I’m an equipment junkie, I’ll admit it. The amount of guitars and recording equipment I’ve played with is well above the average hobbyist. There are a LOT of promises out there, and rarely does the hype live up to the reality. The Apollo Twin does live up to the hype, and more… Now for the full story.
I’ve gone through several prosumer audio interfaces in the last couple of years. Everything from an M-Audio Delta 66 all the way up to the Avid M-Box 3 Pro. For the most part, none of them have been truly exceptional. There’s always been issues of some sort with every one of them. Getting an interface that works 100% of the time has been an absolute challenge. My last interface, the M-Box 3 Pro was so bad, I was calling tech support to get a resolution. After over a year and a half, 3 firmware updates, and updated drivers, the interface STILL wouldn’t work correctly, and the issue seemed to be pretty prevalent on the user forums. Things got better over time, but it never did work correctly.
At the beginning of the year Universal Audio brought out the Apollo Twin. To me, and my studio usage, this seemed like an ideal interface for my setup, but there was one problem. The interface is a thunderbolt interface, but it only had one thunderbolt port. I use an Apple Macbook Pro with thunderbolt, and I drive my external monitor off of the thunderbolt connection. That was a real problem until the CalDigit Thunderbolt expansion showed up. That has an HDMI port that allowed me to drive my monitor, and a second thunderbolt port that would allow me to connect the interface to the computer.
Last weekend, a fortuitous turn of events allowed me to get an Apollo Twin Duo without breaking my budget. I was expecting good, but I’ve been jaded enough by lots of interfaces to be expecting some trouble. Fortunately, my fears were completely unfounded. The setup of the interface was very straightforward. There is a link to a video and driver downloads in the box. Following the instructions was simple and straight forward. Once I finished, everything just WORKED. Amazing!!!! So, I pulled up a some audio, and hit play… I had to scrape my jaw off the floor. I thought that the M-Box 3 Pro was supposed to be the top of the line audio. The Apollo blew it away. The detail on what was coming out of my speakers was freakin’ AMAZING. For some reason, the stereo separation is much more apparent on the Apollo. When I brought up one of the projects I was mixing (my own band’s live show), I was flabbergasted. I had been struggling to get some balances correct. With the new interface, I was able to hear it, and correct it almost instantly. Because the interface is PCIe over Thunderbolt, the buffers and latency are incredible.
I did run into one issue when I first set the interface up… apparently, I had bought one that had been tested and returned to the place I bought it from. This meant that the first night I had it, a Sunday, I couldn’t register to get all of the plug-ins that are part of the package. I sent a support ticket in, and called to Tech support the next day. They were able to clear up the registration very quickly, with a minimum of fuss. They did a great job.
Once I was able to get the plug-ins installed and working, I did a bit of testing… nothing scientific, just replacing some of my other plug-ins that are models of similar equipment to the Apollo’s plug-ins. Again, blown away is the least I can say about them. Just switching to the LA-2A compressors in the latest package was like taking a video from 2D to 3D. The detail is just amazing. And, the preamp modeling is just crazy. Running the included 610-B on a guitar input before sending to Amplitube warmed up the signal significantly. I imagine that running it on vocals is even better.
Ok, enough gushing… what are the drawbacks? #1 is that for a basic interface, it is expensive. It’s worth it, but that’s hard to explain. #2 is the endless parade of plug-ins are not cheap in two different ways. One is money, and two is the processor requirements. I can’t imagine buying the Twin Solo with just one processor. I’ve already pushed the Duo to 50% processing power with just a small number of plugin instances. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to expand the processing power by buying the expansion units. I’m hoping that Universal Audio will start making the expansions with Thunderbolt instead of Firewire (and have pass thru functionality!). I can see an OCTO processor in my future if I keep using the plug-ins!
All-in-all, the Apollo Twin Duo is a great piece of equipment for anyone recording or mixing and doesn’t need a ton of I/O.