both systems at the same time, with ProTools slaved to Logic for automation.

In short, I'm using the ProTools rig like an old fashioned mixer, with 72 channels coming from my Logic system, and a bunch of other hardware attached.

So in order to keep the same workflow, which works superbly and I have no intention of changing, I need something to replace the 3 2408's and give me the same 72 channels of ADAT I/O. In an ideal world I'd just keep them and move the PCIe-424 card that connects them to the host, into a thunderbolt PCIe chassis. Problem is, MOTU cards don't work in a chassis, and there's no word on whether this will ever be addressed.

Sorry this got so longwinded. One thing I've looked into is audio-over-LAN, but I'm unconvinced about robustness, unclear on whether the drivers will work properly with ProTools and Logic, worried about whether the network can handle 72 channels (on top of other data already flying around it) and unable to find a system that can handle more than 64 channels. So back to the drawing board I guess ....

Many thanks for all the extremely helpful input and suggestions.

Jules
Unusual indeed! Cant you just work with Logic on the HDX rig? You already have the I/O, cards, etc. Plus you dont need power at mixdown as you're on HDX. Until MOTU sort out their issues or new TB products come out,
I would just sit it out...
 

propower

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Jul 23, 2010
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In short, I'm using the ProTools rig like an old fashioned mixer, with 72 channels coming from my Logic system, and a bunch of other hardware attached.

Sorry this got so longwinded. One thing I've looked into is audio-over-LAN, but I'm unconvinced about robustness, unclear on whether the drivers will work properly with ProTools and Logic, worried about whether the network can handle 72 channels (on top of other data already flying around it) and unable to find a system that can handle more than 64 channels. So back to the drawing board I guess ....
Jules
Fascinating :)...
I hunted around a bit and 64 channels is tough to get past (need a second HDX2 system!). THere is the RedNet stuff from focusrite. I know very little about it but it does look aimed at your kind of use. Check out the RedNet 3. They imply no real limit as to how many units you can run (32 ch ea.).

http://us.focusrite.com/rednet-case-studies
 
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deconstruct60

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Mar 10, 2009
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I realise our case is a slightly unusual one. I write and arrange in Logic Pro X on a Mac Pro, but mix on a separate Mac Pro running ProTools HDX. I route all of my audio from the Logic machine to the ProTools machine via 72 channels of lightpipe - 3 x MOTU 2408 Mk III interfaces on the Logic system, to a bunch of HD interfaces on the ProTools rig. I work on both systems at the same time, with ProTools slaved to Logic for automation.
Since there are two Mac Pros, what is the 'hang up' with moving the ProTools HDX to the newer Mac Pro 2013? Given there are two doing a 'big bang' swamp of both is rather expensive anyway.

Given MOTU is still selling legacy PCI cards (not PCIe, the even more ancient one the PCIe is a minor deviation from), I doubt they are going to be a "fast mover" here. The PCI-X bump derivation they are still selling dates from 2003 ( 10 years ago).

The solution is more likely either taking load off the "PCIe enclosure" Mac Pro and using the older Mac Pro as a "Smart" PCIe expansion chasis or perhaps moving to a audio equipment with vendors who can track technology changes as bit better.




In an ideal world I'd just keep them and move the PCIe-424 card that connects them to the host, into a thunderbolt PCIe chassis. Problem is, MOTU cards don't work in a chassis, and there's no word on whether this will ever be addressed.
In an idea world MOTU to create a derivative product that was the PCIe-424 card wrapped in a TB chassis box (or a PCIe-524 card that is more flexible). A TB PCIe expansion chassis box is overkill for what is pragmatically a card with PCI (not PCIe v2 ) kinds of bandwidth. If there were mulitple cards to move perhaps but as a single card move it is unlikely to attract a substantive number of adopters.

As for drivers, other Pro Audio vendors don't seem to be having as much drama.

http://www.sonnettech.com/support/charts/thunderbolt/index.html#proaudio

Kind of wonder if the host card design being stuck in a decade ago era whether they have anyone around with the skill set to move that old design into the modern era. Perhaps just enough expertise to tweak the drivers to adapt to limited OS X driver API changes but have a 'knowledge rot' problem. Either that or using the audio-video Thunderbolt interface product to go down the learning curve before apply that new knowledge to the audio only products.
 
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lozion

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Jan 12, 2006
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Montreal, Canada
Fascinating :)...
I hunted around a bit and 64 channels is tough to get past (need a second HDX2 system!). THere is the RedNet stuff from focusrite. I know very little about it but it does look aimed at your kind of use. Check out the RedNet 3. They imply no real limit as to how many units you can run (32 ch ea.).

http://us.focusrite.com/rednet-case-studies

An HDX card gives you 64 I/O and you could add more cards for more I/O but thats expensive.

Your best route I think is via 2 RME Raydat cards that will give you a total of 72 I/O (64 via Adat), in a compatible TB expansion chassis.

http://www.rme-audio.de/en_products_hdspe_raydat.php#5
 

Trailerman

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Aug 12, 2010
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Thanks guys. Some really helpful suggestions.

A second HD system is not really viable and shouldn't (hopefully) be necessary. I kind of feel it would be overkill.

The RME suggestion is a good one. They make great interfaces, and the drivers are very robust, assuming they work ok in a chassis. The other RME option which may work for us, is one of their MADI cards, plus a MADI/Optical converter. RME do the HDSPe MADI FX which offers 194 channels in and 196 out (!!) which we could pair with say an RME ADI-648 or preferably the new RME ADAT Router. There may be other options for MADI/ADAT conversion, or absolute worst case scenario we could buy a MADI interface for the ProTools rig. MADI certainly seems like the best way of routing large numbers of channels around the place, because it handles up to 64 44.1/48K channels over a single cable.

Another option is a USB interface, but I've no idea how reliable they are. RME do the MADIface USB which will get us most of the way there. Not sure if we could combine that with a second RME interface for the additional channels.

As for drivers, other Pro Audio vendors don't seem to be having as much drama.

http://www.sonnettech.com/support/charts/thunderbolt/index.html#proaudio

Kind of wonder if the host card design being stuck in a decade ago era whether they have anyone around with the skill set to move that old design into the modern era. Perhaps just enough expertise to tweak the drivers to adapt to limited OS X driver API changes but have a 'knowledge rot' problem. Either that or using the audio-video Thunderbolt interface product to go down the learning curve before apply that new knowledge to the audio only products.
I tend to agree. That chart's really helpful - looks like RME drivers are fine for chassis use.

Focusrite RED is a proprietary audio-over-LAN system, which is pretty pricey, and based on the same technology as the Dante virtual soundcard (which costs $29 for 64channels). Not a bad idea though, if other solutions look like they're not going to work.

Many thanks again.

Jules
 

gabrieldib

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Jul 13, 2015
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Hey Jules,

What did you end up doing?
I heard from SSL directly that they are very unhappy with their PCIe cards running in PCI chassis. The drivers are better now but there is still latency and that for composers is killer specially on rigs like yours where you probably monitor the audio incoming from your sequencer in PT, right?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

GD