It’s no longer an either/or proposition: physical, digital, choose both. It’s now a natural for something like a guitar brand to expand both in the physical and virtual realms, and for the name to matter in both. So in the same week we saw synth legend Dave Smith connected with DJ brand Pioneer, Universal Audio is adding Fender to their signal processing lineup.

Universal has announced that Fender, legendary in guitar tone since 1946, will join their range. That means both collaboration on the product, and of course the ability to use the actual name of Fender’s gear as opposed to some euphemism. Unfortunately, there’s nothing more to report beyond that, but I’m keen to see if UA will show me what they’re working on soon. And I have to say, I really enjoy the chance to use lots of signal processing that might otherwise be impossible (or impractical) by having that access inside the box.

Fender joins names like Marshall (squarely on the guitar side) as well as Eventide, Lexicon, SSL, Manley, and whatnot (moving gradually back into what people associate with pro audio and studio).

In other news from Universal Audio around this week’s (mostly quiet) Musikmesse show, the DSP company is expanding its USB offerings for Windows. This quarter, it’ll ship a full range of UAD-2 Satellite USB DSP Accelerators. These are boxes that add dedicated DSP processing to your rig – basically, fan-free black boxes with a bunch of DSP horsepower (no audio I/O, that you provide separately). And that horsepower is the only way into Universal Audio’s variety of processors.

Universal Windows studio

What’s important here is that we see reliable performance and reduced latency in comparison to FireWire. Now, that’s also the promise of Thunderbolt. The fact that UA is getting something like parity for Windows users running USB3 versus Mac users running Thunderbolt might give you pause. Thunderbolt is at the very least looking like an ever-narrower niche, though is a niche that Apple continues to support.

Back to the world of UAD, you will have to choose your OS allegiance. For now, the Thunderbolt devices from UA aren’t supported on Windows, and these new USB3 devices aren’t supported on OS X.

But given that the only thing remaining is drivers, I’ll be interested to see whether pro audio simply embraces USB3 over Thunderbolt – unless I can see a convincing application where USB3 is bested by Thunderbolt. Time will tell – and I will meanwhile ask around with vendors to see if we can get some sense of their plans.

The UAD-2 Satellite USB DSP Accelerators start at US$999.

For more:
http://www.uaudio.com

  • alamilla

    Since the announcment of Thunderbolt 3 last year, Windows manufactures have been slowly introducing the port into their products.
    There’s a slew of laptops, a handful of motherboards and even some NUCs that are incorporating the new interface.
    With external GPU Docks about to hit the market, I think a Skylake refresh for MacBooks with TB3 will hopefully push the protocol into wide adoption across both platforms.

    • Gunboat_Diplo

      I have TB on my Windows MoBo, *but* I can’t plug a TB UA interface into it. So it’s not just we need to see TB in more Windows boxes.
      and people have been talking external PCI hardware (IIRC, Magma? Lava?) for years now and it’s *never* caught on. it will be niche product for mobile designers.

      • alamilla

        Apart from PCIe cards, because TB 2 was predominantly an OS X exclusive, developers had no incentive to build hardware that also worked with Windows.
        Focusrite have developed drivers for their Clarett range but it’s still in beta.

        Nonetheless, because Intel decided to utilize USB Type-C, make their Alpine Ridge controller more accessible for manufacturers and external graphics cards have huge potential in the gaming market – I believe (hope) Thunderbolt 3 will become a widely adopted standard.

        • Yeah, after this story I talked to UA — they’re also optimistic about Thunderbolt on the PC. And RME at Messe also introduced a USB3/Thunderbolt hybrid interface – their first Thunderbolt outing.

          This is definitely worth a follow up story with some of the vendors.

      • alamilla

        N.B. I have used OS X exclusively for almost ten years. Recently purchased a Windows machine with TB3 so you can appreciate my optimism!

  • Gunboat_Diplo

    to add to what you said, peter, you have to declare OS allegiance when purchasing the hardware, but you can use your plugs on either platform.

  • foljs

    “””But given that the only thing remaining is drivers, I’ll be interested to see whether pro audio simply embraces USB3 over Thunderbolt – unless I can see a convincing application where USB3 is bested by Thunderbolt. Time will tell – and I will meanwhile ask around with vendors to see if we can get some sense of their plans.”””

    You forgot USB 3.1 aka USB C. It can handle dual 4K displays, more power (to power up connected devices), it’s cheaper to implement and twice as fast as USB 3.

    So, when it comes to common music applications, the kind CDM users are interested, USB-C will probably kill thunderbolt — it would support more tracks that you’d care to have pre-amps or line inputs for…

  • Yermom

    This isn’t really new territory for Fender. Their co-branding is all over Amplitube.