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This looks like being good news for those who either want to hook up lots of outboard or run large recording sessions, but who are unhappy with recording at 44.1 or 48 k Hz — it should push the prices of such systems down in the long run.
It might seem like early days for USB 3, but we’re already starting to see the newer USB 3.1 standard appear on computers — notably on some new Apple Mac Book and Google Chromebook portable models, but also on some desktop PC motherboards.
Before I dive into the details, it’s worth noting some good news: despite various generations of USB, Firewire and Thunderbolt all being employed in current products, backwards compatibility is included as part of the latest standards.
Most Firewire 400 devices can operate on Firewire 800 connections.
With an adaptor, many can connect to a Thunderbolt port too.
Many manufacturers of USB 2 interfaces also cater for higher sample rates, including 96, 192 and 384 k Hz, but these eat into the USB bandwidth: every time you double the sample rate, you double the amount of data.
These tend to be among the more costly options, due to the extra work and design choices that go into developing and optimising this sort of solution.
By way of example, RME’s MADIFace USB is a USB 2 bus-powered 128-channel digital audio interface.
Similar teething issues were experienced with some USB 1 devices when USB 2 was first emerging and, just as we did back then, we’ve seen continued firmware and driver updates from the audio interface manufacturers — all of which means that such quirks are becoming fewer as time marches on.
The USB 3 standard is certainly mature enough at this point that any new interface you purchase in future should already have any such problems ironed out.Staying at 24-bit/48k Hz, consider a more realistic real-world USB 2 bandwidth of 240Mbps (a slightly conservative figure, giving us plenty of overhead to allow for the connection limitations discussed earlier): you’d still have the ability to work with up to 40 channels of broadcast-quality audio simultaneously!