One thing that drives me crazy lately is the fact that every single time a company comes out with a new USB audio interface, one of the first things that people start complaining about is the lack of USB 3.0 support.
For some reason people automatically assume USB 3.0 offers some kind of benefits over USB 2.0 when it comes to audio interfaces but that is simply not true.
If anything you’re going to encounter more problems using USB 3.0 because it’s less compatible with pretty much everything.
Focusrite support has this article, USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0, explaining why adding USB 3.0 to audio interfaces is pretty much pointless.
First and foremost, USB 3.0 offers greater bandwidth. It does not lower latency. Lots of people seem to think because USB 3.0 is faster that it will lower latency, but that is a myth.
The main benefit with USB 3.0 is increased bandwidth.
However that is fool’s gold as well because USB 2.0 has enough bandwidth to handle running audio interfaces with 18 inputs and 20 outputs simultaneously, so in most cases the increased bandwidth serves no purpose.
Then there’s the point of compatibility. The problem with USB 3.0 devices is that they require using a USB 3.0 port, and a number of computers still don’t support them. However, you can use a USB 2.0 device with a 3.0 port in most cases without problems so there isn’t the same compatibility issues with 2.0 like there is with 3.0.
Given all these factors, USB 3.0 serves no purpose on audio interfaces whatsoever unless you need more bandwidth to run over 3 dozen inputs and outputs at the same time.
By and large it’s the quality of the USB drivers that make the most difference, not the version of USB used.
To be honest, the sooner manufacturers embrace Thunderbolt 3 the better!
Look at the last year Presonus’s fail with new studio 192 interface line equipped with 3.0 USB. Not only it has more or less the same latency value as their previous iTwo line but it also causes compatibility problems with older Windows and Mac systems. Couple days ago Presonus has lanuched budget heir of studio 192. It’s called studio 28 and 68, and watch out, both are usb 2.0
Milos Sladecka says
I have read some reviews of Zoom UAC-2 (USB3.0) that claim very low latency, f.e here (bottom part of page – measurement: 48kHz, bufer 24 samples, latency 3,35ms!)
but also problems with driver and groun loop
Lots of interfaces can get low latency but that’s only half the equation. Most can only handle light CPU duties and a couple of plugins at those settings so they’re basically unusable anyway. The key is being able to deliver smooth playback at higher CPU loads with a number of plugins running while using low latency settings.
The drivers are important.
BUT no doubt USB 3.0 is far better than USB 2.0 as soon as the motherboard support USB 3.0 natively onboard.
The last audio interfaces with USB 3.0 and good computer can reach less than 1ms input latency at best settings. USB 2.0 can never do that whatever the drivers.
Don’t care about compatibility with old computers. Old computers only have to work with old USB 2.0.
Mario DeCiutiis says
There is a point being missed here. When using a USB 3 port, if you put a USB 2 device (your interface) and you are also using a fast usb 3 hard drive… guess what…. your USB 3 drive is now working on USB 2 speeds.
Even if you are using a different port on the same side on your computer, you may not know if this port is being shared.
For that reason I’m using the ZOOM UAC-2 USB interface. It works great BTW
D J says
My computer only has USB 3 sockets and rejects my USB 2 guitar interface as incompatible, so can’t agree with your opinion.