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Kronos USB vs Thunderbolt
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theshinenz
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Joined: 18 Sep 2009
Posts: 222

PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2018 10:43 pm    Post subject: Kronos USB vs Thunderbolt Reply with quote

Hi guys...

Just checking on anyones experience with the Kronos Audio over USB. I've been playing with it and enjoying using the Roland Cloud.

I am running an older MBP about 3.0ghz with 16gb RAM and SSD, and can set the audio to 256mb buffer everything works pretty well (within MainStage 3) but the latency is slightly noticeable.

My question is how much better would a thunderbolt Zoom Tac-2 for example be in comparison to the Kronos as an interface?

The other thing I often find is lack of lower end when using plugins, is there a trick to get them sounding fuller?

Cheers
Scott
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jimknopf
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Joined: 17 Jan 2011
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2018 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any actual Thunderbolt audio interface will do a much better job, with lower latency, than the inbuilt Kronos soundcard.

It's great that the Kronos does have Audio over USB just in case you need it. But most of us prefer the higher quality of actual audio interfaces, not just those with Thunderbolt connection. For Windows users, the Kronos soundcard does not offer Asio drivers, which makes it more or less useless for serious use (and no, Asio4all is NO equilvalent subsitute for missing Asio drivers). Any Asio supported actual USB2 or USB 3 soundcard, from something like a cheap Steinberg UR22MkII upwards, will do a better job here.

Concerning plugins, they certainly don't sound less full generally. Just the contrary: many have excellent sound quality. The rest of sound shaping is a matter of mixing tools.
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Kronos 73 - Moog Voyager RME - Moog LP TE - Behringer Model D - Prophet 6 - halfway useable Korg Prologue with limited tuning issues - Rhodes 73 Mk I - Elektron Analog Rytm MkII - Cubase Pro 9.5
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Poseidon



Joined: 08 Jul 2018
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2018 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you have Mac, you will be better off with thunderbold;
Even firewire is better then Kronos USB ( on Mac)

My Kronos is connected via Toslink to MOTU 828mk3 Hybrid, and Mac Pro runs over firewire. Logic Pro X is setup to 128 samples (7.8ms latency) and expierience no problems at all.

Below is review of your Tac-2:
https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/zoom-tac-2
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Gunnar
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Joined: 27 Jan 2016
Posts: 139
Location: Norway

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2018 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A thunderbolt card will be wired directly to the internal PCI bus, so it is equivalent to an internal card, which inherently means less latency compared to USB 2 and even USB 3. If you're on OSX, this is the best option. If you're on a Windows machine which has thunderbolt over USB, then it doesn't really matter all that much.

I've been using a FocusRite Clarret 8Pre now for about a year (thunderbold interface). While recording, I only use a single VST (drums), so my MacBook Pro can manage a buffer size of 256 samples at 96Khz, which puts me at 3.2/3.1ms in/out. I have yet to run out of tracks, but this is for PURE audio, no additional processing.

If you're running Main Stage or other VSTs on the computer, computational time might come in addition. Guitar Rig adds an additional 4ms worth of processing time for me, for instance. At 256 samples @ 48Khz, you should have about 5.3 ms worth of theoretical latency, plus the midi connection adds another 1ms or so (*). There will be some overhead in the driver / interface itself, so the actual number is a bit higher, but it could be that your problem is not so much the audio interface, but the throughput on the computer itself, because 5-6ms is the same latency the Kronos' audio output has, and if you hear a latency difference between MainStage and the Kronos built-in pianos, it could be that those latencies are partially down to CPU processing, not only audio interface I/O. Any DAW will tell you what you're effective latency is though, so that is worth checking also. Perhaps even MainStage will tell you.

(*) btw, I did some analysis of various latencies in the Kronos a few weeks ago in this thread: http://www.korgforums.com/forum/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=116380
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Gear: Korg Kronos 2 73, Arturia Microbrute & MiniBrute 2, Moog Mother-32, Ibanez RG320DXFM Guitar, ESP Viper 254FM Bass, Blackstar HT-1
Software: Reaper, EZ Drummer
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/gunnarsletta
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theshinenz
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Joined: 18 Sep 2009
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks guys.... I ended up grabbing a used thunderbolt interface and can tell you that it sounds quite a bit better than the Kronos USB interface.... The Kronos usb in sound has little bottom end, its not terrible but when I plugged into my new one i finally got the sound that will keep up with my hardware synths.

