Thunderbolt interfaces

Hi all! First post, just getting started with Cantabile Lite.

I’m interested in eventually using Cantabile for small-time performance like open mic nights with my i7 laptop. I’m hoping I can get Cantabile to run amp sims and layer synths for a Chapman Stick, guitar, vocals, and also be able to do some live loop recording and playback with those instruments. Additionally, I’d like to run EZDrummer with some midi files for a backing track while I play. Then control it all with a Keith McMillen Soft Step 2. I can see the enormous possibilities with this setup, now I just have to learn my way around things. :slight_smile:

Right now I have a Focusrite 2i2 on my home PC, which is great for home use. I’m wondering if investing in a Focusrite Clarett 4Pre down the road might be inevitable? If I have a Stick, which is 2 channels, plus one more for a guitar, and one more for a mic, that’s 4 channels with their own preamps and inputs that can all be processed separately.

It seems that many people have had success with a variety of USB interfaces, but I’m curious if anyone has ventured into using Thunderbolt interfaces yet? Are they worth the investment for the increased bandwidth? The immediate benefit I could see if you have a laptop with a thunderbolt port is freeing up one of the USB ports for other things.


Off the top of my head, and with no experience…
USB drivers have a hidden buffer on top of what your driver/daw will tell you, in the case of the RME Babyface Pro it’s 32 samples.
Thunderbolt is effectively an external PCI Express interface so shouldn’t need that extra safety buffer. And, drivers permitting, will be the fastest way to get data in and out of your computer with the lowest overhead.
In real terms and given that USB devices are mature and Thunderbolt are not, it’s hard to say if the extra cost is worth it without real-world testing.
Throughput of Thunderbolt is extremely high but USB 2 is already fast enough most serious music users.
USB 3 does not improve on the latency of USB 2 but does increase throughput.

Well that was a quick reply! Thanks for the info. :slight_smile:

Would the increased throughput, in theory, allow for more simultaneous effects/instruments on each channel by allowing for more cpu and memory overhead? Or am I mistaken?

In theory, I would say yes. But I’d say it’d only show if you’re streaming lots of tracks (maybe more than 16 or 32) out to your interface rather than doing lots of tracks in daw/C3 processing and sending out only a handful to the interface.

What’s going to make the biggest difference to your system is how well set up it is and how good the interface drivers are.
Brad’s book is a brilliant place to start.


Thanks for the link! I will definitely check it out.

I know the RME Babyface is a big favorite here. The retail prices between the Clarett 4Pre and the Babyface are pretty comparable, but that kind of purchase will likely be down the road.

For now I’ll probably just stick with my 2i2 and make sure it’s as optimized as much as possible, to see what kind of results I can achieve while I’m learning Cantabile.

I’ve been using the Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII SOLO. I can’t tell you exactly what the improvements were, but I’ve had noticeable improvements over USB 2 interfaces (I’ve used RME and zoom USB). I’ve been able to use smaller buffer sizes more reliably. Other than Spectrasonics Keyscape, I’ve been able to run all of my plugins with 32/64 buffer sizes. This is a Thunderbolt 2 interface that I am running on a PC with Thunderbolt 3 (via adapter cable).


Do you have Keyscape installed on an SSD? I’ve heard it’s very disk-speed dependent as the sample library is absolutely massive for each instrument. Spectrasonics highly recommends putting Keyscape on an SSD on their website if I recall correctly.

Thanks also for the input.

*Edit: I was under the impression that Thunderbolt interfaces were bus powered, seems not to be the case.

Hi Tappistry,

Regarding device power - it depends on the interface. Some manufacturers claim bus power, others require a power supply. The UAD requires a wall wort.

Yes, I’ve been using Samsung 960 PRO Series - 2TB PCIe NVMe - M.2 Internal SSD (MZ-V6P2T0BW). Pretty much the fastest available now. Keyscape still causes page faults and CPU spikes on large sample sets (Ie. LA Grand + Custom Rhodes). Probably I need to track down some driver conflicts as well.

Kevin L

With that kind of horsepower it should be seamless. Forgive me if this sounds like a basic suggestion, but have you tried upgrading your SSD firmware with the Samsung drive manager app?

Thanks for the suggestion! No I haven’t done that yet. I’ll check it out.
BTW - this is running on a Intel NUC (SkullCanyon: i7-6770HQ (quad Core) with 32G Kingston RAM. All-in-all, a pretty solid performer, and quite portable. Getting Keyscape working right seems to be the last part of the puzzle.

FWIW - Even running that same load on my MacPro (fully stocked SSD) causes some stuttering. Maybe, I need to review the HW there too.

Kevin L

I checked firmware and drivers on the Samsung 960 drive. I had the latest firmware and drivers, so I don’t think that is the cause of problems I am seeing with Keyscape. I need to investigate other driver issues that may be causing high rates of page faults. Keyscape seems generally OK at buffer sizes > 256, but this seems pretty conservative given the speed of my machine/RAM/etc.

Anyway, thanks for the suggestions.
Kevin L


I have pretty much the same setup here (Skull Canyon, 32GB Kingston Hyper-X 2133, 2TB Samsung 960 Pro, Babyface Pro). However, I haven’t had the time in the past few weeks to really play around with it yet. I have everything installed and ready to go though, including Cantabile and Keyscape. I’ll try the LA Grand + Custom Rhodes preset and see if I get similar results or not. I haven’t tweaked any of the RME driver settings or Keyscape settings yet. Any recommendations to get me jump started? PM me if you don’t want to clutter up this thread.


Clutter away, I think this thread has found its own momentum at this point. :slight_smile:

Hi Fesick,

At this point - it is really only the ‘Large’ sample sets that are killing Keyscape usage on my platform (usually Duos). While upping the buffer to 256 is generally playable, I still hear buffer-overrun artifacts. Within Keyscape, limiting the voice number (ie like to 15 voices), and ‘thinning’ the samples in the patch helps, but still is not perfect. Since I see random CPU usage spikes and Page Fault jumps in Cantabile, that leads me to suspect some other driver code is pre-empting Cantabile, so that is my next avenue of investigation.

I’d really like Keyscape to be perfect on this platform - it seems like for every other vst plugs I have (both sample-playback and compute-intensive) - there are no other problems. Keyscape is the only one to cause problems.

Hope it helps,
Kevin L

Good to know. I was considering a Keyscape purchase down the road at some point. Seems to be a bit of a beast in many respects.

Actually, I L :heart:VE Keyscape samples! It is brilliant! Don’t get me wrong - That is the whole reason why I am putting effort into getting this working. It’s just a bear resource-wise. Even without using the DUOs, it is by far one of the best keyboard-sample sets I’ve seen come out in the past 3 years.

If you haven’t heard it yet, give it a listen.

Kevin L

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Yep, I agree, Keyscape sounds fabulous. Basically unusable on my live rig though :wink: Just too much of a hog.

I’ve watched some demo videos. The grand piano and Custom Rhodes are basically worth the price of admission on their own. Absolutely amazing sound. I’m not even a keyboard player primarily and they still manage to cause GAS. :rofl:

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