Monday, April 26th 2021

ASRock Unveils Thunderbolt 4 Add-on Card

ASRock today unveiled the Thunderbolt 4 AIC, an add-on card that puts out two 40 Gbps Thunderbolt 4 ports in the USB-C form-factor, with DisplayPort 1.4 passthrough. The card works exclusively with ASRock's Intel 500-series chipset motherboards that have a special header needed by the card called "TBT_Header" (similar to the "TB_Header" on certain ASUS motherboards). In addition, the card needs a 9-pin USB 2.0 connection to one of the vacant headers on the motherboard.

The compact, yet full-height add-on card features a PCI-Express 3.0 x4 host interface, and is based on Intel JHL8540 "Maple Ridge" controller. It has two full-size DisplayPort 1.4 inputs, a pair of included DP cables lets you connect the card to your graphics card. The controller supports up to 5 devices in Thunderbolt daisy-chains. The DisplayPort passthrough supports resolutions of up to 5K @ 60 Hz. The card measures 8.4 cm in length, 10.41 cm in height, and is 1 slot thick. The company didn't reveal pricing.
Add your own comment

40 Comments on ASRock Unveils Thunderbolt 4 Add-on Card

#1
londiste
Just curious - what is the use case for this?
Consolidation of cables going out of the PC - DP, USB (and PCIe) signals over single USB-C cable plus monitor daisy-chaining?
Posted on Reply
#2
Dredi
londisteJust curious - what is the use case for this?
Consolidation of cables going out of the PC - DP, USB (and PCIe) signals over single USB-C cable plus monitor daisy-chaining?
Some audio interfaces need thunderbolt, as it allows for lower latencies due to direct pcie interfacing.

edit: though usually people who need these buy something that has thunderbolt out of the box. The addon cards have been very expensive and sometimes a bit finicky, so they would not be my first choice.
Posted on Reply
#3
X71200
Most modern audio interfaces are USB or leftover stock Firewire, both of which work well.

Thunderbolt can go up to much higher 4k speeds than USB with external drive enclosures and such, but thanks to Apple's stupid licensing, it never really took off outside of some expensive boards and the Apple ecosystem.
Posted on Reply
#4
stanleyipkiss
So, from what I gather:

It needs PCIE power.
It needs a special USB output on the motherboard, which means new Intel only chipsets.

And there's no price.
Posted on Reply
#5
TheinsanegamerN
What a failure of a product. If it requires a intel 500 series mobo, chances are you can just buy a mobo with thunderbolt on it already. What we need is an add in card to put thunderbolt on systems that dont have it, not ones that already have it.

And it offers two 40Gbps ports, plus video out, but only has a 3.0x4 connection? Holy bottleneck batman. That cant feed one of those ports at full speed, let alone both plus the video ports. :roll:
Posted on Reply
#6
TheLostSwede
stanleyipkissSo, from what I gather:

It needs PCIE power.
It needs a special USB output on the motherboard, which means new Intel only chipsets.

And there's no price.
Intel allows these things to be used with AMD CPUs now too. In the past that wasn't the case.
It's not the USB port that the special (and it's only needed for USB 2.0 backwards compatibility, as Intel didn't build it into their controller), but rather something like an SPI interface.
Posted on Reply
#7
Tomorrow
I assume the Maple Ridge is the newest TB controller? Previous was Titan Ridge if im not mistaken and those cards cost about 80-100 $/€.
Posted on Reply
#8
Post Nut Clairvoyance
This probably at least has uses as a way to connect (now available) tiger lake laptops with TB4 to a computer without TB chipset (but somehow still has TB support headers), for 10g+ networking.
TheLostSwedeIntel allows these things to be used with AMD CPUs now too. In the past that wasn't the case.
It's not the USB port that the special (and it's only needed for USB 2.0 backwards compatibility, as Intel didn't build it into their controller), but rather something like an SPI interface.
I believe they do have their own header (TB_HEADER/TB_C), beyond PCIe slot.
TB3 chipsets is compatible with USB. Gigabyte even went ahead and used a TB controller to get USB3.1(what genXlane, idek) on a workstation mobo.
Posted on Reply
#9
Dredi
X71200Most modern audio interfaces are USB or leftover stock Firewire, both of which work well.
Most consumer grade audio interfaces yes. The studio grade ones are for the most part thunderbolt.

edit: also, thunderbolt is an intel technology, not apples.
X71200Thunderbolt can go up to much higher 4k speeds than USB with external drive enclosures and such, but thanks to Apple's stupid licensing, it never really took off outside of some expensive boards and the Apple ecosystem.
Posted on Reply
#10
thesmokingman
A lot of the TB3 setups sucked ass and failed... I expect no less from this update.
Posted on Reply
#11
X71200
DrediMost consumer grade audio interfaces yes. The studio grade ones are for the most part thunderbolt.
What separates studio from consumer is subjective. There are pretty high end USB interfaces out there.

