apollostudio

For me, Apollo is what changed the value equation and appeal of Universal Audio.

Suddenly, we weren’t talking about buying hardware just to run some nice effects – which, good as those effects were, limited the audience for the UAD. With Apollo, the hardware splurge made sense. It was simply one of the better audio interfaces you could buy for production work, even before instantiating a single plug-in.

And then you could add the UAD plug-ins. For anyone who said that they weren’t interested in running effects on dedicated DSP hardware, the Apollo is an answer. Fine. Here’s a reason to run on DSP: add those effects in real time, as you play or track.

Last month, UA refreshed that whole audio interface line. And they continue the steady stream of plug-ins, many recreating historical instruments.

The new Apollo, clad in black, isn’t a revolutionary update, though one reason that’s fair to say is that the existing Apollo is pretty darned good.

The latest announcements should bust up one myth, as well. UA isn’t only catering to Mac fans with the latest machines, by way of Thunderbolt. The existing FireWire-based devices continue to run just fine, thank you, and the latest generation even gets a new FireWire update. That’s good news for anyone using Windows, or even an older, pre-Thunderbolt Mac.

First, let’s have a look at what’s new on Apollo.

Apollo-8p-Dynamic

Conversion. Updated A/D and D/A, for those who care, continue to put UA on a very short list of the best audio interfaces out there. I think what they had was already really good from a sound standpoint, so this is not so relevant to existing owners, but does mean you get a bit of a bonus if you’re buying new now.

Real-time processing. UAD-2 DSP lets you record through a whole lot of the catalog – including Lexicon and Ampex – at near-zero latencies. And this, frankly, is fantastic. It even means using a UAD live is a very valid possibility.

Chaining. Here’s one reason to consider using Thunderbolt: cascading. You can get 4 Apollos or 6 UADs together over Thunderbolt. That’s primarily of use in the studio – or if you have a UA-owning friend – but welcome, at least.

Your options are spendy as always, but delivering a fairly robust investment – now with more convenient monitoring (alt speakers, etc.) on the front panel:

Apollo 8 with four mic pres; US$1999 DUO or $2499 with QUAD processing.
Apollo 8p with eight mic pres/Hi-Z. US$2999 with QUAD.
Apollo 16 (now this sounds like a moon mission) with 16 x 16 connectivity.

Apollo FireWire: $1999 with QUAD makes this actually a great buy for Windows users. And it gives you basically all the Thunderbolt models do, minus chaining. If you have a Mac with Thunderbolt, skip this, but if you don’t, it means you aren’t by any means left out.

You get a half-decent selection of what UA makes with the interface – as you’d hope, at that price – with 610-B Tube Preamp & EQ, Softube Amp Room, legacy LA-2A, 1176, and Fairchild compressors, and the all-important Pultec EQs.

But of course, if you’re only looking for an audio interface, you probably won’t get an Apollo – this is all about investing in a particular software platform.

tube_tech_cl1b_hq

neve_88rs_plus_hq2

That’s where there’s continued development. UA is still mainly focused on recreating historical models. As I wrote last month, we’re seeing the first-ever official Marshall amp simulation.

Now, with the latest software update, we get two more additions to their growing library. There’s an officially-endorsed Tube-Tech compressor, the CL-1B. And there’s a model of the Neve 88 Series, which brings you large console mixing.

The funny thing about all of this is, I think it’s increasingly appealing to producers – especially for Mac users with the portability of the Apollo Twin. (The Twin is the first UA box I would ever have considered taking with me on the road; it’s now my main live audio interface.)

That thought is obviously occurring to Universal Audio. Armin van Buuren turned up at Musikmesse and in a recent interview (penned by none other than a writer I met through Keyboard, Michael Gallant). Not my taste, musically, but I agree with everything he says in the review. Also interesting to note that he’s moving channel strips between machines using that functionality in Logic Pro X.

Have a look at the new stuff:

It’s not cheap, of course, but at least the Apollo Twin (I’d recommend the DUO) lowers the bar to entry – you can get a pretty terrific Mac laptop and this for less than the price of a good single studio machine a few years back, budget for a few pieces of software, and have a very reasonable and complete studio without breaking the bank.

We’ll get to look a little more at what they’re doing with software soon.

  • No comments about the actual contents, just this is a classic CDM article, and I love it.

  • No comments about the actual contents, just this is a classic CDM article, and I love it.

  • chaircrusher

    Don’t have an Apollo, but do have a UAD-2; the plugins are like crack. Once you register, they keep sending you coupons and running sales, so it’s hard to resist.

    I’ll never be able to afford a single Teletronix LA2A or a Manley Massive Passive EQ, but now I have the best software emulation of both available in my DAW, without screwing around with patch bays and crawling around behind racks.

    My main complaint about their DSP plugs is that the more desirable ones are quite expensive — they’re priced for professional studios and musicians who can justify them as a business expense. Someone like me, a dedicated amateur just can’t drop $299 on the new shiny every other month.

    I’d think about buying an Apollo, but I have a Saffire Pro 40 which I still think is a bargain for what you get in an audio interface.

