When did it become OK to use USB2 for Audio?

I always remember the information about USB2 being very negative for Audio due to the the timing of data transmission.

I was expecting company’s like MOTU to begin offering Thunderbolt or at the very least USB3. But MOTU’s most recent 8pre only has USB2.
Any opinions about this?

Aloha s,

I may be wrong on this but,
I believe it because drivers etc are much better (written) these days.

When did it become OK to use USB2 for Audio?

That must have been yesterday, when suddenly all those different interfaces from all those different manufacturers suddenly popped up from nowhere…

Hi Thinkinggap,
I think Courtey is probably right. But your post is insightful too.

Now that I think back on it, It seems like when Apple started using Intel chips and with the birth of OSX there was an unceremonious adoption of USB2 for audio interfaces.

I might be showing my age but I still know many professionals who also feel the same way I do.
It wasn’t that long ago that you wouldn’t even consider using USB2 drives for projects. They were exclusively for storage.

Are there any readers here old enough to have made the migration from a FW based interface to a USB2 one?

And then, of course there’s the question of longevity. How much longer will USB2 be around? There is no longer USB2 on macs. Just USB3. PCs too, right? Yet the hardware manufacturers are still using USB2 (?)

I guess the seal of approval came when RME first offered a USB interface. Couple of years ago?

I don’t quite know WHAT Apple are up to at the moment. “Leading from the front” is a small slip away from “Going out on a limb”.

But, @Op are you asking because you think is a bad thing to use USB 2 ?

Not at all. I’m seeking people’s experience. I have a ton of FW based gear and drives which I’ll need to update when I get my new computer. And, as I mentioned, I come from the days when there was article after article explaining why USB should never be used in a pro environment. USB being a “hub” based system where FW is daisy chain-able with isynchronous data streams and USB sending “packets” which needed to be stitched back together.

So I’m just curious about the evolution of the technology, the accepted compromises, etc.

All that said, I think that part of this stigma that I have stuck in my head is from the USB 1 days. I just seem to remember people drilling the point that USB was never intended to handle large contiguous data streams but rather peripherals like mice and printers.

From what I understand, USB2 takes a generous amount of CPU power which in turn translates into latency. But then I went to Apogee’s website and saw that their Quartet system is claiming less latency than FW on the Ensemble system.

So I feel like I have some catching up to do.

usb 2 is fine, I have firewire and usb 2 and they both work great.

remember usb is backwards compatible so USB 3 ports will work with 1,2and 3


Yeap those were the days of USB 1, because the transfer rates of USB1 are really…well a joke.[/quote]

Could be because CPUs have more power now (or maybe it had a DSP inside)

And Usb 3.1 (with 10Gbps) is around the corner

Are not some of Steiny’s own interfaces USB2?



RME was the first company to make USB 2 interfaces with a low latency performance superior to FW. I believe their first USB 2 product was the Fireface UC, followed by the BabyFace. These interfaces changed the industry and made USB 2 a professional solution. Afterwards, they came out with two more USB 2 interfaces, the Fireface UFX and the Fireface UCX shortly after. The latest product from RME is the MADIFace XT, which is the world’s first (as is usually the case for RME) USB 3.0 interface. This, in my opinion, is the future of audio interfaces. Not sure about Thunderbolt, but USB 3.0 seems to be already going ahead of it in terms of bandwidth and speed from what I’ve read not long ago.

I apologize if I sound like an RME endorser, but they have truly carved the path for other interface companies when it comes to making the impossible possible.

If you do the maths, we don’t need really THAT much bandwith… we are more limited by the HD velocities now (at least until the SSD driver get cheaper)

I use RME UFX. It has BOTH USB 2.0 and Firewire. I’ve tried using it in both modes, there is no discernible difference.
On my laptop, I use an RME Babyface (USB 2.0 only) and it rocks.

Bottom line: today’s USB 2.0 interfaces are just as good as the FW ones.

Quite a lot of USB 2 interfaces wont work on the supposedly backwards compatible USB 3.
Bandwidth and Transfer rates don’t necessarily equate to lower latency.

On a podcast I have heard Alex Lindsay (from Pixlecorp) speak on that same thing.

Eventho’ this protocol is supposedly ‘backward compatible’, in the real world
be sure to do your research and check before making any purchases.

So true… i.e. Focusrite is still struggling with BSODs on USB3, I have personal experience of this…

That’s the driver designer fault don’t?

Anyway, I use my UR824 in a USB3 port without problems


it could be a USB(3) Controller issue, it might be worth checking if the Motherboard manufacturer provides an updated driver (if not a hardware controller issue, of course).
Just make sure that the driver is correct for the model and revision.

By the way, USB2 can record a reasonable amout of tracks contemporarily with its bandwidth (480Mbps or 60MB/sec), far more than USB2 audio interfaces usually offer. So it’s perfectly suited for the task.

Kind regards,

From what I’ve heard, the incompatibility of USB 3.0 ports with USB 2.0 devices is typically a Mac issue. On my HP Elitebook, I can use any USB port with my Babyface, 2.0 or 3.0. No issues at all. Same with my desktop and my UFX, although I’m not wasting a USB 3.0 port for any USB 2.0 device.

When the USB3 came out, the problem was with a specific controller, but I won’t name the manufacturer.

The issue has been long ago solved, but of course those who have mainboards built at that time may have issues.