Cheers
Scott
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pedro5
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although I’m fairly happy with Kronos audio via usb to an iMac, reading this topic has generated some interest regarding Thunderbolt audio routing.

As I already have an existing Firewire interface.
Would using a Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter help improve audio quality ?

With Thanks.
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Poseidon



Joined: 08 Jul 2018
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pedro5 wrote:
Although I’m fairly happy with Kronos audio via usb to an iMac, reading this topic has generated some interest regarding Thunderbolt audio routing.

As I already have an existing Firewire interface.
Would using a Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter help improve audio quality ?

With Thanks.


It all depends on the interface you have.

Presonus - https://support.presonus.com/hc/en-us/articles/210047273-Is-the-Thunderbolt-to-Firewire-adapter-supported-on-Firewire-devices-

MOTU - http://www.motunation.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=51524

Focusrite - https://support.focusrite.com/hc/en-gb/articles/207546915-Will-the-Apple-Thunderbolt-to-Firewire-adapter-work-with-my-Firewire-Saffire-Interface-

Thunderbolt adapter pass only 7W to bus power, so you will have to use the power supply in some cases.


Last edited by Poseidon on Sat Nov 10, 2018 1:35 am; edited 1 time in total
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Gunnar
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Joined: 27 Jan 2016
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Location: Norway

PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pedro5 wrote:

Would using a Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter help improve audio quality ?


This is not a question one can answer definitively as it is influenced by theoretical, practical and subjective factors. You'll just have to try for yourself and see Smile

If you are recording only the Kronos L&R outputs in a DAW on the iMac, then switching to an analog interface will introduce an analog signal path. If your FireWire interface is good and you're using balanced cables, there will be next to no noise when you do this, so the recorded .wavs will be of pristine quality. However, this has introduced a digital-to-analog (DA) step running out of the kronos and another analog-to-digial (AD) step going back into the audio interface. In addition to that, the preamps of the analog inputs might color the sound, independently of the AD step, so if there is a noticable alteration in sound, it might just as well be from that as from the DA & AD steps.

On the other hand, the Kronos USB does 24bit @ 48KHz. Another interface might support 24bit @ 96KHz or even 192KHz. Higher samplerates can be beneficial, not necessarily because you can hear supersonic content, but because processing in a DAW might require or benefit from higher sample rates. At the same time, higher samplerates requires more storage space, more processing power and might result in intermodulation distortion, so it isn't given that it is going to be better.

I doubt you'll get the full benefit of thunderbolt when using firewire over the adaptor, but I'm guessing. The results will depend on both your iMac, adapter and audio interface.

An external interface might provide some additional knobs, buttons, inputs etc, which at the end of the day changes your workflow. This might make a huge impact, not necessarily on the pure audio quality itself, but improving workflow tends to improve the overall results Smile
_________________
Gear: Korg Kronos 2 73, Arturia Microbrute & MiniBrute 2, Moog Mother-32, Ibanez RG320DXFM Guitar, ESP Viper 254FM Bass, Blackstar HT-1
Software: Reaper, EZ Drummer
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/gunnarsletta
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Poseidon



Joined: 08 Jul 2018
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pedro5 wrote:

Would using a Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter help improve audio quality ?


Firewire is clock-less (asynchronous), it means there is NO JITTER to measure.
The Speakers and room acoustics also play a role in overall final sound quality.

In my case quality (clearly audiable) stands as follow:

1. Mackie HR824 (1st Gen.) connected directly to Kronos (best quality)
2. Kronos Didital OUT -> MOTU 828mk3 Hybrid XLR Balance -> Mackie HR824 ( Mac Pro Firewire -> MOTU 828mk3 Hybrid)
3. Kronos USB -> Mac Pro Firewire -> MOTU 828mk3 Hybrid XLR Balance -> Mackie HR824 (poorest quality)
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theshinenz
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are inexpensive Thunderbolt interfaces too... I was going to go for the Apollo but was a bit more than i wanted to spend, but i wanted a rack mount interface for less setup time etc on stage, so I ended up grabbing a used Zoom Tac-8 for a very good price. I'm very happy with it, I'm sure there are better ones out there if you want to spend more , I also don't need all the inputs.

The main thing is it sounds good and its extremely simple to use. Bare in mind I do not use any of the input side of it so can not comment on that, all I'm using it for it to get quality output from my software instruments to the PA.


Scott
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pedro5
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Joined: 06 Oct 2011
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Location: Coventry UK.

PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2018 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to both Gunnar and Poseidon for the excellent replies and useful information.