    • MellonHead

      +100 on the pro 40! i picked on up in 2012 and still use it live and in studio. probably the best $500 i ever spent. 10 analog outs and 2 independent headphones yeah

  • chaircrusher

    Don’t have an Apollo, but do have a UAD-2; the plugins are like crack. Once you register, they keep sending you coupons and running sales, so it’s hard to resist.

    I’ll never be able to afford a single Teletronix LA2A or a Manley Massive Passive EQ, but now I have the best software emulation of both available in my DAW, without screwing around with patch bays and crawling around behind racks.

    My main complaint about their DSP plugs is that the more desirable ones are quite expensive — they’re priced for professional studios and musicians who can justify them as a business expense. Someone like me, a dedicated amateur just can’t drop $299 on the new shiny every other month.

    I’d think about buying an Apollo, but I have a Saffire Pro 40 which I still think is a bargain for what you get in an audio interface.

    • MellonHead

      +100 on the pro 40! i picked on up in 2012 and still use it live and in studio. probably the best $500 i ever spent. 10 analog outs and 2 independent headphones yeah

  • Kaan

    their strategy seems to work well. since i bought all these plug-ins, i won’t be looking at other interfaces ever again.. works perfect live, been using the plug-ins for vocals & instruments. the chandler plug-in sounds amazing live, when i take a plane and it’s non-sense to take an amp with me. their customer support isn’t the best one though..

  • Kaan

    their strategy seems to work well. since i bought all these plug-ins, i won’t be looking at other interfaces ever again.. works perfect live, been using the plug-ins for vocals & instruments. the chandler plug-in sounds amazing live, when i take a plane and it’s non-sense to take an amp with me. their customer support isn’t the best one though..

  • Graham Spice

    I wish they would start putting the Octo cards in their interfaces. I’d like to get away from the DSP cards in my aging Mac Pro but the horsepower has been very nice.

  • Graham Spice

    I wish they would start putting the Octo cards in their interfaces. I’d like to get away from the DSP cards in my aging Mac Pro but the horsepower has been very nice.

  • I am still hoping for a way to connect an extra MacBook or iPad and let that handle some of the CPU. THAT would be major.

    • foljs

      I think Waves offers that.

      “””The SoundGrid Studio System is a real-time processing and networking platform designed to bring your studio up to light speed. It allows your DAW to offload its plugin processing and enables your devices to communicate with one another and with the devices of the people you work with. The SoundGrid Studio System integrates seamlessly with all DAWs and SoundGrid-compatible I/Os, providing endless possibilities for setups of every size—from a single DAW with one SoundGrid I/O, to an entire network of host computers, I/Os, and SoundGrid DSP servers.”””

      • bkkkkkk

        why daws dont have this abillity? it would make allot of since or does it?

        • foljs

          Logic, for one, used to have it (“Nodes”), I think they dropped it in the latest version, when they made the fully 64 bit transition.

          There’s an alternative though, VEP5 (Vienna Ensemble Pro), which allows you to connect as many computers as you like and sync the processing and results. It’s by the company that makes Vienna (the orchestral plugins), but it can run any AU/VST:

          http://www.vsl.co.at/en/Vienna_Software_Package/Vienna_Ensemble_PRO

          • Yes, though I suspect Apple dropped that because there weren’t many cases where you really needed a network just to do processing – one machine these days is typically enough.

      • SoundGrid is interesting stuff, but I don’t think it’s as applicable to real-time tracking as something like what we see here. Could be wrong, though – time to do some more research.

        • Dan Phillips

          It all depends on the latency of your system.

    • foljs
  • I am still hoping for a way to connect an extra MacBook or iPad and let that handle some of the CPU. THAT would be major.

    • foljs

      I think Waves offers that.

      “””The SoundGrid Studio System is a real-time processing and networking platform designed to bring your studio up to light speed. It allows your DAW to offload its plugin processing and enables your devices to communicate with one another and with the devices of the people you work with. The SoundGrid Studio System integrates seamlessly with all DAWs and SoundGrid-compatible I/Os, providing endless possibilities for setups of every size—from a single DAW with one SoundGrid I/O, to an entire network of host computers, I/Os, and SoundGrid DSP servers.”””

      • bkkkkkk

        why daws dont have this abillity? it would make allot of since or does it?

        • foljs

          Logic, for one, used to have it (“Nodes”), I think they dropped it in the latest version, when they made the fully 64 bit transition.

          There’s an alternative though, VEP5 (Vienna Ensemble Pro), which allows you to connect as many computers as you like and sync the processing and results. It’s by the company that makes Vienna (the orchestral plugins), but it can run any AU/VST:

          http://www.vsl.co.at/en/Vienna_Software_Package/Vienna_Ensemble_PRO

          • Yes, though I suspect Apple dropped that because there weren’t many cases where you really needed a network just to do processing – one machine these days is typically enough.

      • SoundGrid is interesting stuff, but I don’t think it’s as applicable to real-time tracking as something like what we see here. Could be wrong, though – time to do some more research.

        • Dan Phillips

          It all depends on the latency of your system.

