Applies to: Scarlett Range, Clarett USB Range, Clarett+ Range
Many customers ask us the question:
Why do many manufacturers not produce interfaces that use the USB 3.0 protocol?
Firstly, although USB 3.0 offers greater bandwidth than USB 2.0, for these devices it will deliver no round trip latency benefits over USB 2.0. This is due to the architecture of the host computer driver stack and its handling of USB audio (isochronous) data. The stack schedules data transfers to and from audio drivers at millisecond frame intervals, which means that, no matter how fast the data moves over the USB bus, this defines the limit on minimum latency achievable.
A good analogy is to think of it as a drainpipe and a tennis ball. The tennis ball is the data, and the width of the pipe signifies available bandwidth. With the drainpipe set at the same angle, letting go of the ball at the top of the drainpipe will see it arrive at the bottom in a given amount of time. That's your latency, the time it takes to go from end to end.
In terms of our analogy, USB 3.0 offers a much wider pipe. This means that it could allow a greater number of tennis balls (more data) to travel down the pipe, but the balls would not travel down the pipe any faster– there is no latency improvement. This is the same when comparing USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 in terms of the way they transfer audio data.
This doesn't mean the higher bandwidth offered by USB 3.0 does not benefit some situations, e.g., for hard drive transfer times it makes a huge difference. However, for our largest channel count USB audio interface, the Scarlett 18i20/Clarett+ 8Pre, USB 2.0 provides more than enough bandwidth to deliver 18 channels of audio inputs and 20 channels of audio outputs simultaneously.
There is also a question of backwards compatibility. Many computers still come with USB 2.0 ports as well as USB 3.0, and many users still work on systems that have no USB 3.0 connectivity at all. USB 2.0 devices work without any issue on USB 3.0 ports, however, we can't say the same for USB 3.0 devices on USB 2.0 ports.
With the question about backwards compatibility, combined with no real benefits to round-trip latency performance, the USB 2.0 protocol is still the most efficient technology for professional multichannel recording for the channel counts our USB devices provide.