Reading this whole topic has made me curious about any possibility for improved audio and am very interested in having an understanding without casting any doubt upon reported tests/findings that have been kindly posted.

My initial attraction was having Thunderbolt to connect directly into the PCi with possible better audio results compared to usb.

I can agree that using the Apple adaptor for Firewire may not be beneficial as it would entail an additional conversion step with an old interface.

However,as similar conversion also applies to other external interfaces, it poses additional questions.

Setting aside latency improvement and higher sample rates….
Is my understanding correct that routing the Kronos line audio outputs via a Thunderbolt interface will provide better audio ?

Would routing from the SPDIF outputs be better, even if it also means additional conversions ?

Some background info…
Did some brief comparison tests a few years ago, between Kronos usb,Firewire interface and the iMac input ports.
(This was using an older iMac which had audio inputs).

The Kronos usb was marginally better than the other two methods, so I’ve stuck with that since then.
Even when Apple changed things and caused serious problems for many….I managed to find a workaround, which wasn’t ideal, but it worked with some setting tweaks etc.
Currently,High Sierra is now working correctly with the Kronos usb and all seems well.

Although cubase indicates a high latency,my Kronos audio goes via a mixer for real time playing/monitoring and most of my recordings are initially midi tracks.
I don’t usually record nor monitor audio directly with cubase, so the latency doesn’t present any problems.
Subsequent midi to audio plus additional midi tracks are in sync during playbacks as one would expect.

As said,I am fairly happy with the Kronos usb audio into an iMac, but would appreciate further information and advice regarding any possible,alternative method of improvement.

With Thanks.
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Poseidon



Joined: 08 Jul 2018
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2018 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pedro5 wrote:

I can agree that using the Apple adaptor for Firewire may not be beneficial as it would entail an additional conversion step with an old interface.


Apple adaptor is completely passive, so if we keep leads short and good quality there are no an additional conversion steps.
Thunderbolt is protocol-compatible with Firewire, and it maintains a lot of the same feature set.

When connecting Firewire bus powered products via Apple Thunderbolt to Adapter, some might need to use an external power adapter for full functionality.
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Poseidon



Joined: 08 Jul 2018
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2018 3:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pedro5 wrote:
.. but would appreciate further information and advice regarding any possible,alternative method of improvement.
.


I strongly recommend you Thunderbolt if you own Mac.
Firewire is death, and adapter sole purpuse is to give a new life into older interfaces.

Recommended reading:

USB, Firewire & Thunderbolt: Which Is Best For Audio?
https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/usb-firewire-thunderbolt-which-best-audio

I am gonna stick for a while with my old MOTU; serves me well (better then Kronos USB), not to mention Mac Pro has been updated yet.
I never like late 2013 model (6,1) !!!
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Gunnar
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Location: Norway

PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2018 7:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pedro5 wrote:
Setting aside latency improvement and higher sample rates….
Is my understanding correct that routing the Kronos line audio outputs via a Thunderbolt interface will provide better audio ?


"Better" is subjective, but I'd go with "no". If you're not concerned about neither latency nor sample rates, then you will get the most accurate recording on the computer by using the USB audio. The reason for this is that when you go through the digital signal path, there is no noise and no analog / digital conversion, nor is gain a factor and there is no coloration of the sound. So the USB out will give you the most accurate representation of the sound as it was produced inside the Kronos.

By going through a Thunderbolt interface, you are adding some noise and depending on the hardware in question some coloration of the sound may occur during the analog / digital conversions. Now, the noise level here will be very low, for me I'm getting noise in the -120dB range, so this is not a problem in practice. As for coloration, if that happens, it is subjective whether the results are better or not, but I think it is fair to say that it will be less accurate. Whether or not that is a practical problem or only a theoretical one (like the -120dB noise level) will be up to you to decide.

pedro5 wrote:

Would routing from the SPDIF outputs be better, even if it also means additional conversions ?


I've never used S/PDIF, but it is digital and it is my understanding that this will lead to no conversion between the Kronos and the computer. Hence it should effectively be the same pristine quality as the USB output.
_________________
Gear: Korg Kronos 2 73, Arturia Microbrute & MiniBrute 2, Moog Mother-32, Ibanez RG320DXFM Guitar, ESP Viper 254FM Bass, Blackstar HT-1
Software: Reaper, EZ Drummer
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/gunnarsletta
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Poseidon



Joined: 08 Jul 2018
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2018 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A MUST read.

Investigating interface protocols
https://www.audiomediainternational.com/recording/feature-investigating-interface-protocols
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