Sonnet – Apple’s Missing Slice?

March 21st, 2014
Sonnet  - Apple's Missing Slice?

Sonnet Docking StationApple has made some fairly bold moves over the last 18 months with their professional Mac lines. The saw omission of both FireWire 800 and Ethernet peripherals, and removal of an optical disc drive. The new Mac Pro took it a step further and abandoned PCI expansion, seemingly handing its entire modular ability into the hands of Thunderbolt. With what’s seemed a very slow adaption to the protocol by most, Sonnet is starting to churn out some very interesting thunderbolt products, regaining compatibility to Apples flagship lines.

With the former mentioned exclusions to the , there were of course some counter offers by Apple that provided us with (what Apple are clearly considering) ‘backwards compatibility’ products.

my desk, everday The Apple FireWire 800 to Thunderbolt, Apple USB SuperDrive and Apple Ethernet to Thunderbolt all surfaced to offer re-assurance to investors in Apples latest professional laptop solutions. The problem? Your desk is left looking like a cable graveyard, with every possible port taken up for the most basic of professional configurations. It’s expensive also; I racked up well over $150 on adaptors when buying my Retina.

The Sonnet Docking Station tackles almost all of these issues (all but the issue of additional cost). Using a single Thunderbolt connection, it offers multiple peripherals including USB 3.0, eSATA, audio, thunderbolt and FireWire 800, as well as an optical drive and space for an additional hard drive.

Sonnet’s Echo 15 Pro+ Dock enables you Sonnet Docking Stationto connect any Thunderbolt Mac to your peripherals through a single Thunderbolt cable. Simply plug in your devices to the Echo dock with their supplied cables, and connect your computer to the dock with a Thunderbolt cable. When it’s time to disconnect your computer, just unplug the Thunderbolt cable! 

The Docking Station comes in a couple of options, with a DVD burner or Blu-Ray burner; both come with space and cabling to add an additional 2.5″/3.5″ hard drive/SSD.

Here is specification list of the Sonnet Docking Station:

  • 2 x 3 Gb/s eSATA
  • 1 x FireWire 800 9-pin (backwards compatible to 400)
  • 1 x RJ-45 (Gigabit Ethernet)
  • 2 x Thunderbolt/ Mini Display
  • 4 x USB 3.0 (2 front, 2 rear)
  • 2 x Audio input, analog 3.5mm jack front/rear
  • 2 x Audio output, stereo 3.5mm jack front/rear
  • 1 x Power
  • Dimensions 7.87 x 3.3 x 8.86″ (20 x 8.38 x 22.5 cm)
  • BD-ROM/8x DVD±RW drive OR 8x DVD±RW drive

This looks like a great addition to a , or iMac; freeing up so many ports whilst also offering so many more. The extra space for an additional hard drive is great also; perfect for a live running backup of your system.

Next to mention is Sonnets tip of the hat to the absence of PCI expansion with the latest Mac Pro. The Sonnet Echo Express III-D is an enclosure offering up to 3 PCIe slots, connecting via Thunderbolt 2 to your compatible system.


“This desktop Thunderbolt-to-PCIe card expansion chassis makes it possible for you to connect three professional video capture, audio interface, SAS or SATA HBA, 16Gb or 8Gb Fibre Channel, 10Gigabit Ethernet, and RAID controller PCIe cards to any Mac® with a Thunderbolt port.

Featuring 20Gbps Thunderbolt 2 technology PCIe that provides sufficient bandwidth to support many of the highest performance and most demanding PCIe cards, the Echo Express III-D delivers maximum performance when connected to a computer with Thunderbolt 2. 

The III-D is also fully compatible with computers with 10Gbps Thunderbolt technology, supporting the majority of cards at full-performance.”

The Echo Express III-D uses locking Thunderbolt ports to provide a stable professional workflow, as well as direct support for the RED ROCKET. Sonnet have admirably designed the Echo Express III-D to house the RED ROCKET in a single PCIe slot, freeing up the remaining two. There is also dedicated space for the two BNC ports provide with the RED card. The internal fans are designed to run ‘remarkably quiet’ so as not to distract when sat on your desktop. For those who prefer rack mounted solutions, seek the Echo Express III-R.


Of course the Sonnet Echo Express III-D isn’t just limited use with the latest Mac Pro, any compatible device that lacks PCI expansion will benefit from this.

Many will argue that it’s not up to others to pick up the pieces for what some consider Apples shortfalls. Never less, it’s great to see companies embracing the workflow. We hope to see more, as saturation of this technology will naturally make devices more affordable.


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Razvan George
Razvan George
GuestMarch 21st, 2014

it is a very stupid ideea. apple promotes itself with the ideea of only one wonder cable, but now you need to use 99.99%, for at least another 5 years , of your equip with other cables, so you need to buy another idiotic iCrap product to convert. stupid stupid stupid!!! fuck apple!!!!!!!! and all iCrap

Ethan Vincent
Ethan Vincent
GuestMarch 21st, 2014

Nice. This was a great read! Thanks. I recently visited a studio with the new Mac Pro ‘wastebasket’ and the peripheral plug-ins were messy and depressing – call it the ‘old school’ in me, but I missed the practically of a functioning tower. I particularly like the Blu-Ray Burner Version and of course expandability of the Sonnet Echo Express III-D.

Marc B
Marc B
GuestMarch 21st, 2014

This is a nice looking product and I would have bought the Sonnet if I hadn’t already invested in external drives for my MacBook Pro. It’s convenient to have in a single self-contained module. I’m very happy with the light and low profile CalDigit Thunderbolt Dock for field logging.

Crimson Son
Crimson Son
MemberMarch 21st, 2014

I like the Sonnet dock… if they ever get it released.

I would be wary of PCIe enclosure. TB is only the equivalent of PCIe 4x. Most high speed cards (RAID HBAs, fiber HBAs, video i/O, etc.) are 4x already. Trying to jam 2 or 3 of these cards when your bandwidth is limited to 4x will likely cause issues.

Don Whitmore
MemberMarch 21st, 2014

This is where I have to get frustrated that people accept this from a computer platform. Basically pay $1k to use your computer normally instead of using a platform like Windows, in a system built for expand-ability and upgrade-ability. Great solution, but crappy market segment if you ask me.

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