    • foljs
  • Freeks

    If these would not be so damn expensive i would be interested. It’s just initial payment. After that you will have put the same amount to the plugins :/

    I just discovered Behringer X AIR series rack mixers. For $300 you get 12ch mixer that runs plugins on every channel. Probably cheapest DSP “card” ever done. Not sure how the plugins actually sound. Interfaces are copies of UAD plugins. But for live use it does not matter that much. Those XR12 units came to sale last week and was sold out in one day or so. Hopefully we see TC Powercore plugins in those mixers soon.

    • Freeks

      And a link to those B DSP mixers: http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/Xr12.aspx/

    • It’s pricey, but that’s why I think the audio interfaces are interesting – there’s a payoff in the hardware.

      TC Powercore – interesting question. But I kind of don’t get the sense that’s what Behringer had in mind.

    • Brad

      You get what you pay for. I’ve done live recordings off an X32 and off my Apollo and I’ll tell you, it’s a night and day difference. Recordings with the Apollo almost mix themselves, whereas with the X32 it’s just painstaking to work with the tracks to make them sound good. Even for live sound, the X32 sounds miles better when using the Apollo as preamps before going into the board. Don’t be fooled simply by “what it can do”. In audio it’s all about “how well does it do it”.

  • Freeks

    If these would not be so damn expensive i would be interested. It’s just initial payment. After that you will have put the same amount to the plugins :/

    I just discovered Behringer X AIR series rack mixers. For $300 you get 12ch mixer that runs plugins on every channel. Probably cheapest DSP “card” ever done. Not sure how the plugins actually sound. Interfaces are copies of UAD plugins. But for live use it does not matter that much. Those XR12 units came to sale last week and was sold out in one day or so. Hopefully we see TC Powercore plugins in those mixers soon.

    • Freeks

      And a link to those B DSP mixers: http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/Xr12.aspx/

    • It’s pricey, but that’s why I think the audio interfaces are interesting – there’s a payoff in the hardware.

      TC Powercore – interesting question. But I kind of don’t get the sense that’s what Behringer had in mind.

    • Brad

      You get what you pay for. I’ve done live recordings off an X32 and off my Apollo and I’ll tell you, it’s a night and day difference. Recordings with the Apollo almost mix themselves, whereas with the X32 it’s just painstaking to work with the tracks to make them sound good. Even for live sound, the X32 sounds miles better when using the Apollo as preamps before going into the board. Don’t be fooled simply by “what it can do”. In audio it’s all about “how well does it do it”.

  • gunboat_d

    i’m always interested in getting back into UA. their Custom bundles are the best deal, but I always wonder why they don’t have *slightly* lower prices on the pcie cards since there is no enclosure cost. actually, i wonder why they aren’t cheaper in general since their plugs are like crack and you’ll easily spend a lot of money in the first few months of ownership.

  • gunboat_d

    i’m always interested in getting back into UA. their Custom bundles are the best deal, but I always wonder why they don’t have *slightly* lower prices on the pcie cards since there is no enclosure cost. actually, i wonder why they aren’t cheaper in general since their plugs are like crack and you’ll easily spend a lot of money in the first few months of ownership.

  • Woody Aki

    I use an Apollo Twin Duo paired up with a stock 2.6Ghz Mac Mini running Logic Pro X for voiceover and editing duties, and I can’t help but agree with your article. As an RME fanboy, I was extremely impressed…

  • Jason Aquilina

    I use an Apollo Twin Duo paired up with a stock 2.6Ghz Mac Mini running Logic Pro X for voiceover and editing duties, and I can’t help but agree with your article. As an RME fanboy, I was extremely impressed…

  • Bobby A

    So true, great post about some fine machines. The plug-ins are like crack because they really are that good. Everytime a new good one is added, and more features added to the console, it kind of increases the value of the Apollo Twin Duo I have. So super happy with my purchase, especially now knowing I could upgrade to another UAD2 box if I need additional CPU or hell, even get one of these black Apollo 1Us for more I/O and CPU!

    Now what they really need is a dongle-sized UAD-2 cpu so I can load up sessions with UAD plugs from the coffee shop (or client office)! Might as well make it an iLok as well so I don’t need both dongles, while we’re dreaming.

  • Bobby A

    So true, great post about some fine machines. The plug-ins are like crack because they really are that good. Everytime a new good one is added, and more features added to the console, it kind of increases the value of the Apollo Twin Duo I have. So super happy with my purchase, especially now knowing I could upgrade to another UAD2 box if I need additional CPU or hell, even get one of these black Apollo 1Us for more I/O and CPU!

    Now what they really need is a dongle-sized UAD-2 cpu so I can load up sessions with UAD plugs from the coffee shop (or client office)! Might as well make it an iLok as well so I don’t need both dongles, while we’re dreaming.

  • makka pakka flame

    you can’t spell create digital music without midi

  • makka pakka flame

    you can’t spell create digital music without midi and apollos don’t have midi. optical out missing from the twin too suddenly gets messy if you rely on optical out for your (niche) expert sleepers module.