Audio interface users rejoice: it looks like USB 4.0 will be fully compatible with Thunderbolt 3

For electronic musicians, the bus standard situation has always been rather confusing. On the one hand, there have been the various iterations of USB, which has become the most popular connector for hooking up audio interfaces, MIDI keyboards and other peripherals, but running in parallel to these have been the likes of FireWire and, more recently, Thunderbolt, which have promised audio performance benefits.

Now, finally, it looks like there’s a chance that the clans could be united. Engadget reports that, at an event in Taipei earlier this week, it was confirmed that USB 4.0 is in the offing, with a whopping 40Gbps of data throughput on the cards. Better still, Intel has confirmed that it’ll now be offering open licensing of the Thunderbolt 3 standard, meaning that its technology will be integrated into USB 4.0.

This potentially means that USB 4.0 and Thunderbolt 3 could effectively become one and the same, which would make things a lot easier for consumers and, we suspect, manufacturers, too. It’s being reported that USB 4.0 will have a Type-C plug and be backwards compatible with previous versions of USB.

All good news, then, though USB 4.0 won’t be rolling out overnight (we won’t even have full specs until the middle of 2019) and it remains to be seen how quickly it’ll be adopted by computer hardware and peripheral manufacturers. What’s more, it seems that the Thunderbolt brand will remain in use, raising the possibility of a new version of it that won’t be compatible with USB 4.0.  But you you didn't expect things to be completely simple, did you?

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.