WHILE WE never seem to have enough USB ports, many people still have little use for their Thunderbolt ports. However, a growing number of drives, docks, and interfaces are beginning to change that. Newcomers Resident Audio make a good first impression with the T4 ($499 street), a 4-channel audio and MIDI interface that connects over, and draws power from, a Thunderbolt port.
Four front-panel combo inputs accept XLR, balanced ¼" TRS, and unbalanced ¼" TS cables for switchable instrument/line levels, and they have optional phantom power, as well as input level knobs with LED rings that glow green, yellow, or red to indicate that level. Around back, a dedicated ¼" stereo headphone out joins four ¼" TRS line-level outputs (one of which can be a secondary headphone out) and MIDI I/O.
The T4 works in two modes: When only outputs 1 and 2 are used, Stereo Mix mode kicks on: All inputs route to outputs 1 and 2, mixed in stereo; and the big Monitor knob on the front controls monitor and headphone levels. With output 4 connected, Multichannel mode turns on, inputs are automatically routed to the headphones, and the four individual outs output whatever you assign them in your DAW. You also control the individual levels of the outputs from the T4 Digital Panel software.
With Thunderbolt’s massive bandwidth, there’s no discernable latency with the T4 (even in 24-bit/96kHz mode), and the audio quality of the inputs sounds completely transparent, while the output is full-bodied and crystal-clear. The output sounded nearly identical in quality to the more expensive Universal Audio Apollo Twin Thunderbolt interface, although the Apollo did have much louder overall output levels. The T4 includes a Thunderbolt cable, although it’s only a scant 18 inches. Overall, it’s a sturdy, portable, great-sounding interface that would benefit from an extra Thunderbolt through port, so that you could use it with a Thunderbolt drive or display.