If I'm however going to record something, I'd ditch the Windows PC out of the equitation right away and just use a Rectifier recording pre or similar to a recorder. No latencies to deal with when you're doing direct from instrument.
Posted on Reply
#12
Dredi
X71200What separates studio from consumer is subjective. There are pretty high end USB interfaces out there.

If I'm however going to record something, I'd ditch the Windows PC out of the equitation right away and just use a Rectifier recording pre or similar to a recorder. No latencies to deal with when you're doing direct from instrument.
Number of channels and latency. For example if you wish to do some live feedback stuff with processing done on a pc the usb ones will sound late. It’s also pretty difficult to find 20 channel or more interfaces that use just USB audio.
Posted on Reply
#13
RealKGB
I wonder if it's possible to use with X570, perhaps with a PCIe add-in card?
Apparently it was possible to use the Titan Ridge card with motherboards without Thunderbolt headers as long as the BIOS supported Thunderbolt by jumping pins 3 and 5 on the header on the card, but there's no real evidence for it that I was able to find with school filters in place.
Posted on Reply
#14
X71200
DrediNumber of channels and latency. For example if you wish to do some live feedback stuff with processing done on a pc the usb ones will sound late.
That's not related to just the USB itself but rather how Windows deals with ASIO and so on, putting a TB on an interface doesn't magically get rid of that. Number of channels, there are tons on high end interfaces like 12 in 12 out ones and some interfaces do a fairly good job at these things. You seem to not understand much about this stuff. There's an Audient USB interface which was developed with Two Notes in cooperation, it acts as a cabinet simulator and you can get good results out of it using instruments or mics directly. Not everything USB sounds late, that is nonsense.
Posted on Reply
#15
Dredi
X71200That's not related to just the USB itself but rather how Windows deals with ASIO and so on, putting a TB on an interface doesn't magically get rid of that. Number of channels, there are tons on high end interfaces like 12 in 12 out ones and some interfaces do a fairly good job at these things. You seem to not understand much about this stuff. There's an Audient USB interface which was developed with Two Notes in cooperation, it acts as a cabinet simulator and you can get good results out of it using instruments or mics directly. Not everything USB sounds late, that is nonsense.
Everything usb3 or below sounds late if processing is being done on the PC side instead of on device. Usb4 can use a pcie passthrough mode like TB and thus provide low latency as well.
Putting TB on an interface forces the manufacturer to make a driver for it and in that process they usually manage to get rid of the windows ASIO problems.
Posted on Reply
#16
X71200
DrediEverything usb3 or below sounds late if processing is being done on the PC side instead of on device. Usb4 can use a pcie passthrough mode like TB and thus provide low latency as well.
Putting TB on an interface forces the manufacturer to make a driver for it and in that process they usually manage to get rid of the windows ASIO problems.
Again with lack of information. The driver itself goes through ASIO effects on a fair amount of interfaces, that's how my Tascam 4x4 works, for example:

shop.zuhalmuzik.com/resman/uploads/US-2X2-CU44.jpg

No, USB 3 below does not sound late as an interface all the time. For instance, there are various Tascam models with onboard DSPs. A lot of USB mixers exist as well and work fine with below USB 3.
Posted on Reply
#17
Dredi
X71200No, USB 3 below does not sound late as an interface all the time. For instance, there are various Tascam models with onboard DSPs. A lot of USB mixers exist as well and work fine with below USB 3.
Again, these examples you have would not sound late even if they are disconnected from USB, as no real time processing happens on the PC at all.
Posted on Reply
#18
X71200
The 4x4 does not have DSP, it relies on the computer itself and its power with the amount regarding buffer size.

It's the 208i which is the DSP model, that offloads the work from the PC to the unit itself.
Posted on Reply
#19
TheLostSwede
Post Nut ClairvoyanceThis probably at least has uses as a way to connect (now available) tiger lake laptops with TB4 to a computer without TB chipset (but somehow still has TB support headers), for 10g+ networking.

