Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin Duo quick review

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.

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Predictions for Apple’s WWDC event

So, tomorrow is Apple’s WWDC (World Wide Developer’s Conference) keynote speech.  This is the first Apple-note of the year, and it’s going to be primarily focused on developers.  So far, the banners have shown iOS 8 and OS X 10.10.  What else is are we in store for is anyone’s guess.  I have my own predictions 🙂  I have 0 (zero) knowledge of what’s going to be done tomorrow, and even less facts, but I like to at least think through what *could* show up!

  1. 4k iMacs.  Yes, I know that Jim Dalrymple said ‘nope’ to a tweet saying no iMacs, but if you read the tweet, it is says ‘low cost iMacs’.  Why do I think that 4k iMacs are gonna show?  Well, for one, OS X 10.9.3 just came out with a complete 4K update.  Why do it now?  The current 4k capable macs have been out for a while (the retina MacBook Pros and the Mac Pro), so there’s no need to have the 4k feature added for them.  If it’s for a product that is due later in the year, then the update could have been addressed later.  I think that the 4k features had to be added before something could ship.
  2. If 4k iMacs show up, I bet a new Cinema display will too.
  3. Updated Mac Mini.  No one I’ve seen is mentioning how old the latest mini is.  The last update was almost 2 years ago.  It certainly can benefit from the updated Intel chipsets and Thunderbolt 2 connectors, not to mention that a lot of the Mac Pro tech could be used on the mini (1 TB SSD anyone?)  I’m wondering if Apple is doing a Mac Pro like make over on the mini. That would be REALLY interesting.  A Mac Pro with only one video card, maybe only two Thunderbolt 2 connectors, and only a few USB 3.0 connectors, and 1/2 the size of the Mac Pro…
  4. I don’t see a Retina Mac Book Air coming to light tomorrow.  The Air’s just got an update a month or so ago, even if it was just a small bump in specs, and a price drop.
  5. Something totally new???? WWDC has been interesting the last couple of years because Apple has been using this Apple-note to do the VERY high end products.  2 years ago, the retina Mac Book Pro.  Last year, the Mac Pro.
  6. I’ve seen someone pining for a 17″ retina MacBook Pro.  I have the last model year 17″ Macbook Pro, and the one thing it DOESN’T need is to double the resolution… 1920 x 1200 is bad enough!!!!  My eyesight isn’t that good anymore!!!! 🙂
  7. Please, no demo like the Anki drive tomorrow.  That whole thing was awkward and Microsoft-ish.  I think the Anki stuff is cool, but it was long, and not terribly pertinent to the Dev focus.

I have no real ideas about iOS 8 and OS X 10.10.  I’m resigned to the fact that OS X will probably get the iOS 7 flat treatment.  I bet that there will be a new Xcode release or announcement.  Apple is practically screaming ‘Developers, Developers, Developers’, so Xcode seems like a logical talking point.  The Healthbook rumors are getting interesting.  I hope that iBooks for iOS and OS X get updated.

At least tomorrow will be interesting!!!!

Solving a problem with TFS and building regular applications using TFSBuild

I’ve had a problem that has been driving me crazier than usual…  I’ve been trying to get the TFS Build process to create the ‘drop’ directories based upon the projects, rather than this huge glob directory of every file from every project.  Surprisingly, the default output of projects inside of TFS Build is to drop every file into one directory, EXCEPT for web sites.  What I’ve run into is needing to have applications and utility programs that are part of the solution and need to be deployed to be in their own directories when the build completes.  After spending a week of rather exotic solutions, including modifying the TFS Build definitions, writing all sorts of scripts, and looking at every package under the sun to solve the issue, I finally came across the CORRECT solution… tacking a property on to the MSBuild directive called GenerateProjectSpecificOutputFolder.  Setting that to true outputs to the per project directory structure.  This is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for!  Thank you, Jason Stangroome for this WONDERFUL find!!!

Override the TFS Team Build OutDir property in .NET 4.5

 

Update… If you use the ReleaseTfvcTemplate.12.xaml from Release Management 2013 Update 2 client directory, the tokenization steps are missing.  Here is a link to a template that has the correct tokenization step, plus has the tokenization as a flag.  Cool stuff…

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/visualstudioalm/archive/2013/12/09/how-to-modify-the-build-process-template-to-use-the-option-trigger-release-from-build.aspx