I believe they do have their own header (TB_HEADER/TB_C), beyond PCIe slot.
TB3 chipsets is compatible with USB. Gigabyte even went ahead and used a TB controller to get USB3.1(what genXlane, idek) on a workstation mobo.
That's the SPI/unknown header, all these cards have it and it means you have to buy a card from the specific board maker who's motherboard you own.
My X570 board has such a header and would work with the equivalent card from Gigabyte.

I guess you didn't understand what I meant. The USB header on these boards is for USB 2.0. The Intel Thunderbolt/USB 4 chipset doesn't support USB 2.0. It does however support USB 3.x.
RealKGBI wonder if it's possible to use with X570, perhaps with a PCIe add-in card?
Apparently it was possible to use the Titan Ridge card with motherboards without Thunderbolt headers as long as the BIOS supported Thunderbolt by jumping pins 3 and 5 on the header on the card, but there's no real evidence for it that I was able to find with school filters in place.
It depends on your board. I know for a fact that revision 1.0 boards from Gigabyte doesn't support it, but the revision 1.1 and 1.2 boards do. It requires that TB header thingie mentioned.
Posted on Reply
#20
RealKGB
TheLostSwedeIt depends on your board. I know for a fact that revision 1.0 boards from Gigabyte doesn't support it, but the revision 1.1 and 1.2 boards do. It requires that TB header thingie mentioned.
I currently have a B350-F, but I'm planning to get an X570-E (and I will not go Gigabyte, Gigabyte's RGB software sucks). It doesn't have a Thunderbolt header, but maybe the pin jump trick will work with their ThunderboltEX 4 card? Not sure, Thunderbolt compatibility is a world unto itself.
Posted on Reply
#21
Dredi
X71200The 4x4 does not have DSP, it relies on the computer itself and its power with the amount regarding buffer size.

It's the 208i which is the DSP model, that offloads the work from the PC to the unit itself.
I’m in no way stating that the USB ones are somehow unusable, only that the thunderbolt ones have lower latencies and can support a lot more channels. In most tests found on the internet high quality USB interfaces round trip times are somewhere around 3-5ms, while thunderbolt interfaces are in the 1-2ms range. Whether or not that provides a tanglible benefit to a typical consumer is doubtful, but in a professional studio use it can be sometimes very beneficial, as you can use that extra time to apply more software plugins.
Posted on Reply
#22
X71200
You were kind of stating that though... that kind of difference is miniscule and I've been looking at $3500 boxes with all forms of fancy EQs displays on them that use USB 2.0... that little of latency difference won't really matter in most cases. Yes, Thunderbolt is the new trend but there ain't a ton wrong with 2.0 either. There have been tons of USB mixers and even the Kemper in all its glory uses 2.0. You would think they would have known better and thrown a 3.0 on there if it was that was so necessary, right? It's pulling hairs.
Posted on Reply
#23
TheinsanegamerN
TheLostSwedeThat's the SPI/unknown header, all these cards have it and it means you have to buy a card from the specific board maker who's motherboard you own.
My X570 board has such a header and would work with the equivalent card from Gigabyte.

I guess you didn't understand what I meant. The USB header on these boards is for USB 2.0. The Intel Thunderbolt/USB 4 chipset doesn't support USB 2.0. It does however support USB 3.x.


It depends on your board. I know for a fact that revision 1.0 boards from Gigabyte doesn't support it, but the revision 1.1 and 1.2 boards do. It requires that TB header thingie mentioned.
What's even the point of the TB header, shouldnt the data be going through the PCIe slot?
Posted on Reply
#24
Dredi
X71200You were kind of stating that though... that kind of difference is miniscule and I've been looking at $3500 boxes with all forms of fancy EQs displays on them that use USB 2.0... that little of latency difference won't really matter in most cases. Yes, Thunderbolt is the new trend but there ain't a ton wrong with 2.0 either. There have been tons of USB mixers and even the Kemper in all its glory uses 2.0. You would think they would have known better and thrown a 3.0 on there if it was that was so necessary, right? It's pulling hairs.
For direct monitoring and recording a couple channels at once it does not provide any benefit. It’s expensive to implement and benefits just some users, while making compatibility a hassle, which means that most products will not have it.

Where did I state that USB ones were unusable? :confused:
Posted on Reply
#25
X71200
You said USB will sound late, there are 20 USB interfaces out too, but you're not going to use 20 at the same time likely anyway... you also said TB is Intel's thing but you don't seem to realize it was a standard set with Intel AND Apple, and Apple was for the most part guilty for these absurd prices on the standard. The guy who created USB got zero money from it, it's been a free standard.
Posted on Reply
Add your own comment